Melbourne: Getting Set Up – Tips No One Tells You

Our first week in Australia was a bit of a rollercoaster to be honest. The same day we arrived we were off to set up bank accounts and get SIM cards, the next day we finalised the bank stuff, got Medicare set up and went to view a van we had had our eye on the last couple of weeks, and on day three we signed the paperwork and bought the van! We were so excited it was all coming together so quickly. At the same times we were in this amazing city but hadn’t stopped to enjoy it yet and although we were eager to get the van sorted so early on it meant there was more life admin to do there too. After having a roadworthy done for the van (equivalent to MOT) and hearing all that needed fixing with the van we were worried. It could have been worse but it was also another hit to our budget and everyday it was in the garage we were concerned more problems would be found. Luckily, nothing more cropped up, we took the hit moneywise as it needed to be done, and we breathed a sigh of relief when our new little home was back on its plot. That’s when the excitement really kicked in, knowing we could start our road trip as soon as we were ready and hit the road. Phew!

As this was all going on there were a few things we struggled to find clear advise about online so here are some tips based on our experience that hopefully might point other backpackers in similars situations down the right path.

1. The Big One – Needing an Australian Address

We didn’t quite realise just how important and how much this would be needed. If you plan on renting or living in your hostel for a significant amount of time this won’t be a problem. But if, like us, you wanted to move on as quick as possible and don’t want to be waiting around for documents in the post, this is a bit more of an issue. Most hostels will still collect post up to two weeks after you have checked out so if you are still in the area you can return to pick up documents. The other option is to set up a PO Box but be wary some places may be reluctant to send things to a PO Box and need a residential address. Probably the best and easiest way is to have a friend or family member things can be posted to. Often you won’t need the actual document, just the information on it, so if you have a trusted person who can receive it for you it makes things super easy. Tax number for example will be posted 2-4 weeks after applying, but it is only the actual number you need. Similar with the medicard, you will need the physical Medicare card eventually but to start with as long as you have a Medicare number you can update your address and get the card posted when you are staying somewhere more permanent.

2. You can’t get a bank account without an Australian number and you can’t set up a phone plan without an Australian bank account…huh?

Don’t worry about a full on phone plan when you first arrive. Get yourself set up with a SIM only deal as these still offer great packages and once your bank account is sorted you can set up a proper plan for added perks if you need to. You can also switch your Australian number from the SIM only onto the plan so no need to worry about updating to a new number everywhere. Once you’ve got the number next up is the bank account.

3. Documents you need to set up a bank account

You’ll need your passport for starters and one other of the following

-Drivers licence

-Boarding pass

-WHV confirmation

4.Registering your vehicle aka. The Rego, varies massively from state to state. In Victoria this is what you need to do:

– First important step is to get yourself a customer number. You will need this while filling out the transfer of sale form.

– Next, when you’ve found your vehicle and ready to buy fill in the Transfer (Buyer and Seller) form with the person you are buying the vehicle from. They keep a copy and you take a copy

– After this transaction you have 14 days to go to Vicsroad and complete the Transfer of Sale. At the same time you will need to pay to register the vehicle and there are various lengths of time you can choose from 3, 6 and 12 months slots. Whichever you go for you can extend anytime online so if you aren’t sure on timings it might be good to go for a shorter period and extend as needs be. Just be aware the reminder notice will go to the address on your forms so if you will be traveling be on it as to when your registration with expire

-Next up you have 28 days to complete roadworthy. This is essentially like an MOT to make sure the car is sound to be on the road. If there are any problems with it you then have 7 days to fix any issues otherwise you will need to pay for a new roadworthy to start the process again. The mechanic you do the roadworthy with will give you a document, take this in to be stamped and your vehicle is good to go!

For now that was enough to get the key things set up. When you first arrive, get anything that requires documents being posted to you first such as bank account (along with the phone number to allow you to do that), tax number and Medicare. Superannuation needs to be set up too but is less urgent if you aren’t planning on working straight away. The application for superannuation can be done online and you can apply through most Australian banks. This may even be a post I continue to add to as I learn more about getting set up in Australia so keep checking in.

All life admin ticked off we started making plans to explore Melbourne better, find some fun and plan our road trip. Look out for the next post for what we got up to in Melbourne.

What I Wish I’d Known Before Traveling Sri Lanka

I’ve only spent one whirlwind week in Sri Lanka so by no means can I claim to be an exper but these are some of the tips I’ve picked up during my short stay and things I wish I had known before coming to Sri Lanka.

