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An American Expat: Working and Living in Darwin, Australia

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I’m working and living in Darwin, Australia.

If you would have told me I’d be here a few years ago, I probably would have laughed for five minutes straight.

I can’t believe I’ve been abroad for over 5 years, this is the fourth continent I’ve lived on and my eight or so city I’ve called home! It feels like yesterday I sat behind a desk staring at my pictures I hung at my desk of my last adventure to Dominica, wanderlusting over the thoughts of my next adventure…

I digress, this is not a post on how far I’ve come with my travels and my mission to travel, live, and work everywhere, but a post on my current situation: Working and living in Darwin, my new home for the time being (I move again in December in case you’re wondering).

If you’re thinking about doing your working holiday visa here, or if you’re thinking of working and living in Darwin, this is the post for you! Here’s all about living in Darwin…

How and Why I Ended Up Living Here

Weather and money. Seriously, that’s it.

We were in Melbourne, and we absolutely LOVED it. If it wasn’t for the weather, we would still be there.

The weather started to get really nasty, it was getting cold and rainy, and we just didn’t want to deal. We heard Darwin’s pay was a bit better, and we knew the winter here was mild, as in, it doesn’t really get cold, which was more of our (aka, MY) cup of tea.

So off to Darwin, we went! If you’re curious about how we made the move, check out how we drove here in a sweet Mercedes-Benz campervan for only $1 a day!

Working and Living in darwin

Our First Week Living in Darwin

Living Situation

We stayed out in Millner because that’s where we found a nice Airbnb to stay at, we didn’t think too much of it seeing it was only about 10 minutes driving from the city, surely it’s OK, right?

Next thing you know the cops are knocking on our door looking for someone and there’s a group making a ruckus just outside our home. It didn’t seem to be the safest of areas for the week we spent there.

We ended up finding a place closer to the city, more info on that below.

RELATED: An American Working in Australia and Living for Under $750 USD ($1000 AUD) a Month.


The bus took 20 minutes to get to the city each day from this AirBnB and it was kind of a bitch commuting.

The bus costs $3. Your ticket is good for 3 hours, after that, you have to buy a new one.

The characters on the bus are…. well, characters. Stinky smells, cheeky people swigging from open wine bottles, aggressive drunks, and ill-behaved children running around are just a few of my not-so-favorite things…

My recommendation: Spend the extra cash and stay closer to town.

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Where to Stay?

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How is Living in Darwin?

Eh, Darwin isn’t as bad as I thought, actually!

It’s pretty remote in the sense that there’s no large city around here. Broome is still a 20-hour drive away and it’s not a big city either.

Things are pricier considering the distance products have to travel to get here. It’s a bit more bogan (this word is the equivalent of ‘redneck’ for my US readers) as it’s certainly more rural, and it’s just really small.

I’m not necessarily a city girl, but this spot is a bit tiny for my liking. But for six months? I can deal, it’s fine!

We’re close to the water, granted you can’t swim the majority of the year because of deadly jellyfish and crocodiles…but we have nice views of the coast to enjoy at least. The plus side to this place being small is that everything is pretty close, so that’s nice.

Living in Darwin isn’t really that bad and I’m liking it more every day. Would it be a place I would stay for longer than six months? Nah.

Would I have chosen this place if it wasn’t for the money and the better weather? Probably not. But Darwin isn’t a bad place to call home for six months and I’m quite happy here.

RELATED: How to Work Abroad in Australia (Without Experience).

Things to Do in Darwin

There will be a more proper post on this eventually, but there’s actually a decent amount of things to do around the area.

Berry Spring and Litchfield are a short drive away, Kakadu National Park isn’t too far, and there are plenty of coastlines to bum out on, a few markets to attend, and some events scattered throughout the months.

The city (/town) doesn’t have TOO much, but there are definitely things to keep yourself entertained. At the least, chilling out on the waterfront for the day and grabbing a drink are always on offer. More on this later!

Working and Living in darwin

 Cost of Living in Darwin


We pay $300 a week (that’s $150 per week each) and this is what we get:

We get our own room, a spacious room at that, with a large closet as well. It’s very well lit as one wall is literally all windows. We have one roomie who has her own room and we share a bathroom.

We have a peaceful balcony and we’re surrounded by greenery. A huge plus is that our kitchen and living area are also quite big, we have our own washer (then we hang dry), and we are literally a few minutes outside the city (Stuart Park).

Our $300 per week includes everything. Internet, water, and electricity.

