What to do when you arrive in Brisbane

I’m Santiago from Bogotá in Colombia and I came to Brisbane looking for new challenges, experiences, and opportunities. I’m a Brisbane International Student Ambassador studying an Advanced Diploma in Human Resources at the Queensland International Institute.

I’ve been living in Brisbane since November 2014 and am having some of the best experiences of my life here. For this reason, I’m sharing my experience with anyone who wants to explore this amazing city.

When I first arrived in Brisbane I felt a mix of feelings. It was the first time I’d travelled so far from my hometown and I didn´t know what to expect. I took the train from the International Airport and the adventure started.

1. Transportation from the airport

Catching the train at the airport is easy. Brisbane Airtrain, is one of the cheapest options (between $16 - $18 one way) to get into the city. You can also get a taxi, bus or call an Uber which is one of the easiest options, especially if you’re in a group because you can split the fare.

Don’t forget to have a chat at the Visitor Information Centre with one of the airport ambassadors who will be happy to help and answer any questions.

2. Brisbane transport

When I was waiting for the train at the airport it was good to look around and see that in Brisbane you can find people from all over the world. On the same platform next to me there was a girl from Spain talking with another girl from Taiwan. Next to them was a couple from another country. Once I was on the train it was the same multicultural feeling.

In the city, you can get around by bus, ferry or bike using a Go Card which you can purchase at stations and convenience stores everywhere. If you want to save money and have time, try the CityHopper. It’s a free ferry running every 30 minutes between 9am and midnight, seven days a week. I really like this option because it’s very relaxing and if you wait till the sun goes down it’s probably one of the best spots to see the sunset on the river.

At night you can cross the river from Eagle Street Pier to Holman Street Ferry Terminal and see all the buildings light up and the Story Bridge which is a major attraction in Brisbane.

3. Setting up the basics

Students in Australia must get a few basic things organised so we can have a good time while living here. Here’s my tips on how to set up the basics.

Bank account: There are lots of different banks to choose from and some will have student benefits such as no fees, so do a bit of research in person or online. It is important to research agreements or benefits with banks in your own country because depending on your bank, you may be able to transfer money to or from your country with low to no fees.

To open a bank account make sure you have the following documents: 

  • Passport
  • Student ID or COE 
  • Australian phone number

Sometimes you can open a bank account from your own country. Go to the Australian bank’s website and look for the information. This is the best option if you want to transfer money to Australia before you arrive.

Tax File Number (TFN): A TFN is needed if you want to work in Australia. Here’s the link you need to apply: www.ato.gov.au/Individuals/Tax-file-number

It takes around 10 to 20 days to be ready. A letter is sent to your home with your TFN. It is totally free and you should organise it before applying for jobs.

Mobile Number: You can get a SIM card at the airport or at any convenience store. Research the rates and plans offered by different companies before you arrive in Brisbane. Some of the companies are: Vodafone, Optus, Virgin, Amaysim and Telstra.

Most plans include unlimited national calls and text messages. Think about how much internet you need and if the plan includes international calls. Don’t forget to tell them that you’re a student because sometimes they will give you a discount!

Once you have these three basic things organised, you are ready to start enjoying and exploring this beautiful city.

4. Exploring Brisbane

If you are an active person, walking around the city and using the CityCycle bike share service is a good option for you. Personally, it’s one of the options that I use most. Brisbane has bikeways and shared pathways that you can use everywhere.

If you start from Eagle Street in the city you can go along the Brisbane Riverwalk towards New Farm Park, visit Brisbane Powerhouse (this place is great and has many different performances and events during the year), go to Teneriffe and finish your trip in Newstead Park next to the river.

Then you can go back to the city through the shared pathway in New Farm and Fortitude Valley. From there, go to eat something in James Street where you’ll find different kinds of restaurants and places with lots of things to do. Fortitude Valley, Eagle Street Pier and Brisbane City always have something on.

On the other side of the river you can start at West End and walk through Orleigh Park next to the river, and then go on to explore South Bank. Take a photo with the Brisbane sign and keep going along the river until you see the Streets Beach where you can relax and swim. It’s the only inner city beach in Australia! If you decide to keep going, head around to Kangaroo Point where you can go rock climbing up the Point Cliffs, kayaking or stand up paddleboarding at Riverlife.

After all of that you can finish the day at the Brisbane Jazz Club and enjoy a gig with amazing views of the city.

You can also take a GreenCab tour. You sit back and take in the city views while someone cycles you around.

You will find many museums and galleries, the Queensland Performing Arts Centre, GOMA, City Botanic Gardens and much more in and around Brisbane City.

Once I discovered how to move around in Brisbane, I started to enjoy the life here more. Living as a student and exploring the city showed me that Brisbane has activities, multicultural events, concerts, all kind of markets and many other things to do.

With so many people from other countries and backgrounds also living in the city you always have plenty of new friends to discover new places with. There are a hundred more things that you should know about Brisbane but I hope this information is a good start.

Welcome to Australia’s new world city, Brisbane!

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