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Moving to Brisbane

Known for the eponymous river that meanders from the Coral Sea through the city, Brisbane is a gorgeous and vibrant expat destination.

One of Australia's biggest cities, it has a rapidly expanding population of close to 2.5 million and is home to a significant expat population from all over the world, including New Zealand, the UK, China, India and South Africa.

Living in Brisbane as an expat

Brisbane is a laid-back city with an assortment of interesting and lively areas. While the centre is fairly compact, the suburbs sprawl outwards in all directions, offering wide-open spaces for outdoor entertainment. If expats should tire of their immediate surroundings though, the Sunshine Coast and the Gold Coast are great weekend getaway spots.

As one would expect from a growing city, the economy is ever-expanding and expats should be able to find work in Brisbane fairly easily. Some of the main industries include IT, finance, administration, education and construction.

There’s an extensive public transport network in Brisbane, which includes buses, trains, ferries and taxis. The TransLink system also makes things convenient for those regularly using public transport. While cycling and walking are possibly in the compact city centre, driving in Brisbane can be a hassle, particularly during peak hours.

Cost of living in Brisbane

The general cost of living in Brisbane is lower than in other major Australian cities, though the influx of expats has contributed to a steady rise in prices. Still, the cost of accommodation in Brisbane is far lower than that of other major Australian cities such as Sydney or Melbourne. Brisbane’s public transport may be efficient, but it is also pricey. Expats looking to commute may want to look into a GoCard.

Expat families and children

Expats moving to Brisbane will be happy to hear that the city offers excellent free public schooling for residents and locals. Parents also have the choice of non-government Catholic schools and other independent schools. There are a couple of international schools in the city, but these only offer the International Baccalaureate, and they are expensive.

Families can also rest assured that the city’s healthcare is excellent, and the universal healthcare system, Medicare, is available to any residents or locals.

Expat families looking for a break are in luck. Many interesting activities can offer respite from the week’s work, and nature buffs have multiple opportunities to get out and enjoy the fresh air. A multitude of museums and art galleries can entertain those interested in intellectual pursuits, while active types can find myriad adrenaline-packed activities.

Climate in Brisbane

The city's lovely subtropical climate means expats will have little trouble adjusting to the weather in Brisbane. Mild summers and winters leave a lot of time for activities all year.

With a large and inviting expat community, plenty of entertainment, good schools and a laid-back lifestyle, Brisbane is increasingly the expat destination of choice for families from all over the world.

Weather in Brisbane

Brisbane's subtropical climate makes for enjoyable weather year-round. The summer months between December and February bring heavy humidity and high temperatures of around 84°F (29°C). The hotter months also sometimes bring thunderstorms, hailstorms, cyclonic winds and drought, but generally, the warm, sunny weather is perfect for holidays and outdoor activities.

Winters, from June to August, are dry and mild with temperatures between 59°F (15°C) and 68°F (20°C). The rainy season runs from November to March.


Cost of Living in Brisbane

While the cost of living in Brisbane is not quite as high as in other Australian cities such as Melbourne or Sydney, the cost of expat life in the heart of Australia's 'Sunshine State' is by no means cheap.

The growth in Brisbane's population and its popularity as an expat destination has contributed to the city's cost of living increasing steadily over the years. Mercer's Cost of Living Survey for 2023 saw Brisbane ranked the 82nd most expensive city out of the 227 cities surveyed. This is considerably lower than Sydney, which placed 56th.

Even though Brisbane is slowly becoming a more expensive place for expat life, there are always ways to save money, and it's possible to enjoy what the city has to offer on a budget.

Cost of accommodation in Brisbane

Renting a home is often the most considerable expense for expats living in Brisbane. The attractive areas and suburbs tend to be expensive, so a good strategy to reduce the cost of housing is to live further out in the suburbs instead of in the city centre. In most cases, utilities will need to be paid for separately in addition to rental costs.

