Skip to content Skip to main navigation


Get RSM on your side at tax time.

Relocating to Canberra – Need Information Please!

By bettina416 - 26 June 2010 44

I recently saw this website as I googled for information about Canberra. I am hoping this forum can help provide me with some information.   My husband have received an offer to relocate to Canberra. We are both in our late 30’s, no children. I’ve done some research via web about Canberra, though I find that there’s not a lot of information. So, I figured the best way to get information would be from those who live in Canberra — either as a local or an expat relocated here.

Hope you can help on my queries about Canberra:

1) Life – What’s it like in terms of sights, attractions, things to do

2) Cost of Living – What would be a reasonable salary for a couple with no kids moving to Canberra? Monthly average for rental, food, utilities, transport (1 car only)?

3) Accomodations – Which area would you recommend to live in? Looking for safety, location (close to a lot of things without having to drive all the time)? Average rental rate for a 2 bedroom apartment/townhouse/duplex?

4) School – I’ve been working all my life. With this move, I have yet to find a job. However, I’m looking to go back to school to finish my graduate studies. My interests lie in: Human Resources, MBA, International Relations. Looking for a school with good balance of theory and practice, bonus if there is 1 semester that can be taken in European schools as part of curriculum. Choices are: University of Canberra or Australian National University — which is a better choice given what my interests are?

5) Websites/Links/Books – If you can recommend websites/blogs/links/books or other references where I can find out more about Canberra, that would really be helpful.

Sorry that I have so many questions. But, I would like to really know more about Canberra to help in our decision making.

Thanks in advance for taking time to read my very L-O-N-G post. Looking forward to hearing from the Canberra residents  in this forum.


What’s Your opinion?

Post a comment
Please login to post your comments, or connect with
44 Responses to
Relocating to Canberra – Need Information Please!
Postalgeek 4:24 pm 27 Jun 10

re Websites/Links/Books is a good place to start, along with RiotAct

ANU has a diverse open culture. Several multicultural festivals, or there were. If you’re a boring person who likes things to come to them, you’ll probably find Canberra boring. If you go out looking for stuff, you should find it very dynamic. It’s as dull or interesting as you want it to be.

If you like bicycles Canberra has heaps of it, with a very strong road and MTB cultures. Lots of bushwalks and opportunities to commune with nature. One of the great things about Canberra is the ease of getting out of it.

Listers_Cat 4:13 pm 27 Jun 10

1) There are plenty of sights and attractions to see around Canberra, but you will soon grow weary of these once you actually live here. For a small city, Canberra has a surprising number of trendy little pubs and cocktail bars. Also, because Canberra is a planned city, it tends to be very convenient in terms of shopping, swimming pools, restaurants etc.

2) One of the first things I noticed when I moved to Canberra was the relatively high cost of living. However, it evened out due to the higher wages I was getting in Canberra. Food and petrol, imho, are more costly in comparison to Sydney, and rent is more expensive than some of the other cities I have lived in (Wollongong and Newcastle). Despite what people have to say about Canberra’s public transport, it is actually quite good when compared to many other parts of Australia I have lived in or visited. Check out the ACTION website for more info on bus routes.

3) Canberra is generally safe but you might want to stay away from Charnwood.

4) No comment

5) I’ve always found a good source of information

laughtong 3:43 pm 27 Jun 10

If you are really into swimming and will have time and energy, you might like to consider masters swimming.

There are two clubs in Canberra
Tuggeranong Vikings
Molonglo Water Dragons

Either would be a relatively easy way to make some friends and build/maintain your fitness.

Good luck in making what is obviously a major decision.
We came here 8 years ago now and love the slower pace and relative ease of getting around. It has allowed me to cram a lot into those 8 years.

astrojax 3:40 pm 27 Jun 10

inner north would be great for your anu attendance, but if the UN position is south side, consider griffith/kingston across to yarralumlu for accommodation as this would still be a good cycle distance to anu [cycling is a great option for canberra – lots of paths to most places you want to go, avoiding eedjits on the roads…], access to national institutions and nightlife, still very close to north side eateries (drives here nothing like manila!).

as posted above, canberra is pretty safe and both inner north and inner south are equally good.

new places will be expensive but more likely to have 4-7 energy ratings; older places could be a little on the low side, but if you’re going for a serviced apartment or similar it will be new-ish, so you’re sure to be fine. as you’ll see when you lob here, the market will be tight and this may be the lesser of your considerations in getting a roof over your heads.

good luck and, in advance, welcome to this fair calm green city… 😉

emd 3:18 pm 27 Jun 10

One good thing about Canberra is that every suburb has nice areas within it. There’s no real ghetto to avoid – I’ve met nice people from Campbell, Charnwood, and every housing price-poin in between.

