Wondering how to travel Australia on a budget? Here is all the knowledge I’ve gained after living here for about four years!
One of the most common stereotypes about Australia is that it’s super expensive.
At least that was one of the only things I had heard about Australia before coming here.
After four years of living here, I’ve realized that it can be expensive, but not nearly as much as I thought it would be!
Living here is actually super affordable (see my full post on living costs here).
Traveling here as a visitor is definitely pricier than many countries in the world, such as Cambodia or Guatemala.
But it is possible to travel Australia on a budget!
In this Australia budget travel guide, I’ll cover everything you need to know to explore Australia cheaply.
I’ll cover where to go, flights, transport, accommodation, food, drinks, activities, and more.
Keep in mind, Australia is huge. I recommend exploring fewer areas of the country more in-depth than hopping around this massive country in a rush to see everything.
Get ready to explore Australia!
How To Travel Australia On A Budget
I will begin this Australia budget travel guide by discussing the basic logistics.
Before you even look into transport or accommodation, you have to decide where and when you want to visit Australia.
You also have to look into visas, as every visitor needs a visa. I also recommend considering travel insurance.
Visas for Australia
Everyone entering Australia needs a visa.
The easiest visa to get is the visitor visa (subclass 600). You can apply outside Australia and it costs a minimum of $150 AUD.
You can get approved for stays of 3, 6, or 12 months. Also, you have to prove you have enough money to fund your trip and get yourself back home.
Easily apply for your visitor visa online through ImmiAccount. The Australian immigration website has all the details you should need!
If you’re interested in staying in Australia for a year and working, you can apply for a Working Holiday Visa.
See my detailed guide to the Working Holiday Visa for more info!
Budget Travel Insurance for Australia
Travel insurance is always a hot topic for budget travelers. Do you need it? Or is it a waste of money?
I wrote a very detailed article about this called Budget Traveler’s Guide to Travel Insurance.
But for the sake of this article about how to travel Australia on a budget, I would say getting travel insurance depends on your trip.
Because Australia does have lots of poisonous animals and adventure activities that could cause injury, I would say YES, get travel insurance for Australia.
Especially if you’ll be road tripping, surfing, hiking, or heading to remote areas, travel insurance for Australia could save you lots of money if something happens.
As an American, I always use Squaremouth Insurance for finding affordable plans. But they don’t cover every nationality, so just do some research to find the right plan for you.
Where To Go In Australia / When To Visit Australia
I’ll give a quick summary of Australia’s geography so you have an idea of where and when to visit. Each state is different, and each region of the country is unique.
Visiting Australia at the right time is a key factor when considering how to travel Australia on a budget.
Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria
These are the three most visited and most touristy states. All are located on Australia’s east coast.
If you want to travel Australia on a budget, you’ll have an easier time of doing that in these three states.
Roads and infrastructure are more developed here so it’s easier to get around. There are so many accommodation options as well.
Sydney (NSW), Brisbane (QLD) and Melbourne (VIC) are three of Australia’s biggest and most famous cities.
There are frequent and sometimes affordable international flights in and out of these airports, particularly Sydney Airport.
Read next: 22 Fun Things To Do In Brisbane
Northern Territory, Western Australia, South Australia, and Tasmania
These states are where you’ll find the most dramatic scenery, thriving wildlife, and untouched Indigenous culture.
They are much more rugged and remote than the east coast.
However, because these areas of Australia are less touristy and crowded, it is harder to travel around and it is more expensive.
Public transport is not nearly as common here, so sometimes renting a car to travel is your only option.
There are also fewer accommodation options, so there is less competition and prices tend to be higher.
Transport and accommodation are more plentiful in the cities such as Darwin (NT), Perth (WA), Adelaide (SA), and Hobart (TAS). So if you are on a tighter budget and can’t afford to venture out into the wild, you may want to stick to the cities.
When to Visit Australia
As for when to visit Australia, that really depends on which region you are visiting.
The North of Australia is tropical and has super hot and rainy summers. So it’s better to visit the north in winter (June – August)
The South of Australia has a cooler, more temperate climate. You’ll have warmer weather here if you visit in the summer (December – February).
