Many people that travel to Australia underestimate the costs associated with this journey. I wouldn’t like to shatter your dreams about scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef or seeing the iconic Uluru sunset but you should be aware that Australia is one of the costliest countries to explore. It is a huge yet sparsely populated country which means a lack of competition. And don’t get me started about its hefty taxes and fines. Anyway, my point wasn’t to scare you, I just want to make sure you know this before you come to Australia. With that being said, traveling to Australia on a budget sure isn’t easy but it’s 100% possible if you plan it properly.
How much does it cost to travel around Australia?
As far as accommodation goes, even hostels in the big cities will cost you between $20-$30 AUD. A private room will cost at least $60-$70. An average meal in a restaurant will cost around $40 AUD and even a value meal at McDonald’s will cost around $10. You can get some cheap eateries in some of the food courts in the big malls but even that will cost $15-$25. If you like to go partying or have a few drinks, keep in mind that alcohol is shockingly expensive in Australia and will likely leave a big hole in your budget. Let’s add a few tours and transportation into the mix and if you’re a backpacker with a shoestring, you would need at least $90-$100 per day. And that’s just the bare minimum.
After seeing these numbers, you must be wondering if is it even possible to…
Travel in Australia on a Budget?
I know the numbers I mentioned above sound scary but yes, it is. If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t be writing this article. Before I start with some of the tips on how to do this, I would like to address a couple of important things.
Firstly, many travelers disregard the sheer size of Australia and they come here thinking they can explore the country in 2-3 weeks. Australia is the sixth biggest country in the world and it’s almost the same size as the United States minus Alaska. You might even know this but I just wanted to lay it out as a reminder because many travelers plan their schedule thinking that traveling around Australia won’t take as much time as it actually does.
With that being said, let’s start planning your journey. The first thing you need to decide is which city will be your starting point. Usually, the cheapest options are to fly to Sydney or Melbourne but also don’t forget to check Brisbane and Perth. While you’re there, you can also consider taking a road trip to Exmouth (from Perth) or a one-day itinerary to Byron Bay from Brisbane. If you’re planning to explore Brisbane and have just one or two days in town, use Mindmybag Brisbane to store your luggage while you explore the city.
I would suggest booking your flight to either Melbourne or Perth and working your way through the other side of the country, from where you could get your return flight. I suggest you check out the best flight deals in your area before booking. This helped me save a lot on my last trip to Australia and it’s available worldwide.
Once that’s sorted and you reach the land down under, you need to figure out how to…
Get around Australia on a budget
Obviously, the quickest way of getting around the country is by domestic flights. However, these aren’t very cheap either. There are some decent low-cost carriers like Tiger, Virgin, and Jetstar. The last one has a Friday Frenzy deal with which you can get ridiculously cheap flights but you need to react fast because a lot of people are waiting for this deal to book their flight.
If you don’t like paying too much for domestic flights, you can consider…
Driving your own vehicle in Australia
Whether you need it just for short distances or for a trip around the country, renting a car is a reasonable thing to do if you’re traveling with a group of friends that can share the costs with you. The first thing you should have in mind here is the fuel prices. The fuel prices are generally cheaper in the cities on the coast and most expensive around the Northern Territory. Make a schedule and try to fill up your tank on Tuesdays and Wednesdays as these are (according to historical data) days in which the fuel prices are slightly cheaper (up to 20 cents per liter). Also, if you spend a certain amount of money at Coles and Woolworths supermarkets, you can get discount coupons that will save you between 5-8 cents per liter. If you’re driving across the country, this can be a lifesaver.
Traveling around Australia by bus
Buses are a relatively cheap way of exploring the country, especially if you’re traveling solo. Some cities even have free inner city tramps (ex. Melbourne to Adelaide) while others have free shuttles (ex. Sydney on route 555). For longer journeys, the most reliable carrier is probably Greyhound which has buses traveling around the country. Another popular choice is the Oz Experience which works on a hop-on-hop-off basis and provides different passes, depending on the length of your trip and the areas you want to go to.
Are you planning to visit Australia and want to see as much as possible and still do it on a budget? Check out the Big Walkabout tour that takes you coast-to-coast without breaking the bank.
Traveling around Australia by train
The railway in Australia is centered around the east coast with only two other major lines: Melbourne-Darwin and Sydney-Perth. Trains are a bit more comfortable than buses but they are also a lot more expensive. A train journey from Sydney to Perth, for example, is oftentimes more costly than a flight! Sure, there are some scenic rides but I wouldn’t recommend train travel if you’re planning to visit Australia on a budget.
Ridesharing in Australia
Finally, another money-saving transportation option is ride-sharing that’s becoming increasingly popular in Australia. Some of the most famous ride-sharing providers are CoSeats, Share Ur Ride, Life Social, and Catch a Lift.
Where to find cheap accommodation in Australia?
