Planning a UK Working Holiday For Aussies and Kiwis: Part 1

The United Kingdom is undoubtedly the most popular working holiday destination for young travellers from Australia and New Zealand in particular. I hope this article inspires and helps some of you with your travels. I’ve written this especially for other Aussies who plan to embark on a working holiday to Britain – just like me! I hope non-Aussies travellers can also make use of some of the information and links. I’ve been asked countless planning questions by friends, and even strangers that I’ve spoken to on the bus about travel. So now I can just give them this web address and save raving on for hours!

I first got the travel bug in 2000 and started planning furiously! It was something I had always wanted to do… but the timing was never right. Now, in August 2001, I soon leave for the adventure of my lifetime. Here are all my best planning tips and info for other Aussies doing the same thing as me. I had a great time searching and scouring the web, other travellers’ memories, books, travel agents etc etc etc – BUT it would have been nice to have some of the info easily laid out for me. I’ve left out a lot, of course, (save that for my travel book one day hehehe). Okay here goes…

How & When to Travel

Ummm by plane would be preferential, unless you like swimming (a lot). Basically shop around a lot here, and get as many quotes as you can before you decide on a flight. You will pay more travelling to the UK in summer (Aussie winter). However, the transition to a colder climate will be easier and there will be an abundance of jobs. Do what is right for you; any time is a good time to travel.

One thing that I have been told by everyone who has been to London: don’t get a direct flight! We decided to pay a bit extra and go with a ‘better’ airline in order to avoid those pesky unscheduled stopovers (e.g. friends on cheaper deals have had up to 5 short stopovers waiting around in airports with no chance to sleep). We will stop in Japan overnight – get to sleep in a hotel, shower, eat, play and then board another plane to London. Nice.

Things to Organise before You Leave

Passports

If you don’t already have one, apply for your Australian passport. Get a form at your nearest post office and book in for an appointment.

Visas/British Passports/Ancestral Visas

I am lucky enough to have British ancestry, so instead of the 2-year working holiday visa, I can work full time for up to 4 years, after which I can either apply for British residency or simply renew for another 4 years.

Here’s a quick rundown on what kind of visa you can get:

  • Working Holiday Visa. This is a 2-year visa which will be the one most of you will get. It’s available for 17-27 year olds (although I have heard this may have increased to 29 years). This visa is non renewable, i.e. once you have been here 2 years, you can’t renew for another 2 years. This visa will allow you to take employment for up to half the length of your stay (e.g. travel half the year, work the rest or work casually/part time all year). The type of work should be incidental to your holidaying, not to further your career. The most common jobs are barwork, nannying, temping, etc. You also need to prove you have at least AU$4500 to prove you have the money to support yourself until you get a job. You need to have your visa before you leave the country, and it is a lengthy process to complete the forms and wait for them to come back from the Consulate. For more info contact the British High Commission in Canberra. The easiest way to apply is to download all info and forms from the website: www.uk.emb.gov.au.
  • Ancestry Employment Visa A 4-year renewable visa which is gained through British ancestry (e.g. a grandparent). This is what I have, and it gives me the advantage of being able to work full-time, plus the option of applying for British residency after 4 years.
  • British Passport. If your parents are British you may be able to apply for dual citizenship (although lots of old-fashioned rules and regulations apply, e.g. if you are an illegitimate child born to a British father you cannot get this passport).

A handy questionnaire on the website www.uk.emb.gov.au will answer all your questions. After answering, it will tell you what you are eligible for and what documentation you must complete.

Passes to Buy before You Go

London is very expensive, especially when you are spending your hard-earned Aussie dollars and haven’t starting making pounds. Here are some things you can organise and pay for at home to save you heaps!

  • Youth Hostel Membership. A must if you will be backpacking or staying in hostels. Go to yha.com.au. An annual membership is around AU$50.
  • International Youth Travel Card or Student Travel Card (IYTC or ISTC). Check out www.statravel.com.au or www.istc.org. Tthis card is a must for discounts on loads of stuff. It’s only AU$16.50, and you can use it in more than 100 different countries.
  • The London Pass. I bought this online for £79 before I left Aussie. You may be able to buy it through your travel agent, but buying online is the only way to get free the 6-day transport card. £79 is for a 6-day pass with entry into over 60 attractions/museums/places of interests, plus discounts at eateries, etc. Book online and get 6 days free transport only. Buying this before you go will save you a packet. Check out the benefits on londonpass.com.
  • Other cards such as the Great British Heritage Pass, the London Go See card and the London Visitor Travelcard are also options. Ask about these at travel agents or check out www.visitbritain.bta.org.au.

Useful Organisations & Websites

Now check out Planning a UK Working Holiday: Part 2