Summer also means flight prices are much higher.
Generally speaking, the shoulder seasons of autumn (March – May) or spring (September – November) are safe times to visit anywhere.
I wrote a super detailed article about the best time to visit Australia if you want a more in-depth analysis!
How To Travel Australia On A Budget: Flights, Transport, and Accommodation
Transport to and around Australia is often the most confusing and most expensive part of any Australia budget travel guide.
Australia is a massive country that is pretty isolated from the rest of the world.
You will most likely have to travel far to get here, and you may have to travel a lot to see all the best parts of the country.
But it can be done! Let’s talk about how.
Getting To Australia
Flights into Australia can be long. They can also be expensive. But the travel and money is worth it to experience this amazing country!
Most international flights will fly into Sydney International Airport.
Melbourne, Brisbane, and Perth are also big travel hubs, but Sydney is definitley the biggest. You’ll find the most flight options into Sydney.
Depending on how far you have to travel, flights to Sydney can be pricey.
For example, I’m from Boston, MA in the USA. Traveling to Sydney takes about 20 hours of flying and costs around $700-1000 USD one way.
But there are a few ways you can find cheap flights to Australia:
- Fly off-season. Summer months are peak travel season (Dec-Feb), so traveling to Australia outside these times will most likely mean cheaper flights.
- Use Skyscanner to pick the cheapest day of the month to travel. Read my in-depth guide to finding the cheapest flights abroad here!
- Browse for the cheapest airlines. Constantly search for flights and compare different airlines. Hawaiian Airlines is my go-to for flying from Sydney to Boston – they often have one way flights for under $700 USD!
If you follow these tips, you should be able to find decently prices flights to Australia!
Transport Within Australia
Once you arrive, you have a few options for getting around Australia on a budget.
For traveling longer distances in Australia, domestic flights are often the best option. You can usually find one-way flights for under $100 AUD.
Flights will also cut your travel time by a lot. For example, driving from Sydney to Melbourne can take 12 or more hours. Flying from Sydney to Melbourne takes one hour.
So if you’re short on time and you want to see a few different areas of Australia, domestic flights are the way to go.
Check these local budget airlines for basic, low-cost flights:
- Tiger Airways
- Virgin Australia
Renting a Car
From the natural beauty, to the wildlife, to the charming country towns, road tripping is a great way to see the real Australia.
Traveling Australia by car does take more time since the country is so big and attractions are spread out.
But if you have a few weeks or more, renting a car gives you so much flexibility to explore. If you’re heading to rural areas, public transport may not be as common so renting a car is ideal.
The cost of renting a car varies depending on where you are traveling to and from, and for how long.
Renting a car in Australia often costs $50 – $80 AUD per day. Add costs of fuel and insurance on top of that.
I don’t have a favorite car rental company in Australia as they are all similar and reliable. Just shop around a bit online to find the best company for you.
If you plan to road trip for three weeks or longer, it may be cheaper to just buy a used car and then sell it before you leave. Carsales.com.au is the biggest website for buying and selling cars here.
One of the cheapest ways to travel long distances in Australia is by bus.
If you don’t want to rent a car, there are decently prices between cities on the east coast. Because the west coast is more remote, there few bus journeys that do exist are pretty expensive.
Greyhound Australia is one of the most popular bus companies.
For example, with Greyhound you can travel from Sydney to Melbourne for around $150 AUD.
There are a few long-distance train journeys that travel between major destinations in Australia.
Journey Beyond Rail is the main company that offers train travel. It is a spectacular way to see the countryside, especially the remote Outback.
However, this is really expensive. For example, the iconic Ghan Expedition from Darwin to Adelaide costs a few thousand dollars.
So this isn’t really for budget travelers, but it is supposed to be epic so I just wanted to mention it.
Local trains are often the best way to travel to and from major cities and other nearby areas.
So if you’re staying in a city and want to take day trips, the regional trains are great options.
For example, Sydney’s train network reaches all the way down to Wollongong and Kiama on the South Coast, as well as the Blue Mountains in the west or Newcastle on the Central Coast.
