How to travel Australia on a budget: It’s no secret that a trip around Australia is an expensive prospect for backpackers and is much more challenging than places like Eastern Europe or Southeast Asia where your money will go much further. Here despite being a backpacker magnet it’s a much harder prospect when your already tiny budget has to stretch that much further. But having lived in Australia for 18 months on a budget we’ve got the lowdown and we’ve put together this comprehensive guide covering accommodation, food, transport and other tips for backpacking Australia on a budget and also Working and travelling in Australia too.
Here are our ultimate travel tips for Australia specifically budget travel in Australia and our Australia backpacking guide.
For us arriving in Perth fresh from 10 months in Southeast Asia, it was a shock to the system. Our modest budget had been more than enough to get by in Asia with the plentiful street food, amazing hostels for just a few $ a night and easy to access budget-friendly transport options. We soon realised travelling Australia on a budget was going to be hard!
This was a different prospect entirely and backpacking in Australia was much more challenging! It required more thought, planning and being a lot more careful with our money. But having a working holiday visa allowed us to base ourselves in Melbourne and save up before taking several trips around different regions of the country. In the end, backpacking Australia on a budget just takes a little extra thought.
Budget Travel In Australia
Here are our best tips for travelling Australia on a budget as well as Working and travelling in Australia and backpacking Australia on a budget.
Getting To Australia
Flying to Australia can be expensive as it’s so far away from the rest of the world. But as with anything travel related flexibility is key here for finding budget travel to Australia. Searching for the cheapest month, keeping an eye out for deals and being willing to transfer a few times makes the likelihood of cheaper flights higher.
We’ve found Thai Airways to do some great priced flights via Bangkok from Melbourne to Heathrow and we’ve done that both ways. Bear in mind if you are working and travelling in Australia you can come and go as many times as you like so if you’re here for an extended period of time then you might want a trip home.
Another idea for getting to Australia is to combine it with a trip around Asia too which will both break up the long travel time and save money on flights. Many backpackers choose to do go around Southeast Asia before moving on to Australia. Flight prices from Southeast Asia to Australia are much more reasonably priced due to destinations here such as Thailand and Bali being popular holiday getaways from the Aussies. Search out the cheapest place to fly to and from and make sure to end your trip there.
If you’re looking for budget travel to Australia, generally speaking, travelling via Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia and Thailand are the cheapest places to come to Australia from.
Visas are a necessary evil of travelling and unfortunately, there are often times when their cost is hard to avoid and is the first hurdle to backpacking Australia on a budget.
You should research all visa options available to you and see which ones suit your needs. As a UK citizen, you can visit Australia for free for 3 months (You still need to apply online before you travel). Or there is an option to pay $20 for a very similar visa! So be sure to see all your options to save some money before even arriving, that’s our first budget travel in Australia trick!
You can also pay more for the Tourist Stream Visa where you can apply for 3,6 or 12 months as a visitor (Don’t apply for 3 months as you can get this for free if you’re British!!)
Then there is of course the Working Holiday Visa which is by far the most expensive of these options but you qualify for working and travelling Australia for a year with the potential to extend if you meet certain requirements. This is ideal for Backpacking in Australia and means you can offset the cost which is ideal for travelling to Australia on a budget.
Transport Within Australia
We have gone into more detail below but this is what we generally recommend for travelling to Australia on a budget:
Be flexible with your plans and use a combination of budget airlines, rental vehicles, buses and deals like return rentals for your trip around Australia.
Look for unpopular times for cheap domestic flights in Australia for a cheaper way to go travelling in Australia budget.
Break down your trip around Australia into sections and don’t try to tackle it in one! Travelling cheap in Australia is all about planning!
Try to use transport wisely and not just to get from A to B but to see some of the places you want to visit along the way! This is the ideal way to make the most of travelling Australia on a budget.
Try to pack lightly or use luggages that is easy to carry or transport around especially if you are going to be using a lot of public transport or living in a camper with limited storage. a shoulder bag for example is easy to carry alongside a suitcase. Most hostels and campsites have laundry facilities and most towns/ cities have laundromats. If you’re coming in the summer too you only really need to pack for it to be HOT too!
