Moving to New York from Australia
Affordability 2 out of 5
Safety 4 out of 5
Healthcare 2 out of 5
Traffic Flow 2 out of 5
Property affordability 3 out of 5
Climate 5 out of 5
Environment quality 4 out of 5
You can’t beat the bright lights of New York City. The place has an atmosphere unlike anywhere else on Earth, fizzing with East Coast energy and excitement. There’s a sea of skyscrapers, the glittering Hudson river, an unbeatable food scene, and bags of opportunities. Plus, you’d have no trouble settling in; New York has always welcomed expats, with currently around 37% of its 8.6 million inhabitants coming from foreign countries.
Here’s everything you need to know about moving to and living in New York.
A little bit of history
New York had to go through rather a lot of changes before it became the heaving metropolis it is today. Starting out as a Native American settlement (inhabited by the Lenape people), the area was taken over by the Dutch in 1624. It was known as New Amsterdam, but only for 40 years; in 1664, the British arrived and decided it had a passing resemblance to the northern English city of York.
Word passed around, and New York became the talk of the world. In the 19th and 20th centuries, things really kicked off, as the city took in a huge influx of immigrants from across the continents. This created a multicultural melting pot of different cultures that would utterly redefine the city. On New Year’s Day, 1898, the five independent ‘cities’ of Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, the Bronx, and Manhattan combined to form Greater New York, and the modern-day City of Dreams was born.
Cost of moving to New York
If you’re thinking of moving to New York, you’ll probably need to ship a few belongings over there. Take a look at the table below for an indication of how much your move is going to cost. We’ve sourced these rates from WorldFreightRates.com, based on the port-to-port transportation of a 20ft container of used furniture worth AUD$73,500 (or £40,000).
|Moving from||20ft container rate||40ft container rate|
Please note: these container shipping costs exclude typical add-ons such as door-to-door delivery, professional packing/unpacking and basic insurance cover. Our shipping suppliers normally incorporate these services into their prices, so expect some discrepancy between the rates given here and the quotes you receive. These estimates should be used as an indication only.
Cost of living in New York
It’s important that you really appreciate living in New York, because you’ll be paying a premium to be there. In a 2018 analysis of 308 urban areas across the US by the Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER), three New York districts placed in the top five: Manhattan (1st), Brooklyn (2nd), and Queens (5th).
However, compared to the rest of the world, you could be paying a lot more. In Mercer’s survey of the world’s most expensive cities in 2018, New York came a mere 13th (four of the top five were in Asia, with Hong Kong finishing 1st).
According to the US Census Bureau, the average annual income in New York in 2017 was AUD$49,125 (USD$35,761).
Take a look at the table below (with data sourced from Numbeo.com) for an idea of New York’s living costs.
|Three-course meal at mid-range restaurant||AUD$56|
|Domestic beer (0.5 litre draught)||AUD$9.81|
|Mid-range bottle of wine||AUD$21.01|
|Monthly public transport pass||AUD$169.52|
|Monthly gym membership||AUD$120.66|
|1kg of local cheese||AUD$21.33|
Talking of costs… before you move to NYC, you’ll probably need to convert some of your savings into American dollars.
However, it’s best to avoid using high street banks for this process, as you’ll usually have to pay high fees, and you won’t get the best exchange rate.
That’s why we’ve done our research and compared all the major money transfer services on the market, so you can choose the right one. Check out our expert ratings and find the best money transfer provider today.
It’s not cheap to feel ill over in the US. Their healthcare system relies on health insurance, which is invariably quite expensive; in 2017, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) reported that the average American spends around AUD$14,211 (USD$10,345) each year on healthcare. 2010’s Obamacare Act made it mandatory for most people to purchase some kind of health insurance, and those who refused had to pay extra tax. It sounds unfair, but you’ve got to be cruel to be kind.
As an expat, you will not be obliged to buy health insurance in New York, but we think you should get it.
That's why we've partnered with Cigna for private medical insurance in the US. With four levels of annual cover to choose from and extra modules for more flexibility, Cigna will sort you out with a plan that suits your needs.
Start building a customised plan with a free quote to protect your most important assets – you and your family.
Visas and work permits
There’s a bit of paperwork you need to do before you can start working and living in New York. Fortunately, we’ve got a very helpful page on visas for the USA, where you’ll find all the relevant information. For some old fashioned, face-to-face assistance, you could always pay a visit to your nearest US embassy.
Select the size of your move to get free quotes
Job hunting in New York
New York is bursting with exciting companies and big opportunities, so finding something that’s right for you shouldn’t be too difficult. In this golden/fraught age of the internet, looking for work in a city on the other side of the world is a doddle. Visit websites like Indeed, Monster and Glassdoor and get gandering. The website for the New York City Government also advertises lots of public sector jobs, if that’s your thing.
