From food, to transportation and everything in between, these are the best tips on how to travel around the land of Oz on a budget.
Australia is a phenomenal country to visit and explore. You get to experience new flora and fauna - plants and animals - lay on gorgeous beaches, get lost in vast desserts, and swim under waterfalls in thick jungles. All without having the stress of culture shock, similar to what you might experience when you travel to Asia, and South America. Sounds great doesn't it?
The one downfall of Australia - ugh well besides being so damn far away - is that it tends to run a little pricey. People often put it off, or dismiss it all together once they find out that it ain't cheap. I'm here to tell you that it is entirely possible to travel around Australia on the budget of a poor university student. How? Because I did it myself.
The first issue you will notice when looking into Australia as a potential travel destination, is with the sheer cost of flights. From many North American cities, this flight will run you anywhere from $1,400-$2,000 USD depending on the season. Don't worry, there are ways you can slash some dollars on this hefty flight bill.
The best advice I can give you about grabbing a low cost flight is to avoid national holidays. A quick Google search will let you know when national holidays are in Australia. Avoid times like Christmas, and school breaks if a cheap flight is what you're looking for.
TIP: Since it's inevitable that you may just need to suck up the cost of that flight, it'll be worth it for you to try and stay as long as possible. If you think about it, you'll be stretching the price of your flight out over a longer period of time.
As well as avoiding holidays, make sure you avoid travelling during peak tourist season - December to February. Let me get one thing straight, Australia is perfect to visit during any season. Everyone wants to travel to Australia when it's hot there, and cold here - in Canada. But truth be told, it's ALWAYS hot in Australia - and it's always arguably cold in Canada. Sure some places at higher altitudes tend to run a little bit cold in the winter months, and they might even get some snow from time to time, but what's a little snow, eh?
This is when it comes in handy to do a little research about where you want to travel in Australia. The humidity in the northern regions - like Darwin, can get quite uncomfortable during the peak travel season mentioned above.
If you really can't handle the potential threat of snow and humidity, then spring and fall are really the perfect times to go. Plants and flowers are blooming, it's sweater weather in the Southern areas (think, Sydney, Melbourne) and it's piping hot in the North (Airlie Beach, Cairns, Darwin). Although these seasons tend to be a little more on the rainy side, you will still have plenty of good weather.
TIP: Choosing to travel during off-peak seasons is also beneficial because you'll avoid the crowds, and bonus, hotels tend to be cheaper when there is lower occupancy.
The food in Australia isn't super cheap either. If you plan on eating most of your meals out, you will be spending between $10-$30 USD per person. In order to reduce the costs of food, head to the grocery store - Woolworths or Coles. This can save you a lot of money. If you think about it, you don't eat every meal out when you're at home, so don't do it while you travel. Grab some groceries and throw together an easy to make meal - PB & J anyone?
Definitely expect to spend some money eating out, it's something you might want to experience, and after all you are on vacation. But maybe just stick to one beer instead of three.
Speaking of which, consuming alcohol is a surefire way to greatly increase the cost of your trip to Australia. If partying is something that you want to do, it will be cheaper to buy a bottle of liquor or a case of beer rather than going out to drink at a bar. You can find alcohol at stores called BWS, and Liquorland. There are plenty of iconic pubs and bars to visit around the country, so if you plan to drink, make sure you go to one of these places!
TIP: Make sure that you pack a reusable water bottle, and maybe a camelback too! Single-use plastic water bottles can seriously rack up your travel bill. If you bring a water bottle make sure that you always have enough to keep yourself well hydrated, and fill it up any chance you get. There will be times on your trip where you will need a good supply of drinkable water, much of the stuff you will find in rural areas is not potable. If you don't have a half-decent supply to get you through, you'll have to spend money on it.
As far as food goes, if you plan on hostel hopping while on your trip, try to pick places that have complimentary breakfasts. Stuff your face every morning, and maybe grab an apple to go. This is one entire meal every single day that you won't need to pay for. If you're gone for even just 10 days, it might save you close to $100.