Cost of transport in Brisbane

While the city has extensive bus and train networks, which make getting around the city convenient, transport in Brisbane is expensive. There are ways to cut down on transport costs though. For those who plan on regular commuting, investing in a Go Card can save some money.

Cost of groceries in Brisbane

The cost of groceries in Brisbane might seem quite steep for some expats, particularly those hailing from countries with a significantly lower cost of living. Comparatively, grocery prices in Brisbane may be somewhat higher than what one might expect to pay in smaller cities or rural areas in Australia.

Well-known supermarket chains like Coles and Woolworths generally offer more affordable options, while smaller convenience stores and speciality shops may have higher prices. Buying fresh produce from local farmers' markets can also be a cost-effective and enjoyable shopping experience.

Cost of entertainment and eating out in Brisbane

The cost of entertainment in Brisbane is in line with the average prices in most Australian cities.

For expats who want to have a good time without spending a fortune, the great weather in Brisbane means that there are always plenty of opportunities to spend time outdoors. Residents can be found enjoying a picnic in the park, taking a drive out to one of the little seaside towns, or indulging in an afternoon outdoors enjoying an Australian barbecue.

The independent shopping scene in Brisbane is also growing, and expats keen to explore the markets popping up all over the city are sure to find some great bargains.

Eating out in Brisbane can cater to a range of budgets. Dining out can be quite a treat, but the cost is comparable to other major Australian cities. While eating at high-end establishments will undoubtedly be pricey, there are plenty of inexpensive food options, from bustling food markets to cosy cafés and street food stalls.

Cost of education in Brisbane

The cost of education in Brisbane largely depends on the type of institution. Public schools are generally more affordable than private ones, though expats should remember that some public schools may charge fees for non-residents.

While offering diverse curricula and smaller class sizes, international schools and private institutions tend to be pricier and can rival the cost of education in other major Australian cities. Beyond tuition, there are additional costs to consider, such as uniforms, textbooks and extracurricular activities.

Cost of healthcare in Brisbane

Healthcare in Brisbane, as in the rest of Australia, is primarily funded by the government's Medicare system, which provides free or subsidised treatment by health professionals. While Australia has a robust public healthcare system, expats may consider private healthcare for more immediate access to specialists and private hospitals.

The cost of private healthcare in Brisbane is in line with the rest of Australia, and it can largely be likened to prices in other developed countries, depending on the level of coverage chosen. Prescription medications, dental care and optometry, which aren't fully covered by the public system, may also add to the healthcare costs. Therefore, many residents and expats opt to take out private health insurance for additional coverage.

Cost of living in Brisbane chart

Prices may vary depending on the product and service provider. The list below shows average prices for June 2023.

Accommodation (monthly rent)

Three-bedroom apartment in the city centre

AUD 4,000

Three-bedroom apartment outside the city centre

AUD 2,500

One-bedroom apartment in the city centre

AUD 2,500

One-bedroom apartment outside the city centre

AUD 2,090

Food and drink

Dozen eggs


Milk (1 litre)

AUD 1.88

Rice (1kg)

AUD 3.29

Loaf of white bread

AUD 3.53

Chicken breasts (1kg)


Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

AUD 39

Eating out

Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant

AUD 150

Big Mac meal

AUD 14

Coca-Cola (330ml)

AUD 4.33


AUD 5.48

Bottle of beer (local)

AUD 5.43


Mobile call rate (per minute – mobile to mobile)

AUD 0.48

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)

AUD 71

Basic utilities (average per month for a standard household)

AUD 220


Taxi rate/km

AUD 2.50

City-centre public transport fare

AUD 4.75

Gasoline (per litre)

AUD 1.98

Accommodation in Brisbane

Owing to Queensland's strong economy and abundance of jobs, it is attracting skilled workers from all over the world, particularly to Brisbane, where demand for housing is sky high as a result.

Expats looking for accommodation can make their task a great deal easier by having a clear, yet somewhat flexible, idea of what they're looking for in terms of location, price and size.

