Backpacking in Australia on a Budget
Australia has become one of the most popular travel destinations in the world. The country is known to offer unique camping, backpacking, diving, and road trip experiences. No matter where you come from, there is always something for everyone in Australia.
The nation is full of incredible natural beauty from Outback to Uluru, the Great Barrier Reef, Rainforests, and numerous white sand beaches. The exciting Melbourne’s café culture and the great Sydney’s harbour bridge will make you feel as if you are in Europe. The citizens are friendly and hardworking people. If you’re thinking about visiting a unique travel destination with so much to offer, then Australia is the place to be.
Visa Requirement When Traveling to Australia
Just like Mexico, United States citizens and most of the European Union member states passport holders can pick a tourist visa on arrival which permits you to reside in Australia for up to 180 days. You will be required to fill out the tourist card which is usually given to you on your flight and hand it to the immigration offices at the border. Other nationals will be required to present their visas upon arrival to be allowed into the country.
Language and Culture
Australia is an English-speaking nation, and as long as you can speak and understand English well, then you don’t have to learn other languages when travelling to this beautiful country. The people here value friendship, and they are always kind to strangers. However, you need to know that food isn’t cheap in Australia. Most of the decent restaurants’ meals will cost at least 20 AUD. The country’s official currency is the Australian dollar, but American dollars are widely accepted here. If you want to get the best value on food, then you should consider eating at the Asian and Indian restaurants scattered in various cities.
Traveling on a Budget in Australia
Although Australia is a relatively expensive travel destination, you don’t have to break the bank to enjoy the exciting adventures. There are plenty of Accommodation options available to backpackers from hostels to motels. The average daily expenditure on accommodation should be between $40 and $50. As mentioned earlier, eating in Australia can be costly, but you can try local markets or one of the numerous food courts in town for budget-friendly options. The recommended daily budget for food is $20. You can also team up with other travellers who are interested in doing the same things to make it cheaper.
Most of the tour agencies in Australia offer discounts on tours if there is more than one person. You can also split the cost of car rentals and gas costs amongst the two or three of you. Another cost saving strategy here is to go shopping together and share the high cost of sandwich ingredients to make it more affordable. You should also check out those restaurants that offer a special lunch menu that is always cheaper than the dinner menu. You can go out for lunch and avoid going for dinner which is expensive.
20 Budget Tips For Backpacking Australia
There’s a lot of stuff that I learnt along the way: particularly that Australia is really bloody expensive. I am generally very good at budgeting, living cheaply and sacrificing luxuries for the sake of being able to travel for longer. But backpacking in Australia costs a lot: even I have struggled to maintain a reasonable spending structure here.
With that in mind, I’ve compiled an extensive list of all the wisdom I’ve learnt, for how to travel Australia cheaply during my trip. Some of them are place-specific, while others are more general. Follow these budget tips and you’ll save a bucketload on your Australia backpacking budget (and maybe you’ll be able to afford a meal out once in a while…)
#1 Australia Backpackers Facebook group: great general resource
Also a great boredom buster for idle Greyhound journeys! Similar to the city-specific groups, backpackers post all sorts on here. It’s definitely worth keeping an eye out as sometimes people need to get stuff sold quick (and cheap!) as they’re about to leave Oz.
#2 Join the Facebook group for wherever you are based – most big cities have a group!
On these groups you can find everything from lift shares, to cars for sale, to job offers and more. They’re easy to find if you type into the Facebook search bar, but just for a start check out the Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane ones.
#3 Check out the notice boards in your area
Hostels and local shops will often have a notice board advertising opportunities in the local area. You could get (very) lucky if you pay attention to these! In Port Douglas, for example, we saw an advert wanting two people to go work on board a ship sailing round the Whitsundays for a few weeks. It’s all about being in the right place at the right time. Things like house shares and flats for sale are often advertised on these boards as well, so if you’re in the market then keep a look out!
#4 Gumtree is a fantastic resource
This is true of Gumtree in the UK, but even more so here in Australia. Gumtree has everything: things for sale, job offers, and personal adverts. If you’re looking for work or a travel buddy, you can put up an ad yourself and see what responses you get!
#5 Speak to people!
People are definitely your greatest resource when travelling. Everyone will have had different experiences, tried different things, and travelled different routes. The best way to gain knowledge is to chat to everyone you meet. You can find out about off-the-beaten-path places to go, places to work, or good websites to use to your advantage on your trip. Speaking to people is how I found out most of the information in this guide!
