Living and Working in Adelaide: a guide for overseas doctors. Part 1: The Basic Stuff

This mini-series provides some basic advice for overseas doctors interested in coming to work in, or just setting themselves up in, Adelaide. In this series:

  • The Basic Stuff: basic living requirements and getting around
  • The Fun Stuff: getting out and about, food and wine and travel
  • The Touring Stuff: travel and touring destinations for those days off
  • The Work Stuff: registration, workplaces and training programmes
  • The Admin Stuff: banking, visas, tax and health

Don't forget to checkout out current jobs on offer via the SA Health Careers website.

The Basic Stuff

Living in Adelaide

Adelaide is a truly beautiful city—laid back and quiet, but with plenty to do. Forget long commutes in the rain; life here is all about quality and making the most of all those days off work.

The city is based on a square mile CBD surrounded by parklands with North Adelaide stuck on top (and again surrounded by parklands). In between the two are the River Torrens, the Adelaide Oval (for those of you who like cricket and AFL), the Festival Theatre and the Zoo (with pandas!). The city is long and thin, sandwiched between the sea and the hills, which means it never takes long to escape.

Wander round the Botanic Gardens and parklands, admire the gorgeous old buildings housing the university and art gallery along North Terrace, take a stroll down by the River Torrens and explore some of the little lanes in the CBD and you will get an idea of the city and parks that you can now call home!

The ED is full of people working from all over the world who are also keen to go out and have fun. Although it can sometimes be hard to break into established friendship groups (especially if you are only planning on staying a year), there will be no shortage of people to make friends with. Expect lots of outdoor time, amazing wine, good food and festivals galore. We don’t have loads of crazy nightclubs, and it is far from Las Vegas (we are more about the rooftop cocktails/wine drinking), but it is an incredibly friendly, happy place to live. Even after several years here, I have to pinch myself to remind myself that this is actually my life some days—I think most of us feel very privileged to be here.

Where to Live

NOT THE RESI WING!

The residential wing at the Royal Adelaide Hospital is often offered as temporary accommodation for new arrivals. I strongly recommend you do not accept this offer. It is a dire place and will give a terrible first impression of Adelaide.

There are, however, a few options for good places to live, which basically split into beachside , CBD or near CBD. You may want to book a short term place or a hostel for a while before you decide on a spot, to give yourself a chance to have a quick look around and get a feel for the place.

Rentals tend to run for a year otherwise and if you “break” your lease before this, they can charge you rent and advertising fees until they find someone else, even if you give them notice. Some landlords don’t like renting to you if you have done this before. It is not usually a major deal but worth knowing about. www.realestate.com.au is your spot for rental properties or Gumtree for house shares. Some agents are a bit weird if you have no rental history in Australia but keep going—the word “doctor” goes a long way in helping secure a place. The market is fierce—you will be given a 15-minute slot to race around the house with 30 other people. Make sure you get your application in fast if you like the place. Also make sure the air con works, or you will be VERY sad in January.

As with everywhere else, Ikea by the airport will provide you with all your furniture/house needs.

The CBD

The CBD is great if you have no car—you will be able to walk to work if you're at the RAH, and the markets etc will be on your doorstep. For a big city it is pretty quiet most of time, away from the main roads and especially in the south of the CBD you will find some tiny, quiet, cottage-filled streets. There are lots of apartments (some furnished here) and if you are not staying too long this is a good option.

The Beach

The beach is obviously the dream for proper Aussie living and will mean you have access to miles of often empty beautiful beaches, some great cafes/restaurants and lots of friends that you work with but there are a couple of drawbacks. Glenelg has the tram running to it and some of the other suburbs have train stations but these may not be options late at night and you will need a back up. If you are very keen it is about a 12km cycle to the closest beaches but in reality a car will make your life much easier especially if you are coming with a partner/friend and can share. Henley Beach is very popular and one of the closest beaches to the CBD.