Many cities such as Sydney and Melbourne have some inner-city free transport such as free tram zones, perfect for backpacking Australia on a budget!
Also, be aware and plan your transport from the airport to the city beforehand as it can be expensive in some places especially Perth.
Accommodation In Australia
Again we’ve gone into more detail below but our general tips for backpacking Australia on a budget would be:
To be flexible and to search around for different types of accommodation like hostels, campsites, house sitting, guest houses and staying with locals!
Getting a campervan lets you combine accommodation with transport and can be a cost-effective way to travel across the country. This is one of the best backpacking Australia on a budget tips.
Also if you are working and travelling in Australia keep an eye out for jobs that include accommodation.
Remember to pack your universal adapter as the plugs are a unique style used only in Australia and NZ!
Our Top Tips For Budget Travel In Australia:
Breakdown Your Trip Around Australia Into Sections And Tackle Each Area Individually.
Australia is huge!! Trying to see it all is like attempting to see all of Europe or the US in one!! The scale of the country is hard to get your head around at times but having driven from Melbourne to Darwin and back… twice, we can attest to the size of the land down under! So you need to plan your trip around Australia accordingly.
But unlike the densely packed European continent, the sights of Australia are far more spread out. Though there is of course heaps of things to see in Australia, there is also a whole heap of desert in between a lot of them! Travelling in Australia on a budget means picking the ones you want to see most to make your Australia backpacking budget go as far as it can.
So this means that instead of spending a lot of time and money trying to get through these empty expanses to cover all of the countries. It’s best to break down different areas and either cover them in different trips or to fly to one major city and cover the areas around that before heading to another area. If you’re Backpacking in Australia then you will have plenty of time to trip around Australia region by region.
An example would be to fly to Sydney and hire a campervan to travel around New South Wales before flying to Melbourne to explore Victoria. Each state or area of each state such as Northern Queensland around Cairns or Southern Queensland around Brisbane are still quite large areas but much more easy to tackle than the entire country in one! Planning your trip around Australia is essential especially if you’re limited on time!
If you’re working and travelling in Australia then you can base yourself in an area and explore that gradually before moving on. This is the ideal way to go backpacking Australia on a budget.
Plan Your trip Around Australia Route, Take Note Of The Seasons But Be Flexible Also!
Another consideration when travelling around such a large country is to be sure to plan out the most cost-effective route for your trip around Australia, but at the same time remain flexible in order to take advantage of the cheapest fares. This is the best way to maximise your Australia backpacking budget.
Fly Between Major Hubs, Avoid Regional Airports & Use Transport Wisely
Are flights cheaper from Sydney to Perth than in the other direction? Is it cheaper to drive to Adelaide from Melbourne than fly? You should bear in mind that regional airports can be much more expensive to fly to than major cities so you should consider alternative transport and try to combine that with places you want to see, this is a great way to maximise your Australia backpacking budget.
An example would be renting a camper or car and combining a trip on the Great Ocean Road and around Victoria/ SA with ending up in Adelaide which is one of the more expensive airports for a state capital. This is where planning your trip around Australia properly means you can be savvier about how you use transport and makes travelling Australia on a budget much easier.
Be Flexible When You Book & Travel
Flexibility is also key to keeping costs low which is great if you have the time to do that which is another benefit to Backpacking in Australia.
Searching on Skyscanner for example you can select the cheapest month and look across it and pick the cheapest day, this can save you heaps of $$. There are also often deals on flights or rentals too that you can keep an eye out for during your trip around Australia.
What about the seasons and how they affect travel costs?
Australia has some really unique seasons across the country having traditional seasons in some areas and wet and dry seasons in others. There are two main considerations you should bear in mind for your trip around Australia.
Firstly you should know that the offseason in each region is usually the cheapest time to travel. For example, Sydney is the most expensive in December and January which is the height of summer. Do some research on each place you want to visit and find out when the cheapest time to visit is and plan your backpacking in Australia trip accordingly.
But before you jump straight into the cheapest time, also consider how that time of year and the weather will affect your plans and expenses. An example would be travelling to the Top End in summer which is actually the least desirable time due to the wet season up there and not being able to visit some National Parks because of flooded roads and crocs, or it being too cold to swim at Bondi in the winter or too hot to enjoy a walk around Uluru in the summer sun! Again, research what each region is like in each season and how it might affect your trip around Australia.
