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Changing money in Australia is simple. You might want to set yourself up with a bank account at one of the four major banks of Australia: NAB, Westpac, Commonwealth, or ANZ. Get your hands on the Australian dollar the simple and easy way. If you're hungering for the past, dream about Australian pounds as you sleep. You can see Australian prices and compare them with other countries.


Banking/Money
The Cost Of Living In Australia


"If you enjoy hemorrhaging cash, then you'll love Australia."  Doug Knell, Doug's Republic


The Best Things In Life Are Free
That's what they say anyway.  How can you put a price on a golden sandy beach, a pristine mountain stream, a lush national park, or an Outback sunset?  Transport is how.  Because Australia is so vast, getting your tush to each of these natural wonders is going to cost you.

Bring a helluva lot of this

The Good News:  Absolutely Speaking, Australia Is Not That Expensive

In fact, flying over here from overpriced Western Europe or Japan, Australia will feel like stealing candy from a baby. The prices for gasoline, food, and accommodation will feel like it's handed to you on a subsidized platter. The bad news is if you're flying here from the United States or, even more likely, from a Southeast Asian country on a stopover, you'll feel like the baby who's getting his candy stolen.  Prepare to thin out that wallet.


All right, in all seriousness, Australia isn't that extreme, even for North Americans.  Gasoline and car prices remain high by American standards, jacking up your costs, but low-end accommodation and camping options are reasonable and available in quantities and prices not seen in the US or Canada.   And while food prices are creeping up, no one's going to suffer cardiac arrest from gazing at the prices in a typical Australian grocery store.

Australia gets expensive because you have to drive or fly thousands of kilometers to get from one must-see region to another.   All the while, it's hard to kid yourself that you'll be back anytime soon.  Australia is so far out of the way from most of the places in the world you're ever likely to be.   You don't stop in Australia on the way to somewhere else; you stop somewhere else on the way to Australia.  As a result, you feel like you have to make the most of it all while you're there.  At least that's how I felt as I put over 40,000 km on three different cars.

Below is a comparison of various items among five countries, including Australia.   All prices are in USD and reflect average exchange rates for 2008, which in itself can distort the comparison.  Between 2006 and 2009, for example, USD 1 wavered between AUD 1.05 and AUD 1.60.   If you were an American visiting when the greenback was trading in the lower ranges, my heartfelt condolences go out to you.   I hope you weren't bled to anaemia by the Australian economy.

Item
Gasoline (per liter) 0.89 1.28 0.74 1.37 1.15
Coca Cola (per small can) in grocery 0.89 1.20 0.60 1.13 0.65
Lowest-end single room in a major locale 31.50 54.10 60.25 55.25 36.22
6-pack local bottled beer in supermarket 9.78 8.57 6.99 11.81 11.20
Steak (per kilogram) 14.80 22.43 7.70 14.20 27.98
Apples (per kilogram) 3.34 2.27 2.75 4.63 2.25
Movie ticket 10.38 8.50 10 17.65 8.00
Big Mac 2.56 3.55 3.57 2.75 2.71
Minimum wage (per hour) 10.07 8.88 6.55 7.25 none
Personal computer, mid-range spec 740.71 940.28 550 620.61 570.15

Any price comparison list is bound to contain flaws.  For instance, how can you exactly compare the price of single rooms or steak or gasoline when prices themselves vary by region in a country?  Don't get too worked up over this.  I spent ages assembling this data, and it should give you some idea about how Australia's price levels compare to other nations on this vast planet of ours. 
Cost of living in Australia

 Check the exchange rate of the Australian dollar
Select a currency and click SUBMIT to see how many Australian dollars that currency buys

  This opens a separate window
Cost of living Down Under

The Four Main Banks of Australia

Australia's banking sector is dominated by just four banks. 

Australia and New Zealand Group (ANZ)  
Commonwealth Bank of Australia
National Australia Bank (NAB)
Westpac Banking Corporation

There are other regional banks, like the Bank of Queensland, but the four above are the ones you see in every region of the country, with Commonwealth and Westpac being the largest.  