Inner City Travel: Trains, Buses, Light Rails, and Metros
Within big cities like Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane, there is lots of cheap public transport available.
Whether it be the public bus, metro, tram, light rail, train, or ferry, there are plenty of ways to get around.
Usually you just have to get a travel card (such as an Opal Card in Sydney). Just tap it on and off the various types of public transport when you board.
Most journeys only cost a few dollars. Public transport is so much cheaper than taxis or ride share apps like Uber.
Another option to consider for traveling Australia on a budget is sharing a car with other travelers.
Because Australia is so huge, and the country has a huge backpacker community, there are often people looking to share rides.
Share Your Ride and Co Seats are two websites where travelers can post about their upcoming journeys and find others to share the costs of travel with!
Alternatively, just enquire at your hostel and you are sure to find other travelers to share a car with.
Or you can check the many Australia Backpackers groups on Facebook. People are always posting about road trips on there!
Australia Backpackers 2022, Australian Backpackers, and even Backpacker Jobs in Australia are all great resources.
Australia On A Budget: Accommodation
There is lots of accommodation to choose from in Australia!
For this Australia budget travel guide, I’ll mainly be focusing on the cheapest forms of accommodation.
Nice hotels, Airbnbs, eco-lodges, and guesthouses are plentiful around the country. You can find the best options by browsing online.
But for traveling Australia on a budget, the cheapest forms of accommodation are hostels, work exchanges, and camping.
Hostels in Australia
Hostels are a budget traveler’s best friend! You can stay in a shared dorm for the fraction of the price of a hotel room.
Hostelworld is the best website for finding hostels abroad.
The website has over 200 hostels in Australia, spread across 55 different cities and towns.
A bed in a hostel dorm room costs $30 AUD per night on average.
This is much more expensive than other countries in the world, but it’s still so much cheaper than a hotel.
Work Exchanges in Australia
Work exchanges are my favorite way to travel on a budget.
You can work around 20 hours a week in exchange for free accommodation.
This saves you so much money, which is super helpful in an expensive country like Australia.
You also get to have interesting cultural experiences. Living and working with locals is a great way to learn about the local lifestyle, and you’ll probably meet other cool travelers.
Worldpackers and Workaway are my two favorite websites for finding work exchanges.
Use code GABBY to save $10 USD on your Worldpackers membership!
Camping in Australia
Australia is a country that really values nature, so there are amazing campgrounds all over the country.
Because you need a lot of gear for camping, it’s only a cheap form of accommodation if you are also renting a car.
If you’re just hopping around and catching flights and public transport, it would be expensive and a hassle to buy a bunch of camping equipment.
But if you’re road tripping Australia in a car or campervan, take advantage of the country’s stunning campgrounds.
You can just drive up and spend the night in a beautiful spot in nature.
Some campgrounds are free. In touristy areas, campgrounds can cost anywhere between $10 and $50 AUD per night. If you’re traveling with a partner, you can split the costs and it’s still cheap.
Findacamp.com.au is handy for finding campsites. Otherwise just do a google search for campgrounds in the spot you want to visit.
How To Travel Australia On A Budget: Food, Drinks, and Activities
Once you’ve sorted where to stay and how to get around, you’ll have to eat and drink and plan some activities!
Here are some tips on how to eat, drink, and enjoy Australia cheaply.
Eating in Australia on a Budget
One of the easiest ways to blow all your money in Australia is eating out.
Restaurants can be expensive, so try to limit your fancy dinners if you’re trying to travel Australia on a budget.
Average food costs when dining out:
- Coffee: $4.50
- Smoothie: $8
- Breakfast meal: $15-$20
- A quick take away sandwich or bacon/egg roll: $10-$15
- A nice, seated lunch main course: $20-$30
- Main course at dinner such as steak or fish: $30 or more
Save money by buying groceries and cooking at home!
Cooking your own food is an amazing way to save money in Australia.
Stay in a hostel with a kitchen, or do a work exchange that includes a meal or two.
Buy your groceries at the local grocery store or market.
Coles and IGA are more expensive grocery stores, Woolworths is standard, and Aldi is cheap.
