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If you plan on traveling a trip to Australia, but you’re on a strict budget, then this guide is for you. Although Australia is an expensive country to travel in, it can be done in more affordable ways, you just need to know how.
Although Australia is our home, we also spent 1.5 years road tripping the country, and learned how to travel in Australia on a budget.
If you want to know how much you should set aside for travel expenses, this is a complete guide to cost of travel in Australia, whereas this guide will focus soley on budgeting tips.
Today we hope to help you lower your costs on your trip down under.
- How to Travel Australia on a Budget
- 1. Plan Your Itinerary First
- 2. Think About Getting Around Australia
- How To Save on Accommodation in Australia
- Ways To Save Money On Eating in Australia
- Drinking on a budget in Australia
- How To Save on Activities and Entertainment on a budget in Australia
- Visit the City Parks
- Visit the Beaches in Australia
- Go for Coastal walks in Australia
- Get A National Parks Pass in Australia
- Visit the Markets
- Get Free Entry to Museums & Galleries
- See the Wildlife in Australia on a Road Trip
- Take Free Walking Tours in Australia
- Look Out For Free Festivals & Events
- Look for Low-Cost Tours
- More Australia Budget Tips
- Final Thoughts on How to Visit Australia on a Budget
- Save It On Pinterest
- Tours of Australia
How to Travel Australia on a Budget
Below we have listed our top considerations and tips for traveling Australia on the cheap.
1. Plan Your Itinerary First
Firstly, let’s put Australia into perspective. Before you can plan how to cut costs, you do really need to put your itinerary together first.
If you don’t plan your itinerary and how to get around first, you will find that two weeks in Australia could end up being the same amount you would spend in an entire month.
When you’re putting together your itinerary, remember the actual size of Australia and it’s landscape, which many travelers disregard until they arrive, and end up regretting the choices they made in the planning stage.
Australia is the sixth biggest country in the world and about the same size as mainland USA. So, considering the country is so vast, the problem becomes how to visit Australia and where to visit?
Think about how much time you have and then make a list of your must-see places in Australia and plan accordingly.
If you only have one week and you’re on a budget, it would be best to focus on one or two regions.
If you have three or four weeks, check out our 3-week itinerary for Australia which has detailed tips on where to go and what to see and do.
But, if you have an extended period of time, more than one month, you’ll have more flexibility and strategies you can use. Let’s dive in.
2. Think About Getting Around Australia
The vast majority of your budget is going to be transport and accommodation. How you get around will vastly depend on how much time you have and where you want to go.
Here are some things to consider when planning your transportation on a budget.
How To Fly Around Australia On A Budget
Once you get here, Australia is the land of long distances and for so long we only had two airlines, Qantas and Virgin, so there was a lack of competition and prices were high.
Thankfully, air travel is getting more competitive and cheaper.
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.
When searching for flight deals in Australia we always start with Skyscanner which is a comparison website that searches thousands of flights. Once you find your best deal, you book directly through the airline or agent (no extra fees).
Also, read our in-depth post 21 ways to find cheap flights online for extra tips!
Whilst we’re on the subject of flights, if there are three or more of you traveling to an airport, it will probably be cheaper to share a taxi than the train link.
You can also find cheaper deals 5-6 weeks in advance, or very last minute if you’re lucky.
How To Drive Around Australia On A Budget
Fuel is expensive and the price will vary from state to state and region to region.
In the Northern Territory, which is the most expensive territory for fuel, costs up to $2 per litre for diesel, but you will pay less on the coast.
If you’re driving around Australia long-term, the best way to travel Australia by car on a budget is to fill your car with friends instead and split the costs.
Check Coles and Woolworths supermarket receipts (dockets). If you spend a certain amount, you’ll get fuel discount coupons, which will save you from 4 – 8 cents a litre.
This can add up especially when driving often and long distances.
FUEL SAVING TIPS:
- Remove excess weight from your vehicle to increase your fuel economy.
- Stay in central locations where you can walk to places and don’t have to rely on your car constantly.
- Plan your routes – don’t back track on long drives and avoid congested areas in big cities.
- Use air conditioning sparingly in the summer.
- Maintain your vehicle – get it serviced and check that your tyres are at the right pressure.
- Drive at a steady pace and use the right gears.
Finding Cheap Car Rentals in Australia
DiscoverCars.com is our favorite site for searching rental cars. They compare all the major car rental sites at once to find your best deal.
Just remember, one-way drop offs usually incur a fee so try and plan your flights and trip so that your driving loops back to your original pick-up destination.
Want a campervan? Check out Relocation rentals where you can rent a campervan for as little as $50 a day (remember a campervan is also going to save you on accommodation costs).