For us, shoulder seasons are usually the ideal of compromise between budget and enjoying the best seasons in each region.
So overall we would recommend a rough pre-planned route where you take into consideration the cheapest routes and transport between each city. Plan your stops off to be as cost-effective and tie into your transport methods. Tie that into the seasons too and try to visit the more expensive areas in the off/ shoulder seasons (But with some locations be wary of wasting money visiting at the wrong time and not being able to visit some places or having extra weather-related costs).
You should also leave some flexibility into your backpacking in Australia plans and book as last minute as you can so you can take advantage of deals/ return rentals/ cheaper days to travel!
Cheap Domestic Flights In Australia: Look Out For Deals on Unpopular Travel Times
Cheap domestic flights in Australia aren’t the easiest to come by especially when you compare them to budget flights in Europe and Southeast Asia. But unfortunately, they are a necessary evil due to the sheer size of the country.
But a great way to save money is to be flexible as we mentioned above. Search out the cheapest time of year/ month and pick the cheapest date. Also bear in mind that unpopular times such as red-eye flights are usually the cheapest.
Deals also come up all the time too so you should be flexible enough to jump on those if you can to get the best cheap domestic flights Australia wide.
Look At Coach Travel (Greyhound)
Flying is generally one of the most expensive ways to travel cross country in Australia and it is of course the most convenient. Even cheap domestic flights Australia wide are more expensive than coach travel especially if you get a deal or package. Wondering how to travel to Australia cheap, get on the bus!
Coach/ bus travel is another cheaper alternative. The might mean long journeys but the coaches in Australia are much safe and comfortable than the night buses many of us have had to struggle through in Asia and usually come with toilets, charger ports, WIFI and comfy seats on board. Buses are a popular way for those backpacking in Australia to travel cross country.
Hop on hop off deals are also available too which means say you buy the Sydney to Cairns route, you can stop off anywhere along the way and staff a little while before getting another bus, all for the same price. So again plan your route accordingly to see how many places along the way you want to visit so you can use your transport wisely and save on your Australia budget trip that way.
Greyhound also does a WHIMIT Pass which allows you to travel unlimited on the whole network for a set amount of days which is a great value. They also do various packages that include accommodation too which are worth looking at as well as keeping an eye out for sales and deals.
See more info here: Greyhound
Get A Working Holiday Visa (Working and Travelling in Australia)
Think Australia is just too big and too expensive to cover with your savings? Think about doing a working holiday visa as many backpackers, us included, have done, this is the perfect way to go backpacking in Australia. This way you can experience both working and travelling in Australia.
The visa gives you at least a year which in some cases can be extended to two or even three years with regional work and allows you the freedom to try out working and travelling in Australia over that time. That means you can not only save up during your trip and offset the cost but you can also take your time and travel when your budget or the weather suits you.
You might also want to base yourself in one area for a while and travel around whilst there before moving on to somewhere else and doing the same. It gives you great flexibility and some people even end up coming away with more money than they started with even after travelling around because of the good wages paid down under even for many backpacker jobs!
Buy or Hire a Campervan or Car
Campervan and car hire in Australia can be on the expensive side (though cheaper than New Zealand) but it can be a cost-effective way of combining travel and accommodation in one with campsites being reasonably priced and there also being many free camping spots around the country too.
It’s worth again keeping an eye out for deals and checking on which season you intend to travel too for cheaper prices. We ended up renting a car and sleeping in the back for a month through the outback! If you want to do it cheap then there is always sacrifices to be made but it’s worth it which is part of backpacking in Australia.
If you are here on a working holiday visa then you might want to look at buying a cheap car or camper as you can then sell it on before you leave. This way you have total freedom and can save a heap of money on transport and accommodation. But remember you might have to drive it across the country so bear that in mind in terms of fuel costs and reliability of a cheap car. It might be best to do say the East Coast with your own car and keep it there before taking trips and renting in other regions where you won’t be spending as much time.
