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Moving to Brisbane

Known for the eponymous river that meanders from the Coral Sea through the city, Brisbane is a gorgeous and vibrant expat destination.

One of Australia's biggest cities, it has a rapidly expanding population of close to 2.5 million and is home to a significant expat population from a wide variety of countries. The largest portion of expats living in Brisbane are from the UK and New Zealand, but there are also significant numbers of Indian, Chinese and South African expats in the city.

As one would expect with a growing city, the economy is ever expanding and expats should be able to find work in Brisbane fairly easily. Some of the city's main industries include IT, finance and administration. While living in Brisbane is by no means cheap, the cost of accommodation, along with the general cost of living, is far lower than in other major Australian cities such as Sydney or Melbourne.

Brisbane is a laid-back city that still manages to buzz with an assortment of lively areas. While the city centre is fairly compact, the suburbs sprawl outwards in all directions. 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 offer a respite from the city and are great weekend getaway spots.

Weather in Brisbane

Brisbane's subtropical climate makes for enjoyable weather year round. The summer months between December and February bring heavy humidity and high temperatures, while winters, from June to August, are dry and mild. 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, not to mention expats who enjoy the outdoors.

The rainy season runs from November to March. Temperatures average at around 84°F (29°C) in the peak summer months, but it is only marginally cooler the rest of the year – even winter temperatures are typically in the 59°F (15°C) to 68°F (20°C) range.

 

Cost of Living in Brisbane

While the cost of living in Brisbane is not 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 city's cost of living increasing steadily over the years. Mercer's Cost of Living Survey for 2020 saw Brisbane tied with Adelaide for the rank of 126th most expensive city out of the 209 cities surveyed. This is considerably lower than Sydney though, which is the country's most expensive city at 66th.

Even though Brisbane is slowly becoming a more expensive place for expat life, there are always ways to save money and 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 areas and suburbs tend to be expensive, so a good strategy to reduce the cost of housing is to live further out in the suburbs instead of in the city centre. In most cases, utilities will need to be paid for separately in addition to rental costs.


Cost of transportation in Brisbane

While the city has extensive bus and train networks, which make getting around the city convenient, transport in Brisbane is expensive. There are ways to cut down on transport costs though. For those who plan on regular commuting, investing in a Go Card can save some money.


Cost of entertainment in Brisbane

The cost of entertainment in Brisbane is in line with the average prices 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 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 2021.

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 2,800

Three-bedroom apartment outside of the city centre

AUD 1,900

Shopping

Eggs (dozen)

AUD 4.90

Milk (1 litre)

AUD 1.70

Rice (1kg)

AUD 2.70

Loaf of white bread

AUD 2.70

Chicken breasts (1kg)

AUD 11

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

AUD 35

Eating out

Big Mac Meal

AUD 12.50

Coca-Cola (330ml)

AUD 3.50

Cappuccino

AUD 4.50

Bottle of local beer

AUD 8

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

AUD 100

Utilities

Mobile-to-mobile call rate (per minute)

AUD 0.35

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)

AUD 75

Basic utilities (per month for a small apartment)

AUD 200

Transportation

Taxi rate (per kilometre)

AUD 2.20

Bus/train fare in the city centre

AUD 4

Petrol/gasoline (per litre)

AUD 1.40

Accommodation in Brisbane

Due to Queensland's strong economy and abundance of jobs, this prosperous state are attracting skilled workers from all over the world. This, 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 accommodation in Brisbane

There are a few different 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. It's often best to stay in short-term accommodation at first while looking for something more permanent. Due to high demand, properties are snapped up quickly in the city and it may take a bit of time to not only find but also get approval to rent the perfect home.

Resources such as 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 – agents often have access to property listings before they go on the open market and will have a good knowledge of the city. 


Renting accommodation 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. To avoid the crowds, it's best to go to weekday viewings during working hours rather than after-hours or weekend viewings.

Many properties are managed through an agent, and references will usually be required in addition to extensive proof-of-identity documentation. Since the market moves so fast, it's advisable that expats research and prepare what they will need ahead of time so that they are ready to submit at any time.

Rent for accommodation in Brisbane is payable monthly or fortnightly, and rental listings may list the per-week price rather than the per-month price, so expats should be sure to double-check if a particular figure seems too good to be true. Utility bills are usually not included in the rental price and are the responsibility of the tenant to pay.