Do Sigiriya as a day trip from Kandy
– Sigiriya and the Cave Temples are located in Dambulla, about a 2 1/2 hour drive out of Kandy but it’s not as tricky as you might think to get there. There’s lots of advice out there for getting buses or, if you can afford it/get a group together to split the cost then having a personal driver for the long route is worth it. We paid 1600 SLR per person in the end, around £8 for the whole day. Dambulla seems pretty rural and speaking to others along the way there isn’t much to do there other than these two main attractions. Unless you want to get up super early and see the sunrise from the top, basing yourself in Kandy and doing a day trip is entirely possible.

Budget travelling? Hike Pidurangala Mountain instead
– This mountain is right next to Sigiriya and although you won’t get to see the ruins or the impressive lion paws that give Sigiriya its name as Lion Rock, you will get a great view of the site as a whole. The main plus is that while Sigiriya entrance fee will set you back just over 4000 SLR, its little cousin will only set you back 500 SLR. Although it’s over priced I was still glad I did Sigiriya as there is more to see whereas the other one is just a nice hike, that said, if you’re on a budget this is the perfect alternative as you’ll still get to see the Lion Rock and pay a fraction of the price.

Get a bus to Rawana Falls in Ella
– After hiking Ella Rock we were going to attempt Little Adam’s Peak but it was too misty. We heard Rawana Falls were nice and so set off on aching legs down the winding road. Although it was a great way to see the countryside, an hour later we arrived at the falls only to be fairly disappointed. They are pretty but not worth an hours walk and I especially wouldn’t recommend trudging back up the hilly road! We got a bus back for 20 SLR and wished we had got one there as well.

Follow Nomadic Boys advice on climbing Ella Rock – I read all about the supposedly helpful locals who will point you in the “right” direction when you inevitably get lost looking for the turn off for the hike, only to lead you round in circles until another “helpful” local will take you to the right place for a small fee. Despite knowing about this tourist trap we were still suckered in and had to pay a “farmer” a few hundred rupees just to walk us five minutes down a path onto the right track. We came back the way the bloggers suggested so their advice is sound, just don’t be persuaded otherwise! Sri Lankan’s are friendly people always willing to help, which can make it tricky to spot things like this, but stick to your guns and continue up the track a little further and you’ll find the right place all by yourself.

Have tea at the top of Ella Rock
– I wish I’d had my own cup but I snuck a sip of a friend’s and the sweet brew instantly revived me. An old man with a wrought iron kettle bubbling over a small fire will happily serve you up a cup and trust me you’ll need it after the steep rocky climb near the top..

Get out of Colombo – Ok so I didn’t have the greatest of experiences here but still, quite frankly, there are much prettier and more interesting places to visit. Don’t waste time like I did and just hop on the next train out of there!

Check when festivals and celebrations are on – I might have had a much better time in Colombo if I’d checked and really thought about what was going on there. On the one hand I might have been able to see more of the religious celebrations and on the other I might have been able to go to temples when they were open rather than looking forlornly up at beautiful exteriors with locked and chained doors. 

Get a guesthouse in Ella and go to Chill Bar – Originally myself and a guy I was travelling with were going to stay in the Spice Hut Hostel, the only hostel in Ella but to be honest its pretty grim. When the main thing to do in Ella is hike you really want a decent bed for the night and there are good deals to be had so don’t feel like you’ll have to blow your budget to stay somewhere nice. In the evening everyone goes to Chill bar, the food is pretty decent, though mostly Western options, but relaxing with a few drinks and meeting other travellers is the best part about this bar, which is brimming with backpackers. Oh and the fact that it plays a remix of the Game of Thrones theme tune on loop just tops it off!

Try local food – It’s not as scary as you might think. Maybe this is already a natural part of travel for you but I know I was nervous after a few horror stories of food poisoning and bad stomachs. There are some real gems in store though as the dishes in sri Lanka are simple and tasty. Be sensible about where you eat but remember that no where (apart from maybe some very upmarket tourist places) will have the same standards or look the same as what you would expect back home. Try Dosa, especially a cheese one, which is much like a pancake and served with mild curry sauce and chillis for dipping into. Roti makes a great snack for long journeys. They come with different fillings depending where you buy from and in different shapes too but are essentially a kind of wrap/pancake with some kind of vegetable/meat/potato cooked in curry flavours. My favourite dish was Kotthu though, vegetable and meat or egg if you want chopped up with another kind of roti. It looks likenothing special but has great flavours and is surprisingly filling.

I wish I had known some of these things before I planned my trip to Sri Lanka so I hope they are useful to you. If you want some more specifics on things I did and places I ate and stayed at in Sri Lanka then check out my postcard and tag album for more ideas.