Budget Travel – Australia
Australia surprised us many times while we were on the road during our 5-week long road trip. Mostly, we were surprised by nature, but sometimes by costs of things too! It is not a secret Australia has a bit of a reputation for being not the most budget-friendly place to travel in. Eating and drinking out is expensive here and cost of labour is one of the highest in the world. However, when it comes to budgeting for a country which should be expensive I believe creative thinking and good planning can really help you save money.
Most of the times it’s very simple – the more luxuries you sacrifice, the cheaper the journey will be. And because we want our traveling experience to last oftentimes we have to make a few of these sacrifices. But what do you do if you trim the fat to the point you only have the bare bones (a car to travel in, a tent to sleep in, supermarket food every day, etc.) and you are still over budget? In these sorts of situation you need to focus and really go the extra mile to get what you want.
Staying on Top of Your Budget
We were in such situation when we were planning our Ultimate Road Trip in Australia. We had a tight budget with which we wanted to see the whole east coast and when we started looking into costs of things we quickly realized it will be tough to not go over. As an example, the first website I checked for car rentals quoted somewhere in the region of 1700 A$ for a small car for five weeks. We ended up paying 800 A$ in total, but because we found another two people to travel with we ended up only forking out 400 A$. That’s more than Four Times cheaper than my first quote!!!
And here is another one. We could not afford hotels/motels at 80 A$ per night so we budgeted for staying in campsites at around 10 A$ per night per person. We had to buy a tent, a mattress and a few other things but because it was summer in Australia this we considered acceptable. We ended up staying in free campsites most of the time which meant we paid barely anything for accommodation. I can’t tell you the exact amount but it was under $300 for two of us for 5 weeks.
This should be enough evidence to convince those who think Australia is out of their reach to reconsider. If it isn’t let me know and I will give you more examples and tips! Anyways, let’s jump into Money Matters for Australia.
Australia is one of the most developed countries in the world with excellent infrastructure so paying for things is not a problem here. Had we not stayed in remote paid campsites we probably could have survived without cash altogether.
Unsurprisingly, there are plenty of ATMs in every town and city and even if you do decide you need cash it won’t be problematic to get some. Although we have been able to use our Revolut card for the majority of payments, not all of the transactions where PIN was required were going through. For this reason, I would probably recommend having at least one card which offers free foreign currency transactions.
Also, keep in mind ATMs will charge foreign cards a couple of dollars in addition to your non-local currency withdrawal fee charged by the bank.
At the time of writing the 1 Australian dollar (A$) is worth £0.55.
Food and Drink
Eating out will be notoriously expensive in Australia, especially if you like a wine or a beer with your meal too. While I would not expect people to not eat out ever while traveling, saving fancy dinners for a more budget friendly destination might be the way to go. This is how much food and beverages cost.
Beer in a bar – 6-10 A$
Coffee – 4-6 A$
Meal at a budget place – 15-20 A$
Water bottle – 1-2 A$
Beer bottle – 4-5 A$
Nectarines, apples – 4-6 A$/kg
Bananas – 3-4 A$/kg
Cost of an average meal – 8-10 A$
Note: Between four of us we saved several hundred dollars by not buying bottled water. Instead we bough two large 10L tanks and kept topping them up in water refill stations which are widely available in towns and cities. It’s good not only for your budget but for the environment too!
Unlike many other places in the world, space is something that Australia has a lot of. For this reason, getting to places without a car is extremely difficult. If you don’t like spending a lot of time on the road, flying will be your only alternative.
I found it interesting that concepts of what is ‘far’ and what is ‘close’ are slightly different than in Europe. A few hundred kilometres in Australia is considered close.
Car hire – 20-50 A$ (rate per day)
Fuel – 1.1-1.4 A$ (per litre, depending on state)
Camper van hire – 50-100$ (rate per day)
Note: Jucy and WickedCampers are the most popular options in east Australia, but always check other rental companies online for best rates.
Internal flights are not that expensive when you factor in costs of car hire, 3rd party insurance and fuel costs into the equation. We’ve kept an eye on skyscanner throughout the journey and noticed most of the flights stick to the 70-150 $A range.
As per my blog post about Moreton Island, some places might only be accessible via a private boat tour. Depending on the package you opt for expect these to be somewhere between 100-200 A$ for a one-day tour.
Unless you are absolutely stacked you will have to do a bit of thinking to prevent your budget from flying into the sky like a balloon. Below are the most popular choices. All prices are per night.
Hotel Room – 100 A$ to several hundred A$ per double room.
Motel Room – 70-120 A$ (double room)
Hostel Bed – 40-60 A$
Paid campsite with facilities – 10-20 A$ (per person)
Freedom camping (tent) – Free
Sleeping in a campervan – Free in free campsites, 10-20 A$ per person in paid campsites
There is plenty to see and do in Australia and the good thing is that most of the touristy locations in Australia and free. You won’t be expected to pay to enter and hike in a national park or swim in the waterfall pools.
However, due to very high minimum hourly wage, any activities where you need a guide, instructor, etc. will cost quite a bit. For example:
A Snorkelling and Diving the Great Barrier Reef – 250-350 A$ (depending on package, one day)
Visit Whitsunday Islands (Whitehaven Beach) – 150-250 A$ (one day, depending on package)
Visit Moreton Island (Tangalooma Wrecks) – 90-150 A$ (one day, depending on package)
Australia is expensive for those who want to enjoy all that this country has to offer. I think it is important to really think about your priorities before traveling if you have a limited budget. The obvious opportunities are going to be reducing the frequency of eating out and sleeping in nature more than in hotels. However, not everybody might be comfortable with that. The only solution then is to save more!
As it is usual for the budget travel posts to have an example budget, this post is no exception. Below is an example travel budget for a two-week trip for one person from the UK.
Return Flights – £650
Accommodation – £500 (assuming 70 A$ per night which is somewhere between a motel room and a bed at a hostel)
Food – £550 (assuming 40 A$ per day which is a mix of eating out and supermarket food)
Transport – £350 (assuming a daily car rental rate of 30 A$ + 4 full tanks of petrol which would be enough for 2000km+)
Sightseeing and Entertainment – £300 (approximate for tours, attractions, nights out, etc.)
Total – £2350 or around £170 per day all included.
Visa (if applicable) and Insurance (definitely recommended) were not included into this calculation.
Feb 2019 Update.
Note: This is not a budget for the typical backpacker or budget traveller. To maintain consistency with my other posts I have got generous alowances for the usual items such as accomodation and transportation. Many smart budget travellers will try to combine the two by opting for hiring a camper van or sleeping in tents. To put this into perspective the number I’ve got above (£2350) is how much Kristina and I (two people!) spent in 6 weeks.