If you’re staying in Australia for a while, it’s worth getting a rewards card for the grocery stores you use most. It’s free to sign up and you often get discounts.
Also check for local farmers markets for cheap, in-season produce. You’ll support local farmers and get better quality food for cheap prices.
Read next: 12 Best Australian Foods To Try
Drinking in Australia on a Budget
Alcohol in Australia is so expensive! This is another way to burn through your Australia travel budget too quickly.
Drinking out at bars or restaurants is so much fun, but costly.
I would avoid drinking alcohol as much as possible to save money in Australia.
But if you do love to drink, drink at home. Otherwise, look for local happy hours or promos. Many restaurants and bars, especially in cities, do cocktail specials or happy hours with discounted drinks.
Average alcohol costs in Australia:
- A beer in a bar or restaurant: $9
- Glass of wine in a bar or restaurant: $11
- Bottle of wine in a restaurant: $40-$60
- Cocktail in a bar or restaurant: $15-$20
- Case of 24 beers in a bottle shop: $50
- Decent bottle of wine in a bottle shop: $25
- Cheap boxed wine in a bottle shop: $15
- 1 Litre bottle of hard liquor in a bottle shop: $60
So if you can buy most of your alcohol at the bottle shop, or stick to local happy hours, you can save money on drinking in Australia.
Activities in Australia on a Budget
Now that you know all the logistics about how to travel Australia on a budget, it’s time to discuss the fun part. All the activities and attractions!
There are so many incredible things to do around Australia. This huge country could keep you occupied for years! (I’ve lived here for four years and my bucket list keeps growing and growing!)
Here are some of the top things to do in Australia:
- Explore the cities (Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Cairns, Adelaide, Perth, Darwin, etc.)
- Sail through the Whitsunday Islands
- Explore the Daintree Rainforest
- Swim with whale sharks in Ningaloo Reef
- See the sunrise over Uluru (Ayers Rock)
- Road Trip (along the east coast or west coast are popular routes)
- Surf in Noosa
- Explore Kakadu National Park
- Drive a 4WD on the sand dunes of K’gari (Fraser Island)
- Visit Tasmania
- Ride a camel on the beach in Broome
- Take Day Trips to Islands like Rottnest Island, Kangaroo Island, or Stradbroke Island
- Drive the Great Ocean Road
- Visit Wine Country (Margaret River, Hunter Valley, and Barossa Valley are the top spots)
- Snorkel in the Great Barrier Reef
All of these attractions are super spread out, so it would be impossible to get to them all in just a short visit to Australia.
So here are my top tips for planning activities in Australia on a budget:
☼ Focus on smaller areas depending on your time frame.
You’ll spend a lot of money by constantly hopping around to see everything. Instead, pick one or two major cities that appeal to you and thoroughly explore the attractions in those areas.
☼ Prioritize free attractions!
There are lots of free things to do in Australia! Most national parks and beaches are free, so you can hike, camp, swim, and explore nature for very little money.
☼ Research tours and tour prices.
There are amazing tour options available for most activities in Australia. Sometimes, it is much cheaper to do the activities on your own without a tour.
But some places in Australia are super remote, and it is either impossible or just much easier to go with a tour company. Just do some research for the activities you want to try and assess whether you can go with or without a tour.
☼ Compare tour companies.
I often use platforms like Get Your Guide for booking tours abroad. They have some awesome and cheap tour options. But I always recommend comparing online tours with tours companies in real life when you arrive.
Sometimes there is a huge different in price and quality! For example, Sailing Whitsundays in Airlie Beach has the best and most affordable tours in the Whitsundays, and they aren’t on Get Your Guide.
Thanks for reading my guide to traveling Australia on a budget!
I hope it has been helpful, and I hope you’re now inspired to travel to Australia!
Here are some of my other articles about Australia:
Best Time To Visit Australia: A Complete Guide
22 Fun Things To Do In Brisbane
Sydney to Melbourne Road Trip Guide
Australia Working Holiday Visa: Ultimate Guide
One Week In Sydney: Itinerary For The Outdoorsy Traveler
Farm Work in Australia: What It Is Really Like
Pros and Cons of Living in Australia
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