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.
Juicy campervans are popular campervans to rent. We’ve been seeing these bright green vehicles all over Australia. If the backpackers are using them in droves they must be good value.
Another popular RV rental company in Australia is Outdoorsy. It’s the largest & most trusted caravan, campervan and motorhome hire marketplace on the planet.
Basically, it’s the Airbnb of the motorhome world! They have a range of motorhomes and campervans from vintage campers to modern trailers. Plus, they come with up to $1M in insurance coverage.
Remember that with a campervan you will need to pay for campsites, which typically cost around $10-$25 per night.
Driving Your Own Vehicle in Australia
If you plan on staying in Australia a while, consider buying a car instead. You could sell it at the end of your trip and reclaim some of your initial outlay.
Consider a camper trailer like ours below or a caravan, especially for long-term family travel in Australia. It’s a big country, so having a home on wheels is a more economical option.
Hot Tip: If you buy a camper trailer or caravan try and resell it in the north or west of the country as you’ll typically get a higher resale price.
Sites for buying cars include:
How to Get Around Australia by Bus on a Budget
Buses are a great way to get around inner cities, as well as from major cities, but they are not ideal for visiting national parks or remote locations that are a huge draw for travelers.
If you plan to stay in the city for a week, look to get daily or weekly bus passes.
It’s not the best way to get around Australia, but we know not everyone is able to drive, so if you need to take a bus do research each Australian city for any free public transportation routes before you visit.
For example, Melbourne and Adelaide have free inner city trams and Sydney has a free CBD shuttle (route 555) which runs every 10 minutes on a loop from Central Station to Circular Quay via Elizabeth and George Streets.
Greyhound Australia is a national bus service. We found their buses comfortable and an easy ride. The girls enjoyed it and were pretty well behaved, although the aircon was crap.
Oz Experience operate like Greyhound with the hop-on-hop-off system and have different passes depending on length of trip and areas covered
Premier also has been highly recommended for bus travel in Australia.
We highly recommend against getting the bus from Sydney to Perth. It’s a long journey with nothing much in between. We met someone who did it and then tried to tell us Australia was really boring. Go figure!
How to Get Around by Train in Australia
Each city will have it’s own public train system with different prices and deals. For example, Opal is the smartcard ticketing system used to pay for travel on public transport in Sydney, the Blue Mountains, Central Coast, the Hunter Valley and the Illawarra. Add value before you travel and tap on and off to pay your fare. Using an Opal card will save you money and they have cheaper rates on weekends.
The trains will generally move you around cities and to neighboring suburbs and districts. Lines and routes are quite extensive in Sydney and Melbourne and you should have no problem getting to where you need to go anywhere in the cities.
Long distance train travel can be expensive, but you can find rail passes covering the train network across Australia that give you great savings. Rail Passes start at $298.
If you’re planning on traveling long distances over a short period of time, then you might want to consider this, but otherwise we don’t recommend using trains as. a means to travel Australia on a budget.
Some great rail journeys in Australia are the Ghan travelling from Adelaide to Darwin, and the Indian Pacific travelling from Sydney to Perth. These are more tourist attractions that a form of transport, and so tickets are very expensive.
Great Southern Rail, which operates the Ghan and the Indian Pacific has a number of special backpacker fares and low-season discounts if you book in advance.
How To Save on Accommodation in Australia
If you can time your visit right by staying mid-week, you can really save on accommodation in Australia. Especially avoid the big cities over a weekend if possible.
We’re stunned by how much the prices for a bed can rise on the weekend – some places triple.
Finding Cheap or Free Camping in Australia
Australia has so many National Parks and many of them you can camp in for free or a small cost. This will involve bush camping.
A night here and there is perfect to help reduce costs. The most popular campsites will have basic amenities – power, toilets, and water.
Caravan Parks are usually clean with fantastic amenities on the beach – the best location in town.
Cost of powered tent sites in caravan parks depend on number of persons and for families they will charge you per child.
Prices start from $35 up to $60 depending on time of season and location. Same goes with powered sites for caravans and camper trailers.
Free Camping is possible at designated camping sites in many locations. They just don’t have the facilities that paid parks have.
We stayed at an awesome free campsite by the river at Gregory Downs in Outback Queensland. Check out ExploreAustralia.net.au for listings.
WikiCamps is a great app, which has a user-generated database of caravan parks and free campsites with user reviews on the features.
Camping is a great way to meet Australians and for families the best and cheapest way to travel around Australia on a budget.
Save Money By Staying in Hostels
Hostels are another cheaper option when it comes to accommodation. 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 cheap hotel for around the same price.
