Moving to San Francisco from Australia

San Francisco

Our rating

5 out of 5

  • Affordability 2 out of 5

  • Safety 4 out of 5

  • Healthcare 3 out of 5

  • Traffic Flow 3 out of 5

  • Property affordability 3 out of 5

  • Climate 5 out of 5

  • Environment quality 5 out of 5

California’s hilly city of San Francisco is famous for many things – its world-leading tech hub Silicon Valley, the iconic Golden Gate, its charming cable cars and possibly the world’s most notorious prison, Alcatraz. But more than that, it’s ranked as offering the best quality of life in the whole of the US. The birthplace of the hippy movement has retained that liberal bohemian attitude to this day, and is now at the heart of LGBT and hipster culture. Perhaps that’s why it appeals to so many laid-back Aussies looking to live, work or study in one of the world’s most inspiring cities.

It may be a highly influential city, but San Francisco also feels as if it has been created from a jumble of diverse and distinct little villages, each with their own atmosphere – and sometimes even microclimate.  Surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, sunny San Francisco boasts spectacular views from all over the city. Just watch out for those chilly sea mists rolling in! In amongst the colourful houses and the vibrant urban life, you’ll find plenty of peaceful places to relax in. Cool off by Lake Merced, enjoy the beautiful parks or discover the city’s quirky POPOS (that’s privately owned public opens spaces to me and you) and secret rooftop gardens.

Whatever your reason for moving to the ‘City by the Bay’, we’ve got all the information you need…

Healthcare in San Francisco

Before your big move to San Francisco, it’s wise to think about medical cover for when you’re out there.

That way, you’ll be prepared for the US’s slightly labyrinthine system by the time you arrive.

Job market

San Francisco has a fantastic employment market. Since the boom of the 90s, the city’s Bay Area has been famously dubbed as ‘Silicon Valley’. Now home to over 300 digital media companies, including big hitters such as Apple, Google and Pixar, it’s a vibrant hub at the forefront of the global tech industry. San Francisco also has an important financial district, often referred to as the ‘Wall Street of the West’. Construction, healthcare, medical science, sales and business services all create high numbers of jobs, though the manufacturing industry is slowing.

San Francisco’s workforce is among the most diverse and well-educated in the US, attracting ambitious workers around the world –  who in turn attract growing numbers of global companies and investment. As of August 2016, the unemployment rate sat at 3.8%, well below the national average.

San Francisco appears to buck the American trend of ‘living to work’, ass workers are reported to be the second happiest in the States. To attract the best employees, many companies (particularly the forward-thinking tech ones) offer attractive packages with excellent salaries, benefits and a commitment to work-life balance. With no minimum national annual leave, holiday allowance is left up to employers so finding one with a modern approach can you make all the difference.

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House prices

It’s a good job that many jobs in San Francisco come with generous salaries, as the city is the most expensive place to rent in the US. Yep, even more expensive than New York.

The median rent for a one-bedroom apartment currently stands at a whopping A$4,670 per month, with two-bedroom apartments costing A$6,335 per month. Even Australia’s most expensive city, Sydney, is cheaper with a median rent of A$2,253 per month. Naturally, rents vary depending on the neighbourhood you choose. South Beach, Mission Bay and Russian Hill are among the most expensive, with more affordable rents found in neighbourhoods like Bayview, Outer Mission and Tenderloin, where the median rent is around the A$2,500 price point.

If you’re looking to buy a home in San Francisco, you’ll find that house prices are more in line with Sydney real estate. The median house price in San Francisco is A$1.4 million, which is just slightly higher than Sydney’s A$1.1 million.

Transferring money to San Francisco

If you’re thinking of moving to San Francisco, you’ll probably need to convert some of your Australian dollars into American dollars.

That’s why we’ve teamed up with Wise, an easy-to-use online international money transfer service which uses the real exchange rate, and charges low fees.

How much could you save? Well, its service can be up to 8x cheaper than high street banks.

Join more than 7 million people and start using Wise today.


The American education system has many similarities with Australia in terms of their approach to teaching and learning. However, American schools are organised slightly differently, dividing up into elementary, middle and high schools.

San Francisco’s schools perform well, with seven of its high schools ranked nationally among the top 5 percent. Families can apply to attend a school in any district, giving parents and students a great level of choice.

San Francisco boasts many high calibre higher education institutions, with two of the most prestigious even ranking in the world’s top 30 universities. The best colleges include:

Things to do

San Francisco has world-class cultural offerings from interactive museums and to eclectic art exhibits.

In keeping with the city’s innovative atmosphere, San Francisco boasts a dazzling selection of immersive and creative museums. The Exploratorium is one of the city’s best, with over 600 interactive exhibits to encourage visitors of all ages to get hands-on and creative. The Museum of Craft and Design is an inspiring place to learn about the importance of crafts – and try your hand at a few – while the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art has a wonderfully eclectic collection of contemporary art.

Families will love a day out to the Walt Disney Family Museum or the Children’s Creativity Museum. But for a truly special experience, a visit to the California Academy of Sciences, with its aquarium, planetarium, indoor rainforest and beautiful living roof, is a must for all ages.

Food and drink

San Francisco is a foodie paradise. From the bustling farmers’ markets to the indulgent bakeries, food is taken seriously when it comes to sourcing the best produce – and then given that trademark San Fran twist of playful creativity. Serving up a diverse mix of global cuisines, the city is especially famous for its Asian and Mexican influences, occasionally merging the two to bring you mouth-watering fusion dishes like spicy Korean tacos. You’ll also find an endless choice of high-quality coffee shops and relaxed brunch spots (brunch is big here).

Don’t miss these gems of the San Francisco restaurant scene:

  • China Live – for delicious dim sum and noodles in smart surroundings.
  • Flores – for a lively crowd and authentic Mexican dishes.
  • Almanac Taproom and Beer Garden – for the best beers and burgers in the city.


San Francisco’s youthful and diverse population makes for an equally varied selection of nightlife. Wineries, cocktail bars, jazz clubs, international DJs – it’s all here waiting for you.

The majority of the city’s old-school bars are located around the Chinatown and North Beach areas. You’ll find some real historic SF institutions here, such as The Saloon and Vesuivo Café. For something more glamorous, head to the glitzy Marina district for rooftop cocktail bars and a sophisticated crowd. For the best clubs and biggest DJs, SoMa is the place to go. DNA Lounge has three floors of dance fun to be had, while Monarch is a booming steampunk palace. As the epicentre of American LGBTQ culture, San Francisco has an amazing collection of gay bars and clubs to choose from. The Castro district is where the heart of the action lies, but you’ll find gay-friendly establishments all over this liberal city.

For a quieter evening, check out the San Francisco Theatre’s calendar of plays, ballets and operas. Or head to the iconic Art Deco Golden Gate Theatre for the best Broadway musicals.

Click here to find out how to become a US citizen.