Australia on a budget is part of the Budget Travel Guides series.
If you are intending to visit Australia on a budget then you are going to need this article.
I hate to burst your dreams of soaking up carefree days on our beautiful beaches (well you can still do that), scuba diving the reef and watching an Uluru sunset with a glass of champagne, but Australia is expensive.
We’re a huge country, with a small population, which means a lack of competition. Our government doesn’t mind slapping on high taxes, especially when it comes to those finer things in life we enjoy, like a cold beer at a country pub.
Never fear you can still have a wonderful time in this exotic land of ours. I promise you that much. If you follow our Australia on a budget travel tips, you will close up that hole that travel to Australia can create in your wallet.
Planning a trip – Australia on a budget
You can read our post on How to travel Australia on a two week vacation for some great planning tips.
You really need to make a list of your must-see places and plan accordingly. Depending on your time, you should focus your travels on one or two areas in Australia.
If you have only a month, you don’t want to be travelling from Tasmania to Western Australia back to Queensland. You and your bank balance will be exhausted.
Transportation in Australia
Australia is the land of long distances. Thankfully, air travel is getting a little more competitive and cheaper. However, set aside some money for transportation if you want to experience Australia on a budget.
Rex airline has a backpacker pass available only to international travellers, which gives you one or two months of unlimited Rex air travel. Rex flies to regional areas such as Broken Hill, Kangaroo Island, King Island and Coober Pedy.
If there are three or more of you travelling to the airport, it will be cheaper to share a taxi then to catch the train link
If you are a family then explore Sydney on a Sunday. Each member can get a transport ticket for $2.50 which includes all rail, bus, and ferry services from the Blue Mountains to Newcastle. See our posts on things to do in Sydney.
Train travel is expensive but you might be able to find rail passes covering the whole network that give you great savings. Rail Passes start at $400
Fuel is expensive. If you are travelling by car then fill that car up with people and split the balance.
Midweek is the cheapest time to buy fuel. Avoid buying it on the weekends, especially if a public holiday weekend is coming- ouch!
Also check the bottom of your supermarket receipt as you will find a fuel discount coupon of a few cents a litre.
Check out Relocation rentals. You can rent a camper van for as little as $1 a day. You’re given the vehicle, the route, a time frame and sometimes fuel allowance. Basically you are getting a vehicle really cheap to be the delivery guy.
Wicked Campers is also a popular place to rent campervans from.
Also consider buying a car if you intend on being in Australia for some time. You could sell it at the end of your trip and so reclaim some of your initial outlay. Laurence from Finding the Universe outlined costs for buying a car in Australia in his Australia guide
Watch each city for any free public transportation routes. For example, Melbourne has a free inner city tram.
Greyhound Australia is the only national bus service. You might find cheap travel packages here.
Where to stay in Australia
Australia has so many National Parks and many of them you can camp in for free. This will involve bush camping and no amenities. A night here and there is perfect to help reduce costs.
Caravan parks and campgrounds are usually clean with fantastic amenities on the beach- the best location in town. They are usually pretty cheap with tent sites running on average from $10 to $20 a night. Camping is a great way to meet Australians and for families the best and cheapest way to travel around Australia on a budget.
Hostels and hotels
Hostels are another cheaper option. A dorm room on average will be $20 to $30 and a private room around $80- $110.
If you are considering a private room then it might make more sense to see if you can get a hotel for around the same price. There are some hostels that are great for families.
http://hostelzoo.com is a great search engine to help you find the cheapest price.
Some great websites to snag some accommodation bargains are
Consider renting apartments or doing house sitting.
For the best room views of Sydney Harbour at a third of the price you would pay anywhere else, the Sydney Harbour YHA- The Rocks is definitely the place to stay. Have breakfast on the rooftop with views of the Opera House.
Another option is to camp on Cockatoo Island, on the Harbour. Wake up to views of Sydney Harbour bridge for about $45 a night. Bargain!
While traveling in Australia can be expensive, lodging may be one way to save money as you experience Australia on a budget.
Food in Australia
Coles and Woolworths are our competing supermarkets who are lately having nice price wars. Cook your own meals and grab supplies for a picnic rather than eating out.
Check the back of your supermarket receipt. You will often find deals for nearby restaurants such as two for one.
Eat out at lunch instead of dinner
RSL’s, Memorial Clubs and Bowling Clubs have cheap food and drink. Every town will have at least one of these.
Research restaurants in the area carefully, you might be lucky to find a “children eat free” deal.
Ask the locals for their picks for eating out.
Australia has lots of take away places (take out). You’ll find them in every town and are mostly Asian, fish and chips, bakeries or chicken shops. You will find meals much cheaper here than if you were to eat in.
Chinatown, Sydney is a super cheap place to eat out.
