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Moving to Brisbane

Brisbane is the capital of Queensland and is one of Australia's biggest cities. It has a rapidly expanding population of over 2 million and is home to a significant expat population from a wide variety of nationalities. The largest portion of expats living in Brisbane are from the UK or New Zealand, but there are also significant numbers of Indian, Chinese and South African expats in the city, among others.

Expats should have no problems finding suitable employment in Brisbane, as one would expect with a growing city. Some of the city's main industries include IT, finance and administration. The cost of accommodation, along with the general cost of living, is far lower than in Sydney or Melbourne.

Brisbane is a laid-back city that still manages to buzz with an assortment of lively areas. The city offers alfresco dining all year round and an assortment of restaurants to sate the appetite of any expat or Brisbanite.

Whilst the city may be compact, the suburbs sprawl north, south, east and west. Open spaces and outdoor entertainment are Brisbane trademarks thanks to its pleasant climate, and there never seems to be a shortage of things to see and do in the city. If expats should tire of their immediate surroundings though, the Sunshine Coast and the Gold Coast (to the north and south of the city) offer a respite from the city and are great weekend getaway spots.

Weather in Brisbane

Brisbane enjoys a subtropical climate with heavy humidity and high temperatures in the summer months between December and February, and dry, mild winters between June and August. Summers in Brisbane are often plagued with thunderstorms, hailstorms, cyclonic winds and drought, but generally, the warm, sunny weather is well suited to the holidaymakers who visit for leisure and pleasure all year round.

The rainy season runs from November to March. Temperatures average between 67°F (19°C) and 84°F (29°C) in the peak summer months, but it is only marginally cooler the rest of the year, with the exception of the winter months, when temperatures average between 49°F (9°C) and 71°F (21°C).


Cost of Living in Brisbane

While the cost of living in Brisbane is not yet quite as high as in other Australian cities such as Melbourne or Sydney, the cost of expat life in the heart of Australia’s ‘Sunshine State’ is by no means cheap.

The growth in Brisbane’s population and its popularity as an expat destination has contributed to the cost of living in the city increasing steadily over the years. In 2019, Mercer's Cost of Living Survey ranked Brisbane as the world's 103rd most expensive city out of the 209 cities surveyed. Though Brisbane is ranked as cheaper than Sydney, Perth and Melbourne, it is more expensive than Adelaide.

Even though Brisbane is slowly becoming a more expensive place for expat life, there are always ways to save money. It's possible to enjoy what the city has to offer on a budget. 

Cost of accommodation in Brisbane

Renting a home is often the biggest expense for expats living in Brisbane. The attractive expat areas and suburbs tend to be expensive. In most cases, utilities will need to be paid for separately in addition to rental costs. 

Cost of transportation in Brisbane

Transport in Brisbane is expensive. The city has extensive bus and train networks which make getting around the city very convenient. However, Brisbane is one of the most expensive cities in Australia when it comes to public transport.

Luckily, for those who plan on regular commuting, investing in a Go Card can save some money.

Cost of entertainment in Brisbane

The costs of entertainment in Brisbane are in line with the average costs in most Australian cities. 

For expats who want to have a good time without spending a fortune, the great weather in Brisbane means that there are always lots of opportunities to spend time outdoors – enjoying a picnic in the park, taking a drive out to one of the little seaside towns, or indulging in an afternoon outdoors enjoying an Australian barbecue.

The independent shopping scene in Brisbane is also growing and expats who are keen to explore the markets popping up all over the city are sure to find some great bargains.

Cost of living in Brisbane chart 

Prices may vary depending on product and service provider. The list below shows average prices for February 2020.