There are some hostels that are great for families and have family rooms, which is ideal for those traveling on a budget.
Booking.com is a great search and comparison site that pulls data from all the main hostel websites to help you find the cheapest price.
We’ve stayed in plenty of YHA hostels as they are usually of a high standard and are better for families. Many have family rooms, if not you can book out an entire 4-6 bed dorm to yourself.
We liked the spacious 6-bed dorm we just had to ourselves at Bungalow Bay YHA on Magnetic Island – it came with its own bathroom. AND koalas!! You can have breakfast with them and cuddle them too.
You can also get YHA memberships which give you a 10% discount on accommodation and any tours they offer. Every little bit helps when you travel to Australia.
For great 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.
Hostels also have common kitchen areas which is great for saving on meal costs!
How To Save On Apartment Rentals
We love apartments or home rentals when we travel as a family. It gives us a lovely break from our camper trailer or hostels.
It’s a great opportunity for us to all have our own space, catch up on work, do the laundry and cook our own meals in a full kitchen. We need to have that bit of home every now and then.
This is the best option for families or two families sharing. It can also work out to be cheaper than hostels if a group of travellers get together and share.
Again, depending on the location and time of year prices will vary. You can find cheaper deals by staying mid-week, which will be your best bet in the major cities. You might want to book hostels or motels for weekends.
Finding Cheap Hotels in Australia
We don’t stay in hotels nearly as much as we used to pre-kids, but below are our favorite search sites we use:
Try House Sitting or House Swapping
The house sitting strategy has not worked for us as our schedules are never planned more than a week in advance, so we have little flexibility to book things in advance.
That being house sitting is a great way to save money on travel when you’re organized and plan ahead.
Competition is also fierce, though, as more people have cottoned on to this trend.
But if you are super flexible and can travel where the house sits are rather than find a house sit to suit your plans, then it can work very well for you.
For house sitting sites check out:
Ways To Save Money On Eating in Australia
It’s tough to get cheap food in Australia. The majority of your meals will have to come from your own culinary skills.
Be sure to leave room in your budget for the odd meal out as we do have beautiful produce and amazing meals can be found. Don’t miss out on our fresh seafood all around the country.
Below are a few tips for getting cheap eats in Australia.
Finding Cheap Supermarkets
Coles and Woolworths are our competing supermarkets whose love for price wars can really benefit you. Cook your own meals and grab supplies for a picnic rather than eating out.
In smaller regional areas, you’ll find IGA or Foodworks. I prefer IGA. I find their prices are cheaper and often have great specials. They also support local produce suppliers.
Tips For Eating out in Australia on a Budget
If you’re going to eat out often, go for breakfast or lunch instead of dinner – prices will be cheaper.
RSL’s, Memorial Clubs, Bowling Clubs and Surf Clubs – Almost every town in Australia will have at least one of these clubs that have relative cheap food and drink.
Shopping Malls – Hit the food courts in any of the shopping malls for lunch. They typically have cheaper meals.
Research restaurants in the area carefully, you might be lucky to find a “children eat free” deal. Some of your accommodation may have coupons. Ask the locals for their picks for eating out.
Check the back of your supermarket receipt. You will often find deals for nearby restaurants such as two for one.
Australia has lots of takeaway places (take out). You’ll find them in every town and are mostly Asian, Italian, Greek, fish and chips, bakeries or chicken shops. You will find meals much cheaper here than if you were to eat in.
Menu Log is a great app for finding takeaway deals. This app tells you what restaurants are nearby and who home delivers. It’s on iPhone and Android. Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese and Malaysian food is often still the best value.
And you cannot go wrong with Chinatown in Sydney and Melbourne. It’s where you’ll find cheaper prices and large servings.
Picnics – still one of the best ways to have an economical meal. Take advantage of the beautiful city parks, beaches and foreshores. Lay out a blanket or towel and source your supplies from the supermarket or farmers market and pick up a cheap bottle of wine from the bottle shop!
Eating in – of course cooking your own meals with supplies sourced from the supermarket or farmers markets will save you money. We make self-contained accommodation with a full-kitchen a priority on our travels.
Drinking on a budget in Australia
Alcohol will KILL your budget in Australia, especially if you get comfortable at a pub or bar.
Don’t be surprised to get charged up to $12 for a pint of beer in Sydney, Melbourne or Perth. A glass of wine can go for $6-$8.
You should definitely visit some of our iconic pubs, and we have some of the best beer gardens in the world, but if you do look for drink specials and happy hours.
Australia doesn’t’ have much of them, mostly due to our binge drinking laws.
