Traveling to Australia on a Tight Budget
Affordability plays a huge role when it comes to choosing a vacation destination in your 20’s, and Australia is notoriously known for being one of the most expensive countries to travel in. Unfortunately, this reputation stops many young travelers from pursuing a vacation here and the option to travel cheap is oftentimes overlooked. It’s true that traveling on a tight budget takes a good dose of effort, but it’s definitely possible if you have the dedication. Here are some tips to get you started:
Research Exchange Rates
Since exchange rates are continuously fluctuating, it’s smart to keep an eye on them a few weeks before you leave and while you’re in Australia. You can get a better rate depending on where you go to change money, so steer clear of exchange bureaus in airports or other touristy areas and try to withdraw cash from ATM’s. Some credit card companies and banks charge fees for foreign transactions, so it’s best to pull out larger sums of money at a time. Also, don’t forget to alert your bank and credit card carrier that you’re vacationing out of the country or your account could get locked!
Buying Plane Tickets
People typically vacation to enjoy beautiful summer weather, and for Australia this busy and expensive travel season starts in December and runs through February. By traveling in the off-seasons like the spring or fall, you’ll get cheaper plane tickets and avoid large crowds of tourists.
When the time finally comes to purchase plane tickets, use a comparison site like Kayak or Skyscanner and always search in an incognito window. Airlines can monitor your search history and hike ticket prices based on your interest in a certain location.
Traveling Around Australia
Australia is comparable to the size of the United States, with a total population that’s only slightly larger than the state of Texas. This means that there are less airports and connecting flights, which makes it important to plan out where you want to go beforehand. If you wish to visit both East and West Australia in a single trip, flying in-country is a necessary, but expensive option. The only way to save money here is to fly with domestic Australian airlines.
If you aren’t venturing across Australia, the cheapest way to travel semi-long distances is to rent a campervan. These will cost around $70AUD a day and double as a place to sleep. Get a group together to split the gas/rental cost and it becomes even more thrifty! However, if you’re accustomed to driving on the right side of the road, be prepared to experience the opposite in Australia. They drive on the left side of the road and the driver’s seat is where you would normally ride as a passenger.
Getting around larger cities like Sydney, Brisbane, and Perth is more affordable since they offer free public transportation. You can also use buses and ferry rides to get a fantastic views of the coast without paying for expensive tours.
Where to Go
Australia is famous for the Great Barrier Reef, its expansive Outback, and the Sydney Opera House, to name a few. While it’s always a great idea see a few of these attractions during your vacation, certain areas like Sydney can be quite expensive due to a large tourism market. Traveling in areas that are not solely influenced by tourism will save you money and expose you to the hidden gems that Australia has to offer!
Melbourne, for example, is about eight hours south of Sydney and offers the perks of a coastal city with a more relaxed vibe. A unique thing to see here are the “laneways” or “arcardeways”, which are small walkable alleyways with everything from small outdoor bars to street food and live music at night. Most of the walls here also host beautiful street art!
Western Australia is another fantastic area to visit on a budget, and you’ll experience Australia to its fullest. You can drive through the Outback and enjoy beautiful coastal cities like Coral Bay and Perth without a major tourist infrastructure. Things are more spread out there, so you’ll have more seclusion and time to relax and enjoy nature.
Regardless of where you end up in Australia, there will always be free fun to have. The only limiting factor is your own creativity. Most museums and art galleries offer free admission, and roaming the city and seeing scenery doesn’t cost anything either. Dedicate one day to do the Sydney Harbour Walk, and you’ll see the city’s famous attractions and breathtaking scenery. Remember, it might be tempting to pay for a guided tour like a snorkeling excursion, but there’s usually always a way to experience the same thing for a fraction of the price.
Food and Drink
As far as affordability goes, the cheapest way to feed yourself in Australia is to buy food at the grocery store and cook when you can. Most basic restaurant meals cost between $15-$20AUD, and ethnic food is a little cheaper with large enough portion sizes for two good-sized meals. Instant Oatmeal and sandwich fixings are great for travelling since they don’t require cookware and are extremely cheap.
When it’s time to get your drink on in Australia, the best thing to get is boxed wine (also known as “goon”). Four liters only costs $15AUD, which is slightly more expensive than just one drink at a bar.
The internet is your best friend when it’s time to find a cheap room for the night. Hostelworld is an excellent site to find affordable hostels, and you can sometimes exchange a few hours of work for a night’s stay. If you’re looking for strictly free lodging, Couchsurfing is a social media platform that connects travelers with locals who offer free rooms for a few nights. Many long-term travelers end up working on organic farms in exchange for their food and accommodation through an organization called WWOOF.
The time to travel is NOW. As you get older, life’s responsibilities continue to grow and there may come a day when you regret not taking that Australian vacation. Now that money isn’t an issue, let the planning begin!
Bree is an aspiring world travel blogger with a passion for exploring transformational music festivals across the Pacific Northwest. She enjoys camping in Idaho’s beautiful mountains and dreams of owning a Bengal adventure cat to accompany her on hikes and mountain trips.