Accommodation (monthly rent)

One-bedroom apartment in the city centre

AUD 1,700

One-bedroom apartment outside of the city centre

AUD 1,300

Three-bedroom apartment in the city centre

AUD 2,900

Three-bedroom apartment outside of the city centre

AUD 1,900


Eggs (dozen)


Milk (1 litre)

AUD 1.50

Rice (1kg)

AUD 2.50

Loaf of white bread

AUD 2.85

Chicken breasts (1kg)

AUD 10

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

AUD 30

Eating out

Big Mac Meal

AUD 12

Coca-Cola (330ml)

AUD 3.50


AUD 4.60

Bottle of local beer


Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant

AUD 80


Mobile-to-mobile call rate (per minute)

AUD 0.30

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)

AUD 77

Basic utilities (per month for a small apartment)

AUD 200


Taxi rate (per kilometre)

AUD 2.20

Bus/train fare in the city centre


Petrol/gasoline (per litre)

AUD 1.50

Accommodation in Brisbane

Queensland is one of the states driving the strong Australian economy, having growth sectors in several industries. Jobs are attracting skilled workers to Australia from Europe, which in turn has created a high demand for accommodation and rental properties in Brisbane.

Expats looking for accommodation in Brisbane can make their task a great deal easier by having a clear, yet somewhat flexible, idea of what they're looking for in terms of location, price and size.

Types of housing in Brisbane

There are a few different options for types of accommodation in Brisbane. There are apartments (known locally as flats), units (small modern houses), and traditional "Queenslanders" (one- or two-storey weatherboard houses with verandas).

The majority of properties are rented unfurnished, and even the most expensive rental properties rarely come with built-in white label appliances, such as a fridge or washing machine. 

Finding accommodation in Brisbane

When it comes to house-hunting, expats can either go it alone or enlist the help of an agent. Expats arriving in Brisbane should begin the accommodation hunt as soon as possible. Due to high demand, properties are snapped up quickly in the city.

Resources like local newspapers and online property portals can be useful for those searching independently. Alternatively, working with a real estate agent can make the process simpler and may yield better results – for instance, real estate agents often have access to property listings before they go on the open market and will have a good knowledge of the city. 

Renting property in Brisbane

Viewings for Brisbane accommodation are usually at set times, and if the property is well-priced, expats should expect to be viewing it with as many as a dozen other people. Many properties are managed through an agent, and references will usually be required.

Rent for accommodation in Brisbane is payable monthly and is typically payable at the end of each month to the real estate agent or landlord. Utility bills are usually not included in the rental price and are the responsibility of the tenant to pay.

Areas and suburbs in Brisbane

One of the most important decisions that any expat moving to Brisbane will have to make is about which area to live in. The greater Brisbane area consists of several municipalities that feature hundreds of different neighbourhoods. With so many different areas and suburbs in Brisbane to choose from, the decision facing new arrivals on where to live can be very difficult.

There are a number of factors that shape an expats choice of area to live in. These can include property prices, proximity to the workplace, safety, access to public transport and the demographic profile in the local community. For expats moving to Brisbane with children, the proximity to good schools and facilities for children will also be an important deciding factor.

Young and hip areas of Brisbane

For those who want to enjoy the best nightlife and entertainment and remain close to most offices, the Brisbane city centre is an option worth considering and has a number of trendy suburbs to meet these needs.

Fortitude Valley

Fortitude Valley is a vibrant area in Central Brisbane. It lies right next to the city centre and is one of Brisbane’s main entertainment hubs. The streets of Fortitude Valley are lined with nightclubs, trendy bars and restaurants. The area is also home to one of the largest shopping precincts in Australia. Expats living in Fortitude Valley will never be far from the action as lots of Brisbane’s annual events are held here, including the International Jazz Festival, the Big Gay Day and the three-day Valley Fiesta.

As the area is so centrally located, residents have easy access to all modes of public transport. Owning a vehicle in Fortitude Valley will be expensive as the availability of secure parking is limited.

New Farm

New Farm is an inner suburb of Brisbane that is also very close to the city centre and located on the Brisbane River. The area is connected to Brisbane’s central business district and other parts of the city by regular ferries and buses.

