Australia vs New Zealand: Working Holiday Visa Comparison

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Two countries which are situated so close together, yet miles apart in terms of landscape, people and experiences on offer. People sometimes group Australia and New Zealand under the same umbrella and this is a huge mistake. They are two very different countries and with that comes a very different experience on a very similar visa.

So let’s break down some of the key differences between these two incredible countries as we look at the very popular working holiday visa.

passport qatar airways

Accommodation

Australia is extremely geared towards backpackers and working holiday makers! The contrast between Australia and New Zealand is staggering with Australia opening it’s borders to a lot more working holiday makers it is clear why New Zealand can seem a tad out of the loop.

Don’t worry though, plenty of backpackers make there way through New Zealand and Australia so accommodation options are very similar.

Both counties have a variety of budget accommodation options such as youth hostels, varying in price. Australia seemed to have some higher priced options between $25-35 per night for a dorm room. However, it also threw in quite a few low range options, offering dorm rooms for as little as $15 (just mind the cockroaches!).

Taupo Urban Retreat

Hostels in New Zealand all seem to be on the higher end of the spectrum coming in at around $25 per night, depending on where in New Zealand you are staying. But this is still good news for those on a budget!

When you travel on a working holiday visa, the chance are you will pick up work along the way for a few months or longer at a time and will probably look into a cheaper, long term accommodation option. This is where these great countries differ massively!

Like I said before, Oz is geared towards backpackers and a quick search on GumTree will bring up a tonne of short and long term rentals, a lot aimed at backpackers! All ready and furnished, no huge deposits and you just pay week to week, normally living with other backpackers who are also working in the area. Nice!

New Zealand on the other hand is rather different. The go to site is TradeMe, similar to GumTree, travellers can find a range of apartments and house shares to pick when they decided to settle somewhere to find some work. We had a nightmare of a time to find somewhere to base ourselves for the following reason.

A side by side comparison of the the living space in a hotel vs a hostel!
Airbnb vs Hostel Dorm!

Nowhere seems to want to rent to couples. As we scrolled through TradeMe the exact same line kept popping up: NO COUPLES ALLOWED! Why? What is wrong with couples!? After we narrowed it down to rentals which were happy to accept both Scott and I, we came up against a very unexpected problem.

In Australia, every house share we stayed in over 2 years was furnished with at least a bed and wardrobe. What more do you need? Not in New Zealand. 99% of the hundreds of listings we went through (no exaggeration) were completely unfurnished. How on earth do they expect backpackers to have furniture readily available!? Mainly because a lot of listings are not aimed at backpackers. If you need to furnish a room, head to a Red Cross furniture store for a cheap futon! 

airbnb banner

Visa restrictions

Even though both are seen as a working holiday visa, they both have some important differences. From the price of the visa to work restrictions, there are some important things you really need to know when considering either options.

Let’s look at prices first. To nab yourself a working holiday visa in Australia you are looking at a staggering $420 for your first year. Whereas a New Zealand working holiday visa will set you back only $165 for 12 months. 

Both countries set out work restrictions however in general, they are pretty free and easy. In both New Zealand and Australia you can work ANY job. So whether you want to work behind a bar or as a care assistant, your visa will not restrict the nature of employment.

In Australia it is clearly stated that you cannot stay with the same employer for more than 6 months, however, you are able to work for as many employers as you want over the course of your visa.

Moore River, Perth
Moore River, Western Australia

In contrast, New Zealand allows you to work for an employer for a maximum of 12 months. However it also asks that you only work 12 months in total, EVEN IF YOU GET A 23 MONTH VISA. We were unaware of this when we arrived. We believed that you could only stay with the same employer for 12 months. But no, even if you are granted an extension to your working holiday visa, you can only work for a combined total of 12 months.

Applying for a second year is a very popular choice for backpackers whose country qualified them for an extension. You have so much fun travelling that you aren’t quite ready to go home just yet! So how do you go around getting this extension/second visa in both countries?

In Australia you are required to work 88 days rural work in order to apply for a second year working holiday visa (so long as your country of origin is eligible for the second visa). This work has to be undertaken in a rural area of Australia and pertains to agricultural work only, i.e. fruit picking, station hand etc. These 88 days must be completed during your first year on the visa. Check out my video here for more information on obtaining a second year working holiday visa.

Sheep Station, Australia
Sheep Station, Australia

Unless you are going to be working within a medial setting for example, you will not have to provide a medical or chest x-rays when applying for either visa. Nice and easy application!

Moving onto New Zealand, so long as your country of origin is eligible you do not have to complete any rural work in order to obtain an extension visa. When applying online you get the choice to apply for a 12 or 22 month visa. Unlike Australia you are able to apply for a 22 month visa before you even leave home! However, if you do opt to apply directly for the longer visa option you will have to provide some additional information including a chest X-ray and a medical (for some countries).

Similarly, if you decide to extend your visa whilst you are in New Zealand then you will have to file a paper application and provide a medical and chest x-ray to qualify. You cannot apply to extend your visa online!

Finding Work

It is clear that with a higher population and a lot more land comes a lot more jobs! Australia is full to the brim with part time, full time and casual work opportunities. With most backpackers using GumTree to snap up some casual work! As a full time travel blogger, I haven’t had to look for work within New Zealand but after heeding advice from my best friend Kat, who has a lot of experience working around New Zealand on her visa, she passed on some words of wisdom!

sausage sizzle australia
Cooking sausages to earn my rent money!

