House sitting in Australia – is it for me?
House sitting in Australia has been thriving and growing for many years now. This is why you’ll find more house sitting platforms there than anywhere else in the world?
Why is that?
Well, Aussies love to travel and often for long periods of time. Geographically they are a long way from the UK, where they often have family ties. If they want to see Europe then it’s much too far for a quick 2-week holiday. In any case they’ll lose a couple of days either end of the vacation, traveling on planes and readjusting from jet-lag.
Short hop holiday destinations are much more likely to include Bali, Malaysia or Thailand, than England, Europe or the US.
This is great news for house sitters, because Aussies also love their pets (their fur-families), take pride in their homes, and really do value the services of house and pet sitters, both domestically and from all over the world.
Australia is HUGE!
Australia is a massive country, covering an area of approximately 2.97 million square miles. Yet it has only around 24.5 million citizens. This is almost the same as the combined residents of just three cities – London, New York and Paris.
The population lives across seven different states and territories, with the densest population (around 90%) in coastal towns and cities. The most populated cities are shown below. The inland political city of Canberra is part of the unlisted Australian Capital Territory.
- New South Wales (Sydney)
- Queensland (Brisbane)
- South Australia (Adelaide)
- Tasmania (Hobart) (an island, not part of mainland)
- Victoria (Melbourne)
- West Australia (Perth)
- Northern Territories (Darwin)
Let’s put the size into perspective.
To fly from Perth on the west coast, to Sydney on the east coast, takes around 4.5 hours. To drive from Sydney to Brisbane on the Gold Coast takes 12 hours and you’ll cover 950km. Sydney to Melbourne via train (very expensive) takes almost 11 hours.
So, unless you have limitless travel funds, you might want to decide on a particular region and focus your house-sitting in one state or territory. Over a three month period it simply wouldn’t be viable to hop from state to state for shorter term house-sits.
Some interesting pet statistics
(source RSPCA Australia)
Australia has one of the highest rates of pet ownership in the world. About 63% of Australian households own pets totally more than 25 million animals, birds and reptiles.
Dogs are the most common pet, with 39% of households owning a dog. There are estimated to be 4.2 million pet dogs in Australia; 19 dogs for every 100 people.
Cats are the second most common pet, with 29% of households owning a cat. There are estimated to be 3.3 million pet cats in Australia; 15 cats for every 100 people.
In 2009 the total number of pet birds was approximately 8.1 million and in addition there were about 1.06 million other pets, including companion horses, rabbits, guinea pigs, reptiles and other small mammals.
The pet population breakdown across the states and territories mirrors the country’s population distribution. New South Wales and Victoria account for 60% of all pets in Australia, and 59% of the country’s human population.
Chickens (known as “chooks” in Oz), are not strictly pets, but you’ll also find a small flock at many house sits, even in city locations.
These statistics could well indicate the best areas to start your house sitting search – but of course don’t forget isolated Perth, in Western Australia, which is also a very popular house and pet sitting location.
What about dangerous animals, reptiles and insects?
We are led to believe that Australia is the most dangerous place on earth, and that’s what many Aussies will take pride in telling you, often in great, scary detail!
When I first visited Australia many years ago, I refused to sit on a public toilet for fear of a fatal spider bite. However, I’ve since discovered that the last known death from a spider bite was in 1979!
I don’t want to belittle the suffering of anyone who has experienced a traumatic or even tragic encounter with Australia’s wildlife, but I do want to reassure house sitters that there isn’t a dangerous animal or insect lurking at every corner.
We house sat in 2016 for three months, in a fairly remote “bush” location in the Victorian Alps, three hours north of Melbourne. We didn’t see a single dangerous animal, reptile or insect.
We did encounter some damn big spiders! Those home loving Huntsman spiders take some getting used to – but familiarity over time made them much more acceptable.
Risk assessment isn’t a bad idea when house sitting in Australia
Of course you should take precautions:
- Know what to do in case of a snake bite (this goes for many countries around the world).
- Find out the closest location for obtaining life-saving anti-venom.
- Know where to get emergency help if needed.
- Don’t swim in the sea without first checking the shark and jelly-fish situation (a Box Jelly Fish sting can be fatal).
- Don’t drive (or be extremely careful) at dawn or dusk in areas of wild kangaroos – they will “hop” right in front of your car or truck, a bit like deer in other countries.
