Cost of living for International Students in Australia

Planning your budget when moving to Australia is imperative. This will not only help you understand your spending capacity, but make a sensible decision regarding your overseas studies. Before you make a decision to enrol as an International Student, I’d suggest you take a moment to draw the budget. In this post, I will breakdown the monthly average spend for an International Student in Australia.

Keep in mind this is an average. The numbers may vary depending on your lifestyle and services / products you opt for. Also, since I live in Sydney, this information is based on living cost here. Sydney is known for its high cost of living compared to other states.


In my experience, major proportion of the living cost is attributed to rent. The monthly rent actually depends on the type of place you rent. Whilst a studio or one bedroom apartment could be between $350.00 to $400.00 per week, most students prefer shared accommodation for its reasonable pricing. On average student accommodation will cost $250.00 a week. Try to find accommodations with bills included, so you can budget exactly how much rent you will incur.

Refer to our How to find cheap accomodation article to learn more about saving $$ on rent.


Unfortunately, International Students in Sydney are not eligible for concessions on public transport. If you do not live in walking proximity to the University, you may incur an average of $40.00 a week for travel. Other states like Victoria where the students are fortunate to receive travel concessions, will incur an average weekly cost of $20.00.

Tip: Learn to use public transport to your advantage to help you save on unnecessary spending.

Tuition fees

It is hard to put a finger on the average spending because it depends on the course, level of study and University. Due to work restrictions for International Students it is not easy to find the money to pay for tuition through a part-time job right away. I’d recommend you have tuition fees for at least the first three semesters in-hand prior to arriving in Australia.

Medical expenses

This shouldn’t be a problem because you will most likely have paid for Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) prior to arriving in Australia as a part of the Student Visa process. On average OSHC will be around $500.00 per year. For day to day medical expenses, OSHC cover mostly consultation for general practitioners and proportion of prescribed medicine. You can compare different OSHC covers through this website to understand what is suitable for you depending on your medical needs.

Groceries and food

It goes without saying, cooking at home is way cheaper than eating out. For example, a coffee from the local cafe would be around $3.20; you do the math if you plan to have a coffee everyday.

If you are living by yourself groceries will not cost a lot. You can go for house-brands, which are relatively healthy. I am pretty generous when comes to groceries, because I am happy when my tummy is happy. For a person like me, $40.00 a week is more than sufficient.

You can check out our Heathy Study Snacks post to get some ideas on healthy, tasty and cheap snack ideas.

Mobile and internet

This is obviously an essential but is not very expensive. You can find a prepaid sim for $30.00 per month with Unlimited National Calls / Text and few gigs of data from providers such as Optus and Vodafone.

Most student accommodation comes with free WiFi, so definitely is not something to worry about. In the rare chance you are need to have your own internet connectivity, TPG offer unlimited downloads on high speed internet connection for around $60.00 per month.


This expense is subjective depending on your lifestyle. As students, you are able to receive student concessions at the movies, adventure parks, etc. If you are part of University clubs and societies, you will receive special discounts at certain stores. Alcohol is expensive in Australia, a night out could cost you up to $70.00. Always look out for weekday specials and student discounts for cost-effective options. On average, I would say up to $30.00 a week is a reasonable estimate.

In summary

Weekly cost for a student would add up to:

  • Accommodation – $250.00
  • Transportation – $40.00
  • Tuition fees – Depends
  • Medical expenses – Depends
  • Groceries and food – $40.00
  • Mobile and internet – $10.00
  • Entertainment – $30.00

What are your thoughts on this analysis? What other expenses would an International Student incur?

Use Public Transport in Sydney to Your Advantage

If you are new to Sydney, you will soon realise the difficulty in navigating through the city of similar street corners, never-ending streets and by-roads every 10 steps. I referred to it as a maze because when I moved here, I more often get lost or walk for 20 minutes to realise I am back where  I started. Good times! Since I did not have wheels at the time, I relied on public transport, it was dependable, cheaper than hailing a taxi and less strenuous than walking.

New South Wales (NSW) has the best public transport network in all of seven states, hands-down. Having quality public transport can be highly beneficial, especially for International Students, to explore and get around the new city. Transport is fairly reliable, apart from the unexpected delays; but coming from a developing country where delays are so frequent, I consider this a premier service. Obviously, nothing of quality comes cheap. The travel fares are relatively expensive to other states. Worse part is that NSW and Victoria are the only states in Australia that don’t offer concessions to International Students. I heard on the grapevine that this will be changing soon, but for now we have to live with it.

In this post, I will address how to efficiently and effectively get around using public transport.

