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How To Save Money When Travelling in Australia

When I was just 22 years old, you may or may not know, that I spent a year working and travelling across Australia. It was a struggle and a far cry from the life I now live! That’s not to say it wasn’t fun, and it was most definitely an adventure, but my main memory is how expensive everything in Australia was and the fact that I seemed to be broke ALL THE TIME. I decided to share a few tips on how to save money when travelling in Australia in the hopes this might help any young people currently there looking for ways to save or even earn some money on the side.

Travel Australia On A Budget

This is pretty obvious but the first thing you need to do to survive travelling in Australia is to create a pretty tight budget and stick to it. Figure out the cost of hostels, food and transport, and then work out how much you’ll need each day, week or month of your stay. You can also rent a room in a shared house with others backpackers, which I found to be far cheaper than staying in hostels long term. The easiest way to find a room or housemates is to jump on Gumtree and spend a few hours going through the ads.

  • Stay in hostels

Obviously for shorter stays, hostels are great, just make sure you’re not staying in some of the more expensive ones – which can set you back up to $30 a night in the centre of Sydney! Even a cheeky McDonalds can set you back up to $22 so plan accordingly!

  • Cook your own food

Eating (and drinking) out in Australia can be very expensive. It’s much better to team up with some newly made friends and take turns cooking dinner and making packed lunches. A simple sandwich and some fruit is easy (and cheap) to make and could save you the $15 it would cost in a cafe! Cooking for one can be a pain, so definitely try to team up with some others in the hostel or house. Travelling solo? These solo travel tips for Oz should help.

  • Buy a car with friends

Australia is a MASSIVE country and getting around by bus or in those funky camper vans can add up super fast. One of the best ways to see as much of the country as possible on a budget, is to buy a car with one or two friends pack it with some light mattresses, sleeping bags and cooking utensils (as if you would if you were going camping) and use it to travel the country and to sleep in! You’ll save so much, have way more freedom and it will be an adventure. Many hostels or local supermarkets in more rural areas will have notices of other backpackers selling their cars, or you can check out car and trailer ads on Gumtree where you’ll see lots of offers for vehicles to take you all over the country! Once your trip ends, sell it on to another backpacker at no loss. Win win.

Find some short term work

If you’re in Australia on a Working Holiday visa, which is the case with most backpackers, you will want (and need) to find some short term work fairly quickly to help fund your travels.

While I was in Australia I worked some very crazy jobs: I worked on the reception and as a cleaner in a party hostel (until you’ve cleaned vomit off the stairs every morning for a week, you’ll never fully appreciate how disgusting party hostels can be!!), I worked as a Nanny to a family of 6 (it was 6 days a week and I’ve never been so tired in my life!!), I picked pears on a farm in rural Victoria, and finally I went around door to door selling ceiling insulation. What a life!

Farm work is best

Here’s the truth. Farm work is pretty horrible. You’ll be covered in either mosquito or insect bites, have scratches all over your arms and unless you do some serious work each day, the daily pay is not a whole lot. HOWEVER, there is usually nowhere to spend that hard earned cash in rural Australia so you will save everything you make. Often accommodation (however poor) is included or only costs bare minimum dollars each week, so you should be able to save money fast. 3 months of farm work is also requisite if you wish to apply for a second year working holiday visa.

Plan your activities carefully

Australia is one of the most beautiful countries in the world and the best part about it, is that most of the best places to see are totally free.

While there are lots of fun (and expensive) activities like skydiving in Cairns, bridge walks in Sydney or week long surf camps, there are much more free activities than you might imagine such as driving the Great Ocean Road, chilling on the stunning beach in Byron Bay, encountering wild Kangaroos and Koala bears and even visiting the super cute Quokkas on Rottnest Island.

Be it exploring some of the best ocean side walks in Sydney, wine tasting in Hunter Valley (yes, also free!), soaking up the coffee culture or chilling out in St Kilda in Melbourne, driving through the other worldly outback, or on a mission to find the best beaches in Western Australia – all are free and perfect for backpackers! Some cities, like Melbourne for example, actually have endless free things to do for budget travellers!


Get outside of Sydney!

Sydney is amazing. It’s one of the most beautiful cites in the world, and spending a week here as a tourist is an incredible experience. But living here? Forget about it unless you have more savings than I can imagine. Expect to pay up to $400 PER WEEK in rent, and every day living costs will continue to be sky high. For a better quality of life, and to make your hard earned cash go further, you really need to get out of Sydney and either up or down the coast as quickly as possible!

travelling australia on a budget - sydney

Do you have any more good tips for travelling in Australia, apart from living off of beans and toast and a bag of goon?! please let me know in the comments!

Jennifer Bourke

Tuesday 6th of February 2018

Interesting point made! Great tips not just for travelling in Australia but traveling in general!

Dave | Jones Around The World

Friday 2nd of February 2018

Great tips Janet. I wish when I did my WHV I could have done farmwork for another year. I've heard mixed reviews, but some people say they made BANK and loved it.

Annie Roberts

Thursday 1st of February 2018

Oh and along the way, the free camping is a bonus! Waking up to the beach just two feet from the back of your camper van where you have parked it the night before is quite something!

Annie Roberts

Thursday 1st of February 2018

So interesting to read this. I live in Australia (in Mollymook on the South Coast of New Wales), but I was that backpacker back in 1987, landing on these shores with not much money but huge amounts of enthusiasm - and loved every single moment travelling around, and getting jobs doing all sorts of things. However, times have changed and yes it is now incredibly expensive here, so the more you can share the accommodation, food and petrol costs, the easier you will find it. And indeed, it is such an amazing country that has such natural beauty, that so much can be done for free because all the views alone are incredible, whether natural or man made - even to walk around the harbour in Sydney, having to pinch yourself as you stare at the Harbour Bridge and Opera House to your left and right!

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