Australia is one of my favourite places in the world. It has beautiful beaches, lively cities, friendly people, near constant sunshine, unique wildlife, and an endless amount of things to see and do. Unfortunately, it also happens to be one of the most expensive countries in the world. I was constantly shocked at the price of, well, everything. I remember seeing a particular brand of mascara- that I know costs around $5 at home- selling for $20 in an Australian store.
When I was planning my trip to Australia, I knew I wanted to stay for an extended period of time and I knew I’d have to work for at least a little while to keep from running out of money, so I applied for a Working Holiday Visa. This allowed me to travel around the country for six months, and I only spent about a month and a half of that time working. (The minimum wage in Australia is around $16 per hour, so you can save up fairly quickly.)
It is possible to travel in Australia on a budget, and I’ve compiled a list of tips to help cut costs and to hopefully allow you to extend your stay in this amazing country.
(*Please excuse the poor quality photos- I visited Australia a few years ago with a horrible camera.)
1) Working Holiday Visa
Working temporarily can help you stay in the country for an extended period of time without having to sell your organs on the black market. This visa is available for people between the ages of 18 and 30, the cost is $420, and it will allow you work within the country for up to one year.
WWOOF (Willing Workers on Organic Farms) is very popular in Australia and consists of 4 to 6 hours of work per day in exchange for free meals and accommodations. There are options to work on all types of farms in a range of destination across the country. From gardening to greenhouses to looking after wildlife- you’re sure to find something that piques your interest.
Hostels in Australia are pricey and can range anywhere from $20 to $35 for basic dorm style rooms. Couchsurfing can help alleviate accommodation costs and staying with locals is always advantageous.
4) Work at hostels in exchange for free accommodations
Many hostels I stayed in offered guests free accommodations if they were willing to work at the bar, the front desk, or help with housekeeping duties for a certain period of time. Usually hostels will have signs posted at the front desk or on their bulletin boards in the common areas if they offer this type of arrangement. Even if you don’t see signs posted, there’s no harm in asking.
5) Shop at markets
When I was in Sydney, I visited Paddy’s Markets multiple times, and was able to find cosmetics, clothing, and miscellaneous items at much cheaper prices than at regular shops and malls. Most large (and some smaller) cities will have multiple types of markets- from farmers markets to craft markets- and everything in between. Other great markets include Melbourne’s Queen Victoria Market, Adelaide Central Markets, and the Mindil Beach Sunset Markets in Darwin.
6) Cook your own meals
Dining out can be very pricey with meals generally costing between $15 and $40 (depending on the restaurant). Coles and Woolworths are the two largest supermarket chains and you can find them all over the country.
7) Free attractions
Take advantage of free attractions throughout the country. Sydney’s Botanic Gardens, the City Circle Tram in Melbourne, and free wine tastings at Swan Valley wineries are a few examples. Majority of the major cities offer free admission to their museums and galleries as well.
8) Observe Australian wildlife for free
Australia is a huge country with an abundance of National Parks, Reefs, and Rainforests, and it’s possible to view wildlife in their natural habitats. Ningaloo Reef, Royal National Park, and Magnetic Island are a few great places to spot wildlife for free.
9) Save on National Park fees
If you plan on visiting numerous National Parks within one state, you can save money by purchasing an Annual Park Pass, which allows you unlimited free entry to all parks within a particular state for twelve months.
10) Take a road trip
Driving along the East Coast or West Coast, or traveling through the Red Centre from one side of the country to the other, all make perfect routes for a road trip. Make sure to round up a group of people to split the fuel costs, which can be expensive. (If you’re traveling solo, check Gumtree’s Rideshare & Travel Partner section to find some travel buddies.)
- Jucy Rentals is fairly inexpensive and they offer camper-vans with sleeping quarters which can help offset accommodation costs
- Apex Car Rentals has last-minute “hot deals” for as little as $10 per day
- This website will compare the rates of multiple car rental companies so you can find the best deal
Australian campgrounds are often located in beautiful spots and offer a variety of amenities. Tent sites generally cost $10 to $20 a night and you can find a range of campsites around the country, in National Parks, and at the beach.
12) Budget airline carriers
Virgin Blue, Jet Star, and Tiger Airways are three low cost national carriers. Jet Star offers Friday Fare Frenzy (most Fridays from 4pm to 8pm) where you can find super cheap fares.
13) Rail passes
Traveling by train will allow you to travel comfortably and slowly through different regions of the country. The Queensland Coastal Pass allows you to travel over a month-long period with unlimited stopovers (in one direction) between Brisbane and Cairns for $220. Or, choose the Rail Explorer Pass to travel across the country from Sydney to Perth over a 2 month period for $468.
14) YHA Membership
YHA hostels are everywhere in Australia and, if you plan on staying in hostels for the duration of your trip, you should consider becoming a YHA Member. The cost is $32 for a one year membership and you receive a 10% discount at all YHA hostels. There are a few additional discounts included as well (like 10% off select Greyhound express tickets).