The main commercial area close to New Farm is called Merthyr Village and here residents can shop to their heart's content and grab a bite to eat at one of the many great restaurants and cafés. New Farm also has a vibrant arts scene, with regular shows taking place at The Powerhouse, a former electric tramway power station that has been converted into a theatre. However, one downside is that property in New Farm is fairly expensive.

Family-friendly suburbs of Brisbane

For expats moving to Brisbane with children, being close to the right school will be essential. As there are few international schools in Brisbane, expats will need to spend some extra time considering where they would choose to school their children and do some research into the Australian schooling system.

Victoria Point

Victoria Point is a leafy family-friendly suburb which is located about 20 miles (30km) southeast of Brisbane’s centre. Expats will find that it's easy to meet fellow expats in the area, which is particularly popular among expats from England and New Zealand.

Victoria Point is a residential area that is a good option for those with children because of its proximity to local schools. There's a mix of private and public schools in the area, so parents who choose to live in Victoria Point do have quite a lot of choice when it comes to schooling options for their children.

Holland Park

Holland Park is a great area for those with children as there are a number of large, established parks, a good range of schools, a well-equipped library and a convenient shopping street. It's significantly closer to the city centre than Victoria Point.

Although properties tend to be a little bit older here, this does mean that there are lots more affordable options for those on a tight budget. 

Affordable areas of Brisbane

The cost of living in Brisbane is generally quite high and rent accounts for a large proportion of an expat's budget. The best option for those on a budget is to look into sharing a house or renting a portion of one of the area's large subdivided homes. This is a great way to meet other people and become familiar with one's new host city.


Darra is an older suburb with slightly more dated but spacious properties. It is possible to rent a room in a house in Darra for a nominal amount. The abundance of affordable rental options available in Darra makes it popular among students and young expats spending some time in Brisbane on a working holiday. There are regular bus and train services that connect Darra to other parts of Brisbane.

On the downside, Darra is located close to a number of industrial areas which become a little quiet in the evening and it may not feel like the safest part of the city. The facilities may not be on par with what is available in other more affluent neighbourhoods in the city, but living here will certainly help in making some significant savings.

Healthcare in Brisbane

Like all big Australian cities, the standard of healthcare in Brisbane is high and the city has modern, well-equipped hospitals with excellent, highly trained staff. There is a range of private and public medical facilities located throughout Brisbane. If in need of emergency services, expats will be sent to the hospital closest to their place of residence. 

There is no shortage of pharmacies in Brisbane. Most are very well stocked and are able to order in any medication which is not kept on site. Pharmacies in Brisbane can be found on any major shopping street or at shopping malls. Selected pharmacies are open 24/7 and expats should make themselves aware of their closest one in case of an emergency.

Hospitals in Brisbane

Brisbane Private Hospital
Address: 259 Wickham Terrace

Mater Hospital Brisbane
Address: Raymond Terrace, South Brisbane

Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital
Address: Butterfield Street, Herston

St Andrew’s War Memorial Hospital
Address: 457 Wickham Terrace

St Vincent’s Private Hospital
Address: 411 Main Street, Kangaroo Point

Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Hospital
Address: Cnr Kessels Road & Troughton Road, Coopers Plains

Education and Schools in Brisbane

Most children in Brisbane attend one of the many free public schools, while others are sent to a fee-paying private school, many of which are run by the Catholic or Anglican churches. 

Expat families moving to Brisbane will find that international schooling options are limited. English is generally the medium of instruction in both Australian public and private schools in Brisbane. So children whose first language is not English might find the transition into the Australian education system difficult.

The only real option parents will have when it comes to an international education in Queensland will be the International Baccalaureate (IB) programme. There are a few private schools in Queensland that offer this as an option to their students.