Near the CBD

Other good places to think about are Norwood, Walkerville, Unley/Goodwood/Hyde Park and North Adelaide (this is VERY different from the “northern suburbs”... don’t get them mixed up!). Norwood has a great supermarket and some nice cafes, Goodwood and Hyde Park have loads of cafes and restaurants, as does North Adelaide. Goodwood is probably more funky where Norwood and North Adelaide are older established suburbs.

Transport

Bus

The bus routes in Adelaide are fairly good with the only drawback being that most of them involve having to go into the city and back out again, which may well mean 2 buses involved if you want to go between suburbs on opposite sides of the CBD. You can work out times from Google maps or the Adelaide Metro website. Buses on busy routes are pretty frequent during the day, tailing off in the evenings ,and especially on Sundays.

There are various ways to pay for your ticket. You can buy a "Metrocard", and load it in advance and then just hold it in front of the ticket machine when you get on the bus. This is much cheaper and easier if you are travelling regularly. Alternatively, buy a ticket on the bus. There are singles (valid for 2 hours from the time you get on), returns and day tickets. Off peak travel is cheaper than rush hour (a single adult peak ticket is about $5). When you have your ticket, EVERY time you get on the bus or tram (same ticket system) you need to validate it by slotting it in the machine (even if you literally just bought your ticket from the bus driver a step away). Every one puts it in the wrong way round the first time but it is black line towards you and arrows down, it makes a nice noise (if you put it in the wrong way it makes a less nice noise) and then you can carry on and sit down. Simples.

There is a bus route from the RAH to the airport (J1 or J2) which means you can get there for about $3 off peak which is by far the cheapest way to do it.

Tram

The tram system in Adelaide is a little simpler than Melbourne. There is only one route for a start! This goes from the Entertainment Centre just northwest of the city through Victoria Square in the middle of the CBD, and ditches you at Glenelg in Moseley Square, right at the beach. It is free from the Entertainment Centre to South Terrace then after that you have to pay (same price as a bus journey and again you need to validate your ticket). It tends to run about every 20 minutes until about midnight

Cycling

Cycling helmets are a mandated LEGAL requirement—do not even attempt to ride without one or you will get noticed straight away! The rules have recently changed to allow you to cycle on pavements, and to instruct drivers to keep a metre away from you (in theory anyway). There are a LOT of cyclists in Adelaide, especially in January as the Tour Down Under is happening. You don’t have to wear matching lycra, I promise, despite appearances.

There are a reasonable number of cycle routes, but, as with most cities, watch for the drivers. If you want to live by the beach you can cycle along Linear Park from the city so you can avoid roads ,and this spits you out by West Beach not too far from Henley. In the other direction, Linear Park heads up near Modbury hospital. There is also a route that basically follows the tramline down towards the southern suburbs and beach which is handy and mainly down quieter roads. Lots of people commute by bike. There are bike sheds available at each hospital, and you can use your ID badge will swipe you into it. It is a good way to get around especially as you can often be a bit limited with transport options after a late shift. For recreational cycling see the Activities section in The Fun Stuff bit of this guide.

Driving

Driving is pretty easy around Adelaide, as it is a predictable squared off grid system. Adelaide is known for being able to commute between any 2 places in about 20 minutes. It is only really at rush hour (8-9am and 5-6pm) that you will encounter anything even resembling a traffic jam.

Driving skills around you may be somewhat lacking, so be cautious and you will need some patience as it is a little more laid back (who knew it could take 30 seconds to pull away from lights in an automatic car where all you have to do is move your foot?). I would not plan to live any more than a 20 minute commute from work by car at the absolute maximum (which, as mentioned, is still a large area to choose from) unless you have a good reason to—part of the joy of Adelaide is not having to spend half your life driving to and from work, so make the most of it.

Road rules in Australia are STRICTLY enforced. A few k's over the speed limit can land you with several hundred dollar fines so don’t bother. Parking attendants are equally ferocious—a few minutes too long will by $70+ out of your pocket. Don’t try and park on the wrong way in a street (facing the opposite direction from traffic) as this is illegal and again will lead to a big fine.