The easiest thing to do if you're staying in Australia long term is to open up a bank account here, transfer a large sum of money over in one go, and then withdraw Australian dollars as you need them from your Australian bank's ATM machine.  Withdrawing money from an Australian ATM with a non-Australian card will bring a lot of tears to your eyes.  Have a handkerchief handy when you examine your bank statements for the foreign ATM fee surcharge.   Withdrawing money from, say, a Westpac ATM with a Commonwealth card also gives your bank a license to legally steal from you. 

Whatever you do, do not bring traveler's cheques with you to Australia!   At the time I visited in 2006, all banks took a AUD 7 commission per cheque.  Unless you're swapping out cheques worth at least USD 500 per pop, this AUD 7 commission is tantamount to a financial gang rape.
Australian pound



 
Australia's spending habits started with these

 The History Of The Australian Dollar

The Australian dollar (AUD or A$), the world's sixth most traded currency, hasn't been around all that long. Before 1966, Australia was using the Australian pound.   The Aussie pound was introduced at parity with the British pound, but over time, lost value to the point where it remained fixed at the rate of UK£1 to A£1.25 for decades.  Whenever Britain devalued its pound in the twentieth century -- believe it or not, UK£1 was once equal to US$4.80 -- the Australian pound cheapened itself alongside.  Most of Australia's trade was then conducted with the sterling zone, and it was felt that an appreciating Aussie pound would tip the scales against Aussie exports. 

The Aussie pound, like its British counterpart at the time, was not a decimalized currency.   The pound was divided into 20 shillings (s), with each shilling being equivalent to 12 pence (d).  Prices were written like £3 5s 6d.  With 240 pence being equivalent to a pound, everyone had to write up the prices in such a retarded fashion.  Imagine calculating change with this system.  It was great for ripping people off.  People poor at math were fleeced, the rich got richer. 

The rest of the world outside the sterling zone, meanwhile, was using ultra-cool decimalized currencies.  Americans could walk with a cocky swagger.  With 100 cents to $1, even Americans who flunked remedial math classes could calculate the change off $5 for a $3.28 haircut.  Naturally, the Aussies became envious and wanted a decimalized currency of their own.  The original intent was to 'go decimal' in 1963, with a new currency called the austral, but 1963 came and went and Aussies were keener on Beatlemania then a currency with a corny name.  A new currency with a brilliantly original name, the dollar, was finally birthed in 1966, at a rate of A£1 to A$2 -- or 10 shillings to A$1.  It was a virtual copy of the South African plan of 1961 when the rand was phased in for the former South African pound at a rate of 2 to 1.  For months, prices were denominated in both currencies, before the Australian pound was finally sent to the gallows.

Many consider the change from British-style pounds to American-style dollars another snub at Australia's former colonial masters.  The UK decimalized their own currency in 1971, but they didn't abandon the pound.  They just changed the idea of 12 pence (d) being equal to 1 shilling (s) and 240 pence being equal to one pound.  To decimalize, 100 pence became equal to a pound, and 5 new pence (p) equal to one shilling.  Australia's unnecessary removal of the pound for dollars and cents says something about their changing relationship with Mama England as they nestled ever closer to their new best mate, the USA. 

Today's Australian dollar is colorful and soft to the touch and made from special material so it doesn't tear.  However, you'll be spending them so quickly, you'd never have had a real opportunity to try to tear them up even if they were still made of lesser materials.  Australian bills come in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100.  There is no $1 bill, only a coin, which looks deceivingly like a British one-pound coin.  The Australians probably designed the $1 coin similar to the UK£1 coin so as to bilk Brits out of their more valuable pounds.

 

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The Busy Person's Guide To Insanely Interesting Beer Bullshit

 It all started out with Australian pounds, but they got dumped for the Australian dollar. Boo hoo. The prices in Australia remained the same, but doubled on paper because of the change. Today, Australian prices are stable, and it's easy to set up an account at any of the four major banks of Australia. Westpac, NAB, ANZ, and Commonwealth.