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Saving on accommodation in Australia is no easy task, unless you know what to do and where to look.
During our 18 month road trip around Australia, we were constantly on the look out for ways to save money on accommodation because Australia is an expensive country to travel, though one worth exploring!
If you’re thinking you’d like to find cheap accommodation in Australia and stick to a modest budget, then in this guide I’ve listed some of my top tips for finding budget places to stay in Australia.
Tips for Saving Money on Accommodation in Australia
There are many ways you can save on travel costs, but at the end of the day, accommodation. is going to be your number one expense.
1. Stay Mid-Week
If you can time your visit right by staying mid-week, you can really save some cash. Especially avoid the big cities over a weekend if possible.
We’re stunned by how much the prices for a comfortable bed can rise on the weekend – some places triple.
Because we’re on an indefinite road trip around Oz, we constantly see the fluctuations in prices from mid-week to weekends.
We stayed in a cabin in Port Campbell on the Great Ocean Road mid-week and grabbed this deal – pay for 3 nights, stay for 4.
And we’ve seen better prices mid-week for all accommodation types from hotels to apartments to caravan parks.
If you have to visit a city over a weekend see tip number 8 for our best online booking sites, or consider staying in a backpacker hostel.
We stay in family rooms at YHA Hostels. If you have a group of 4 consider staying in a 4-bed dorm to cut down your expense.
2. Negotiate for a Better Deal
One of our favourite ways to save on anything! There’s nothing wrong with a little conversation to help you get a better deal.
Competition is pretty fierce in the travel industry as people are finding smarter ways to travel for cheaper and longer. Put your smiley face on and either call the property in advance, or speak in person once you arrive. They can only say no right?!
Here are a few ways to ask for a cheaper or better deal:
- Is that the best price you have at the moment?
- What if we stay longer?
- Are you able to waive the fee for children? (Many of the campsites in Australia charge per child. We’ve negotiated it off several times)
- Does breakfast come with that? Are you able to include it?
- Is there any chance for an upgrade?
- I did notice XYZ property down the road is advertising $X can you match that? I’d much prefer to stay here, but I have to keep to my budget.
You might even negotiate a better deal by giving up some of their services.
We once had an entire night for free in Wilsons Promontory National Park as there was a mix up with another booking and our cabin had not been cleaned.
We told them not to worry, we’d clean it ourselves (we were desperate to stay here and there were no other options AND it was pretty clean).
3. Rent an Apartment or Home
Another one of our favourite strategies, particularly for families or small groups, is to look for vacation rentals.
Apartments, or home rentals, are a great way to save on accommodation costs. They are usually cheaper and more practical than a hotel, or even a caravan park cabin. And sometimes even cheaper than a private room in a hostel.
Traveling with other family members or another couple? Why not get an apartment big enough and share the cost.
Craig’s parents visited us during our trip in Tasmania and several times we rented either an apartment, or a cabin with 3 bedrooms. Sharing the apartment really reduced our per-night rates.
We prefer to use Booking.com to look for apartments. They are not just about hotels, they have a large inventory of apartments around the world and there are no hidden fees, service fees, or cleaning fees like you get with Airbnb. WE also use VRBO before using Airbnb.
You can also book directly with holiday apartments – just do a Google search in the area you are visiting beforehand.
4. Go Camping
One would think camping is a cheap option in Australia – the answer is yes and no (just don’t compare it to other countries).
The average price for camping is about $35 per night, but this can rise to as high as $80 depending on where and when you camp, how many people per site, and if you want a powered or un-powered site.
Camping in holiday parks is also going to considerably up the price as they come with facilities in the public areas such as an indoor pool or outdoor swimming pool and free wifi.
For families, they will charge you per child, and we have even been charged $12 per night for Savannah when she was 2 years old – which got up my goat and was able to negotiate away!
Again, staying mid-week versus weekends will save you, as will avoiding major holiday periods.
We look for the right deals and we use our negotiation tactics to at least remove the fees for the kids. One good thing about now having a camper trailer (see tip number 7) is we are self-sufficient so can utilize the many free camping sites in Australia.
Camping websites Australia:
- ExploreAustralia.net.au – discover free camping in National parks
- Big4 Caravan Parks – sign up for their membership to get better rates
- Top Tourist Caravan Parks – sign up for their membership to get better rates)
- Look at the State Tourism Board websites
- Google search the National Parks sites for each state.
We haven’t used the housesitting strategy yet via an official membership site, although we did sign up for a few at the start of our trip.
To be honest, we’ve found these a little frustrating and expensive, and the competition and flexibility required difficult to land a house-sitting job. Many of the house-sits were in outer areas, and we didn’t want to visit these locations for the sake of house-siting.
You also need time to organize it, or be super flexible to move on a whim. With kids and an online travel business, and a country the size of Australia, it’s too difficult for us to commit to apply for that awesome house-sitting job in Perth in 4 months, or last minute.
In saying that, if you are very flexible on your locations, are retired or semi-retired, work a digital business, or are on a working holiday I totally get the value this can provide.
Relationships can really pay off and we hope to return the favour one day!
We have not used the official Couchsurfing website where you can stay in a stranger’s home (which we’ve been told by others is a great way to travel like a local), but we have been fortunate to be able to stay at several friend’s homes in various states.
And we don’t usually end up on their couch either, but a spare room which is always appreciated.
The bonus of this is you get to have a night of great conversation with friends and re-connect with people you may not have seen for a while.
