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Can You Travel Australia on a Budget?

australian money

Australian Money (photo by martinhoward)

When it comes to traveling, I love talking about the incredible opportunities that come from roaming around Australia.

It is a beautiful country with natural icons known around the world. You can one day find yourself trekking snow-clad Cradle Mountain in Tasmania and the next washing red dirt off your boots in the hot sun over Uluru.

Beach bums have their way in Bondi, Byron Bay or the Gold Coast, and jungle lovers can go on Aboriginal tours in tropical Queensland.

However, the most significant thing keeping many from coming is either the cost of the insanely long flight or the cost to travel around the country — or both!

So, can you travel to Australia on a budget?

I think it would be incredibly hard to consider travel in Australia at this moment as “budget,” but there are several ways one can go about traveling around the country at a lower cost.

australian flag

Australian Flag (photo by marragem)

Why is Australia so “expensive”?

Look, I ask myself that question every day! But, seriously, the country holds a combination of factors that raise the price in current years.

For one, the economy has fared well throughout the economic crisis years, making the value of the money higher than many other currencies. That means it might take more US dollars or more Euro to get the same amount of Aussie dollars.

The cost of living — that which includes everything from food to water to housing — is also incredibly high.

According to Expatistan, a cost of living comparison website, it is 7% more expensive to live in Sydney than New York City, 33% more expensive than living in Chicago, and 27% cheaper to live in Rome.

The low population pared against immense size (it's about the size of the 48 connected US states!) means infrastructure is limited. To get to some parts of the country, you’re forced to pay for 4WD tours or to just plain fly.

The distance from other parts of the world adds a hefty price (and length of time) to any flight.

When it comes to budget flights, I would easily consider the South Pacific region a black hole — add that to your round-the-world trip and the cost skyrockets.

Ways to Lessen Travel Costs

If I ventured to Australia and wanted to travel around to a few places, perhaps go up the coast and take a couple of tours (sometimes the tours are just necessary). I would expect to spend in the $3,000 range for a month easily — and that's without the cost of the flight to the country itself.

While this price would be considered standard, you could do it for cheaper if you set your mind to it.

camping to save money

Camping to Save Money (photo by ianz)

Accommodation Tips

Hostels may be considered budget travel in most parts of the world, but in Australia, you can do better.

Hit up Couchsurfing to get free places to sleep with locals from time to time.

These can shave off hundreds of dollars from your budget easily.

The downside would include the possibility of not being in a convenient city center and the fact you are in someone's home.

Camp for free. Campsites at caravan parks are in abundance in Australia, but those added features and amenities will tack on approximately $10 to $20 per night.

Check out the locations where you can camp for free (if you can handle getting that close to nature), especially if you're already renting a campervan.

Transport Tips:

Finding others to travel with you is the easiest way to shave the dollars off your travel budget in Oz. Rent a campervan or a car together and split the cost several ways.

Foreigners in Australia can purchase from an assortment of Australian rail passes that provide unlimited travel for 3 or 6 months (also including the long-distance trains) and save heaps of money on transport by doing so.

student drinks

Beverages are where you can save money (photo by lachlanhardy)

Food Tips:

Groceries from Australia are even quite expensive, so while eating in will save you money, it might not be as much as you think.

In that case, beverages are where you will save the most money.

Free refills are a rarity, so think about whether you want that second Diet Coke with lunch or not. At around $3.50 each, you will find your lunch bill has practically doubled with these extras.

Opt for tap water where you can. Australian water is considered clean and safe, and it will save you around $3-4 each.

Avoid alcohol! Alcohol is taxed quite highly, so prices are through the roof.

In Sydney, you will be lucky to get a pint at a pub for $5 (usually in the $8+ range), and a 6-pack from the bottle shop might even run you $16.

Cocktails at small bars and the like are usually in the teens — $17 is not uncommon.

If you must get your drink on, backpacker bars will have the best deals — some including cheap grub.

Tour Tips

Seek out group discounts for organized tours if you can round up a group of travelers from your hostel.

Look for last-minute deals.

Search around. The same tour might cost one thing from the provider and another from a hostel that also helps to book tours. You never know what you might save if you spend a few extra minutes looking around.

Go off-season. Heading to resort towns during winter could open the door for lower-priced tours.

sydney harbour bridge

Sydney Harbor Bridge (photo by naoki)

Work Tips

If you can get a working holiday (or work and holiday) visa for the land down under, then that is going to be the best way to combat the high cost of travel.

You'll be able to get a job and earn Australian wages, and those wages will help you go further in travel.

You can even work while you go, picking up odd jobs here and there to keep you on the road.

Your Travel Budget May Vary

Everyone's travel budget will vary, but for Australia, it is wise to know that the cost will be higher than in other parts of the world.

But, to make a better approximation of expenses, why don't you share your Australian travel budget right here.

Planning a trip? Go Backpacking uses and recommends:

ourjourneytothesea

Thursday 6th of December 2012

The best way to do it is to get a campervan and drive around... This is if you have the time. If you are doing oz with time constraints then you need to expect to pay a lot more than other countries.

Dave

Thursday 6th of December 2012

Please note Go Backpacking's Comment Policy asks that you use your real name (not a website address or social media handle).

Future comments may be deleted if you don't use your first name. Thanks for reading!

Tom

Sunday 18th of November 2012

Hi Brooke, Thanks for all the tips they will definitely come in handy when I go. I'm staying in Aus for just over 3 months from March to June next year with a couple friends and was just wondering if you think it's realistic to limit ourselves to about £50 a day, excluding travel, and still be able to do all the tours? We are driving ourselves and are more than prepared to camp to save cash, if this isn't enough what do you think would be a more realistic budget?

Kate

Monday 4th of June 2012

Hi Brooke! Lots of good tips. I always direct visitors to markets central across Australia http://www.marketscentral.com.au which includes the incredible queen victoria market which has the cheapest souvenirs a tourist could ask for. Also, the traders will sometimes give you a deal especially if you're picking up fruit/veg. Like you, I also encourage backpackers to look into couchsurfing because it's a win-win. Visit Melbourne! :-)

burtie

Monday 23rd of April 2012

we've travelled on east coast in oct 2008. we had a car, slept in tent in campings, btw the campings-holiday parks are very good equipped, you can cook by yourself. so I dont see any reason to be in hostel/hotel in such nice weather in queensland. We also took 2x daytrip to coral reef. we spent more/less 1000$AUD per person, and travelled aprox 5000kilometres.

Brooke Schoenman

Tuesday 1st of May 2012

How long was your trip?

Aussie Traveller

Monday 16th of April 2012

I've travelled around Australia for around six months and we recorded every cent we spent. Worked out to be about $700 a week on average but that was staying in motels now and then and even some fancy accommodation. I reckon if can comfortable be done on around $450 a week if you mix up caravan parks with camping and staying at rest stops etc.

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