Canberra does have a few racist idiots, as do all cities around the world. But it’s a pretty safe city to live in, generally speaking. There are clubs for most nationalities here, and the local embassy could probably help you get in touch with other people from your home country if you want to maintain cultural links. There’s a Chinese bilingual public primary school and pre-school, Japanese language playgroup, and displays of Asian art in the National Gallery – that should give some indication of the high regard we have for our neighbours.

Also, do a Google for the Live In Canberra website. It’s a program sponsored by the ACT Government to help new arrivals settle into life in Canberra. Particularly good for people who don’t have children to help them break into social circles – Live In Canberra run free movie nights and other events so you can make friends with others who’ve just moved here.

bettina416 2:16 pm 27 Jun 10

@Spectra: Thanks for the link you showed re: areas in inner north and south… reading it now.

cegee 2:13 pm 27 Jun 10

things to do: all the ‘nationals’ – museum, library, gallery, portrait gallery, war memorial, film and sound archives, both parly houses… they might be seen as touristy things but i still find them pretty interesting to visit on a quiet wkend. also there is a great cafe and restaurant culture in canberra with lots of places to dine in kingston/manuka/the city as well as places like dickson and griffith etc.

we’ve also a got a Dendy cinema which is cool as well as heaps of excellent bookshops… if clothes shopping is your thing thats slowly getting better in canberra… also dont forget that canberra is the porn capital of australia and prostitution is legal if you’re that way inclined! 😛 haha

canberra is also great in my view because its a relatively quick drive to both the snow fields at thredbo and perisher as well as close to the south coast.

sa far as schools go, i think for your interests you’d probably be better off at ANU. UC is great but i know ANU has some good IR courses and a very interesting looking peace studies post grad course. also they have a whole school devoted to asian studies which could be good if thats an area you’re interested in. also at both unis you can do exchanges but its worth looking into which overseas unis they exchange with….

websites you might find helpful:

events page at ANU – free lectures & events etc

canberra times

social/night life in canberra

but as neanderthalsis said this is a pretty good place to ask questions…. browsing through the site might give you a decent idea of the types of people and issues here!

just like to add my own two cents – canberra gets a lot of shit from other places but i’ve been here 7 years and i love it. its a very easy place to live, and there is more than enough to do if you’re motivated to seek things out. people are generally friendly (though canberra drivers are notoriously aggressive), the sun shines an awful lot and it’s a beautiful little city.

bettina416 2:11 pm 27 Jun 10

Dear All,

Thanks for taking the time to read my long message. I appreciate all your inputs, especially Woody Mann-Caruso and Neanderthalsis, for the extremely helpful information. I agree with what you have all said here.

@ Woody Mann-Caruso: On your question: “Where do you live now and what do you like to do?”

If all goes as planned, I will be moving from Manila, Philippines. I’m used to living in a very bustling city with 60 million people, 2 hrs daily traffic, working 10-12 hours a day, lots of pollution, but also lots of entertainment. Whether I like it or not, is another story —- it’s a love hate relationship. :)= But, I think I’ve gotten to a point where I wouldn’t mind having a slower pace, and less stress in my life.

No job yet when I get to Canberra, which is going to be the ultimate adjustment for me, as I’ve worked for multinational companies for the past 15 years. I’ve never known what it’s like to NOT work… and the thought of not having a job in a new place can be a bit scary. I do however, have a scholarship grant to ANU or UC, which should at least keep me busy, and out of trouble. :)= My husband is being offered a UN post based in Canberra.

Things I like to do: lots of history/culture/music/arts/food, travelling, mingling with people of different culture, sports (tennis, swimming & badminton), and doing community work. One that I would love, which I don’t get to enjoy as much here, would be nature and photography.

@Neanderthalsis and Urchin: Goodness!!! Those rental rates had me floored! 🙁 They are all mighty pricey, given the condition/design etc.

@Neanderthalsis: I agree with you. Could not find much information on the “come to Canberra” websites. Unfortunately, I think I live too far away to attend the expos you have, even if I wanted to. 🙁 Have you guys ever thought of bringing the expos outside Australia, particularly Asia? Given the “toxic” lifestyle and ratrace in Asia, there are really a lot who are exploring possibilities of relocating for work, and eventually, migrating.

Additional questions:
1) How open is Canberra to different nationalities, particularly Asians? – I’ve read that the bulk of foreigners living in Canberra are mostly from Europe (ie Spain, England, Germany). Given the many government ofcs there, I’m assuming Canberra would be quite open to the cultural diversities?

