So you’ve finally made the executive decision to travel to the great land down under. G’day. You’ve probably seen the headlines that Australia’s cost of living is one of the highest in the world, and getting here from what I presume is halfway around the world is no cheap feat. Don’t panic! Yes, the cost of living in Australia is high but luckily you’re just visiting (but I know you’ll want to stay after visiting!). Australia is a backpacking haven, and solo travel in Australia doesn’t have to be as expensive or as difficult as you think. There are plenty of things to see, places to stay fun things to do even if you are on a tight backpacker budget!
Solo travel in Australia – Finding flights
If the prices are similar to what I pay when I fly overseas from Sydney, I can only imagine prices flying from places like the US, Europe, to Sydney can cost up to $2,200AUD return. The initial flight to Australia is no doubt going to be leaving the biggest dent in your budget.
Your best best is to jump on the Skyscanner app and try to find the cheapest dates to fly from your home city to Sydney. As you can see below, you can get return flights from London to Brisbane for as cheap as €550 return if you have total flexibility.
As far as tips I have for booking the cheapest flights possible, I would recommend booking as far in advance as you can, giving a leeway of at least 6 month before your travel date. This sounds like a no brainer but don’t just look at one airline or travel site. I would recommend using comparable travel booking sites, and looking across multiple sites.
Additionally, if you find yourself flying from Asia, there are a few budget airlines like Scoot, Jetstar, and AirAsia that offer cheap-as-chips flights to Australia. You can also often find yourself saving around $100 by flying in on weekdays as opposed to weekends. If you’re not a fan of summer and love the cold, consider travelling between May and August during Australia’s off season, which happens to be our winter.
Solo travel in Australia – Where to Stay
The obvious choice for budget traveller accommodation is hostels. Australia is a backpacking haven, and because of this there are hundreds of choices, no matter how big or small the city you’re visiting it. Be it Sydney, Melbourne or beautiful Byron Bay, there are great hostels to be found wherever you arrive. Like flights, accommodation prices also increase during the weekends, sometimes up to double or triple the weeknight rate in the bigger cities. Don’t worry about missing out on the nightlife by visiting on weeknights, you’ll always find something to do, especially if you’re staying in hostels! Mad Monkey, a top chain of hostels in Asia, even has a hostel in Sydney now worth checking out. Or you can check out this list of funkiest hostels across Australia.
Another fantastic alternative option for accommodation is camping! Camping is the perfect way to really experience the beauty of the natural Australian environment. If you don’t mind roughing it, there are various campsites around Australia that have designated free camping site, where you have to be entirely self-sufficient in food, shelter, water, etc. However, there is also the option of caravan parks that offer power outlets, and basic amenities (around $20-$60AUD).
I know it is very tempting to stay in the city centre to be centralised and close to everything, but if you’re on a budget perhaps consider staying outside the city. Australian cities, especially the larger cities like Sydney and Melbourne, have public transport systems that make getting around easy. I would recommend staying within walking distance of a train station. Although, there are plenty of buses Australia is known for heavy congestion especially during peak hours before and after work.
Top things to do In Australia
Pricey: Bridge Climb Sydney (approx. $295/pp)
Budget: Little do people know but you can “climb” the Sydney Harbour Bridge via the pedestrian walkway accessible via Cumberland Street. You’ll be able to cross the bridge via walking, and although there is railing and safety fences, they offer and break in the fence at around shoulder height that allows you take a beautiful photo of the Sydney Opera House and harbour, without a protruding fence.
Pricey: Dinner at Tali Wiru & Mayu Wiru with a view Uluru (approx. $295AUD)
Budget: Uluru is a big rock. And because it’s so big there is no shortage of vantage points to enjoy a meal while watching the sunset on the Australian iconic landmark. A cheaper alternative would be to pack a sunset picnic including wine, cheese, etc. drive to the “Car Sunset Viewing” in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. Just be sure to dispose of any rubbish correctly, or bring them back with you.
Pricey: Hiring a boat to spend the day on Sydney Habour
Budget: A great alternative to hiring a boat if you’re not a millionaire is catching a ferry from Circular Quay to Manly. This 30 minute ferry ride is perfect for those that are prone to sea sickness, and those looking for a budget alternative to seeing Sydney from the water. Additionally, you’ll make it to Manly which is known for its beautiful beach, chilled atmosphere, and stunning views.
THE BEACHES! This should be at the top of every budget and non-budget travellers list. Australia is known for its stunning beaches, no matter which city you choose to visit there is always a beach to visit. The great thing about beaches is there’s absolutely no cost involved, and everyone can join. Rather than just sticking to the infamous Bondi beach, there are plenty of beaches in Sydney that are as equally as stunning but don’t draw in the same big crowds that can become overwhelming. There are also lots of great walks in Sydney, and best of all they won’t cost you a cent!
Museums and galleries are a great way to see the cultural identity of Australia. All public galleries and museums have free entry to view their permanent collections; however special events and exhibitions will incur a cost. This is the perfect activity for art lovers, historians, and those looking for a cultural experience. If you’re planning to visit Melbourne, here are lots of fun and free things to do there.
Solo travel in Australia – Getting around
My first recommendation for getting around cities would be to use as much public transport as possible. Australian cities have well planned out public transport systems that connect suburbs and the city together. Additionally, Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne offer free public transport around specific city routes, just be sure to check beforehand.
If you’re a solo traveller that doesn’t have that much time, and need to be at your next destination ASAP I would recommend flying. Australia has four domestic airlines, so finding cheap domestic flights are a breeze. Also if you book in advance, and fly in on weeknights on early morning or late night flights, you can find flights between cities for like $50!
If you’re a solo traveller in Australia and have a bit of time on your hands, a cheap way of getting around Australia is via Greyhound buses. Greyhound offers “Hop On Hop Off” passes that allow you to hop on and off a pre-selected long haul trip as many times as you wish over a period of six months moving in one direction (no backtracking). One of their most popular routes is Sydney to Cairns with multiple stops along the way, however it will set you back $455/adult/one way. Of course, there are other pass options depending on what your time and budget constraints are.
Travelling with a few friends? I would recommend hiring a car or caravan, but only if you’re travelling about four people, as car hire is not cheap in Australia at around $50 depending on type of vehicle, insurance, and extras. Larger car hire companies like Thrifty, Avis, and Europcar are on the pricier range as their vehicles are relatively new vehicles. A great alternative is Jucy which offers “El Cheapo” alternatives and campervans as well. However, keep in mind that fuel is relatively expensive in Australia at around $1.30/litre.
So there you have my general guide to Australia on a budget. Australia is a country that is incredibly rich in diversity, experience, and culture you’ll have so much to choose from. It doesn’t matter if you’re on a tight budget, or an unlimited budget, there is something for everyone!
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