You can get a decent bottle of wine for $12- $20 from the bottle shop, or if you are game, the old Aussie favourite, the goon, which is basically cask wine.
You can get 4L for about $14. The goon becomes the best friend of many backpackers to Australia.
Check out the back of your supermarket receipts, they often have a buy two bottles of wine for the price of one coupon.
When buying beer from a bottle shop it’s better value to buy a carton of 24 bottles ($48) than a 6 pack for $15. Often they’ll have specials on beer.
My favourite range of beers in Australia is the James Squire range, not sold everywhere. Carlton Dry is also a good local beer at decent prices!
BYO (Bring Your Own) to Restaurants
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.
Refill Water Bottles
Refill a water bottle at a public bubbler (water fountain) instead of spending $2.50 per bottle of water. Do not drink from any taps marked as ‘bore water’ as it‟s not safe for consumption.
And get yourself a decent bottle you can fill up each morning before leaving your accommodation.
Lay off the soda drinks
Now is the time for you to give up the coke addiction. Again, your best bet is to buy by the box at a supermarket.
Bottom line – drinking is an expense that isn’t very friendly to your Australia on a budget plans. Budget wisely.
How To Save on Activities and Entertainment on a budget in Australia
Lucky for you Australia is an outdoorsy culture with stunning nature, parks, and wildlife.
Visit the City Parks
In the major cities, we have some beautiful and free public parks in amazing locations to go for a walk or have a picnic.
- In Sydney don’t miss the Royal Botanic Gardens, The Domain and Hyde Park.
- In Melbourne don’t miss the Botanical Gardens, Carlton Gardens and Fitzroy Gardens.
- Perth’s Kings Park is lovely with stunning views over the river to the city.
All the major cities will have a nice enough park for you to getaway and enjoy some solitude at no cost.
Visit the Beaches in Australia
Australia is famous for its beaches. Our coastline stretches almost 50,000 kilometres and is linked by over 10,000 beaches. Spending the day at the beach is what us locals love best and a cheap way to spend your day.
Take a day pack with water, food, sunscreen and your towel. Or make use of the free BBQ facilities. Just make sure you have some gold coins or a credit card for the parking meters!
Go for Coastal walks in Australia
With so many beaches and being an island continent Australia has many stunning coastal walks that won’t cost you a cent. Going for a coastal walk is one of our favorite free activities in Australia.
You can stretch your legs for an hour or half a day. All you need again or some snacks, plenty of water and your camera.
We have plenty of walks left to do but some of our faves so far have been:
- Bondi Beach to Coogee Beach coastal walk
- Byron Bay Lighthouse Walk
- 18 short walks we love in Australia
- 4 walks on the Gold Coast
Get A National Parks Pass in Australia
Australia literally has thousands of National Parks, and each one has it’s own entrance fee, so save yourself some money by getting the National Parks Pass. if you plan to visit a few.
Whether you just visit for a day or stay over and go camping our National Parks our a highlight.
Check out our list or 25 National Parks in Australia to set foot in.
Other helpful links:
- NSW National Parks – for pass options click here.
- Queensland National Parks
- South Australia
- Western Australia
- Northern Territory
Visit the Markets
Every major city and regional area has a market. You won’t get the food and souvenir prices you’ll get in Asia but a trip to the markets is still a cost effective way to eat, shop for clothes, and buy some nick knacks.
In Cairns, Rusty’s Market is an icon up there and was a great place to get our fruit and vegetables ad we loved our hometown Burleigh Farmers Markets. The Eumundi Markets on the Sunshine Coast and the Bellingin Markets near Coffs Harbour are two of the best markets in Australia!
Seek out the markets wherever you go to stock up on your food supplies and they’re generally a great pace to visit in their own right.
Get Free Entry to Museums & Galleries
If museums and galleries are your thing, visit the particular website and find out which day or time of day they have free entry. Most museums and galleries have certain periods where entry price is free.
For example in Sydney the Art Gallery of NSW is free to enter and is one of Australia’s leading art museums with collections of Australian, Aboriginal, European, Asian and contemporary art.
Although we do recommend paying $20 to see the M.O.N.A museum in Hobart – amazeballs.
See the Wildlife in Australia on a Road Trip
Entry prices to zoos and wildlife parks can be a bit pricey in Australia. Fortunately if you’re on a road trip there’s a good chance of seeing the Aussie wildlife for free in the wild, and naturally it’s the best place to see them!
- Head down to places like Pebbly Beach on the NSW South Coast where you’ll have kangaroos running wild on the beach. You can also see them on Lucky Bay Esperance in Western Australia and Cape Hillsborough near Mackay in Queensland.