2) Housing – We’re not looking at houses, possibly serviced apartments and townhouses (if we’re really lucky). Based on all homes website, I’m leaning towards the northern Canberra since it will be a few miles walk to ANU. Would an AUD 400-600 be a good range already for a furnished 2BR , secure, decent living? What is the average cost per week/per month of utilities? Also, I noticed that there are energy efficiency ratings (1 to 7, 1 being lowest) — so what would be the baseline EER that I should look at when considering housing?

3) Neighbourhood – Any recommendations on nice, safe, friendly neighborhoods both in the north and south?

Thanks again for all your inputs.

Pommy bastard 1:02 pm 27 Jun 10

Without knowing where you are comparing Canberra to, and what you like and enjoy, the question is moot.

Beau Locks 12:55 pm 27 Jun 10

Bettina416-thanks for the post. I’ve lived in Canberra most of my life, but travel extensively for work, so have a pretty good feel for other Australian cities. My first bit of advice-whether you decide you love or hate Canberra-is not to judge it against other cities. There is nothing comparable in Australia, or probably anywhere else.

Being a planned city you won’t find stuff like corner stores, because the shops will be grouped together where the shops were drawn on the plan for that suburb. Being a city with heaps of public servants and big workforce at the ANU, you’ll find that, by Australian standards, a staggering amount of people have uni degrees. Because they’re cashed up, more people have traveled overseas. There is a high rate of women participating in the workforce, and they’re also educated and earn more than femmes in other cities. It’s a totally low slung town, with heaps of bush and nature reserves as buffer zones between different town centres, which means you are able to walk from any suburb to a couple hundred acres of lovely bush, or perhaps a horse paddock. So, totally different from other Australian cities.

Once you’ve got over these and numerous other significant differences between Canberra and everywhere else, you can begin to make an assessment about whether, and how, you’d like to live here. In answer to your some of your questions:

My take on stuff to do goes like this: Canberra is small, but you’ll find something that floats your boat. When I’m in other cities, one thing I notice is that people don’t move out of their local community much. Which means that even if there are 27 ping pong clubs in their city, they’ll still go to their local one. Canberra for me is a bit like that. There are about half a dozen pubs that I go to regularly. There probably aren’t any more than that that I’d like to go to, but if I lived in Sydney, I’d still probably go to half a dozen pubs, and not really know anything much about the other ones in adjacent suburbs or on the other side of the harbour etc.

In terms of sights, you won’t find a much more beautiful city, and there are lots of free things at the national institutions, and great public lectures at ANU, CSIRO etc. One trick is getting around. The bus service is bung-arse, mainly because it’s trying to serve a very spread out population that all own cars. My advice is to find a place somewhere like Kingston or one of the Inner North suburbs where you can walk or cycle if you don’t wish to drive everywhere.

If you don’t know people here, get involved in a club, sporting outfit, volunteer group or some other such quick smart. Canberra isn’t an easy place to get to know people quickly, and there are so many transient people or punters that have only been here a few years themselves.

Canberra is also a really good place to get out of. It’s piss easy to get to the coast (much nicer, less crowded beaches than you’ll get within the same drive from most other Australian cities), super close to the snow, and three hours to Sydney, with no traffic lights once you leave Canberra until you exit from one of the tunnels under Sydney to whatever part of the city you need to be in. Simple. Namadgi National Park and the other alpine national parks are all on Canberra’s doorstep, and if you’re into bushwalking you won’t find a better place to live.

Another thing to note is that it’s a really quiet sort of town. You’d be forgiven for thinking nobody’s around. If you poke around, tho, you’ll quickly realise that this isn’t the case. For example, if I jumped on my bike and rode around the lake right now there would be heaps of people about. Likewise if I walked down to the Kingston Markets. If I went for a walk into the suburbs or parts of the CBD, however, it’d be dead quiet, in a kind of disturbing way.

As far as unis go, both ANU and UC have advantages and disadvantages depending on the type of degree you’d like and your style of learning. I’ve known people who’ve done MBAs at both institutions and been very positive. Just check it out and go and talk to people at the unis first.

Finally, regarding the whether, yes, it does get very cold. But in a lovely way. By that I mean that a winter day in Canberra will typically be cloudless with a big, beautiful sky, even if it only gets up to 10 or 11 degrees. And the spring and autumn here are just magnificent. Summer it gets as hot as anywhere else, but without the humidity.

Good luck with your move!

Woody Mann-Caruso 12:20 pm 27 Jun 10

The ACTEW has a monopoly on power/water/gas and it is more expensive than other capitals

That’s not true. We have full retail contestability in the ACT energy market, and you don’t have to buy your gas or electricity from ActewAGL.