Lease: There is none. The roommate we have was looking for roomies, she’s on the lease, everything is in her name, and we just pay her.

This situation is EXTREMELY ideal as there was no deposit to worry about or having to get electricity bills set up in our name etc… She takes care of the bills and offered us the room for $300 all included.

RELATED: Moving to Australia: The Price of Living Down Under (11 Cities).


It’s a bit more expensive.

As I mentioned this place is a bit out there and therefore it takes more effort for goods to get here, thus the prices are hiked up a bit.

It’s not that bad, though, we’re talking about $.80 AUD more for eggs maybe $1 more per kg (depending on the season) for bananas, and a few cents here and there for other items.

Eating out, we’ve found to be pricier than Melbourne.

When we wanted to go out for a bite to eat, we always found some small alleyway with $4 sandwiches or a homemade pizza from the local bakery for only $6… Here, we’re having a difficult time finding these little spots and simply eat out less because of this.

We even ate at a pizza street cart one day, and while the pizza was absolutely delicious, it was a small personal pizza for $12… at a street cart!!

We will tell you it was worth it because we knew the money was going to a hardworking individual and not a corporation, and again, it was a very good pizza, but that’s the type of price hike I’m talking about. Darwin is definitely pricier in this sense.


I bought a scooter, guys! It’s not the cutest thing on the road, but she’s a real winner when it comes to saving my feet from walking and my pocket from being empty.

For a mere $950 (I bought it off Gumtree), I have a scooter that gets me where I need to go. She costs a measly $5 to fill up and it takes about 3-4 WEEKS for me to go through a tank. Amazing, right?

This is the best way to get around in my opinion. I’m working two jobs after all, so I think I deserve a decent ride to get to and from work.

Walking wasn’t horrible (it took me 30-40 minutes to walk to work while driving takes me 5 minutes.) but I’m on my feet all day as it is, and sometimes I’m not getting off until 11pm after working a 12-14 hour day. Ain’t nobody want to walk home after that!

Using a taxi wasn’t terrible, but from the city to my house cost me $11 per ride. That’s going to add up! In fact, I did the math. If I used a taxi just four times each week, I will have spent about $850 in taxi fares by the time I finishing living in Darwin.

That’s only riding the taxi from work back home four nights a week, which means I’m still walking to work. Yeah, no thanks!

RELATED: How to Live and Work in Australia as an American Expat.

So What Are We Spending Monthly?

I’m writing about Darwin now, and I’ll owe you a post on my time in Melbourne, but surprisingly, we’re keeping it the same. We have a budget of $1000 AUD a month each for our living costs- and we’re doing it! Some months we even came out spending less.

Of course, we’re not going out, eating out rarely, working a ton, and overall have nothing really going on besides eating, sleeping, and working….but we’re saving heaps and spending little. Which is our exact goal for this year. More on this later!

Working and Living in darwin


Working in Darwin

SURPRISINGLY…. Not that bad.

For some reason, I feel much better working here than I did in Melbourne….

Don’t get me wrong, I’m freaking exhausted and worked to the ground, but things could be worse. Let me break it down:

Retail Job

I have a retail job at a surf shop (score, dude!) during the day. It’s like working a 9-5 type gig.

I like this job because while I’m on my feet all day, it’s not like you’re running around like a mad person like you are in hospitality. You also have set hours.

Unlike hospitality where they can send you home anytime if business is slow. For this job, I come in and go at a set time, no questions asked. The job is also easy as hell.

“Why yes, you look great in that bikini miss.”

*Turns around to fold some clothes and redress a mannequin.*

That’s my day. Easy! My manager is a gem, and I get to work whatever days I want.

I work about 38 hours per week at this job.

Pay is ehhh. I get about $20 an hour and extra on Sundays. I’m not complaining though because the work is easy and I get really good hours.

RELATED: How to Get a Job in Australia and Save a Sh*t Ton of Money.

Hospitality Job

My second job is a bartending gig. I’m extremely lucky with this job because I work at a dispense bar. This means I just make drinks for a restaurant, with no interactions with customers!

FREAKING GOLD! I’ll go into detail in another post, but I’m extremely over-table service and waiting on people. I absolutely hate it, and will likely never ever in a million fucking years do it again.

Anyway, that’s a story for another time. I work at a dispense bar in the evening, about four shifts a week (around 20 hours a week).

Pay is also ehh, maybe I got spoiled at my job in Melbourne that was paying $25 an hour? The pay for this job is $22 an hour, also offering the extra pay on weekends.