Areas and Suburbs in Brisbane

The best places to live in Brisbane

Deciding which area to live in is one of the most important decisions that any expat moving to Brisbane will have to make. 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 a difficult one.

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


City-living in Brisbane

Fortitude Valley

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. In fact, 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 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 hearts' 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 Brisbane 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

Victoria Point

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.

Families often find Victoria Point to be an ideal choice thanks to the selection of private and public schools in the area.

Holland Park

Holland Park is a great neighbourhood 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 many more affordable options for those on a tight budget.


Affordable areas of Brisbane

Darra

The cost of living in Brisbane is generally quite high and rent tends to account 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 city's many large subdivided homes. This is a great way to meet other people and become familiar with one's new host city.

Darra

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

New arrivals to will be glad to know that the standard of healthcare in Brisbane is excellent. The city has modern, well-equipped hospitals with superb, 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 that isn't available on site. Pharmacies in Brisbane can be found on any major shopping street or at shopping malls. Selected pharmacies are open 24/7.


Hospitals in Brisbane

Children’s Health Queensland Hospital 

www.childrens.health.qld.gov.au
Address: 501 Stanley Street, South Brisbane

The Prince Charles Hospital

www.metronorth.health.qld.gov.au/tpch
Address: 627 Rode Rd, Chermside

Mater Private Hospital

www.mater.org.au
Address: 30 Health Care Drive, Springfield Central

The Wesley Hospital

www.wesley.com.au
Address: 451 Coronation Drive, Auchenflower

Education and Schools in Brisbane

Education and schooling in Brisbane consist of government and non-government schools. Government schools are, in most cases, free, while non-government schools are fee-paying. 

Expat families moving to Brisbane will find that international schooling options are limited, but since English is generally the medium of instruction in both Australian public and private schools in Brisbane, English-speaking children should adjust relatively easily. On the other hand, this may prove difficult for those with limited English proficiency. In this case, parents should consider one of Brisbane's language immersion schools if they offer the child's home language.


Government schools in Brisbane

Brisbane's public schools are funded by the government and most offer only the Australian curriculum. Generally, these schools don't charge tuition fees, but this may not be the case for expat families on temporary visas. Some schools do require payment in the form of non-tuition fees, but these still add up to far less than the cost of attending a non-government school.

Some government schools in the state of Queensland offer 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.

Government schools are assigned according to catchment areas, so parents should keep this in mind when deciding which neighbourhood to move to.

Government schools are reviewed at least once in every four years by the Queensland Department of Education (QDE). Results are available on school websites. Schools are also encouraged to conduct self-assessments between QDE reviews in order to monitor their own progress.


Non-government schools in Brisbane

In Australia, non-government schools are fee-paying institutions that can be divided into two broad categories: private and independent. The term "private schools" refers solely to fee-paying Catholic schools, while all other fee-paying schools are known as "independent schools".

Independent schools have the freedom to take a more tailored approach to education than public schools. Some are based on religions such as Judaism, Islam and non-Catholic denominations of Christianity. Other independent schools employ alternative education philosophies, such as Waldorf or Montessori.


International schools in Brisbane

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 government and non-government schools in Queensland that offer this as an option to their students. Note that unlike most government schools, those offering the IB do charge fees in order to cover the cost of the programme.

Expat parents moving to Brisbane may find it useful to make themselves familiar with the QDE's international branch, known as Education Queensland International (EQI). EQI provides extra support for international students, particularly those that come from non-English-speaking backgrounds.


Tutoring in Brisbane

Tutors are widely used in Brisbane, particularly for complex subjects such as maths and science, as well as for university preparation. For expats, hiring a tutor is a great way to ease their children's transition to a new school.

There are a number of possible areas of focus that tutors can assist with. They can help expat children catch up with the local curriculum and, if English is not the child's first language, they can provide extra support in developing their English skills. There are a number of reputable tutors in the Brisbane area, including A Team Tuition and My Local Tutors.


Special needs education in Brisbane

When it comes to meeting special needs in the schooling system, the Queensland Department of Education operates on the principle of inclusivity. Their ultimate aim is to ensure that those with special needs can comfortably attend their local school, have access to the same rich and varied education as their peers, learn in a safe environment free of bullying or harassment and, with assistance, be able make good academic and social progress.

There is support for children with limited English proficiency under a programme known as English as an Additional Language or Dialect (EAL/D). Such students are usually identified by schools on enrolment or in the course of classroom learning. These students follow an intensive English programme alongside an adjusted Australian curriculum.