- Carnarvon Gorge in Queensland was the best place to see kangaroos that we discovered on our Australia travels. Here are more places to see kangaroos in the wild.
- Koalas can be spotted on the Great Ocean Road in Victoria and on Magnetic Island in Queensland.
- Wombats and echidnas can easily be spotted in Tasmania and Kangaroo Valley in NSW.
- Fraser Island and Kangaroo Island are two of the best places in Australia to see wildlife.
- And of course, for marine life, don’t miss the Great Barrier Reef and Ningaloo Reef
If you don’t have the time or the means to get out of the city and want to see some Aussie wildlife, Sydney’s Taronga Zoo is world class with probably the best views of any zoo.
Take Free Walking Tours in Australia
The guys from I’m Free Walking Tours offer free guided walks in Sydney and Melbourne twice daily.
The 3-hour easy walking tours will show you the sights and give you your bearings so you can then go it alone.
These walks are a great introduction and the knowledgeable guides work for tips only.
Look Out For Free Festivals & Events
If you can, time your visit to coincide with one of the fantastic festivals or events around the country, many of them for free. It’s a great way to experience some Aussie culture.
One of the best free festivals in Sydney is Vivid Sydney.
Look for Low-Cost Tours
The cost of tours in Australia can be super expensive, so you have to prioritize what tours and attractions you really want to experience.
This could be your once in a lifetime adventure and you don’t want to miss out on your ultimate experiences so put aside some money in your budget for those and sacrifice in other areas of your budget.
Here are some of our favourite tours we recommend putting money aside for (so far!):
- Great Barrier Reef experiences.
- Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb, although you can walk across for free. And make sure you walk around to Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair in the Royal Botanic Gardens for one of the best free views of the bridge and Opera House.
- Port Arthur Historic Site, Tasmania
More Australia Budget Tips
Before you go, here are some other top tips to consider when trying to travel Australia on a budget…
Visit Tourist Information Centres
We always visit the tourist information centres in each city and town we go to.
We like to drop in and get our free maps and chat with the folks behind the counter who can be a great source of local knowledge on how to spend your dollars and time!
Make it a Working Holiday
Consider working in Australia. Although the cost of travel (and living) is high, you can offset that by working in the country on a working holiday visa and saving some dollars for travel.
Agricultural, fruit picking and wine harvesting provides excellent opportunities for you to work in exchange for food an accommodation and often times extra cash.
We’ve seen plenty of signs advertising free accommodation in exchange for a couple of hours work a day in hostels.
To live and work in the country can be a cost effective way to experience Australia over the long-term.
The Easy Way to Work and Travel Australia
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Go To Coffee Shops For Internet in Australia
Not only is internet in Australia stupidly expensive, it is also hugely unreliable and away from the capital cities can be very slow.
It’s a constant struggle for us as we road trip around the country, particularly in the country regions and the Outback.
Our phones are with the Optus network and once we left the east coast, we barely had service.
Try libraries, cafes, hostels and McDonald’s for free wi-fi hot spots to check your email from your smart phone or laptop. If it is free, don’t expect it to work that well. And rarely will it be fast especially in congested areas.
Urban Spoon is a good resource to search cafes and restaurants offering free wireless.
You can buy mobile wifi devices for your own laptop to connect to the internet. You can pay-as-you-go which could be a cheaper alternative then buying internet connection at hotels or hostels.
You can buy a cheap SIM card for your phone from the supermarket or phone store. You can then pay as you go. Even better is to purchase an eSim – if you have an unlocked phone. Our favorite company to recommend for ease and best prices is Airalo. Click here to see rates
Only top up when you visit outside the cities so you can use it in rural areas for navigation, whereas in the city you can connect to WiFi and save your data for when you really need it.
Telstra is the fastest with the best network (which they abuse with high prices). Optus is the next best – they have better customer service than Telstra but Telstra has the better coverage.
Tours of Australia
If you were looking for group tour options in Australia, rather than traveling independent. Our preferred partner Globus has a range of Australian tours. Click links below and be sure to use our exclusive code in the blue box below.
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Final Thoughts on How to Visit Australia on a Budget
Because Australia is fairly isolated from most of the world requiring a long flight, for many people it becomes a once-in-a-lifetime trip.
Our number one budget tip is always “spend more time in fewer places”.
We highly recommend instead of racing from one end of the country to another, which leads to burnout and a bigger required budget, focus on one region or type of vacation.
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.
We’ve created a page with all of our favorite travel booking sites and resources when you’re ready to book your trip to Australia! It will help save you time and money.
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What was your budget for traveling in Australia? Let us know in the comments!