Both of my jobs work really well together. The bartending job is a nice restaurant that only opens for a set amount of hours for dinner service. That means no late-night “bar” hours and staying open until 1am. I’m usually off by 11:30pm at the latest, and that’s on weekends.

Neither job overlaps, as in, the night job doesn’t start until my day job finishes. This lets me maximize my time at both with no worries about keeping employers in check with how they can schedule me and whatnot.

Working abroad in Australia
Working abroad in Australia was the best things I did for myself and my bank account.

Working and Living in Darwin – Why Did I Decide To Do It (Workwise)?

Apparently, the pay is supposed to be better, but I’m actually getting paid less than what I was in Melbourne. HOWEVER – I will say a few things about this:

  1. The job I was working in Melbourne was an oddity. It’s rare to get $25 in hospitality there and I just happened to get lucky.
  2. The pay actually kind of works out to be nearly the same at the end of the day because they actually pay penalty rates here. This means they offer extra pay (as in my $21 an hour goes to $37 an hour on Sundays, for example.) For some reason, Melbourne is known as one of the worst places to get paid penalty rates, I don’t know how or why employers can get away without paying it, but they do. Northern Territory is known to follow these rules.
  3. Things are way more chill here. My managers seem far more chill and less uptight on how business goes here. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that in Melbourne, the competition is high. There are A LOT of bars, restaurants, clothing stores etc… they’re all competing to be on the top in this huge city where everything is fab. There is no room for bad business there. Darwin? This is a small city (I’d really call it a town) and there’s not that much here. While you, of course, have to do a good job, you’re not stressing over the abundance of competition, because it’s really not that fierce.

RELATED: How I Saved Over $17K USD in 10 Months Living in Australia.

Also, with all this said, Garrett gets an excellent wage at $28 an hour (bartending), BUT he doesn’t get anything extra on the weekends, which again, kind of evens things out.

That’s all I got for now, stay tuned for more living in Melbourne, more on the work-life abroad in Australia, and how much I’ve actually saved (HINT: I’m well over $10k in under a year!!!)

So what other questions do you have about living in Darwin? Did I cover all the bases?

Have you lived here and maybe have an extra tip for my readers?

Are you thinking of moving to Darwin anytime soon?


Moving to Australia: The Price of Living Down Under (11 Cities)

How I Saved $17k USD in 10 Months Living in Australia

10 Tips for Moving to Melbourne After Your Travels

A Legendary 7-Day Outback Road Trip Itinerary (Australia)

7 Days in Sydney Itinerary- for Those Who Want a Bit of Everything!

How to Do a Campervan Relocation in Australia for $1

Cheap Things to Do in Melbourne When You’re Broke AF

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  1. Hi! I just fell upon your story and I really enjoyed reading it. I live in Sydney and always have and travel to Melbourne a fair bit (it’s nearly as good as Sydney:) ) and I holiday in Queensland from the GC to the Whitsundays but Ive never been to Darwin or the NT – can you believe that?! And I’m not sure I will to be honest that bus ride sounds like my worst nightmare, but reading your story made me feel like I was their and it was great. One question, have you had anything happen in Darwin that has been moving or a meant to be moment? A location situation?
    Cheers J.

  2. Is it safe as a single woman to venture to Darwin? I’m 30 years old and a professional here in the US.

    1. Hey Kelsey,
      I knew plenty of women who went over single and made tons of friends and were fine. I didn’t feel unsafe living and working there and going to and from work solo. I worked in the center. Just use the same precautions as you always should. Have fun!

  3. Hi Nina, great rave about Darwin. Wondering how I would get on there as a 60 year-old gay nudist with very large feet!? 😛

  4. Hi nina. James. where in the states are you from? I don’t expect you to be able to answer all my questions but maybe you can provide some contacts and resources. I’m more interested in questions of politics government society and economics as it relates to living a happy life. The united states is not a great country to live in because the government and people are pitted against each other, there is a disappearing middle class, high wealth and income inequality, more government intrusion into peoples lives, ignorant policies, the highest incarceration rate in the world, too much influence by religion, bad policies overseas, corruption, education and healthcare more expensive, an increasingly uptight society. and so on. What is Australia like in regards to all this?