The parking system is confusing at first but actually very logical! A sign saying “2P 9-5 M-F” for example means you can park there for 2 hours between 9am-5pm Monday to Friday. Outside these times you can park as long as you want unless there is another sign saying “permit zone outside these times” or “clearway 7am-9am M-F” or similar. “4P ticket” means you can park for up to 4 hours but you need to get a ticket. There are ¼ P etc too so just look really carefully where you are parking as in the space of a 100m you can have several different zones! Don’t park next to a fire hydrant either or again MASSIVE fine… Also don’t think you are safe out of hours- I have seen people being ticketed at 1am!

Just a warning: when you are turning left or right at traffic lights (unless there is a filter arrow) pedestrians can also cross in front of you—if the green man is showing or the red one is flashing, they have right of way so don’t run anyone over.

In the city, parking is mega expensive (think $20 for 4 hours) unless you can find a sneaky spot on the road or get early bird parking in a multi-storey. These again all have different entry times and exit times so check before you park (some have to be in by 9:30, some by 10am, some out after 3pm, some out before 7pm etc). The staff car parks at the hospitals require a permit, and there is often several weeks waiting to get one (at the RAH, at the QEH they are doled out instantly to doctors), so check before you decide to use the car as your main way of commuting (you can probably get away with, for example, cycling for days and driving at night, and then finding a place on a street overnight but this will require some planning).

Cars are variable here. They are reasonably expensive new, but do not depreciate in value as much as they would in the UK, as the air is dry enough that they do not rust much. Cars that have gone 200,000kms and more can still be going strong. Additionally in SA you do not need an MOT so all kinds of disasters can be knocking around. This means you can often get a bargain $1000-type banger, if you know what you are doing, which you can use to knock about in and then sell on. If you are living close to the city you may not want to bother with a car anyway, but it is worth knowing someone who has one, as you will want to go on some adventures, which are much easier and cheaper under your own steam. You will need to have your car registered, and this can be a few hundred $ a year, but covers you for 3rd party insurance too, which may be all you want. Again, driving with no rego will clear you out of funds pretty fast. The other thing to think about is whether you want to be going out to the middle of nowhere and camping/hiking etc, in which case you need to have something vaguely reliable and maybe even give a 4WD or something with higher clearance some thought.

Taxi

These will feel very expensive if you are coming from the UK, but otherwise just the same as the world over. Except you can assume they will have no idea where they are going and often need very specific directions…

Air Travel

Adelaide is awesome, in that the airport is tiny and mega easy to negotiate. You can get on a plane pretty much without even speaking to anyone! You can get there by bus (J1/J2 directly opposite RAH), taxi (about $20 from the CBD) or car, and then just mosey on over to the terminal (there is only one, so it is easy unless you are flying in from regional Australia e.g. Kangaroo Island , Broken Hill, etc, in which case you may land in the shed next door). The international gates involve shutting a glass door to separate you from everyone else and once you are through international security there is only a toilet and a tiny shop so don’t go through too early!

Domestic

Domestic flights are with Qantas, Virgin, Jetstar (bargain but you pay for EVERYTHING extra) and Rex (plus Tigerair which is very cheap but was recently banned for a while for being awful so travel at your own risk!). It is worth picking either Qantas or Virgin and sticking with them as you can then start getting FF points especially as you are likely to travel a fair amount and some of it on Professional Development money (more on this in the Admin Stuff section). Qantas is linked with Emirates, so you can get points on both, making it easy if you are also planning on international travel. I have not flown Virgin, but Qantas is incredibly friendly on domestic routes, very easy and will provide you with lots of refreshments etc. Jetstar is the cheaper option, but if you want to take luggage, TV etc then it can actually add up to almost as much as Qantas. Jetstar can also sometimes give you Qantas points though and will probably be your first choice to Darwin and possibly Bali.