Alcohol will kill your budget in Australia. Avoid drinking at pubs. You can get a decent bottle of wine for $10 or if you are game, the old Aussie favourite, the goon, which is basically cask wine from the bottle shops. You can get 4L for about $14. The goon becomes the best friend of many backpackers to Australia.
A lot of restaurants in Australia are BYO. That means you can bring in your own beer or wine, usually for a corkage of $1-2. This will greatly reduce your eating out costs.
Drink water from the faucets- it’s safe and free. Fill up your water bottle and away you go.
Now is the time for you to give up coke. Just check out this facebook status update about the price of Coke in Australia. It really is entertaining reading.
Bottom line – drinking is an expense that isn’t very friendly to your Australia on a budget plans. Budget wisely.
Activities and Entertainment in Australia
Lucky for you Australia is an outdoorsy culture with stunning nature and wildlife. Want to see kangaroos and koalas? Skip paying expensive prices at zoos, head down to places like the River Red Gum National Park where you can camp for free and have them running around you wild. There are also beaches in Australia, like Pebbly Beach and Kangaroo Island where the roos will be hopping freely around.
Walk, hike, cycle, picnic and experience the Australian outdoors for free. Spend the day at the beach and cook up a BBQ. Many Australian beaches have BBQ facilities. Most are free but some may require you put $1 or $2.
Want to climb the Harbour Bridge, but can’t justify the expense? Next to it, for only $10 is the Pylon Lookout with the same views, only a little lower, and exhibits on the building of the bridge. Why not get some exercise and walk across it for free?
Want to cruise the harbour for cheap? Jump on a ferry going over to Manly. You’ll have the same views and end up at one of Sydney’s most beautiful beach suburbs.
A great way to experience Aussie culture is to attend one of the many free festivals that are held throughout the year around the country.
Cheap Tuesdays at the movies- most cinemas have discounted movie tickets on Tuesdays.
Australia’s major museums and art galleries are free.
You can combine theme parks and wildlife viewing at several places on the Gold Coast, Queensland- a family adventure destination. Try Currumbin Wildlife Park and Dreamworld. Read for some money saving tips for Dreamworld
Remember you may not be back to Australia again, so do plan for and do those activities that are must see for you. Put aside money for them, research carefully to see how you can get the best price or perhaps an alternative way to do it for free or much cheaper.
Experiencing Australia on a budget also means spending your money wisely. Save money when you can but spend money on the things you want to see and do.
Meet the locals in Australia
Australians are fanatical about the outdoors and sports so there are two good places to connect with locals (sports are a great way to connect with the culture and meet people when you travel).
Don’t be shy and start up conversations with people you may see on the beach or the park. Attend sporting events and get involved in the atmosphere. Go to pre-game parties at pubs and cheer loudly for a team. Ask those around you questions about the sport.
If you get invited to go to any picnics, barbecues or parties then say yes and be prepared to share some fun stories with Aussies. We are really light hearted and just like to have fun with our conversations. Don’t go with your serious boots on.
Australians travel a lot, so you can connect with them in campsites, hostels or around hotel swimming pools.
A big tip for getting along with Australians. Australians like to joke a lot and make fun of people. This is done in jest, so do not take offense. This is actually Australians weird way of saying that they like you. If they feel comfortable enough to joke with you and poke fun then you have made it as a friend.
You can save money, see the sights, and visit Australia on a budget. However, your most memorable and cheapest travel experiences may be the people you meet.
More Australia travel tips
Consider working in Australia. Although the cost of living is high, Australian’s can make decent money.
Agricultural, fruit picking and wine harvesting provides excellent opportunities for you to work in exchange for food an accommodation and often times extra cash. Bear in mind you will need appropriate work visas.
What I hear you ask? Cheap reliable internet?
I really don’t know what else to say except good luck. Try libraries, cafes, and hostels. Rarely will it be free. Rarely will it be fast. If all else fails there is always McDonalds (Here’s why eating at McDonald’s can give you one of the best cultural travel experiences you will experience).
You can buy a cheap SIM card for your phone from the supermarket or phone store. You can then pay as you go. Telstra is the fastest (which they abuse with high prices) with the monopoly on service connection, Optus is next- they have good customer service. Don’t even think about any other provider.
You can buy wireless sticks for your own computers to connect to the internet from where ever you are. You can pay as you go and is a cheaper alternative then buying internet connection at hotels or hostels.
IF you plan carefully, research thoroughly, and make smart spending choices, you can have that dream trip and experience Australia on a budget. It’s a country that is really worth planting your feet on for a while.
If you are visiting Australia, check out the “Best of Sydney” with this 3 day itinerary from Unanchor.
Caz and Craig Makepeace have been serial world travellers since 97 and offer lots of budget travel tips on their blog yTravelBlog. They also write about family travel on Kidspot’s Village Voices. You can follow them on twitter and follow the fun on their fanpage.