There are also some government schools in the state of Queensland offering language immersion programmes, where at least 50 percent of the curriculum is completed in a non-English language. There are various schools, for example, offering French, German, Japanese and Chinese immersion programmes.

Expat parents moving to Brisbane should also make themselves familiar with Education Queensland International (EQI) programme for primary schools. The EQI programme provides extra support for international students, particularly those that come from non-English-speaking backgrounds. 

Schools in Brisbane

Indooroopilly State High School

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: Australian National Curriculum, International Baccalaureate
Ages: 12 to 18  

Mountain Creek State High School

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: Australian National Curriculum, International Baccalaureate
Ages: 12 to 18

St Paul’s School

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate
Ages: 3 to 18  

St Peter’s Lutheran College

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: Australian National Curriculum, International Baccalaureate
Ages: 3 to 18

Lifestyle in Brisbane

Brisbane is renowned for the easy-going, relaxed atmosphere that inspired its playful nickname – ‘City of Sundays’. Though, despite the lethargy and the often apparent lackadaisical attitude, the capital city of Queensland is filled with the cosmopolitan hustle and bustle of any major urban hub.

The expat community benefits from several interesting districts, a carefully cultivated café vibe, the attraction of a stunning riverside park, as well as a chock-a-block full cultural calendar and a vibrant nightlife. 

Shopping in Brisbane

Shopaholics won’t falter amid Brisbane’s designer boutiques and department stores. Numerous bustling markets dot the city squares, and the Queen Street Mall packs it in to placate those who prefer to stay in one place. Brisbane’s independent shopping scene is concentrated around inner-city Brisbane. Fortitude Valley and Paddington are the top spots for fashion and vintage. Here one can spend the day trawling second-hand bookshops, record stores and specialty stores.

The main antique precincts are centred in south side’s Woolloongabba and there are quaint little boutiques to be found offering an array of eclectic gifts and homewares. Brisbane also has a growing market culture, with everything from farmer's markets selling ethnic and organic produce, to those showcasing vintage fashion to be found on weekends all over town. 

Arts and culture in Brisbane

Brisbane is a city with some serious cultural credentials. The South Bank calls out to arts and culture gurus, complete with the Queensland Museum, the Queensland Art Gallery, and the Performing Arts Centre. These venues host an array of events and world-class exhibitions. Other cultural hot spots in Brisbane include the eclectic New Farm and Fortitude Valley. Walking around the city centre itself also reveals a range of public art and heritage buildings.

Music lovers shouldn't miss the opportunity to see the orchestra play between the grand Corinthian columns of Customs House. 

Sport in Brisbane

Sport, in true Aussie fashion, is also well catered for at the Brisbane Cricket Ground (known locally as the Gabba) and Ballymore, where the Wallabies defend their rugby pride. Those who don’t have a ticket for the game should head to the nearest pub or sports bar and watch the game live amongst the locals.

For people who want to do something more hands-on, Brisbane has many recreational sports teams where expats can join locals to play football, cricket and rugby. For something a little more serene, the Tangalooma Wrecks offer a great dive site for new and experienced divers. Here divers can get a glimpse of the fish and other marine life that inhabit the area. 

Restaurants in Brisbane

Brisbane has plenty of gastronomic experiences guaranteed to tantalise the taste buds, even though the city is often overlooked in favour of Sydney or Melbourne. Brisbane is still widely considered one of the best places to splurge on a posh meal in Australia. 

See and Do in Brisbane

Expats will find Brisbane’s relaxed atmosphere makes it a natural choice for holidaymakers. Filled with attractions and within easy access of Australia's east coast resorts and theme parks on the Pacific Motorway, leisure and pleasure are two cornerstones of the city’s civic character. 

Surfers flock to the centre in anticipation of better access to the Sunshine Coast in the north, and the nearby national parks, as well as the centrally located artificial beach, make for ideal family fun in the sun. 