In Australia it is super easy to find work through word of mouth, with lots of other long term backpackers across the country. However, in New Zealand there is not a lot of long term travellers who stay in the one place. You may find it easier to find work by going through an agency such as Frenz (to find work in the dairy industry) or backpackerforum where casual work is advertised. For a lot of jobs in New Zealand they may ask you to sign a contract whereby you have to stay in one spot for a certain period of time which is normally longer than you want to.

In Australia it is far more backpacker friendly where an employer will sinply ask how long you will be staying with no contracts to tie you in. It may also take a lot longer to find a job in New Zealand compared to Australia and this is something you need to consider when setting your budget. In short, New Zealand is not as backpacker-friendly simply because there are not a lot of backpackers when compared to the amount in Australia!

Wages

The cost of living is similar in both Australia and New Zealand, however, there is a big problem and that is minimum wage. A pint of beer will set you back $10, but when you earn $20 per hour in Australia, it balances out. New Zealand seems to have higher costs of living with a terrible wage. So you earn less than Australia but still have to pay similar prices!

Australian money

As of April 2015, the Adult minimum wage is $14.75ph whereas Australia is $16.87ph. $15 per hour is a standard wage for hospitality and farm work in New Zealand. However, in Australia, expect to be paid much higher to the sum of between $18-23 per hour for bar work!

It baffles me how expensive New Zealand is yet the wages are so low! You will need to factor this in. You can still live, but saving for your next adventure won’t be as easy as it is in Australia!

Cost of living/travel

Both countries are notorious for having high living costs and it is no secret that you need to come prepared with a healthy bank balance to survive in either Australia or New Zealand. Prices can be similar in both countries, but as you saw the rate of pay for similar jobs are worlds apart!

Boat from Auckland to Bayswater
Auckland Skyline, New Zealand

Opening A Bank Account

Both very similar and easy processes and trust me when I say this, you really don’t need to pay anyone to do these things for you. Simply walking into a bank with your passport, you will be able to get a bank account up and running in no time. But here are the differences.

Opening an Australian bank account requires a passport and sometimes proof of address, however as they are so suited to backpackers, they will normally just use your hostel address or if you are moving about you can arrange for your debit card to be delivered in branch for you to pick up.

NEw Zealand

New Zealand is similar however they will need proof of address there and then. When we questioned the branch manager on how we were meant to do this as we only arrived into the country 48 hours ago they told us we either need to have a letter with our address on or a written letter from the hostel owner/Airbnb host to confirm you do indeed reside there. As we had neither, the other option is to print out a bank statement with your home address on and they will use an international address. You can then change the address on your account later on.

Commonwealth bank in Australia did not require you to put any money into your account to open it. However, ANZ in New Zealand required a minimum of $350 in cash to open the account.

Tax File Number/IRD Number

Again, not difficult to apply for and both mandatory in order to work in either country. When working in Australia, the government asks that you apply for a Tax File Number which can be done COMPLETELY FREE online. They then post you the TFN to your nominated address. No need to freak out though, if you happen to move on from where you are staying at the time, which is likely, you can always call up the tax office and so long as your application has been processed, you can retrieve the number over the phone.

In New Zealand, you will need an IRD number which will act as your tax number for the duration of your stay. You cannot apply for this online, however, the process is pretty simple. Simply head into a post office in New Zealand and pick up an IRD application form. You will need to provide a photocopy of your passport and also show the original. This too is COMPLETELY FREE! Then simply take it back to the post office and they shall send it away for you. Again, the number shall be sent via post to your address. More info on sim cards, bank accounts and IRD numbers in New Zealand here!

If you need more help these videos may help you out:

Planning a Working Holiday In Australia

How To Travel New Zealand On A Budget

What have I missed? Have you visited both countries on a WHV? What differences have you found?

This post does include affiliate links to products or companies which I have personally used and would highly recommend! If you click on an ad, at no extra cost to you, I make a small commission from the sale. All of which goes straight back into my travels and my YouTube channel to bring you even more PsychoTraveller goodness!

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Hi! Name’s Aly! Originally from Birmingham, England, I have been discovering the world for over 3 years straight. I am a psychology graduate with a love for Pho and red wine. Whether I throw myself into a novel or from 14,000ft up out of a plane, I look at adventure big and small and say “Let’s do this!”
  • Regina

    Awesome thanks Aly, take care and have a wonderful weekend.

  • Mindy Perley-Martin

    Hey! I was wondering how much is the 23 month visa? can’t seem to find a price for this anywhere. I was going to apply for 23 months straight away due to nearing 31 when i apply. thanks!

  • Auds Abroad

    Thanks for this post! I have been following your youtube videos and loving all your travels! I am looking at coming out to Australia and New Zealand at the start of next year (and since I am nearing 30) I am trying to work out the best option for me to cover both countries on a working visa and this has helped. I didn’t know you are capped in NZ for only 12 months work, so I think I will be doing that first for 6 months and then jumping to Australia before I turn 30 so I can stay there for the 24 months (I hope I have all that right anyway) now to get on with saving!! Thanks again! Auds

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  • Maria

    Hey! Very nice video and explanation, thank you! But I have one question: what about the mobile phone card? How can I create it? Is thare a different process in Australia than in New Zealand? Does it have internet connection? If not, is it easy to find free wi-fi?

  • Thanks for sharing, Aly. It is very informative.