7. Buy a Camper Trailer (or Caravan)
Although the initial investment is large, over time it drastically reduces our per-night cost of our accommodation. Plus, it has a kitchen which reduces our eating out expenses.
We purchased a brand that has a high re-sale value, so if we desire at the end of our trip we can sell it and recoup the majority, if not more of our purchase price.
Apparently, if you sell up in North Queensland, or over in Western Australia you can actually make money or at least get most back (most of the inventory is down south so people are willing to pay more up north).
Also, we have solar panels on top of our camper so we can free camp in National Parks – and there are many beautiful spots in Australia for this. We can also stay in un-powered sites in caravan parks instead of powered which again reduces our per-night cost.
For free and cheap camping options purchase the orange covered Camping Around Australia book found in all camping and book stores.
Or visit their website ExploreAustralia.net.au
If you are on an extended trip around Australia, or on a working holiday in Australia, buying or renting a vehicle that you can sleep in, then re-sell at the end of your trip is a great way to reduce your accommodations expenses + give you unparallelled freedom to explore!
What if you just want to rent a campervan / motorhome? Some rental sites for booking include:
8. Choose the Best Hotel Booking Sites
When we need to stay in a hotel in the city, or a hotel anywhere for that matter, we have a few favourite booking sites we use to find the best deal.
And once we have found our best deal using the sites below, we also call the particular hotel directly as sometimes you can get a better price by going direct.
Our favourite booking sites:
- Booking.com – thousands of properties, easy to search.
- Trip Advisor – millions of reviews, easy to navigate.
There are other booking sites out there, but many of them come with additional fees and taxes when it comes to paying for a place at the check out.
Booking.com doesn’t have this which is why we always choose them when we look for places ourselves.
9. Look for Partnerships: Exchange Accommodation for Exposure
Even before we had these official partnerships we always stayed at YHA Hostels and at Mantra because they offer great value.
YHA hostels are the best for families in Australia and we trust them and have not had a bad experience yet. And we adore Mantra properties – they are our favourite chain in Australia.
You don’t need to have a travel blog to find partnership opportunities, nor do you need a sizeable social media following.
Because we live in the days of influencers and Instagrammers, many accommodations will offer discounts to anyone who shares a review or post on their social media.
You could have 500 followers, and still be offered 10% off in some places – just look out for these offers online when looking up accommodation choices.
10. Look for work aways or work exchanges
Just because you don’t have a travel blog, or work in the industry, does not mean you cannot get free accommodation or cheap accommodation in Australia by exchanging skillsets.
I’ve seen plenty of signs in the YHA’s advertising for accommodation in exchange for work. There are also companies such as WorkAway, WOOFING and HelpX where you can find opportunities to work in a hostel or hotel in exchange for free accommodation.
There are also Facebook groups where you can find work away jobs in particular countries and cities.
I also received free accommodation for 6 months in Bangkok as a benefit to my teaching overseas job. Teaching in exchange for accommodation is not common in Australia, but you can opportunities that require other skills such as maintenance, decorating, or even farming.
11. Save your budget for the big cities
We set a daily budget for our Australia trip, but Melbourne blew that budget out of the water!
The price for accommodation in major cities such as Melbourne and Sydney is vastly more expensive than the small towns, and there is no escaping it.
You may want to look for more budget accommodations elsewhere so you can put more of your budget into accommodation in these cities, to try and offset the costs.
Other than that splurge in Melbourne, we’ve been able to keep under budget.
Top tip! Look for the Ibis budget hotels in major cities. These are affordable hotels designed for the modest budget traveler, but with a reputable well-known global brand. They don’t often get the best reviews online because they really are budget, meaning they lack some basic amenities, but they are a good option for those looking for a cheap place to stay for one or two nights.
12. Travel in the off season
If you can, time your visit outside of peak season when prices are typically lower. The peak season in Australia is the summer, which runs from December – February.
Many international travelers like to visit Australia in the Spring, which is from May until June. This is also when Australia sees its whale season, and attracts a lot of wildlife enthusiasts.
If you want to time your visit for the off season, travel between July and August, when Australia has its winter.
You will find cheaper prices, and if you stay on the East Coast, you will still find it has beautiful weather.
13. Forgo luxury amenities
If you really want to find cheap accommodation in Australia, you may have to forgo some luxuries and homey comforts.
Don’t worry, even the most budget accommodation will have free wi-fi and clean showers and toilets.
But the more affordable accommodation options will lack amenities that cost them more. These are things like 24-hour front desk, which increases the room rate as they need to pay for someone to spend all night in reception.
Concierge service, saunas and spas, luggage storage, laundry facilities and swimming pools are all luxury amenities that you may find increases the room rate.
14. Stay out of the center and drive in
Staying close to tourist attractions can bump up the room rate. You will find cheaper deals if you stay a few km outside the CBD and drive in or take a bus to attractions.
Final Thoughts on Saving on Accommodation in Australia
So there you have it, those are our top tips for finding cheap accommodation in Austrailia.
There are so many clever ways you can save on accommodation, but my last big tip for you is to book in advance.
Gone are the days when you could simply rock up and knock on a hotel door and ask for a room.
Nowadays, if you don’t book in advance, you will find the nice affordable options have been booked up and you’re left with either the high end luxury places or the really bad places.
The further you book in advance, the more choice you have to choose from and the more likely you are to finding a good deal.
Australia Travel Tips
Need more tips for Australia? Check out these posts:
- The Cost of Travel in Australia
- How to Travel Australia on a Budget
- How to Visit Australia on a 2 Week Vacation
- How to visit Australia in 3 weeks