Recommended attractions in Brisbane

The Gabba

Named after the suburb of Woolloongabba in which it is located, this famous cricket ground offers locals and visitors alike great entertainment from sport to music and greyhound racing.

Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

The Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is not only home to Australia’s unofficial cute and cuddly mascot but also to kangaroos, wombats, echidnas, Tasmanian Devils and various species of reptiles as well as bird life. The sanctuary has the impressive distinction of being the world's oldest and largest koala sanctuary.

Queensland Maritime Museum

Founded in 1971, the Queensland Maritime Museum contains large-scale exhibitions featuring historic sailing ships, cruise liners and tankers; as well as a library containing artefacts, documents and original maritime photographs.

South Bank

As one of Brisbane’s most popular attractions, The South Bank is a jam-packed central district that features Australia’s only man-made beach and lagoon alongside parklands, rainforest walks, barbeque areas and cultural centres.

Story Bridge

The Story Bridge stretches across the Brisbane River; connecting Fortitude Valley to Kangaroo Point. Visitors with strong stomachs and nerves of steel can climb to the top for a reward of breathtaking cityscapes.

Sea World

Sea World offers marine attractions, rides, shows and much more while elegantly toeing the line between entertainment and education. Interactive tours and an amazing aquarium are only two of the essential highlights.

What's On in Brisbane

There is always something going on in Brisbane, and the city plays host to a number of exciting annual events. Every year, locals and tourists alike come together to enjoy the festivals and celebrations that put Brisbane on the map. 

Here are some of the city's top yearly events.

Australia Day (January)

Australia Day on 26 January is the country's national day, where Australians come together to celebrate everything about Australia and being Australian. There are lots of ways to get involved in Australia Day in Brisbane, from formal events to relaxed picnics in the parks and on the foreshore.

Brisbane Queer Film Festival (March)

The annual Brisbane Queer Film Festival is the third largest queer film festival in the country and the largest in the region. The festival showcases shorts, documentaries and feature-length pieces from around the world, by and for the gay community.

Caxton Street Seafood and Wine Festival (May)

What started as a modest street festival has ballooned into one of the most popular festivals on the Australian social calendar. Every year, more than 15,000 festival goers make their way to Brisbane for the succulent seafood, elegant wines and live performances by the country’s hottest musicians.

Goomeri Pumpkin Festival (May)

Pulpy entertainment and good ol’ fashioned tomfoolery come together at the annual Goomeri Pumpkin Festival. Hundreds of market stalls line the streets selling pumpkin-themed products like pumpkin soup, pumpkin pie and even pumpkin fudge. There are also competitions to take part in and live music to enjoy.

Brisbane Winter Racing Carnival (May/June)

Each year the Brisbane Racing Club holds its Winter Racing Carnival. Here one can watch exciting horse races at Eagle Farm and Doomben Racecourses. The prestigious event attracts locals and tourists alike to strut the latest designer fashions, enjoy some incredible weather and watch the races.

Brisbane Marathon (June)

This is a huge event for the city's running community and has been growing in popularity for many years now. Professionals and amateurs come out in force to run varying distances including the full marathon and half marathon as well as shorter distances which can be walked or run.

Valley Fiesta (September/October)

The Valley Fiesta is a massive three-day street festival that centres around Ann Street in Fortitude Valley. It's a bright, vibrant day out filled with great food, shopping opportunities and a brilliant party atmosphere. 

Getting Around in Brisbane

Getting around in Brisbane is relatively straightforward. The city centre is compact, which makes it possible to walk and cycle around from point to point, while areas further afield are served by public transport. 

Trains, buses and the popular CityCat ferry are the main modes of transportation for commuters travelling to the city from the surrounding suburbs each day.

Due to the rapid population growth in Brisbane, the city is continually undergoing major infrastructure expansion. This means that roads often get very congested, especially during peak hours. Furthermore, finding parking in the city centre can be difficult and expensive.