#6 Don’t pay (much) for WiFi
Because the internet in Oz is generally pretty terrible, you’ll often have to pay for it in hostels. Or, it’ll be free and it won’t work very well. However, there are a couple of ways round this. McDonald’s has surprisingly fast wifi – just get a small snack and sit there as long as you like! (I’d recommend a Choc Top!). There are also quite often good public libraries around, which you don’t have to pay anything for!
#7 Get a Greyhound hop-on hop-off pass…
Greyhound buses can be found all over Australia, and they’re a very convenient way to travel. They’ve got free wifi (most of the time), air conditioning, and plus you don’t need to worry if you’re hungover because you’re not driving! Depending on the season you can get a ticket that works out quite cheap considering the sheer distance you’ll be travelling. This is most popular for the east coast, but you can also get tickets which start in Melbourne in the south, or Alice Springs in the centre. I’d recommend buying your ticket ahead of peak season, to keep costs down. Mine cost £213 (about $360), and now the same pass has gone up to $385.
#8 …But buy a car or a camper van if you can
Ultimately, while Greyhounds are cheap, driving is cheaper – and importantly, more flexible. Renting is an option, but unless you’re travelling for a very limited time, buying will be cheaper in the long run. Check out Facebook pages, Gumtree, and hostel notice boards for adverts.
Be wary, of course – some vehicles will be on their last legs, which is why they’re being sold, but mostly people are just looking to get some cash.
The good thing about travelling this way is that at the end of your journey, or when you settle down, you can sell the vehicle on and get most, if not all, of your money back.
#9 Lift share if you don’t have either of these:
If you’re a bit more flexible with your travelling arrangements, use lift sharing as a way to travel cheaply. Find someone going the same way as you, contribute money towards petrol and the cost of running the car, and you’re sorted. Backpacking Australia alone is always going to cost more – so find some pals to go with!
There are a fair few ways of doing this:
This site is dead easy to use. Just type in where you’re going from and to, and whether you’re driving or asking for a lift. There’s also a section where you can check out any campervan relocation deals that are currently on too – and sign up for email alerts too!
Very similar to Coseats, Hop Hop Ride also has a helpful map feature so you can see where lifts are currently being offered. If the ride you’re looking for isn’t there, you can set up an alert so you’ll get an email when something matches your plan.
#12 Australia RideShare Facebook group
Created by Hop Hop Ride, this Facebook group is updated regularly with people wanting lifts or offering them. It’s a closed group, so you have to request to join it. Do it sooner rather than later if you’re in a hurry for a ride, as they can take a while to accept you!
Once again, Gumtree is a great option for finding transport – whether buying a car, or trying to find a lift. It’s easy to post an ad or find someone selling in your area.
#14 Campervan or car relocation deals can save you a bundle
There are loads of camper van and car rental companies in Oz, because it’s such a popular way to get around. While hiring them out can set you back quite a bit, if you snag a good relocation deal it’s an incredibly cheap way to travel.
Relocation basically means that the company needs their vehicle moving from one place to another. For as little as $1 a day, as well as getting some free money towards petrol (usually against receipts), you can travel between the big cities if you’re a bit flexible with your time. Often there will be quite a tight time-frame between places, but it’s worth it for what you save. A good tip is to sign up to get alerts when vehicles for your chosen route come up. Try checking out these sites:
#15 Hippie camper
Grab a cute flowered camper from Hippie Campers’ relocation page. They also have vans in New Zealand and America – in case you’re planning a trip there too!
Jucy tend to have fewer relocation deals, but it’s still worth taking a look at! They update their list daily, but don’t have an email alert list.
Apollo do have a waiting list that you can join if you’re looking for a specific route. You can also follow them on Twitter for live updates! Again, they also have vehicles elsewhere – in New Zealand and the US.
# 18 Transfer Car
This is an umbrella organisation, working in conjunction with big rental companies such as Britz and Hertz to get their vehicles back to where they are needed. Transfer car tends to have quite a large selection of vehicles – cars and campers – because it takes deals from multiple companies.
#19 Don’t discount flying as an option
Tiger Air and Jetstar are the two main budget airlines here in Oz. While flying may seem a pricey option, it can be worth it for the convenience. Sign up to their emails for price alerts and sale offers and you might just bag yourself a bargain.
#20 Get yourself a public transport card in the big cities
The Go card in Queensland, the Opal card in New South Wales, and the Myki card in Melbourne are similar to Oyster cards in London. There is a small purchasing fee for each card, but you make it up within a few journeys with the discount you get. This tip works especially well if you’re staying for a while. Travel off-peak and you stand to save even more! Bear in mind, though, that Melbourne has a free tram zone in the centre, so if you’re sticking to the middle you may not need the Myki card.
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