Types of accommodation in Brisbane

There are a few different types of accommodation in Brisbane. These include apartments (known locally as 'flats'), units (small modern houses), and traditional ‘Queenslanders’ (one or two-storey weatherboard houses with verandas).

The majority of properties are rented unfurnished, and even the most expensive rental properties rarely come with built-in white label appliances, such as a fridge or washing machine.

Finding accommodation in Brisbane

Newcomers in Brisbane should begin looking for accommodation as soon as possible. It's often best to have short-term housing lined up before arriving in Australia, and then to look for something more permanent once in the country. Due to their high demand, city properties are snapped up quickly and it may take a bit of time to find and get approval to rent the perfect home.

When it comes to house hunting, expats can either go it alone or enlist the help of an agent. Resources such as local newspapers and online property portals can be useful for those searching independently. Alternatively, estate agents can make the rental process simpler as they generally have good knowledge of the city and access to property listings before they go on the open market.

Renting accommodation in Brisbane

Property viewings in Brisbane are usually at set times and are done in groups. If the house on show is well priced, expats should expect to be viewing it with as many as a dozen other people. To avoid the crowds, it's best to go to weekday viewings during working hours rather than after-hours or over weekends.

To apply for a rental, extensive references paired with proof-of-identity documentation are usually required. Since the market moves fast, expats should research and prepare what they will need ahead of time so they are ready to submit at any moment.

Rent for accommodation in Brisbane is payable monthly or fortnightly, and rental listings may list the per-week price rather than the per-month price, so expats should be sure to double-check if a particular figure seems too good to be true. Utility bills are usually not included in the rental price and are the responsibility of the tenant.

Areas and Suburbs in Brisbane

The best places to live in Brisbane

The greater Brisbane area consists of several municipalities and hundreds of different neighbourhoods, and picking an area to live in is one of the most important decisions expats will have to make.

Budget, distance from their workplace, safety, and access to public transport all shape an expat’s choice of neighbourhood. For expats with children, proximity to good schools and entertainment facilities will also be a deciding factor.

City living in Brisbane

Fortitude Valley

For those who want to live close to Brisbane's best nightlife and entertainment, and skip a long commute to work, the city centre is where they’ll want to start their search.

Fortitude Valley

Fortitude Valley is a vibrant area right next to the city centre, and it’s one of Brisbane’s main entertainment hubs. The streets here are lined with nightclubs, trendy bars and restaurants, and it is also home to one of the largest shopping precincts in Australia. Expats living in Fortitude Valley will never be far from the action, as lots of the metropolis’ annual events are held here, including the International Jazz Festival, the Big Gay Day and the Valley Fiesta. The central location of the area also means residents have easy access to all modes of public transport.

New Farm

New Farm is an inner suburb close to the city centre and located on the Brisbane River. The area is connected to Brisbane’s central business district and other parts of the city by regular ferries and buses. In Merthyr Village, a nearby commercial area, residents can shop to their hearts' content and grab a bite to eat at one of the many great restaurants and cafes. New Farm also has a vibrant arts scene, with regular shows taking place at the Brisbane Powerhouse – a tramway power station that has been converted into a theatre. One downside is that property in New Farm is fairly expensive.

Family-friendly suburbs in Brisbane

Victoria Point

For expats moving to Brisbane with children, being close to the right school will be essential. Both Victoria Point and Holland Park have excellent schooling options.

Victoria Point

Victoria Point is a leafy, family-friendly suburb located about 20 miles (30km) southeast of Brisbane’s centre. The area is particularly popular with UK and New Zealand expats. Families often find Victoria Point to be an ideal choice thanks to the selection of private and public schools in the area.

Holland Park

Holland Park is a great neighbourhood for those with children, thanks to the number of parks, good schools, a well-equipped library, convenient shopping centres, and its proximity to the city centre. Although properties tend to be a little older here, this does mean that there are more affordable options for those on a tight budget.