We’ve covered this before. Check out our wonderful page on working in New York for all the advice and guidance you could ever need.
Who lives in New York?
You’re probably wondering who your new neighbours are going to be. As we mentioned, New York has around 8.6 million people living in it, so it feels pretty busy. According to the US Census Bureau, 37.2% of New Yorkers were born outside of the US, and nearly 49% of New Yorkers don’t speak English at home. To break it down a bit more: 32.1% of New Yorkers are white, 29.1% are Hispanic and Latino, 24.3% are African American, and 14% are Asian. These numbers paint a pretty clear picture of New York’s mega multiculturalism.
Climate in New York
New York experiences a ‘continental’ climate, which basically means they have cold winters and hot summers. There’s no place for half-hearted seasons over there.
The average temperature in winter generally hangs around 0°C, but in particularly grim spells it can plunge as low as -10°C. There’s a lot of snow and some nasty wind chill, so make sure you’ve got a decent coat. In contrast, summer can sometimes be oppressively hot – you’ll find yourself melting in Central Park and yearning for those frosty winter days. Spring and “fall” are much less extreme, so they’re generally seen as the best times of year in New York. Take a look at the table below for an idea of the temperatures you’ll be dealing with.
|Winter (Dec to Feb)||-3°C to 7°C|
|Spring (Mar to May)||2°C to 22°C|
|Summer (Jun to Aug)||16°C to 31°C|
|Autumn (Sep to Nov)||5°C to 25°C|
Getting around the city
Although famously described as a “concrete jungle”, New York is much easier to traverse than any jungle. You won’t need a scythe or a compass, but a MetroCard might help. Here are the ways you can transport yourself across the Big Apple:
Walk. New York is easy to walk around; in 2018, WalkScore rated every major US city on its ‘walkability’, and New York came out on top. Don’t let those sidewalks go to waste.
Bicycle. For the ideal combination of fresh air, speed, and exercise, hop on one of New York’s many bicycles, which are all part of the Citi Bike program. Despite the obtuse spelling of ‘Citi’, the bikes are very popular and easy to use.
Subway. If you’re prepared to travel like a mole, the New York subway is rapid and efficient. There are 472 stations and 36 lines, making it the biggest subway system in the world. It also operates 24 hours a day, which is the least you’d expect from “The City That Never Sleeps”.
Bus. The New York Metropolitan Transport Authority (MTA) operates two kinds of service: the speedy ‘Express’, for angry commuters who need to get to the centre quickly, and the multi-stop ‘Local’, for tired commuters who need to get back home again. There are nearly 4,400 buses in New York, so you’ll always be able to find one.
Taxi. Travelling in a yellow taxi cab through New York will make you feel like you’re in a film, but it’s not the cheapest option. Companies like Uber and Lyft have set up in the city, so there’s always something more affordable (if less yellow and fun).
Ferry. The Hudson River won’t cross itself. If you want some transport that’s a bit more watery, New York’s multiple ferry lines – such as the NY Waterway, the NYC Ferry, and the Staten Island Ferry – will do the trick.
New Yorkers frolick on the ice in a wintry Big Apple
Once you’ve got a visa and a job sorted, you’ll also need to think about where you’re going to live. It’s good news for potential buyers, with Bloomberg reporting at the start of 2019 that New York house prices have been falling across the board. According to Zillow, the median home value in New York is AUD$934,676 (USD$680,400), while the median rent price is AUD$3,949 (USD$2,875) pcm. You can view all the data here (and start looking for a place).
Property-hunting sounds like a daunting task, but you might just find your perfect match. Some anonymous property in NYC could become your beloved new home.
The five boroughs of New York
New York is split up into five boroughs, each with their own distinct vibe. Have a think about which sounds most up your street.
Manhattan is the smallest and the swankiest of New York’s boroughs, brimming with (most of) the things that the city is famous for. Step out of your apartment in Manhattan and you’ll be walking distance from Times Square, Central Park, Wall Street, and a lot of tourists. Manhattan is also the most densely populated of the city’s boroughs, so you can forget about personal space.
Brooklyn is much cooler than Manhattan, home to an edgy, independent art scene and a long beachfront. There are loads of suitably cool things to visit, including the spacious Prospect Park, the Coney Island boardwalk, and of course the iconic Brooklyn Bridge. Brooklyn is New York’s most populous borough, so it must be good.
