Planning a UK Working Holiday for Aussies and Kiwis: Part 2

This is part 2, so check out Planning a UK Working Holiday part 1 if you didn’t just come from there.

Accommodation When You Arrive

We booked through First Contact, a company that has Australian offices. This meant that we could discuss our options with an Aussie representative and paid for our first week in Aussie dollars (much less confusing). For AU$325 each my travel buddy and I get transfers from Heathrow to our lodge upon arrival, 7 nights accommodation in our own twin room (price is cheaper if you don’t mind dorm accommodation), Continental breakfast each morning, an orientation session and free day trip, free mail and luggage holding service for 6 months after you leave (very handy if you don’t have a fixed address or want to go on a holiday but don’t want to pay to store excess luggage).

This is only one of many agencies that help you settle into London life. I’ll keep you posted on what the accommodation is like anyway, since I haven’t actually stayed there yet. Check out www.1cgroup.com for prices, piccies and London info

Money

How Much to Take

A minimum of AU$4500 is currently required to obtain a working visa in Britain (this is after flight tickets and any things you pay for before you go). If you don’t have this much money yet, keep saving, and don’t try to go with less.

Banking Options

Setting up bank accounts in London has been known to be difficult for travellers and working holidaymakers to the UK. If you don’t set up your accounts before you go, take along as many references as possible (e.g., bank reference which costs around AU$15 from your bank, and a reference from your previous landlord).

I set up my bank accounts through Thomas Cook travel in advance. A fee is charged to set up and deposit your AU$4500 in a branch of HSBC, one of Britain’s well-known banks. You receive your account info and PIN before you leave, and you pick up your debit/credit cards and cheque books from Regent Street London when you arrive. If you are interested, check out Thomas Cook, but remember they need at least 5 weeks to process to your account, so don’t leave this until the last minute.

Packing

Packing your whole life into a suitcase and a few bags may seem like a distressing task at first. But if you pack strategically and carefully you will have everything you need and still not exceed the baggage allowance (usually 20 kg for economy, with a 5 kg carry-on allowance).

The first step is to obtain suitable luggage. Think hard before you buy! You will need a suitcase with wheels. Don’t even try to lug around the other variety. Remember, this suitcase will be travelling to many locations and may be subject to much handling in airports, etc. You need something sturdy that will last. You may be interested in a backpack if you are planning lots of off-the-road backpacking. You will also need a day pack suitable for taking on day trips and excursions.

Your piece of carry-on luggage must not exceed size requirements. Think about what else you will be using it for. I like to travel with an overnight carry bag. This can then be used as a weekend or overnight bag for short trips away. On the plane you can use this bag for a change of clothes, your toiletries, books, magazines, your Discman and camera, etc.

Do not keep money in your carry-on bag! Keep your valuables and important documents close to your person at all times. If you are travelling alone, take your wallet/purse to the bathrooms with you. Make sure you buy a UK power point adapter before you go: power points are different in the UK, so you will need one of these if you want to take a hairdryer, electric shaver or mobile phone charger. They are readily available in department stores, luggage and travel shops for around AU$10. There are many great websites that can help with info packing and what to take.

Staying in Touch

Email would have to be the easiest, fastest and cheapest method of communication with friends and family back home. Internet cafes can be found everywhere, and many offer cheap rates and discounts to students. Net cafes are also great for meeting other travellers over a cup of coffee.

An alternative would be to take your own email device, such as your laptop or Pocket Palm. A reasonable cheap and space-saving alternative is the Pocket Mail system. This is basically a keyboard with a modem that looks like a personal organiser. These are great if you use email a lot but don’t really require access to the net on a regular basis (you can use cafes for this). Write and store all your emails offline, and store all your addresses. When sending, you simply need a phone (home, public or mobile). Ring the local Pocket Mail call number, hold the device up to your phone and instantly your emails are sent!
For more information and pricing see your local phone shop or visit www.pocketmail.com.au.

Find about cheap phonecards before you leave home. You can save up to 90% on overseas calls with some services, and some provide free voicemail services so that your friends can leave you message wherever you are.

Skype and other voice-over-internet services are becoming very common now, and these are fast becoming the preferred method of keeping in touch as long as you have access to a computer. Calls from one computer to the other are free, and the sound quality is great and live video works too if your connection is good. You can also make outgoing calls to phones or from phones with Skype’s pay services, which are much cheaper than pretty much any other option.

Things to Organise and Think about before You Leave

  • Cancelling internet, mobile, cable TV connections, telephone, electricity, subscriptions to magazines or club accounts.
  • Changing your address with the taxation department and making sure you tax return is in for the year.
  • Let the Australian Electoral Commission know you will be OS, so you don’t get into trouble for not voting!
  • Organise a Power of Attorney/Wills – as morbid as it sounds, write or update your will and organise a family member or solicitor to be a power of attorney if necessary. If you need someone to deal with bills or finances in Aus this is a must.
  • Decide whether you want to leave your bank accounts open in Australia and make any cancellations where necessary.
  • Try to pay off credit cards before you go, to avoid having to make payments in Australian dollars from London to Australian banks.

Well, there are a few things to help you out! I hope this guide has been useful. I will write again once I’ve arrived in London, and will let you know if there was anything I forgot to do or wish I would’ve done before I left. I hope I have thought of most things! Good luck with your travels!