15) Pre-game and drink goon
Backpacker bars usually offer discounts and drink specials, but a night out on the town in Australia will still leave your wallet feeling significantly lighter. Consider buying a cheap bottle of wine or liquor and pre-drink before you go out to avoid having to buy expensive drinks at the bar.
Also, Goon will be your new best friend. For those of you unfamiliar with Goon, it’s Aussie slang for cheap boxed ‘wine’ and it’s the most inexpensive form of alcohol you will find throughout Australia- starting around $10 for 4L.
16) Free festivals, concerts, and events
Be sure to attend at least one of the many free festivals or events that take place throughout the country. Some of which include Vivid Sydney, The Darwin Festival, and The Adelaide Fringe Festival. Click here for a more in-depth list.
17) Pick fruit
Harvest work is available year round in most states and is a great way to make some cash over a period of a few weeks/months. Also, if you spend at least 88 days picking fruit, you may be eligible to extend your Working Holiday Visa for a second year.
18) Free WiFi
WiFi in Australia is slow and unreliable and having to pay for poor internet is something you will want to avoid.
Finding hostels and hotels that offer free WiFi would be ideal, but I found that most of the accommodations I stayed at always charged extra for internet. (This was a few years ago, so maybe things have changed.)
Other options for free WiFi include local libraries, cafes, and (if you’re keen to wait a half hour or so for one page to load) McDonalds.
Have you been to Australia? How did you cut costs?
Dang, is that really how much dorms cost!? I went backpacking in Aus in 2009 and have no idea how much we were paying per night, I don’t remember it being so pricey. We DEFINITELY drank lots and lots of goon haha! Don’t miss that stuff.
Yeah, dorms are pretty pricey! It might be a little less expensive for the 16 or 18 bed dorms, but I avoided those like the plague! I definitely don’t miss goon, either! haha
These are really solid advice. I will definitely use them when I go to AUS in 2015. Couchsurfing is a great way to save money and get to know locals.
Glad to hear that! Have a great trip!!
oh wow! that mascara price shocked me! I’m an American living abroad in Germany, and I make YouTube videos about the things over here that are different from the States. In one of my video I mentioned the price of things and someone living in Australia commented that if I thought Germany was pricey, just try Australia. But I didn’t realize it was SO much more! This is a great list of ideas–I had no clue about the work visa program. Thanks!
The prices in Australia are definitely shocking when you’re visiting from North America.The minimum wage is high in Oz, so if you’re working it’s not so bad, but if you’re just visiting- be prepared! You’re welcome, and thanks for your comment!
Haha I love that – “pregame and drink goon”. I managed to stay away from goon most of the time – those hangovers! Great tips though, Australia can be suuuuper expensive to travel.
Thank you! Haha, yeah goon hangovers are definitely brutal. Kudos to you for managing to avoid it- I don’t know how I used to drink it!
Wow! Australia really is expensive, but thanks for the tips. Hoping I’ll finally make it there in 2015!
You’re welcome, and I hope you do make it in 2015!
Great advise. Volunteering or working seems like it would be a great idea in Australia. If you can get your accommodation for free that’s a great start and if food is included too then you’re pretty much sorted! Wild camping and hitchhiking worked really well for my boyfriend and there are even some free campsites along the great ocean road. Thanks for sharing.
You’re welcome! Hitchhiking is another good idea, and thanks for the tip about free campsites along the Great Ocean Road!
These are some really good tips- Australia is ridiculously expensive. I remember paying $7 for a small coffee at an airport in Perth when I realised just how much things cost over here!
Thank you! $7 for a small coffee- yikes!! Even though I spent six months in the country, the prices still shocked me almost on a daily basis, ha.
Hey Ashley 🙂
Hahaha as an Australian reading this, I’m looking at the prices everyone is so shocked over and going “But isn’t that normal??” I love travelling to other countries and going wow, everything is so cheap here!! Except for here in Fiji. Fiji is expensive – cos everything is imported from Australia! And the mascara I usually buy for $20 in Aus goes for about $45 here. Sigh.
Our coffees are expensive, but on the plus side, they’re very, very good. 🙂 And I’m impressed you’ve managed to find hostels for $20 – in Sydney I usually pay closer to $60 to stay in the centre of the city.
WiFi has improved massively in the last few years. Here’s an expert tip: If you really need good WiFi to upload a bunch of photos or something, take a look at http://www.nbnco.com.au and try to find a nearby suburb with the NBN active – the National Broadband Network – and find a cafe there. The NBN is the new fibre network and the cafes with that installed in places like Brunswick in Melbourne have absolutely spectacular WiFi – and usually great coffee!!
Thanks for the tip about the rail passes – that’s something I’m looking at doing, I’ll check it out! 🙂
$45 for mascara in Fiji?! Good Lord- I almost fainted when I saw the $20 price tag in Australia haha, so I can’t imagine seeing it priced at $45!
Australia does have excellent coffee! And the $20 dorm rooms were definitely a rarity!
Glad to hear WiFi has improved, and thanks for the helpful tip! I’ll keep that in mind when I (hopefully) return to Australia someday! 🙂