Australia has one of the highest standards of living in the world, but is the price tag to match? How much will you pay for food, home expenses, transport and social activities in Australia? Our writer in Australia Rosie Pariser went to investigate.

Overall, our basket of goods and services, pains and pleasures, essentials and luxuries, was very broadly similar in Australia and the UK. The really good news, however, is that among the more expensive items in Australia was anything involving paying people. For example, cleaners, dentists and barbers all earned more than in the UK.

Our exchange rate was based on the average for 2019, AU$1.84 to £1.

Don’t spend any money on your move abroad until you’ve read The Currency Guide to Emigration, free to download.

In the supermarket

Food is a little more expensive in Australia. Although they have plenty of space to grow things – and a varied enough climate – Australia has a population 20-times smaller than Europe’s, spread out in area far larger than Europe. So it lacks the economies of scale to import and transport food ingredients between its cities cost-effectively.

Hence, our basic shopping trolley was 22% more expensive than in the UK. We gathered UK prices from Tesco and from Australia in Coles.

In the supermarket UK Prices (£) Australia
in $
Australia
in £
More/less expensive in Australia 
Large, wholemeal sliced loaf of bread (800g) £1.10 $3.80 £2.07  + 88%
Pack of butter (250g) £1.50 $3.70 £2.01  + 34%
Milk (I litre) £0.80 $1.29 £0.70  – 12%
6 eggs, large free range £1.00 $3.00 £1.63  + 63%
Iceberg lettuce £0.70 $1.80 £0.98  + 40%
Teabags (per 100) £2.50 $3.30 £1.80  – 28%
Fresh pineapple (whole) £1.00 $3.90 £2.12  + 112%
Fresh tomatoes (1 kilo) £2.50 $5.90 £3.21  + 28%
Fresh chicken for roasting (regular) £3.40 $6.43 £3.50  + 3%
Fresh chicken for roasting (free-range/organic/corn-fed) £7.50 $10.16 £5.53  – 26%
Haagen Dazs vanilla ice cream (500ml) £4.20 $5.00 £2.72  – 35%
Fresh white fish, cod type  (1 kilo) £13.50 $28.00 £15.24  + 13%
Jar of mayonnaise (600g) £2.50 $10.49 £5.71  + 128%
Heinz cream of tomato soup (400g) £0.95 $2.50 £1.36  + 43%
Coca-cola zero (2 litre) £1.95 $2.85 £1.55  – 20%
Bottle of whisky (blended) 70cl £15 $35.00 £19.05  + 27%
Dark chocolate bar (Green & Black type, 90/100g) £2 $3.00 £1.63  – 18%
Complete dog food, dry (5 kilo) £10 $29.00 £15.79  + 58%
Laundry detergent (40 washes) £4.50 $15.00 £8.17  + 81%
Kitchen roll, 4-pack £2.20 $3.00 £1.63  – 26%
Total shopping basket £78.80 $177.12 £96.42  + 22%

Transport and travel

The distances are big in Australia, so it’s a good job that fuel prices are much lower. For the same reason, aim for unlimited mileage for your hire car! For our train trip, we went from Geelong to Melbourne return. In most large towns and cities public transportation is a great option for getting around.

The closest equivalent to car tax in Australia is the registration fee (“rego”). This varies depending on where you live and what state you are in, with each state using different criteria. For example, in Victoria, it is cheaper if you live in a rural area than a central, metropolitan area. A large chunk of the fee is paying the Transport Accident Commission (TAC) charge; essentially health insurance to pay for injuries resulting from traffic accidents.

In Victoria, the price ranges from $716-$834. In Queensland, vehicle registration duty depends on engine size. So, for example, for a new petrol Volkswagon Golf priced at $50,000 you would pay an extra $1,500 when you buy it. For an electric or hybrid you would pay $1,000, and there are various other incentives in different states. We have assumed you will own the car for ten years, hence that’s $100 per annum. There may be additional fees the first year after you purchase the car too, depending on the value of the car.

Travel UK Prices (£) Australia
in $
Australia
in £
More/less expensive in Australia 
1 litre petrol (unleaded) £1.30 $1.41 0.77  – 41%
Car hire, small car, 1 week £124 $263.40 143.39  + 16%
Return train fare, London to Brighton equivalent (about one hour) £26 $18.76 10.21  – 61%
Car tax, electric/hybrid, 1 year £140 $100 54.44  – 61%

In the home

In the home UK Prices (£) Australia
in $
Australia
in £
More/less expensive in Australia
Paying a domestic cleaner – per hour £12.50 $26 £14.15  + 13%
White Dulux emulsion, or equivalent (2.5 litre) £14 $53 £28.85  + 106%
Ikea “Billy” bookcase (80 x 28 x 202cm) £35 $79 £43  + 23%
Samsung TV, 55” £549 $907 £493.74  – 10%
Alexa echo dot £35 $79 £43  + 23%
Electricity (per kilowatt hour) £0.13 $0.27 £0.15  + 13%
Home broadband, no data limit (per month) £23 $69 £37.56  + 63%

Leisure

There are plenty of ways to entertain yourself in Australia in the wonderful climate, with most outdoor pursuits being free of charge.

Leisure UK Prices (£) Australia
in $
Australia
in £
More/less expensive in Australia 
Cappuccino in local café £2.80 $4.50 £2.45  – 13%
Bottle of Coke Zero from local shop (500ml) £1.50 $3.25 £1.77  + 18%
Pain au chocolat in café £1.90 $3.40 £1.85  – 3%
Big Mac/quarter pounder cheeseburger £3.09 $6.25 £3.40  + 10%
Bottle of house wine in local mid-range restaurant £17.95 $58 £31.57  + 76%
Draft beer in bar (500ml) £2.20 $10 £5.44  + 147%
3 course meal in mid-range restaurant (ex drinks) £27 $60 £32.66  + 21%
Tip for meal (above) £3 $6 £3.27  + 9%
Cinema ticket (one) £11 $16 £8.71  – 21%
Spotify Premium subscription, per month £10 $12 £6.53  – 35%
Amazon Prime, per month £8 $7 £3.81  – 52%
Daily Newspaper (equivalent to Times) £1.80 $3 £1.63  – 9%
Women’s Running shoes, mid-range, Nike £105 $180 £97.99  – 7%
Paperback fiction book £9 $25 £13.61  + 51%
SuperMario Kart for Nintendo Switch £43 $68 £37.02  – 14%
Total £247 $462 £251.70  + 2%

Healthcare

Dental care is generally not covered by Medicare, and there is a large variation in prices for dental work. As soon as you have any treatment done, of course the price rises. The average for a comprehensive oral exam was $66, but for that plus scale, clean and flouride treatment you’ll need just over $200.

Australia was one of the only country we surveyed that had cheaper off-the-shelf medicine than the UK.

Prescription medication is subsidised for people eligible for Medicare through the “Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme”. Unlike the UK, there is not a set price for all prescriptions, with different items costing different amounts. Prices are listed on the PBS website. For example, a 5-day course of the antibiotic amoxicillin costs $19. A course of 30 10mg amlodipine tablets (a common blood pressure tablet) costs $18.84. Twenty co-codamol (30mg/500mg strength) costs $18.61. Other, less common medications tend to have a higher cost, e.g. Sinemet, a medication to treat Parkinson’s disease, costs $40.30 for 100 tablets (about 1 month supply).

Read more about Australian healthcare and how it compares with the UK.

Healthcare UK Prices (£) Australia
in $
Australia
in £
More/less expensive in Australia 
Dentist – basic NHS check up, no other work £22.70 $66 £35.93  + 58%
16 paracetamol tablets (generic) £0.68 $0.70 £0.38  – 44%
Prescription charge (working person) £9 $20 £10.89  + 21%

Children

Children UK Prices (£) Australia
in $
Australia
in £
More/less expensive in Australia 
Nappies, medium-sized, Pampers-type (each) £0.10 $0.33 0.18  + 80%
Calpol (or equivalent), age 6 plus £3.50 $11 5.99  + 71%
Children’s swim at local pool £3 $3.60 1.96  – 35%

Other

Other UK Prices (£) Australia in $ Australia
in £
More/less expensive in Australia 
Women’s jeans – mid- range, Zara-type £26 $49.95 27.19  + 5%
Hotel: mid-range, one midweek night for two £72 $174 94.72  + 32%
Finance – cost of a basic bank account, no overdraft facility. £6 $5 2.72  – 55%
Men’s haircut, old-fashioned type barber £12 $45 24.50  + 104%
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