Queens started out as a collection of Dutch-founded towns and villages, but the Dutchness has steadily drained away. It’s New York’s largest borough, and it’s regularly named one of the most ethnically diverse urban areas in the world. Queens is particularly good for sport, being the home of the New York Mets baseball team and the US Open.
The Bronx definitely wins the cool award. This is the place where hip-hop was born, and its name doesn’t even sound like a borough. The Bronx also has the largest metropolitan zoo in the world, so it’s a great place to live if you like trendy music and exotic animals.
Staten Island is a bit disconnected from the other five boroughs, being on its own (yes, you guessed it) island. To get there, you need to cross the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge from Brooklyn, or take the Staten Island ferry from Manhattan. If you like greenery, the 2,500-acre Staten Island Greenbelt is ideal, containing 45 km of walking trails and a big forest.
Things to do in New York
If you ever find yourself bored in New York, you really need to pick up the slack. The city is never short on things to do and places to visit. Here are three of our favourite NYC spots.
Despite its fame, the 843-acre Central Park is only the fifth-largest park in New York. However, size isn’t everything, and Central Park does a wonderful job of keeping New Yorkers entertained. At various times throughout the year, you can explore Belvedere Castle, take gondola rides around the Lake, watch live Shakespeare performances at the open-air Delacorte Theatre, smell the roses at the Conservatory Garden, lounge around on the Great Lawn, play tennis, watch puppet shows, listen to live orchestras, sail model boats, climb around natural stone arches, swing in the playgrounds – the list could go on and on.
This stunning structure looks as impressive today as it did when it was first built (back in 1883). Brooklyn Bridge was the first steel suspension bridge the world had ever seen, constructed to connect Manhattan to Brooklyn in dramatic style. Crossing the bridge is a real experience – you’ll see panoramic views of lower Manhattan, the Brooklyn waterfront, and the East River. Take care not to walk on the bike lane, though (those cyclists can be merciless).
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
New York’s parks are nice, but if the weather’s all wrong, you can’t beat a good art gallery. The Metropolitan Museum of Art is an ever-changing treasure chest of human creativity, regularly curating world-class exhibitions to keep people coming back for more. You’ll find Ancient Egyptian artifacts, Renaissance paintings, Warholian pop art, and much, much more.
Where to eat in New York
Good grub in New York is hard to avoid. An exhaustive list of the city’s best food joints would probably break our website, so we’ve picked a solid trio.
Rubirosa, 235 Mulberry St
Proper Italian comfort food. The people at Rubirosa really know how to make a pizza, and we’re sure you really know how to eat one. This restaurant goes for a cosy, homely vibe, so you’ll be eating your meal in some fairly close quarters. Be sure to try the vodka pizza.
Uncle Boons, 7 Spring St
A Michelin-starred Thai restaurant in a basement. It’s as cool and delicious as it sounds. The dishes are innovative, the clientele are trendy, and you can’t make any reservations. The “Heavenly Pig Ears” appetizer is a great way to kick off proceedings.
4 Charles Prime Rib, 4 Charles St
Eat perfect cuts of beef in the classiest of settings. The steakhouse is dimly lit and richly covered with ornate decor, from wood paneled walls and beautifully framed paintings to chandeliers, candles, and leather upholstery. The beef is sensational, but you should also try a slice of their chocolate cream pie for dessert.
Nightlife in New York
New York nightlife is legendary. From the hottest clubs to the coolest rooftop bars, the city is packed with entertainment options. Sample the dangerously strong tipples of Manhattan’s stylish Soho cocktail bars, dive into the Brooklyn’s underground music scene, or hit the dancefloor at the iconic four-storey superclub, Pacha NYC. Greenwich Village is credited with being the birthplace of gay pride, while buzzing Hell’s Kitchen is New York’s up-and-coming LGBT hotspot.
If your idea of a fun evening is a little more laid-back, you’ll find a world-class menu of cultural offerings. Catch a musical on Broadway, immerse yourself in drama in the city’s Theatre District, or treat yourself to a night of live show at Radio City Music Hall.
Find out more
Still need more New York knowledge? These fun reads should give you what you’re looking for.
DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: New York City (2018) by DK Travel. A great way to get familiar with New York if you’re brand new to the city; this book is full of food recommendations, walks, daytime itineraries, and maps.
The 500 Hidden Secrets of New York (2017) by Michiel Vos and Ellen Swandiak. A guide to New York that stays away from the touristy stuff and tells you about lesser known places. Written by true locals who know their onions.
New York: Then and Now (2016) by Marcia Reiss. If you’re not keen on words, this book uses big photos to show you how much New York has changed over time. A bit of visual history for the coffee table.