Affordable areas of Brisbane


The cost of living in Brisbane is generally quite high and rent usually makes the biggest dent. The best option for those on a budget is to look into sharing a house or renting a portion of one of the city's many subdivided homes. This is also a great way to meet other people.


Darra is an older suburb with slightly more dated though spacious properties. The abundance of affordable rental options available in Darra makes it popular among students and young expats on a working holiday. There are regular bus and train services that connect the suburb to other parts of Brisbane.

On the downside, Darra is located close to a number of industrial areas and it may not feel like the safest part of Brisbane. The amenities are also not quite on par with those in more affluent neighbourhoods, but Darra is perfect for those hoping to save a few dollars.

Healthcare in Brisbane

New arrivals will be glad to know that the standard of healthcare in Brisbane is excellent, and that residents here are covered by a universal healthcare programme called Medicare. The city has a range of well-equipped private and public facilities with highly trained staff.

There is also no shortage of pharmacies in Brisbane. Most are very well stocked and are able to order any medication that isn't readily available. Selected pharmacies are open 24/7.

Hospitals in Brisbane

Children’s Health Queensland Hospital
Address: 501 Stanley Street, South Brisbane

The Prince Charles Hospital
Address: 627 Rode Rd, Chermside

Mater Private Hospital
Address: 30 Health Care Drive, Springfield Central

The Wesley Hospital
Address: 451 Coronation Drive, Auchenflower

Education and Schools in Brisbane

Education and schooling in Brisbane generally consist of government and non-government schools. Government schools are, in most cases, free, while non-government schools are fee-paying.

Expat families moving to Brisbane will find that international schooling options are limited, but since English is generally the medium of instruction in both public and private schools, English-speaking children should adjust relatively easily. Those with limited English proficiency should consider one of Brisbane's language-immersion schools if they offer the child's home language.

Government schools in Brisbane

Brisbane's public schools are funded by the government and most offer only the Australian curriculum. These generally don't charge tuition fees, but this may not be the case for expat families on temporary visas. In some cases, payment in the form of non-tuition fees may be required, but these still add up to far less than the cost of non-government schools.

Some government schools in the state of Queensland offer language immersion programmes, where at least 50 percent of the curriculum is completed in a foreign tongue. There are various schools, offering French, German, Japanese, Italian, Spanish and Chinese immersion programmes.

Public schools are assigned according to catchment areas, so parents should keep this in mind when deciding which neighbourhood to settle in.

Government schools are reviewed at least once every four years by the Queensland Department of Education (QDE). Results are available on school websites. Self-assessments between QDE reviews are also mandatory.

Non-government schools in Brisbane

In Australia, non-government schools are fee-paying institutions that can be divided into two broad categories: private and independent. The term ‘private schools’ refers solely to fee-paying Catholic schools, while all other fee-paying schools are known as ‘independent schools’.

Independent schools have the freedom to take a more tailored approach to education than public ones. Some are based on religions such as Judaism, Islam and non-Catholic denominations of Christianity. Others employ alternative education philosophies, such as Waldorf or Montessori.

International schools in Brisbane

The only real option parents will have when it comes to international education in Queensland will be the International Baccalaureate (IB) programme. There are a few government and non-government schools in Queensland that offer this as an option to their students. Note that, unlike most government schools, those offering the IB do charge fees in order to cover the cost of the programme.

Expat parents moving to Brisbane may find it useful to make themselves familiar with the QDE's international branch, known as Education Queensland International (EQI). EQI provides extra support for international students, particularly those who come from non-English-speaking backgrounds.

Tutoring in Brisbane

Tutors are widely used in Brisbane, particularly for complex subjects such as maths and science, to assist non-English students with English proficiency, help new arrivals catch up to the local curriculum, as well as for university preparation. For expats, hiring a tutor is a great way to ease their children's transition to a new education system.

There are a number of reputable tutors in the Brisbane area, including A Team Tuition and My Local Tutors.

