Study­ing in Aus­tralia: The price tag

When I went to Canberra, I didn't really know what costs to expect. So here's an overview for anyone facing the same question. Compared to Berlin (and in general) I encountered a few surprises!

Living in a hall of residence is not exactly cheap, but it offers many advantages, including events for students. There is at least one ball here every semester. Photo: private

When you think about a semester abroad, the question of cost comes up pretty quickly: can I even afford that? When I arrived in the Australian capital, there were a few things that caught me by surprise – in both good and bad ways.

Rent: dorm room vs. apartment

First things first: rent in Canberra is not cheap. I opted for a hall of residence for several reasons: here, I live directly on campus in the city centre, which means I don't have everyday travel expenses. In addition, the room is already furnished, I can easily meet other students and automatically have a support network – and exchange students are even entitled to a dorm room here!

My hall of residence costs 1,368 Australian dollars per month, which is already more than one month in Berlin would cost me – including living costs. But rent also depends on the individual hall of residence: there are options ranging from 1,000 to 2,200 dollars per month. The rooms have various perks: mine came with a sink and double bed, a TV and a fan. The kitchen and bathroom are shared between several residents.

I had also looked for accommodation off-campus, but it didn't really make a difference in terms of rent – but I would have had to buy furniture and of course it's not possible to view apartments from the other side of the globe.

Food Street: There are many cafés and restaurants on the Australian National University campus. Photo: private

Food and dining on campus

The Australian National University does not have a canteen, but there are plenty of restaurants in Kambri (the centre of the campus) and microwaves in almost every building, most notably Marie Reay (a university building in Kambri) and the Brian Kennon Student Centre (BKSS). During term time, BKSS also offers free breakfasts on week days, which consist of cereals and toast. It also organises "Student Bites", a food bank handing out free groceries to students.

So, if you want to live affordably, you can cook your own food and heat it up in the microwaves (which are actually very clean!) – or opt for a hall of residence that has its own canteen. I did the math and for me the latter would have been more expensive, which is why I prefer to buy groceries myself. I pay around 40 to 50 dollars a week for this – about the same as in Berlin. Good news for coffee lovers: the cappuccino and flat whites you get on campus are really good and cost about five dollars on average (that's approximately three euros).

Public transport in Canberra – yes, it exists!

Everything on campus is within walking distance, and the shopping centre in the heart of the city is also reachable on foot in just half an hour. For everything else, however, you need other means such as buses, light rail (a kind of tram), a car or a bike. The shore of gigantic Lake Burley Griffin, for example, is just a short walk away, but I ended up needing a bike to comfortably get to where I work on the south side of the lake.

Second-hand bikes are quite cheap here (starting at 50 dollars) and there is a small bike shop on campus where you can purchase and repair bikes. Not all roads are suitable for cycling, though: like most Australian cities, Canberra is unfortunately very car-centred. In general, helmets and lights are compulsory, and the fines for offences really hurt your wallet (depending on the offence it can easily be 200 dollars). Public transport is absolutely affordable, there is even a discount for students. When I take the bus to work, I pay about two dollars one way.

Dinner with friends. To save money, it's worth doing your own cooking. Photo: private

Everyday life plus travel costs: The bottom line

All in all, Canberra is easily 2,000 dollars a month. I had to book my return flight from Australia back to Germany separately, because when I left it wasn't possible to book flights a year in advance. But in total, it's another 3,000 euros for travel if you don't want to be en route for 60 hours (one way). Therefore, I recommend taking advantage of all the discounts you can find!

Published 17 June 2024