TIP: As a rule of thumb, I like to contact the hostel/hotel before I book, just to make sure that there will be vegan options available for me. Most places are willing to accommodate specific diets.
If you think getting to Australia is the most costly part of the trip, think again. Mainland travel isn't cheap either. Intercontinental flights will run you a pretty penny. This is why it's important that you choose your travel route wisely. Try to find attractions and activities that are nearby, or pick a route that makes sense, and travel between those points of interest.
If you've decided that you need to travel from Sydney to Uluru, you might need to book a flight. Tiger Airways seems to be the best option if you are looking for a bargain price. Again, the price of the flights themselves will be dependant upon the season that you plan to travel in.
If you want to hop around the continent and travel many places that are far away, Rex Airlines has a backpacker pass for international travellers. These passes can be purchased for a one or two month period, and give you unlimited travel to popular destinations. Make sure you check which destinations are accessible with this pass, and plan your trip accordingly.
In my opinion, one of the best ways to explore this vast country is to go on a road trip! It might be a little intimidating to drive on the left side of the road at first, but trust me, it's so worth it. The amount of freedom a car gives you is liberating, you can stop where ever you want, whenever you want.
Travelling by car is going to save you some money too. We grabbed a car from Wicked Campers, which had a modular bed in the back. This eliminated the cost and worry of booking places to stay each night. If a road trip sounds enticing to you, make sure that you choose your route wisely, use Google Maps to estimate travel times, and make sure you do some budgeting for gas.
If you plan on going with a group of friends, it might be best to grab a camper van and split the cost with them. This will be a little bit more economical, especially when it comes to filling up on gas.
You have another option that may be appealing to you, and that is travelling by bus. You could book multiple greyhound buses from place to place. Check with the Oz Experience which is similar to a Greyhound but offers hop-on-hop-off passes.
The only downfall with plane and bus travel is that they drop you off at a single location and you still need to plan for and find other ways to get from the airport/bus terminal to your hostel. Taxi's are quite pricey if you plan on using them as one of your main sources of transportation. City run buses might be a good option, and are generally quite efficient and cheap. Again this really depends on the type of trip you want to experience, and where you will be exploring.
WHERE TO STAY
The cheaper option for sleeping, besides a Wicked Camper, will be to stay in hostels. Do your research and see what amenities they offer for backpackers. Many hostels offer group day trips at reduced costs, so you may be able to score a cheap place to stay and a cheap cruise or experience at the same time. As stated above, try to choose hostels that offer continental breakfast.
Camping is always an option as well, if you are renting a car you can stay at free rest stops along the major highways and roads, but be warned these 'camping' places don't have the same amenities that a paid campground would have. Staying in a caravan park is fairly cheap, especially if you are splitting the cost with a handful of friends.
BONUS: Caravan parks will give you the opportunity to have a nice hot shower. Plus you can use their public kitchens and barbecues to make yourself a nice hot meal.
AirBnB is becoming increasingly popular throughout the world. This is a great option for a cheap place to sleep. You'll be able to find plenty of options in the bigger cities and even around the countryside for a range of prices. Keep your eyes open for deals on the AirBnB website and you may be able to get some discount nights.
Australia offers a ton of free attractions for people. Plan to check out some beaches, hit up some coastal walks and visit botanical gardens. If you're staying in a hostel, you may get lucky and be able to join in on a walking tour of the area.
You will notice that there are a lot of wildlife sanctuaries, National Parks, and tourist attractions that are relatively cheap to visit. Do your research on specific activities and try to find the best deal before you go.
There is a lot to see and a lot to do while in this country and it can be very overwhelming to try and squeeze in everything on a tight budget. Try to pick one or two tours or paid adventures to embark in while on your journey, and then stick to the free stuff for the remainder of your trip.
Want to read more about Australia travel? Check out this post on the top tips for travelling to Australia!