Special-needs education in Brisbane

The Queensland Department of Education operates on the principle of inclusivity. Their ultimate aim is to ensure that those with special needs can comfortably attend their local school, have access to the same rich and varied education as their peers, learn in a safe environment free of bullying or harassment, and be able to make good academic and social progress.

Lifestyle in Brisbane

Brisbane is renowned for the easy-going, relaxed atmosphere that inspired its playful nickname: ‘City of Sundays’. That’s not to say Queensland isn’t brimful of exciting attractions, sights and entertainment. The city boasts several vibey districts, a stunning riverside park, a bona fide cafe culture, vibrant nightlife, as well as a chockfull event calendar.

Shopping in Brisbane

Shopaholics are sure to enjoy Brisbane’s wide range of designer boutiques and department stores. Numerous bustling markets dot the city, and the Queen Street Mall is convenient for those who prefer to shop in one place.

Brisbane also has an independent retail scene concentrated around the CBD, and Fortitude Valley and Paddington are the top spots for fashion and vintage. Here, shoppers spend the day trawling second-hand bookshops and other speciality stores.

The main antique precincts are centred in Woolloongabba where quaint little boutiques offer an array of unique gifts and homewares. A growing amount of weekend stalls are springing up all over Brisbane, where everything from organic produce to old-styled garments can be acquired.

Arts and culture in Brisbane

Brisbane offers tons of entertainment for culture vultures. The South Bank houses the Queensland Museum, the Queensland Art Gallery and the Performing Arts Centre. These venues host various events and world-class exhibitions. Other cultural hotspots include the eclectic New Farm and Fortitude Valley, and expats could also take a walk around the heart of the metropolis and admire works of public art and heritage buildings.

Sport in Brisbane

In true Aussie fashion, sport is well catered for at the Brisbane Cricket Ground (known locally as the Gabba) and Ballymore, where the Wallabies defend their rugby pride. Those without a ticket for the game should head to the nearest pub or sports bar and watch it with the lively locals – quite an experience in itself.

Those who’d rather participate than spectate can join one of Brisbane’s many recreational sports teams.

See and do in Brisbane

Filled with myriad sights and attractions, expats will hardly have cause for boredom in Brisbane.

Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

The Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is the world's oldest and largest koala sanctuary, and is home not only to these adorable marsupials but also to kangaroos, wombats, echidnas, platypuses, and various species of reptiles and birdlife.

Queensland Maritime Museum

Founded in 1971, the Queensland Maritime Museum contains large-scale exhibitions featuring historic sailing ships, cruise liners and tankers. Expats can also browse a library housing antiquated artefacts, documents and maritime photographs.

South Bank

This fun-packed district features a man-made beach and lagoon alongside parklands, rainforest walks, barbecue areas and cultural attractions. Those wanting to see the city from above should take a spin on the iconic Wheel of Brisbane, a 197-foot (60m) Ferris wheel.

Brisbane Botanic Gardens

Nestled at the foot of Mount Coot-tha, the Brisbane Botanic Gardens are perfect for a quick escape from the city. Take a leisurely stroll, pack a picnic, and be sure to pop into the spectacular Tropical Display Dome. Space and science buffs are sure to enjoy the onsite Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium.

What’s on in Brisbane

There is always something going on in Brisbane. Every year, locals and tourists alike come together to enjoy the city’s annual festivities. Below are some of our favourites.

Goomeri Pumpkin Festival (May)

The Goomeri Pumpkin Festival sees hundreds of market stalls line the streets selling pumpkin-themed eats such as pumpkin soup, pie and even fudge. There are also competitions to take part in and live music to enjoy.

Brisbane Winter Racing Carnival (May/June)

Hosted by the Brisbane Racing Club, the Winter Racing Carnival is all about dressing to the nines, enjoying Brisbane’s lovely weather and having a flutter on the horse races at Eagle Farm and Doomben Racecourses.

Brisbane Marathon (June)

A huge event on the city’s calendar, the Brisbane Marathon sees professionals and amateurs come out in droves to run either the full or half marathon. Non-runners can cheer them on from the side on what is always a festive day out.

Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers (September)

During the Carnival of Flowers, more than 170,000 blooms can be viewed across Toowoomba, and visitors can enjoy celebrations in several of the city's parks, twilight tours, carnival rides, festival food and live music – a great day out for the whole family.

Where to meet people and make friends in Brisbane

Below are a few options where newcomers can get to know locals and fellow expats and make new friends.

South Bank parkrun

Stay healthy and meet new people at this free 5km event where, every Saturday, active locals gather in South Bank to run, jog or walk.

Redland Bushwalkers inc

Expats with a love of nature and a passion for hiking will fit right in. Based in Redlands, the Redland Bushwalkers meet every Wednesday and enjoy an array of activities in the outdoors.

Brisbane Pickleball club

For those looking to try something new, pickleball may be just the thing. For those wondering, this racket sport is a mixture of badminton, tennis and ping-pong. It is played on a court about the size of a badminton court with a paddle and a perforated ball. Scoring points is vaguely similar to ping-pong, but newcomers should read up on how to play. The Brisbane Pickleball group hosts social sessions throughout the week, making it easy for anyone to join.

Getting Around in Brisbane

Getting around in Brisbane is relatively straightforward. The city centre is compact, which makes walking and cycling easy, while areas further afield are served by extensive public transport networks.

Trains, buses and the popular CityCat ferry are the main modes of transport for commuters travelling to the city each day.

Brisbane’s rapid population growth has led to the expansion of infrastructure and road networks, but the city still suffers from severe road congestion, particularly at peak hours. Another deterrent for drivers is the expensive (and shortage of) parking in the city centre.

Public transport in Brisbane


There are three main modes of public transport in Brisbane, namely trains, buses and ferries. These are all linked through an integrated ticketing system called TransLink. Regular commuters often invest in the contactless and rechargeable ‘Go Card’. Buying a Go Card not only eliminates the hassle of purchasing tickets for each trip but also saves money in the long run.


The bus network in Brisbane is large and comprehensive. All buses have a digital display on the front telling commuters their route number and final destinations. Expats will find that there are many bus routes, but popular stops in the inner city tend to be serviced more regularly than those in the suburbs. There are a handful of free bus services in and around the city centre. Stops serviced by free buses will have either red or yellow signs.


Trains are a quick and convenient way to travel and cover most of the suburbs and of course the inner city. Intercity rail services can be used to commute to other major destinations, such as the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast. While trains are a fast way to get around, there are parts of Brisbane that aren’t covered by the rail network.


The iconic ferries that dot the river in Brisbane are called CityFerries and CityCats. There is also a free ferry service connecting the city with South Bank known as the CityHopper. While these do not cover as much ground as the city’s bus and rail networks, they do provide a fast and unique way to travel around Brisbane.

Taxis in Brisbane

Taxis are readily available throughout the city, but they are pricey so we don’t recommend using these regularly. Taxi fares for cabs hailed on the street and at taxi ranks are regulated by the government, while prebooked taxi fares aren't subject to these restrictions. That said, it is still best to book ahead of time to ensure availability. Major taxi companies operating in Brisbane include Yellow Cabs and Black and White Cabs. Ride-hailing applications such as Uber and Lyft are also available.

Driving in Brisbane

Driving in Brisbane can be tricky. Many new arrivals are often confused and frustrated by the one-way roads and the lack of parking in the city centre. That said, the city generally has well-maintained roads and clear signage. Driving around the suburbs is often easier than in the city except during peak hours.

Walking and cycling in Brisbane

Brisbane has many cycle paths around the city, making travel by bicycle safe and easy. Brisbane City Council has recently implemented a new e-mobility programme. E-bikes and e-scooters are now widely available, and riders need only register on the Neuron or Beam app to use these facilities. Expats should bring a helmet, as riding without one can result in a hefty fine.

Expats will also find that walking from point A to B in Brisbane is simple and enjoyable, especially in the city centre.