Brisbane: A City Guide for International Students

Photo of Brisbane city

Brisbane is the capital city of Queensland, and sits on the north-east coast of Australia. It has 300 days of sunshine per year, and his home to about 2.5 million people.

Whilst it’s a bit smaller than Sydney or Melbourne, the pace of life there is much more relaxed. But that certainly doesn’t mean that it’s any less fun for international students.

On the contrary, every year 80,000 students flock to Brisbane from all over the world. It has a great quality of life, excellent weather and a variety of things to see and do.

Universities

There are two main universities in Brisbane. They are the University of Queensland and the Queensland University of Technology.

However, there are also 10 campuses from other universities, in the city. That includes Griffith University and Australian Catholic University. The latter has campuses in most major cities, including Melbourne and Sydney, and hosts many international students.

Photo of The University of Queensland

Work

The job market in Brisbane is nothing short of excellent. In fact, Brisbane’s job growth was recently increasing at a rate of twice the population growth. That means it has the best job growth in all of Australia.

This is an attractive proposition for any international student, and anyone deciding to live in Brisbane.

To take advantage of this, utilise job-hunting websites like www.seek.com.au and www.gumtree.com.au

Or, as we also discussed in our other city guides, take your resume in person to places of employment. This is highly recommended for the hospitality industry, including bars and cafes.

Accommodation

There is a burgeoning rental market in Brisbane, and thankfully it’s cheaper than that of Melbourne or Sydney.

Renting an entire one-bedroom apartment will cost anywhere between $1,000.00 and $1,600.00 each month. A room in a shared house, however, will likely cost you between $150 and $250 each week.

This is a better option for a student on a budget.

Photo of accommodation in Brisbane

Cost of Living

The cost of living in Brisbane is generally quite similar to its bigger sister cities, in Melbourne and Sydney. In fact, the cost of living throughout Australia is fairly uniform.

However, wages throughout Australia are very good, so it’s all comparative. A lunch out in the city will likely cost anywhere between $8 and $15, depending on how well you want to eat!

A pint of beer will cost between $8 and $12, and slightly more in the city and at the more fashionable nightspots. A mixed drink will be similar, with cocktails pushing up towards $20.

In terms of shopping for groceries, $80 per week will see you with all your necessities.

Whilst it’s not a cheap city by any means (there are no ‘cheap’ cities in Australia!), Brisbane is slightly more affordable than the larger cities down south.

Transport

Brisbane is serviced by trains, buses and ferries.

You’ll need to purchase a Go Card, which can be used throughout Brisbane, on all forms of public transport. This card can be topped up at train stations, as well as selected retail stores.

Note that as with trams in Melbourne, the buses in the central business district of Brisbane are entirely free to ride – a bonus for students, domestic and international alike.

Furthermore, if you’re coming from the airport, there is a handy Airtrain service which runs straight into Brisbane City, as well as to the Gold Coast.

Photo of a ferry at Brisbane river

Sights

The sights in Brisbane are world-class, as you’d expect in Australia. If you enjoy appreciating art, the Queensland Art Gallery and the Gallery of Modern Art are both excellent galleries to visit.

Furthermore, the Southbank precinct on the Brisbane River is home to plenty of great things to see and do. You can swim there, have a picnic, check out the cultural precinct, dine in a fine restaurant or just admire the river and the city.

The Museum of Brisbane is an excellent cultural venue, with a variety of permanent and special exhibitions. Best of all, entry is free for all – ideal for students on a budget.

Activities

Brisbane is full of fun activities, with something for everyone. For example, if you’d like to get a little closer to Australian wildlife, look no further than the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. Here, you can even pat the furry little koalas!

A ferry or river cruise is never a bad idea in Brisbane, and is extremely relaxing. You’ll also get a great view of the city from the river.

For shopping, check out Queen Street Mall. There are a number of arcades and shopping centres in this district, and in total, more than 700 stores.

Photo of a group of Koalas at the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

Sports

Brisbane simply doesn’t host the same calibre of sporting events that Melbourne and Sydney are home to. 

However, the rugby league and union seasons are popular in Brisbane. There are also a number of AFL matches there each year, courtesy of the Brisbane Lions.

There is also an annual cricket test match at the Brisbane Cricket Ground (GABBA).

Nightlife

Brisbane’s nightlife is a bit smaller than that of Sydney or Melbourne, but you’re by no means lacking for choice. Fortitude Valley is an entertainment precinct with all kinds of venues, including a casino, nightclubs, bars and music venues.

There are a number of great rooftop bars where you can soak up the lovely Brisbane sun, such as Sixteen Antlers, Sazerac Bar and Elixir Rooftop Bar.

For something grungier, head to The Scratch Bar or The Bowery, both great for a no-frills drink and some casual food.

The best live music venues include the Brooklyn Standard, The Tivoli, The Triffid and The Zoo.

If you feel like dancing, check your coat and head onto the dance floor at Laruche, Barbara or No Lights No Lycra. That last one is a West End event in complete darkness… great if you’re a little nervous about dancing!

Around Brisbane

As with all Australian cities, there are some phenomenal natural wonders just outside the Brisbane metropolitan area.

For instance, world-famous golden beaches and perfect waves can be found at Surfers Paradise, just a two-hour drive south of Brisbane.

Two hours the other way, to the north, is Noosa Heads. This beach paradise has excellent restaurants, wildlife and some of the best beaches in the country. Noosa is simply a must-see for anyone staying in Brisbane. That includes international students!

As well as that, you can soak up even more of Queenslands natural wonder at Springbrook National Park. Roughly 100 kilometres from Brisbane, this wonderful park is a treasure trove of natural beauty.

Yet another natural wonder is Moreton Island. A 75-minute ferry from Brisbane, this is an absolutely relaxing destination for anyone wanting to escape the city. 

If you’re a fan of snorkelling or diving, you must visit Moreton.

Aerial photo of Moreton Island

For further information on Brisbane, head to https://www.visitbrisbane.com.au/.

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