Public transport in Brisbane


There are three main modes of public transport in Brisbane – namely trains, buses and ferries. These are all linked through an integrated ticketing system called TransLink. The TransLink system allows free transfers to be made between each of the three modes of transport, within certain time and zone limits. Tickets are only valid for travel in selected zones.

For regular commuters, the Go Card is the most cost-effective and convenient option. This contactless smart card allows passengers to top up funds. Buying a Go Card not only eliminates the hassle of figuring out which zones one will be travelling through, but also saves money in the long run. 


The bus network in Brisbane is large and comprehensive. All buses have a digital display on the front telling commuters their route number and final destinations.

Expats living in Brisbane will find that the areas in the inner city are well served by buses. Generally, buses arrive every 15 to 25 minutes, depending on the route. Popular routes within the inner city tend to be serviced more regularly. Bus services to Brisbane’s outlying suburbs tend to be less frequent or have reduced operating hours. 

Expats should note that some bus services will not sell tickets on board, especially during peak hours. Therefore, it is best to pre-purchase tickets or use a Go Card.

Brisbane also has a large number of express buses, which do not stop at every stop along the route. There are also some all-night buses which operate on selected routes on a Friday and Saturday night. These are called NightLink services.


Trains are a quick and convenient way to travel in the city. Most train services in Brisbane run from one end of the suburbs and through the city centre. All trains in Brisbane service Roma Street, Central, Fortitude Valley and Bowen Hills regardless of the final destination. Intercity rail services can be used to travel to the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast.

Trains in Brisbane run every 10 to 30 minutes, depending on the route and the time of day. Some services run later on Friday and Saturday nights and most services finish early on Sundays.

While trains are the fastest way to get around the city, there are parts of Brisbane that are not sufficiently covered by the city’s rail network. 


The ferries which dot the river and have become iconic of transportation in Brisbane are called CityFerries and CityCats.

CityCats are high-speed catamarans while CityFerries are more traditional ferries that operate on shorter routes with more regular stops. Ferries in Brisbane generally arrive every 10 to 15 minutes. So while they do not cover as much ground as the city’s bus and rail networks, they do provide a fast and unique way to travel around Brisbane.

Taxis in Brisbane

Taxis are readily available throughout Brisbane and can go anywhere, but they are expensive. Two of the major taxi companies operating in Brisbane are Yellow Cabs and Black and White Cabs.

It is possible to hail a cab when the roof light is on but it is best to book ahead. All taxis in Brisbane are fitted with GPS units and accept cash, credit and debit cards.

If travelling late at night it is best to catch a cab from a designated taxi rank. These ranks are usually closely monitored by security and have ushers to assist passengers travelling at night.

Driving in Brisbane

Driving in Brisbane is not easy. Many of the roads in Brisbane's city centre are one-way, making driving in the city quite frustrating for new arrivals. However, the roads and driving infrastructure in Brisbane are of an excellent standard and signage is very clear.

There is very little parking available in Brisbane’s city centre. It is also worth noting that many of the roads become clearways at 4pm, so any car parked on the side of the road after this time will be fined and/or towed. Therefore, drivers should always check for signs or just go for the safe option and opt to park at a parking station.

For those travelling around the suburbs, driving is not so difficult except during peak hours. At peak times traffic is terrible and the average 15-minute journey can take up to an hour.

There are also a number of toll roads in and around Brisbane.

Walking and cycling in Brisbane

Brisbane is cyclist-friendly city and, thanks to the many cycle paths around the city, getting around by bicycle is safe and easy.

Brisbane City Council has also implemented a bike-sharing scheme called CityCycle, which offers bicycles for hire and different stations around the city. For a reasonable hiring price, commuters can rent bicycles to travel around the city centre. However, cyclists will need to provide their own helmet; riding without a helmet is illegal and can result in a hefty fine.

Brisbane is a great city for walking around in and expats will find that walking from point A to B is simple, especially in the city centre.