Flying domestic from Adelaide is easy. You can check in online or at a machine, print out your own bag tags and use the bag drop and then go through security. You can take liquids etc on domestic planes so don’t worry about the first security check; all you need to take out is your laptop. Everyone can go through the first security gate whether they are flying or not, so it means you can meet people from domestic flights actually at the gate which is pretty exciting (I am easily pleased). There are some coffee shops and the usual airport shops in the main terminal but it is not a shopping metropolis and there is no reason to be there particularly early!

International

To fly international there is then another security checkpoint next to Hungry Jacks (Australia's Burger King) where you then have to ditch the water etc.

International travellers arrive on the ground floor by Hudsons Coffee. The evening flights are often early and it doesn’t take long to get through security compared to somewhere like Heathrow, so people are often out sooner than you would anticipate!

International flights only land a couple of times a day so it is all very laid back. Flying direct into Adelaide rather than via Melbourne or Sydney will make your life immeasurably nicer. Singapore and Emirates fly direct to Adelaide, so I would recommend picking them (Emirates if you want Qantas FF points and short layovers, Singapore for getting to hang out in Changi Airport which is awesome and for service). Flying in Australia is extremely easy and is very relaxed.

Weather

This is obviously the BEST bit about Australia and (I think) Adelaide in particular. Winters are probably the equivalent of a British autumn, although once you acclimatise they will still feel long and cold (as cold as 14°C!). The summer is amazing and lasts a lot longer. Days are warm and fairly dry, and it can hit 40+ degrees especially in Jan/Feb, which are the hottest times. The heat is dry heat though and will be a lot more bearable than a humid 30 degree day. Despite my whinging about the cold, the climate is actually great and you will be able to do outdoor stuff and eat outdoors for a decent portion of the year. Those long days of endless rain are limited and it is only on the 40+ degree days that you can’t do much outdoors.

The sun is REALLY strong here—10 minutes lying on the beach in the summer (even when it is overcast) in the middle of the day and you can burn, so it is not like Europe. Local sunscreen is stronger than the British stuff so buy it here and make it at least factor 30 (you can’t buy less here), if not 50+. If you have kids, they should have UV-proof rash vests and hats (so should you probably!). You will get extremely shocked looks if you have sunburn here—the risks are significant (melanomas are relatively common in those who grew up before sunscreen), and it is expected people are more sun aware. The warmest part of the day is mid afternoon, but at least by this time the sun is a bit less intense.

Generally Melbourne is a few degrees cooler, Tassie is a lot cooler, Perth and Sydney are a bit warmer and then south Queensland is a bit warmer and more humid again. Alice Springs is either very hot and dry, hot and dry or warm and dry depending on the season (cool at night in winter). The north part of the country—Darwin and Far North Queensland—are more tropical, and run on the wet/dry season. The dry is from May-September (our winter). The wet, and especially the build up to the wet, can be pretty oppressive if you are not from a tropical climate. Around Darwin a lot of places are cut off in the wet so it is best to visit, and will be a lot more pleasant, in June-July time. Winter up there is beautiful and a welcome break if you get fed of up the "cold" down here.

Bushfires are a risk in the Adelaide Hills and, although you will unlikely be affected in the city, it is worth knowing about them. On catastrophic fire days you should not be in the Hills. There is a fire ban (no outdoor fires, for example if you are camping) which runs about November-April and varies depending on where you are. Always check before you have a BBQ or a campfire outdoors as people take this seriously. When fires start here they can be pretty devastating, so don’t do anything daft which might put the place at risk. Gum trees are full of oil and burn fast and hot and there have been fatalities in recent years. Even in 2015 many square km of land and a number of houses were lost within a few kms of the city. The CFS (country fire service) is manned by volunteers and is extremely active doing some spectacular work.

Now you know the basics about life in Adelaide, where to live, and how to get around, read on in the next part in the series about all the Fun Stuff you can do while living in Adelaide.

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