Fuel is also reasonably expensive in Australia but if you are from Europe you will find it’s actually comparatively cheap despite how much complaining the Aussies do about it! It does fluctuate a lot through and generally, Tuesdays are the cheapest day and things like school holidays will make it go up!
One of our top Australia backpacking guide tips is to get your own transport for at least some part of your time here.
Take Advantage of Return Rental Rates/ Campervan Relocations
Ever wonder how a campervan gets back to Melbourne from Sydney after someone has rented it? Well, they get backpackers and budget travellers to do it for them! This has to be one of the best money-saving tips in our Australia backpacking guide.
If you search for campervan relocations you will find a whole list where basically you can rent a car or van that need to be taken back to a certain place and you can often do it for as little as $1 or even for FREE! Yes, you read that correctly!
There is a catch, many of the rentals have a time scale attached meaning you might have to get from say Sydney to Brisbane in 6 or 7 days, a lot shorter than you would usually want to do that trip. But they are a great way to get from A-B for very little money and if you plan it properly you can stop at a few places along the way.
You will also need to pay a bond and for fuel as well as usually having a credit card but all these would be associated with any rental! So one of our travel tips for Australia would also be to sort out a credit card and your license before you arrive too.
Stay at Campsites/ AirBnB/ Hostels/ Guesthouses or CouchSurf/ house sit & Look For Deals!
Aside from transport, your biggest outlay in Australia is going to be accommodation when backpacking in Australia and it’s one of the hardest parts about planning a budget trip to Australia.
From the humble backpackers to Airbnb there is a lot of choices out there especially if you are willing to be flexible.
Hostels in Australia generally aren’t as nice as those you will find in Southeast Asia where they have to try harder for your money, here it’s a rickety bunk bed in a cramped room for $25 a night! But many do offer long term deals for those on working visas and all will offer kitchen facilities too as a general rule. Many people even choose to work at hostels to fund their trips and get free accommodation as part of their employment.
Speaking of working visas, it is also worth researching other backpacker jobs that include accommodation and even board too as this will really help you save up to travel across the country. Regional and farming jobs tend to be more likely to offer this. Our top Australia backpacking guide tip for jobs would be to see if you can combine other costs with working.
Airbnb is a good shout too, we ended up staying with a family in Melbourne who we got really close to and consider them extended family now. If you are ok sharing a house then you can get some really well-priced accommodation and it’s a great experience to live alongside locals too. We even got work from our hosts as well!
Housesitting is also very popular in Australia and is well worth looking into as it is usually free or very low cost and can range from a couple of weeks to a few months. Similarly, Couchsurfing is good to look at for a few nights to get some great local insight and maybe to help in a particularly expensive place. If you plan to be somewhere a while and can get a house-sitting gig, that would be a top Australia backpacking guide tip for saving on accommodation costs.
Stay Outside Of The CBD
Another one of our travel tips for Australia would be to shop around when booking accommodation and generally speaking to stay outside of the CBD or the City Centre. These areas can be really expensive and public transport in most Australian cities is pretty good, so staying on a train, bus, tram, ferry route a little further out can save you a lot of money.
You should also consider the expense of transport but you will also save money on food with eating out in the suburbs being cheaper and usually being home to bigger and cheaper food shops too, this is a great way to have a budget trip to Australia. If you’re backpacking in Australia you might want to experience more of the everyday Aussie life and this is a great way to do it.
It’s also where some of the best local AirBnB’s are where you can live with local families for a while which is always an enriching experience and ideal if you are travelling and working in Australia. We saved heaps of money backpacking Australia on a budget by staying with locals.
Make Your Own Food And Shop At Aldi
Another huge expense in Australia is food. Unlike in Southeast Asia where you can eat out every night or at least get some super cheap street food, Australia can be a shock in this regard! This is one reason most hostels here will have kitchens compared to very few in Southeast Asia and why getting an AirBnB in the suburbs is, even more, cost-effective!
Cooking your own food whether you’re in a hostel, house sitting, camping or an Airbnb is a great way to cut down on cost. The major supermarkets are Coles and Woolworths but in several places like Melbourne and Sydney, they have Aldi too which should be familiar to most of us from Europe!
Top Australia backpacking guide tip for food: Wherever possible be sure to shop at Aldi if you’re on a budget, the German supermarket offers great quality for great value prices.