Canberra has a woeful public transport system unless you live near one of the town centres.

The public transport system is fine if you live near an express route. I’d be surprised if it was longer than a five minute walk to catch an express. If you drive, note that paid parking is scarce and expensive.

ANU has a good reputation

That’s an understatement. It’s the number one university in Australia and rates 16th-17th in the world with esteemed institutions like Stanford. The only way you can go to a more highly ranked uni is to attend an Ivy League school in the US, Cambridge, Oxford or one of the London Colleges. I think uni ladders are a pointless p.ssing contest, but if you’re looking at an MBA, then you’re in a world where jerks in suits care about this sort of thing. You can argue the toss about the ranking process, but UC isn’t in the top 200 in the world so a change in methodology wouldn’t change much. I suspect postgrad management quals from CIT would rank somewhere around the same level as Hamburger U.

neanderthalsis 11:19 am 27 Jun 10

Canberra, from my experience as a recentish arrival from QLD (here for nearly 4 years now)is a largely transient town. Large numbers of people come for work or study from all over Aus, some stay, some go. It can be a hard town to break into socially, especially if you do what I did and move down here without knowing anyone. The trick is to develop a few hobbies that get you out meeting people.

1) It’s a great environment in which to live. Free or cheap entry to major exhibitions and national event, goodish live music scene, some hidden gems in unlikely places. Some good wineries about the region, some nice drives, the snow and the coast are not too far away.

2) Define reasonable salary. The ACT has the nations highest average wages and is a smallish market, so you can pay more for some things. That said, fuel and groceries are comparable to other capitals. The ACTEW has a monopoly on power/water/gas and it is more expensive than other capitals. Canberra has a woeful public transport system unless you live near one of the town centres. So try to get somewhere central to live or buy another car.

3) The housing market is tighter than a camels bum in a sandstorm. Rents are expensive and there is a lot of competition for rentals. Being a youngish and I presume professional couple you will have an advantage over groups of Uni students, but don’t bring any pets. 2 bedroom units go for $350 – 400 depending on location.

4) ANU has a good reputation but there are other options. Charles Sturt runs undergrad and postgrad business programs from CIT (the local TAFE). They have a good recognition program so you might have more luck getting previous study counted than you would at ANU or UC.

5) Best place to learn about Canberra is to lurk on this site or to come and visit. The “come to Canberra” type websites and books are generally not very helpful. There is a traveling ACT Govt funded show that does the rounds of Jobs Expos that promotes life in the ACT. My job takes me to a lot of these types of expos and the “live in the ACT” booth is always the loneliest booth in the show.

Spectra 11:10 am 27 Jun 10

In terms of question 3, you could start with the previous threads from recent months on the subject.

Woody Mann-Caruso 10:55 am 27 Jun 10

Life – What’s it like in terms of sights, attractions, things to do

Where do you live now and what do you like to do?

Looking for safety, location (close to a lot of things without having to drive all the time)?

The satellite city system means that everywhere in Canberra is the same distance from everywhere else. Canberra is a very safe city, with even minor assaults being considered newsworthy. Every suburb has its own school, parks, and local shops, usually with an independent grocery chain, newsagent, chemist etc. Ever few suburbs there’s a larger (though still smallish) shopping complex with a major supermarket. Each town centre – Tuggeranong, Woden, Civic, Belconnen – has a major Westfields-style shopping centre. There are also smaller but still substantial shopping setups at the northern and southern extremities – down Banks way and up at Gungahlin.

Having said all that, it’s a lot more convenient getting to Tuggeranong from the southern suburbs or Belconnen from the north. I wouldn’t want to travel to ANU or UC from the deep south. Where will you both be working?

Beware of people from the northside bagging the southside and vice versa. There’s no difference between them like there is in, say, Brisbane’s south or Sydney’s west. The whole city has arisen more or less simultaneously around the town centres.

Canberra house prices are the highest in the country, and you don’t get much for your money. Vacancy rates are next to zero and rents are priced accordingly. Allhomes is your number one resource for checking out rental prices –

My interests lie in: Human Resources, MBA, International Relations.

I highly recommend the ANU’s MBA program. I don’t know much about UC’s offerings. There’s a bit of a snob war between the ANU and UC; people who went to the former tend to look down on the latter, calling it unkind things like ‘the old Canberra tech’.

urchin 10:31 am 27 Jun 10

for housing, etc. take a look at and try not to weep when you see the price of rental accommodations (and how little you get for your money)

1 2 3

Related Articles

CBR Tweets

Sign up to our newsletter

Copyright © 2017 Riot ACT Holdings Pty Ltd. All rights reserved. | |

Search across the site