Working Holiday Visa: Australia vs. New Zealand

So you've decided to head off on a Working Holiday Visa

You want somewhere far away, somewhere to really get out and explore a land different to your own, right?! Now for most of the world, nowhere is further away than Australia and New Zealand. Lucky for you, they are both amazing choices for a Working Holiday Visa with so many perks and reasons to visit.

First up, the landscapes in each are simply outstanding, not to mention incredibly varied. Although both are English speaking countries and therefore may not seem as exotic as say travelling South East Asia, the vibe is incredibly different from other English speaking countries.

So the question is: is coming here for a whole year the right choice for you? (You’ll find that the answer is yes 99% of the time). And what does getting a Working Holiday Visa actually mean and how does it work?

What is a Working Holiday Visa?

The official meaning of a Working Holiday is to visit a country with the sole purpose of travelling, while also having the ability to work to fund your travel.

I feel this is super important to remember. Although it is an unreal experience to work in another part of the world, it is also so important to make sure you travel and experience as much of the country you are in as possible.

There will be landscapes you won’t experience anywhere else in the world. Food unique to the different areas. Tours and activities that can’t be done at home! All of this is what will make your year truly memorable.

The rules of the Working Holiday Visa vary depending on which country you end up choosing. So does the amount of time you can stay or the different ways in which you are able to extend your visa. So what are these differences and which one is right for you to head to first (yes, first)…

A polaroid picture of a group of travellers
Group shot of Working Holiday-ers who travelled the East Coast during their year in Australia

Overview: Australia Vs. New Zealand

There are a few factors to take into account when deciding whether Australia or NZ is right for you, but let’s start with a major logistic:

Length of stay:

Australia = 1 year + additional year if you complete 88 days of rural work within your first year + another additional year if you complete 6 more months of rural work within your 2nd year.

New Zealand = 1 year for most countries or 23 months for citizens of the UK or Canada.

Now you know how long you can stay, let’s get to the good stuff. These are some of my very general highlights for each country and might help you decide.

Australia

Outstanding beaches, including one that is voted top 5 in the world (Whitehaven Beach).

Vast outback spaces with scenery that you can’t find anywhere else in the world.

Unique, quirky cities with epic music scenes (that’s Melbourne by the way).

It’s MASSIVE, therefore your whole two years could be spent travelling and you might not actually see it all!

Brilliant hospitality no matter where you go, including fantastic food, hugely varied nightlife and the BEST coffee.

New Zealand

Literally gobsmacking views.

Tropics, volcanos, surf towns, vineyards, jaw dropping mountains, barely inhabited mountainous islands. I could go on and on.

A laid back vibe that even Australia can’t muster, as in practically horizontal.

The nicest people you’ll ever meet (slightly biased).

Small towns so full of life that some cities around the world would struggle to keep up (just google Queenstown for one second and you’ll see what I mean).

Yep, I’m not making that decision easy aye? Well, another important thing is how you will fare when you get there and how far your hard earned savings will get you…

Costs Of Living

The New Zealand Dollar and the Australian Dollar are slightly different, and when I write costs below, each will be in the respective currencies. Here are some conversions for context.

Australian Dollar (AUD)
1 USD = $1.40
1 EUR = $1.64
1 GBP = $1.80
1 CAD = $1.05

New Zealand Dollar (NZD)
1 USD = $1.50
1 EUR = $1.76
1 GBP = $1.93
1 CAD = $1.12

The difference between AUD and NZD may not be much but if you are transferring over large amounts, that’s when you’ll really notice that difference.

Generally speaking, for day to day things during travels, costs are quite similar between Australia and New Zealand. For example, it would be around $80 for an overnight bus journey, $1-$3 for a loaf of bread and around $10 for a beer.

Once you decide it’s time to work and you settle down in a certain town that’s where the costs start to vary. It will also depend on which town you are looking to work in/around.

For instance in NZ, if you decide to live in Auckland or Queenstown you’d be looking at an average of $200-$250 per week for your own room, usually excluding bills.

In most other areas of NZ, even cities like Wellington or Christchurch the average weekly rent cost would be slightly cheaper at $175- $200.

For Australia, if you were to live in Melbourne or Sydney (with Sydney always on the higher side of the average) you’d be looking at around $200- $250 for your own room in an inner suburb. In the CBD, it would be more around $300-$350 a room).

In areas like Bondi in Sydney you could also be looking around $300 a week for a room excluding bills.

However, most other areas along the coast, whether city or small town would be around $150-$200 a week, sometimes including bills and internet.

If you are completing your rural work and are staying in a regional area, weekly costs can be as low as $100 a week, so you can see how much it varies.

Working On Your Visa

In each country there are a few rules first which you must follow whilst on your visa, which are:

Australia
You can work for 6x months at a time with one employer in a certain location. During your 2nd year you could do another 6 months with the same employer again. The exception to this is certain rural work where you can stay longer.

New Zealand

You can work for the same employer throughout your entire one year visa. If on a 23 month visa you are meant to only work for 12x months of your visa.

Generally though you will be able to work in any industry, especially if you’ve done it before. Hospitality and tourism are big business for backpackers on Working Holiday Visas as are various trades like construction.
If you have a skill or trade from back home it is well worth looking at these DOCS to see if you need to transfer or translate anything before you come over to be able to work in that industry here.

So there are all the regular jobs you can get into, but there are also some very different experiences, like your farm work, to try, plus the weirder side like camel herder and the super fun side like a ride attendant at a theme park.

Everyone talks about how travel changes you and a big part of that will be the work you do and how you deal with any issues that arise or any bumps in the road.

You’ll find that once everything settles and you are back home that you’ll have gained serious skills for your future, even if all you did here was work in a roadhouse in the middle of the outback.

The founders of WTT, Adam and Darryl, putting the "holiday" in Working Holiday

The Ideal Place For You

So which is the best one for you?! Hopefully this all gives you a bit more insight to the ins and outs of each Working Holiday Visa and some inspiration about which country may be the best place to get started for you. In all honesty though, I could write and write, and you can research and research and I know you’ll love your choice, whichever it is. Australia and New Zealand are both such incredibly special places to visit and both of them have this mad ability to render each and every backpacker who visits the inability to leave.

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