The first thing that comes to my mind is the many National Parks of Australia where you can camp for free or for a small fee. It’s not a luxurious choice but most camping sites have basic amenities, like power, water, and toilets. If you’re looking for some luxury but don’t want to break the bank, use this link and save 15% on all Choice Hotels bookings in Australia.
However, if you decide to go for a free camping spot keep in mind that these places don’t have the facilities paid parks to have but can still provide an amazing experience. Another good choice is…
Most caravan parks are clean and have some more-than-decent amenities on the beach- which is the best location in many cities. The two major players are Top Tourist Parks and Big4 but they can get too pricey during the peak season. A powered tent site in these caravan parks costs between $30 and $60, depending on the number of people and the season. One great app for this purpose is WikiCamps which has a database of all caravan parks and campsites with user reviews. If you’re thinking about the idea of traveling around Australia with a campervan but don’t have one, check out Gumtree and RV Share for some good deals.
Staying in Hostels
Hostels are always a cheap option, even though in Australia even they are the most expensive of what you might be used to. A bed in the dorm costs between $20 and $30 and a private room will cost you at least $70. If you’re traveling with a family, take a look at YHA hostels, which are a bit more expensive but still cheaper than a hotel.
House Sitting or Couchsurfing
Couchsurfing is always a great choice to stay with a local for free and oftentimes have your own personal guide free of cost. However, house sitting is also a great choice you should have in mind. If you’re interested in the latter option, you can check out some of the most popular house-sitting websites, such as Trusted Housesitters, Aussie Housesitters, Mind a Home, or House Carers. Alternatively, you can also swap your house with other holidaymakers from Australia and save big on your accommodation.
Finally, when talking about visiting Australia on a budget, I can’t forget to mention my personal favorite budget accommodation option- WWOOF. It’s a program that allows travelers to work and stay on the farm in exchange for free meals, accommodation, and a chance to experience Aussie rural life for free! You don’t even need to know anything about farming. Probably, you’ll be picking fruits most of the time or helping farmers produce wine in some of the many wine regions Australia has to offer… It’s a great way to save some money and leave a positive impact on the local environment. Additionally, if you’re looking for a long-term job while staying in Australia, read this useful article about getting an Australian Work Visa.
What about phone & internet costs in Australia?
Do you need some cheap and reliable internet? In the land down under, you can only wish for it. Not only is the internet more expensive here but it’s also relatively unreliable when away from the big cities. The good news is that you can find a stable and free Wi-Fi connection in all McDonald’s restaurants and in most libraries.
The best deal you can currently get is Yomojo’s Kid’s Phone Plan which includes 1 GB of data and 200 minutes per month for $10. Another good choice is Vodafone’s Combo Plus Starter Pack which includes 17 GB of internet and unlimited national calls for $15. The most reliable operator in Australia is Telstra but you would have to pay a bit more for their packages.
As for electronics, since most of the brands are imported from Asia, Europe, or the US, expect everything to be even more expensive here. I really wouldn’t recommend you buy any electronics in Australia unless you really, really need them.
With that being said, I will end this article by giving you a list of…
Tips for visiting Australia on a budget
Eat at the food courts in shopping malls- it’s almost as cheap as preparing your own meal.
Download Menu Log– it’s a great app for finding cheap restaurants for takeaway or food delivery
Go to the bottle shops – if you want to save money on beer, wine, or spirits. Bottle shops are the cheapest places where you can find alcohol in Australia. Once you do that…
Find BYO restaurants- because alcohol is ridiculously expensive in Australia, a lot of restaurants allow you to bring your own beer or wine for a corkage of $1 or $2. This will help you reduce your dining costs.
Find RSLs- every town in Australia has a local RSL club. It’s a place where you can get cheap meals and drinks and it’s the locals’ favorite.
Refill at the bubbler- (a public fountain). It’s much better than spending $2.50 for a bottle of water. Plus, you’re also helping Australia reduce its plastic waste.
Consider visiting during the offseason
March to May and September to November are the two best periods to visit Australia if you ask me. There are fewer tourists around and even the prices are a bit lower, including the airfare.
When booking flights to Australia, consider using Qatar Airways and get 10% off on all bookings by using this link.
If you’re looking to book transportation between different cities, you can save money on buses, ferries, vans, and trains in Australia and get 5% off when booking with 12goasia (for more info check out our review here).
Minimize your time in the big cities and find freebies
Spend more time in nature away from the big cities- because obviously, cities are a lot more expensive. Visit national parks or rural hidden gems like Yamba, Dunsborough, or Port Elliot, explore mountain ranges like the Flinders Ranges, and have a typical Aussie experience for fraction of the price.
Some of the best things you will see in Australia don’t come with a $50 entry fee. Most Australian museums have at least one day of the week in which you can visit them for free. Additionally, take a free walking tour and use the chance to mingle with locals and get some useful tips from them.
Check out Mindmybag if you have a day in a city and want to explore without worrying about your bag.
Have you ever visited the land-down-under? Do you think visiting Australia on a budget is possible? Share your experience in the comments below