Sydney trains


Purchase an Opal card

adult opal card

Opal is a smart travel card that allows travel on buses, trains, light rail and ferries by simply reloading with a minimum of $10.00. This reusable public transport card has no setup cost – you only incur the cost you wish to reload. Buying an Opal card is about $2.00 cheaper per trip than purchasing single travel tickets. International Students in NSW must purchase the Adult Card (not the Student Card). You can purchase and reload your card from Opal website, 7-Eleven or at any of the 2100 authorised Opal retailers. I would advise against purchasing through unauthorised sellers on online sites like Gum Tree.

Remember to tap-on and off


For an accurate fare calculation, you must tap-on when you start your journey and tap-off at the end of the journey. If you forget to tap-on there is a likelihood you will be fined up to $400.00 if you get caught to a random ticket-checkers. There is no way you can evade paying for travel, so don’t even take the risk. If you forget to tap-off, you will be automatically charged the price of a full journey.

Take advantage of travel concessions

Who doesn’t want to know how to reduce their travel cost? I most certainly did when I was an International Student.

Avoid peak travel

Peak hours are on weekdays between 7.00 am to 9.00 am and 3.45 pm to 6.30 pm. You can travel at 3/4 the cost if you travel outside these hours. What’s important is that you tap-on your card before the peak period begins. For instance, if you tap-on at 6.59 am, you will be charged the off-peak fare even though your final arrival time is within the peak hours. Plan your travels ahead, and avoid non-essential travels during these times. Next time if your train is at 9.05 am, don’t be shy, stick around and tap-on at 9.01 am.

Plan long travels on Sunday

Ferry ride in Sydney

Fancy a day trip to Manly in ferry or take the morning train to Blue Mountains? Save these trips for a Sunday because there is a daily cap, you pay no more than $2.70 no matter where and which public transport method you use. This is a smart way to save on travel costs for long distance travel and expensive modes like the ferry.

Do short trips at beginning of the week

This tip doesn’t apply to those who live close to the University, but relevant for those who travel on a regular basis.

Opal has a weekly travel rewards – after eight paid journeys, rest of the travel for the week is at half rate. Remember, if you make a transfer (eg. train to bus) to reach your destination, that is considered as one paid journey.

Try to do short travels, like travelling to the local supermarket or mall, between Mondays and Wednesdays. This way you can reach your weekly travel reward quicker and enjoy rest of the week at half rate.

Finish your errands within 60 minutes

If you make several transfers from the same mode of transport within 60 minutes of tapping off, it counts as a single travel. Say you take the bus to the local Woollies, if you can catch the return bus within 60 minutes, you will not be charged for the return travel.

You can calculate your fare online using the fare calculator. This is helpful for budgeting purposes and understand how to minimise your weekly travel costs.

Tapping-on an opal card

Download TripView app

TripView is best $5.00 I spent during my University days. This iOS / Android app is THE Sydney transport app that shows real-time data for all public transport methods. It regularly updates the timetable, shows any delays, disruptions in the network and current passenger capacity. This is especially useful if you are to catch a bus. You will know exactly what time it will be reaching your stop and you don’t have to idle and hold your breath to sight your bus.

Google Maps is your mate

As I mentioned earlier, in the start, it feels like you are living in a maze. Thanks, to Google Maps,  navigating is simple and easy. In NSW, the transport network is integrated into Google Maps. Once you learn to navigate the maps correctly, it becomes quite easy to find the correct bus number, train connections, closet bus stop / train station and the fastest or least transfer route to your destination. I would still refer to TripView for the timetable once I refer Google Maps to pick the best route.

One month after moving to Sydney, one evening, I was navigating through Google Maps as I had to transfer from one bus to another to reach my destination. For my unfortunate circumstance, Google network crashed! I got off the bus at an unknown location, completely lost, and feeling petrified. Long story short, the wonderful people here helped me to get to my destination, but I was late by an hour. Moral is that Google Maps and TripView are apps that may not work in your favour at times. If you ever face such situation, don’t panic, just ask for help from bypassers, bus drivers or station staff – people here are friendly and hospitable.

Public transport Sydney in Google maps

Things to remember

  • If you do not plan on purchasing a vehicle, find accommodation close to public transport (bus stand or train station) and ensure there are direct and frequent transfers to your University.
  • Public transport in regional suburbs are not frequent as in the metropolitan regions.
  • Buses may end as early as 5.30 pm on certain routes, so refer to timetables.
  • Trains do not operate after 12.00 midnight to most suburbs during weekdays, and 1.00 am during weekends.
  • There are direct routes to Airport via buses and trains. Sometimes it can be far cheaper than Uber. The Airport line train cost between $16.00 to $19.00 on Opal (higher than usual), public buses are at normal rate.

Leave a comment if this helped you or if you believe this would have helped when you first arrived as an International Student.

Until next time…