For those who want to temper the adventure of a gap year with the ease of modern conveniences and English-speaking locals, Sydney is the quintessential choice. The city strikes the perfect balance of laid back beach culture, the rush of a big city, fine arts, nature, outdoor living, travel abroad and community spirit. And, of course, there’s also the sunny weather!

Volunteering

Sydney has a volunteer program that's actually dedicated to Nelson Mandela. To honor his 67-year fight for justice, the City of Sydney has encouraged all of their residents and visitors to volunteer for at least 67 minutes. You can work with their Meals on Wheels program, help archive historical papers, or even help out during events and festivals.

The Sydney Opera House has an extensive program that will give you real-world experience backstage at the Opera – and you'll get a unique perspective on their world-class productions. The Royal Botanic Gardens also accepts volunteers for their Domain Trust program, which covers everything from visitor services to sustainable living projects.

And of course, major charities, foundations and programs have Sydney-based operations as well – the WWF, Australian Red Cross, Wesley Mission, and even the Japan Foundation all welcome volunteers.

Adventure Travel

Most adventure programs based in Sydney will get you traveling throughout the country and even the South Pacific, and are focused on conserving some of the world's most treasured animals, habitats and ecosystems, as well as improving communities. International Student Volunteers (ISV) has a wide variety of programs that combine adventure and volunteering – from planting trees to protecting penguins, chances are you'll find something that fits your goals.

Professional Internships

With its status as a world capital and a financial hub for the South Pacific, there is no dearth of business-oriented internships available in Sydney. Though it is possible to contact companies on an unsolicited basis, it can be difficult to get your foot in the door (so to speak) this way. Using a professional placement service tends to be the best way to be matched with a suitable company.

Visas for Sydney

Everyone visiting Australia needs to have an appropriate visa. Basic Tourist Visas are generally valid for three months. Or for those who would like to extend their stay, or combine a holiday with working, there are several visa options, including:

  • A Visitor Visa can extend your stay to 12 months.
  • A Working Holiday Visa is for people from 18-31 years of age, and is valid for 12 months. Eligible countries include Belgium, Canada, Republic of Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Republic of Ireland, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Taiwan and United Kingdom.
  • A Work and Holiday Visa is also for 12 months, and the age parameters are 18-30. For this one, eligible countries include Argentina, Bangladesh, Chile, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Turkey and the USA. There are quota limits for this type of visa, so apply early to avoid missing out.
  • Note that all visas have eligibility terms and conditions. The Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship provide a Visa Wizard to help you choose the best Australian visa for your own circumstances.
Cost of Living in Sydney

As mentioned above, Sydney has a high cost of living. Exactly how high? Let's take a look at these average prices:

  • Apartment (1 bedroom) Outside of Centre: $1,651.16
  • Basic (Electricity, Gas, Water, Garbage): $226.83
  • Monthly Transportation Pass (Regular Price): $109.45
  • Pack of Cigarettes (Marlboro): $16.55
  • Eggs (12): $4.15
  • Coke/Pepsi (0.33 liter bottle): $3.22
  • Meal for 2, Mid-range Restaurant, Three-course: $82.78

Simply put, you're going to have to save your pennies for you gap year in Sydney! The good news, though, is that if you get a paying job, your salary will reflect the cost of living – the average monthly disposable salary is $4,258.18 net.

Health and Safety in Sydney

Sydney is a modern city with strict environmental, safety and health protections. In other words, yes, you can drink the water; but as in any big city, be street smart and avoid sketchy areas. Women especially should watch their drinks at all times in bars and clubs, to avoid their drink being spiked.

The safety considerations that many visitors may not be aware of involve the beaches. Rip tides are a threat, as are sharks – so keep an eye on the lifeguards and heed any warnings they give to swimmers. Note though that this isn't a Jaws movie; shark attacks are rare, and a lot of the popular beaches have shark nets that are extremely effective in keeping sharks away from shore.

Although this isn't too common, you should shake out shoes before putting them on in case a spider or other tiny thing has crawled inside – especially if you're spending time outside.

Contributed by David Wright

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