  5. Him, great blog… my partner can only get a working visa for 4 years with his skill set but we have to be based in Darwin for 2 years, living in the uk we know we’ll have to adjust to heat but we are leaving here mainly because of crime rate in our area… with the aboriginal people would you say Darwin is high on crime as read a lot to say to say it is, we may be limited on options but beggars can’t be choosers however do you think it’s a fairly dangerous place like some others say!? Thanks

    1. I don’t think it is if you’re close to the CBD. When you start getting into the outskirts, some areas are sketchy! We lived literally 2 min outside of the CBD and were fine. Just do a bit of homework on the neighborhoods you want to live in.Plus during the day, I felt totally fine no matter where I was.

  6. Loved your piece about living abroad (which is totally different than constant travel, so I appreciate the perspective)! Currently on my first expat adventure and excited for more of these posts!

  7. I am looking into retiring in Darwin. Is that a place you would recommend for someone who wants to retire in a slow place, with beautiful views, and a warm breeze all the time? Also, did you see any wild Gouldian Finches when you were there?

    1. Hi Debi, I know nothing about birds or retiring, so not sure I’m the right person to ask 🙂
      Darwin is OK. Def slow paced but VERY VERY VERY HOT. Unfortunately, there’s no real swimming despite being surrounded by water bc of crocs.

  8. Hi Nina,

    I am moving Darwin at next Sept ,2017 . I am professional telecom engineer with having 15 years experience . Can you advice job situation at Darwin ?



    1. Hi Ali,
      Did you finally move to Darwin?
      I am a telecom engineer too and I am moving to Darwin next week. I would like to know how is it there, if there are job opportunities. Would you mind telling me something about it please?


  9. Hey Nina –

    Do you (Americans) have to have a drivers license to buy/ride a scooter in Australia? Moving in May – really excited!

      1. Hi nina i just wanted to know as u mentioned your working hours like 38 hours a week in surf shop that pays u 20 AUD an hoyr and 20 hours aweek as bartender right that pays u 22AUD an hour so u mean u work 58 hours a week Multiply by 4 = 232 hour a month? you’re earning 20+22=42 AUD an hour
        42 X 232 = 9660AUD a month?

      1. what is the facebook group called?

        This article would be more helpful with tips like:
        -facebook groups to join in regards to finding things like housing and jobs (for example, Fairy Floss Real Estate is an amazing resource for people in Melbourne looking for flexible housing options)
        -links and/or listings of the cheapest/best dining, markets, op shops, etc.

    1. hey laura, I shall be moving to darwin in july or august this year, it be great to know if you would like any roommate or if you’d have any idea of anyone needing a roommate.

  10. Thank you Nina for the great info. I had been in Au few times but never in Darwin. I’m considering visiting and staying there little longer next time and your post is very helpful.

  11. Hai nina..I am from India and I like to move to Darwin ..I am a chemical engineer by profession and I like to know that is there any kind of chemical industries?? Food industries?? If it’s not a burden for u please let me know so that I can come there with confidence, thank u 🙂

  12. Hi Nina,

    Very interesting blog about Darwin. I’m due to move to Darwin from the UK in 2 weeks time . I see you worked in retail & hospitality. Can I ask do you have any advice on getting work , I’ve cv done etc but any advice on how you got work did you go into recruitment agencies or into the shops & bars themselves asking about work . Any tips would be great , thank you

    1. Hey Paul! No worries 🙂 I just went in and applied. You can search and apply on gumtree but there’s nothing quite like showing face plus not everything is advertised on there. It’s pretty easy! I always feel like people pass through Darwin a lot and turn over is high-aka places are always hiring. The only small thing about your situation is it seems you’re coming in rainy season. But I’m sure you’ll find something! Good luck!

  13. Sounds like a great place! I was thinking of flying to Melbourne for the Aussie Open, but I hear it’s so damn hot as you say! January… yikes.

    Enjoy your stay in Darwin!

  14. Hi Nina,

    I just stumbled onto your site on my phone. Sounds like you have an awesome life. I was surprised to discover your in Darwin now. I live in Darwin and Im just back from my last trip UK and Spain. I will check out your articles some tips to living and working overseas. Let me know if you have any tips for living in UK if your not young enough to be a backpacker 🙂

  15. Awesome update on Darwin you wildflower you. . Crazy how 10 minutes out of ‘town’ you were in such a rough area, Darwin has definitely got that reputation though. Guess it is true!

    What kind of people are you serving at the surf shop? Tourists or locals?

    1. Thanks for the comment Jub!!! Yeah it was kinda sketch but being closer to town is totally fine now! Still some rough individuals but that’s normal for any town. I serve a mix at the shop! It’s in a tourist part of town but local’s def still come in.