Lifestyle in Brisbane

Brisbane is renowned for the easy-going, relaxed atmosphere that inspired its playful nickname – ‘City of Sundays’. Still, the capital city of Queensland is filled with plenty to see, do and explore. Residents benefit from several interesting districts, a carefully cultivated café vibe, the attraction of a stunning riverside park, as well as a chock-full cultural calendar and a vibrant nightlife. 


Shopping in Brisbane

Shopaholics are sure to enjoy Brisbane’s wide range of designer boutiques and department stores. Numerous bustling markets dot the city squares, and the Queen Street Mall packs it in for 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 Woolloongabba where 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 enthusiasts, 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 hotspots 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.


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 are without a ticket for the game should head to the nearest pub or sports bar and watch the game among the lively locals – quite an experience in itself.

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.

See and Do in Brisbane

Expats will discover that 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, Brisbane is ideally suited to those in search of leisure and pleasure.

Surfers flock to the centre in anticipation of better access to the Sunshine Coast in the north, while adventurers seek out the nearby national parks, as well as the centrally located artificial beach. The city's various attractions make for ideal family fun in the sun. 


Recommended attractions in Brisbane

Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

The Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is not only home to Australia’s cute and cuddly mascot but also to kangaroos, wombats, echidnas, platypuses and various species of reptiles as well as birdlife. 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

Drawing 11 million visitors a year, South Bank is one of Brisbane’s most popular attractions. This jam-packed central district features a man-made beach and lagoon alongside parklands, rainforest walks, barbeque areas and cultural centres. Those wanting to check out the city from up high should make sure to take a spin on the iconic Wheel of Brisbane, a 197-foot (60m) Ferris wheel.

Story Bridge

Story Bridge stretches across the Brisbane River, connecting Fortitude Valley to Kangaroo Point. Visitors with strong stomachs and nerves of steel can book a climb to the top for a reward of breathtaking city vistas. Apart from regular daytime climbs, there are also dawn-, twilight- and nighttime climbs for an entirely different experience of the view.

Brisbane Botanic Gardens

Nestled at the foot of Mount Coot-tha, the Brisbane Botanic Gardens are perfect for a quick escape from the city. Take a leisurely stroll, pack a picnic, and be sure to pop into the spectacular Tropical Display Dome. Lovers of space, science and the stars are sure to enjoy the Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium situated on-site.

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. Below are some of our favourites.


Annual events in Brisbane

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 to indulge in succulent seafood and sample elegant wines, while enjoying exciting live performances by the country’s hottest musicians.

Goomeri Pumpkin Festival (May)

Pulpy entertainment and good old-fashioned tomfoolery come together at the annual Goomeri Pumpkin Festival. Hundreds of market stalls line the streets selling pumpkin-themed eats such as 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 who dress to the nines, bask in the city's incredible weather and have a flutter on 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 that can be walked or run. 

Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers (September)

To kick off spring in style, be sure to pay a visit to this spectacular carnival held in a small city about an hour outside of Brisbane. During this event, more than 170,000 blooms can be viewed across Toowoomba, with celebrations centred in several of the city's parks. From twilight tours and carnival rides to festival food and live music, the Carnival of Flowers is a fantastic way to spend a day out.

Getting Around in Brisbane

Getting around in Brisbane is relatively straightforward. The city centre is compact, which makes it possible to walk and cycle, 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

Tickets

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. 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 purchasing tickets each trip, but also saves money in the long run. 

Buses

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. 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.

There are a handful of free bus services in and around the city centre. Stops serviced by free buses will have either red or yellow bus-stop signs.

Trains

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. Intercity rail services can be used to travel to outside Brisbane to destinations such as the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast.

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

Ferries

The iconic ferries that dot the river in Brisbane are called CityFerries and CityCats. There is also a free ferry service connecting the city with South Bank known as the CityHopper.

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 tend to be a pricey way to get around.

Taxi fares for cabs hailed on the street and at taxi ranks are regulated by the government, while prebooked taxi fares aren't subject to these restrictions. That said, it is still best to book ahead of time to ensure availability when needed.

Major taxi companies operating in Brisbane include Yellow Cabs and Black and White Cabs. Ride-hailing applications such as Uber and Lyft are also available.


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, and it can be a hassle to find parking. 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.

That said, those who do take to the roads will find the city generally has good driving infrastructure, with well-maintained roads and clear signage.


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.