It does make sense also to be aware of the markings on particularly dangerous snakes and spiders, as you might when house-sitting in America. I do actually feel quite reassured that I don’t have to contend with bears and grizzlies while hiking in the bush in Oz!
The reality is that more people die every year in Australia from bee stings and drowning, with only (on average) 5 fatalities from snakes, sharks and crocs.
It’s quite possible that the remote nature of many outback house sits will take more getting used to, than the worry about black widow spiders. However, I have actually come into contact with a black widow, not in Oz but in the US. It crawled into our RV and settled by my toothbrush!
For more of a reality check, take a read of Bob in Oz – he’s got all sorts of other useful info too about Australia on his popular website:
Seasons, climate and extreme weather
The seasons in Australia are opposite to those in the Northern hemisphere. Christmas falls in the middle of summer and so this is a popular time to travel. School holidays allow for longer journeys and so house sitters are in demand.
Australia has many different climate zones. From sub-tropical and tropical in the north (Queensland, Northern Territories), to temperate in the south. Only the southern parts of Australia show the distinct four seasons as they are known in Europe and North America. You may have heard the popular “Crowded House” song – Four Seasons in One Day – this refers to the city of Melbourne.
In the North the weather is warm or hot all year round. The tropics have only two seasons: A warm dry season (May – October) and a hot wet season (November – April).
Once you’ve decided on a region, check out the internet for more detailed information on the local weather patterns.
The outback vs the bush
The Outback is the vast, remote interior of Australia. The term “the Outback” is generally used to refer to locations that are comparatively more remote than those areas named “the bush” which, colloquially, can refer to any lands outside the main urban areas.
The arid outback zone makes up 70% of the country and much of it is inaccessible without a four wheel drive vehicle. In fact, setting out in some areas of the outback, ill-prepared, is extremely dangerous. Fuel stations can be few and far between. Long distance travel adventures in Australia should be properly planned with appropriate vehicles and camping equipment.
Outback temperatures are not always unbearably hot. Alice Springs can be cold at some times of the year, with temperatures plummeting below zero during winter months:
Extreme weather – be prepared
Australia is prone to occasional extreme weather – cyclones on the east coast, and flooding and heat waves that cause dangerous bush fires in more rural areas. In fact, as I write this, Queensland is suffering some of the worst flooding for many years.
If you house sit in an “at risk” area, you’ll find plenty of information in your local town about radio and TV information channels that provide info bulletins. You’ll also see signs for local evacuation meeting points.
For Americans this may all be very familiar, but for us Brits and Europeans, this sort of preparation can take a bit of getting used to. We are often unused to extreme weather conditions, other than rain and flooding!
Visas and immigration
Many nationalities, including Canadians, Americans, UK passport holders, and most Europeans, must complete an ETA (Electronic Travel Authority) when arriving to Australia by air. It is available online at a cost of $20 AUD. It’s very similar in nature to the US ESTA.
After your ETA is granted you are able to enter and leave Australia as many times as you need to during a 12 month period, from the date the ETA is granted or until the expiry date of your passport, whichever is earlier. You can stay in Australia for a maximum of three months on each visit.
We spent two months house sitting in Australia and followed this with one month resort-sitting in Fiji. We returned for a further 3 months of back-to-back house sits in Perth, before leaving for Central America.
This flexibility means you can combine house sitting in Australia with house sits or travel adventures in other countries like New Zealand, Bali or Thailand within the one year period. Flights to these countries are fairly inexpensive and could give you the option to fly out of Sydney for instance, to Bali for a 2-week holiday, then back into Perth.
As with any visa, immigration and entry requirements for your particular nationality, you must do your own research. We’ve seen continual changes to requirements over the last few years, sometimes with minimal notice for travelers.
How to find a house sit in Australia?
We found our house sits in Australia through HouseCarers and AussieHouseSitters.
As already mentioned, there’s no shortage of house sitting websites and we’ve listed as many of them as we can find below. The prices shown are for house sitters, for a 12 month period, and in Australian dollars, unless indicated.
Some sites such as HappyHouseSitters and HouseSittingTasmania offer a choice of plans – check sites for more details. Prices are correct as of April 2017. Most of these sites offer free listings for home owners.
Australia specific house sitting platforms:
HouseCarers is an international platform, but heavily Australian biased – the annual charge for house sitters is USD $50.