Another travelling Australia on a budget tip would be to shop at markets and some of the ethnic grocery shops too as they tend to be quite cheap.
Most campsites also have a camp kitchen with good facilities even sometimes a rice cooker, microwave, kettle and fridge. You can also buy small camp stoves for quite cheap or they will come with your rental which is really handy if you want to travel Australia on a budget. Most parks in Australia also have public BBQs too that anyone can use for a few coins which are ideal for backpacking in Australia.
Take Advantage Of The Many Free Activities To Do In Australia
Despite the cost of food, accommodation and transport in Australia the other side to this is just how many activities are free over here which is perfect for budget travel in Australia.
Swimming at the beach, hiking in the many trails whether that might be coastal or in the mountains. Strolling around the historic cities and taking in the sights, sounds and unique architecture. Wandering the many gardens or wildlife spotting in the national parks all great for budget Australia travel.
You will find more often that not if it’s outside then it’s free and in Australia most of what you want to see and do will be outdoors! Backpacking in Australia is all about taking advantage of the country’s natural beauty.
Our travelling Australia on a budget top tip: Save the entrance fees and tours for the things that really warrant the cost like entrance to Uluru NP or a boat trip on the Barrier Reef and look out for iVenture Australia Flexi Attractions Passes that can save you money on some of the paid for tours and activities.
Be Careful In Regional Australia/ The Outback – Take Supplies To Save Money!
So, you’ve just spent a week in Sydney after backpacking around Asia and you think, blimey it’s expensive here! Then you find yourself in the outback with nothing but red sand and roos for company… Now you’re going to find out how expensive backpacking in Australia can be!!
Out in regional or country Australia you will find things like food and fuel are infinitely more expensive. Accommodation can vary from being super expensive at places like Uluru to some pretty decent free or very cheap campsites so it’s a mixed bag. Fuel in the outback is 2-3 times what it is in the cities and with no large supermarkets out here food too can be super expensive. The cheapest shops out here are often IGA’s which are a group of independent retailers and are often considered expensive in the cities. So you can see budget travel in Australia is even harder in the outback!
Our top Australia backpacking guide tip would be: If you’re planning a road trip through the outback or the more remote places in Australia then stock up beforehand (This would be one of our general travel tips for Australia for safety too in the outback). Water is a must to carry in quantity but if you have access to an Aldi or another big supermarket before then stock up on your tinned goods which will really save you a lot! You might also want to take a jerry can or two to get you through some of the really expensive areas fuel wise.
Backpacking in Australia: Other Travel Tips for Australia:
Many museums, libraries, train stations and public areas in the CBD’s have free WIFI as well as places like Maccas! Our top Australia backpacking guide tip would be to use them first and then get a cheap sim deal if you will be here for a while.
Tipping is not obligatory in Australia, but your backpacking Australia budget might not stretch to many restaurants!
Budget shops such as Target are great for picking up cut price supplies/ clothing/ camping supplies, perfect for travelling Australia on a budget.
The $1 coffee from 7/11 is actually pretty good even with the high standards expected of coffee in Australia! Ideal fuel on a backpacker budget Australia trip!
Coles and Woolworths own many of the big petrol stations or have partnerships with them and offer voucher schemes if you spend so much in their supermarkets. Ideal for travelling Australia on a budget if you have a car or camper.
Drinking in bars and pubs in Australia can be expensive. Head to the Bottle-o instead and if you can stand it get yourself a bag of goon!! Have you even been backpacking in Australia if you’ve not had goon, it’s the ultimate backpack Australia budget experience!
Download the WIKI Camps and Campermate apps to help you find free campsites! These sites are an absolute blessing for budget travel in Australia.
Many hostels outside of CBDs will allow people to pay to camp in their carpark or a designated area which means you have access to the hostel facilities like WIFI, Common areas, kitchens and even pools.
Lots of campsites in the tropical areas of the country have pools (One of our more general travel tips for Australia but shop around because campsites with pools aren’t as expensive as you might think in this area)
Have You Visited Australia On Budget Or Been Backpacking Australia On A budget?
What Are Your Travel Tips for Australia? What Would You Add To An Australia Backpacking Guide?
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