- AussieHousesitters – $65 AUD
- AustralianHousesitter – $30 AUD
- HappyHouseSitters.com.au – $65 AUD
- HouseSitters.com.au – $40 AUD
- HouseSittersAustralia – $15 AUD (limited period)
- HouseSittingTasmania – $69 AUD
- Mindahome.com.au – $49 AUD
- Stayme.com.au – FREE
The best international house sitting platforms:
- KindredSpirits (vegan only) (based in Tasmania)
There are many Facebook groups for house sitting in Australia, and it would be impossible to list them all here. Most groups are location based. If you want to try this route, we suggest you search the term “housesitting” or “house sitting” followed by “Australia” or a specific city.
Where are the most popular locations for house sitting in Australia?
Obviously the larger cities and their suburbs, in the most densely populated areas, offer more opportunities. So, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth are among the more popular locations.
You’ll find it difficult to be far from a beach if you choose to house sit in coastal towns. The beach above was close to Melbourne and you’ll usually find a range of activities to keep your days filled.
The island of Tasmania is also pretty popular, as you’ll see if you check out the HouseSittingTasmania website. At the end of the day it really comes down to the type of environment you would like to house sit in.
Language – Aussie Slang
Aussies speak English with a twist! There are some very commonly used words that it’s worth knowing if you don’t want to look like a complete drongo (idiot). For instance, when talking about their own country, Australia will often get shortened to “Straya”.
I got caught out in Perth when our homeowners suggested we take the dog to the beach in the Arvo. “Where’s it parked?” I asked, having only seen a Toyota truck in the garage. After some confused looks, Ian realized my mistake and explained that an Arvo wasn’t a type of car, but short for “afternoon”.
Here’s a great video for learning a bit more Aussie slang.
Cost of living in Australia
Living in, or house sitting in Australia is not cheap, but we didn’t find it much different to the UK or the US in terms of day to day food purchases and supermarket shopping. It does vary a little from city to city, and Sydney is the most expensive from what we’ve been told.
As long term travelers we always look to reduce our budget, and these are some of the ways we achieved this while house sitting in Australia:
BYO – Many restaurants have a “bring your own” drink policy. So you can take your own wine, beer or soft drinks. Some charge a corkage, but many don’t. This can make a big difference to the price of a meal. We found wine super cheap in supermarkets, especially when taking advantage of 3 for 2 offers.
Op Shops – There’s an extensive range of second hand charity shops throughout Australia, known as Op Shops. Any extra clothes we needed, we bought here. They are great places to buy books, and any accessories you might need that are missing at the house sit. We bought a couple of really good garden loungers in Australia for $ 5 AUD!
Check out local produce markets (farmer’s markets tend to be expensive), and people selling veggies and fruit from their gardens (in rural areas). At our two month house-sit in Victoria, I planted tomato plants in a vacant veggie patch for an on-going crop of toms (with permission of course!).
In cities we buy travel passes to reduce the cost of public transport and walk as much as possible for exercise.
All these little things help, especially on a long-term sit.
Getting about in Australia
All the big cities like Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, etc., have good public transport systems and you’ll find online websites where you can get info about travel cards that might save you some money.
We have found that most of our house sits in Australia have provided a vehicle for our use. In Australia the vehicle is generally insured, not the person, making it much easier to allow house sitters use of a car.
Long distance train travel is expensive, and we’ve found it easier to fly city to city.
You can try these airlines for internal flights:
- Qantas Domestic
- Virgin Australia (formerly Virgin Blue)
- Jetstar (Qantas subsidiary)
- Tiger Airways (Australia)
WiFi for roaming income
There were no issues with WiFi at any of our house sitting locations, but we had good coverage in all of our locations. Here’s an article that gives a bit more insight into what’s available throughout Australia.
If you are house sitting remotely, in the bush or the outback, then check with your home owner if you need internet connection for your work. Get them to do a speed check with a PC tool such as http://www.speedtest.net/
Sightseeing in Oz
There are endless options for sightseeing while you are house sitting in Australia, both in cities and in the bush or outback. Here are some our favorite travel bloggers. Check out their websites for more inspiration about destinations in Oz and Tasmania.
- yTravel Blog – Caroline & Craig Makepeace
- ToTravelToo – Jane & Duncan Dempster-Smith
- Aussie Traveller – Toni & Drew
To get a professional insight into the culture of Australia, take a read of Nomador’s recent article:
This article appeared in Issue 9 of House Sitting Magazine. Read more great content by downloading the FREE app for Apple or Android, or in FlipBook format for your laptop.
Laptop users can read the magazine online by visiting our “bookshelf” here: