How to travel Australia on the cheap

Our featured blogger, Jonny Blair, tells you how to keep your head above water in the land Down Under

6 mins

I’ve lost track of how many people that have told me that Australia is an expensive place to travel. They must be living the luxury lifestyle if that’s the case. Australia, if anything was one of the cheapest places I have ever travelled around. So much so that I made bucket loads of money when I was there, enough to take four months off work.

People, and particularly young backpackers, are clearly going to the wrong spots, or perhaps ill-informed, badly prepared or simply spending money in the wrong way.

Here’s ten reasons that prove the myth wrong, all from my own experience of living in Australia:

1. Sleep under canvas... or the stars

Although hostels are great, take a break from them. Don’t spend your entire time in hostels getting drunk! Camping is the best option for travelling cheap in Australia. A tent can be bought for $15–20 and in many places you can camp out for free.

Make your tent  your home as you backpack around Australia. Most campsites have toilets and showers, lots of them are close to places where you can get part time/temporary jobs.

2. Try the pub for lunch

If you insist on eating out, head to pubs that do $10 steaks and similar offers. They often throw in a beer or a soft drink for the price.

One of the tricks I used while in Australia was to monitor pubs that did cheap big meals and the times they apply. I found that most of them are lunchtime specials. In which case, it’s hardly a big deal to transfer your main meal of the day from dinner to lunch. Eat cereals and toast for breakfast.

Don’t be afraid to venture into Hungry Jacks or McDonald's for a cheap breakfast either. Hungry Jacks offer unlimited refills – take your flask in. They’re not going to chase out paying customers. And McDonald's has free wi-fi. If all else fails stick to Vegemite sandwiches! Top notch!

3. Transport tips

Don’t be flying round Australia! I spent almost two years living there and didn’t once use an internal flight. Use Greyhound and book early, or better still, meet up with others, buy a car and off you go – you’ve got your own vehicle now which you can sleep in and drive to campsites with. Share the petrol costs and even get a job and share lifts to work.

And if getting a Greyhound, of course get it at night to save money on accommodation. Gumtree, hostel notice boards and travel websites also offer car share options.

4. Get a working visa

I can’t understand why those who are eligible for a working holiday visa in Australia don’t use it. I met a huge amount of travellers in Australia who said “We’re only here for three months so we’re not working” and then complained that the place was expensive. Well, why didn’t you just get a working visa then? Even working for just a week or two in Australia can earn you over AUS$1,000.

5. Avoid paying entrance fees

Again it sounds obvious, but don’t be paying to get into places – there are loads of FREE things to see and do in Australia. Hiking, for one. There are some amazing landscapes to see. Beaches are completely free, as are fancy dress parties (make your own costumes), and many museums like the amazing War Memorial in Canberra. You don't get charged for  walking across Sydney Harbour Bridge and the views are outstanding.

If you want to see koalas and kangaroos – that can be done for free too. Kennet River on the Great Ocean Road is a decent spot for koala watching at sunrise. Kangaroos and wallabies are hard to miss.

6. Grab those coupons, vouchers and tokens

I was staggered by the amount of travellers I met who never bothered picking up brochures and flyers that lurk in bus stations, airports, pubs, hostels and tourist information centres across Australia. They are jam packed with money-off coupons, savings on tours and bars offering a free beer just to entice you in. Go in, drink your free beer and leave.

7. Try Woolworths and Coles value brands

I remember meeting a couple of English girls moaning about the price of everything in Australia while drinking Del Monte orange juice for breakfast along with Kellogg’s cornflakes! If you can’t take yourself down a rung or two for a few weeks or months by buying the value brands, then you honestly have no ground to stand on complaining about the price of things!

8. Avoid nightclubs after 10pm

Did you really go to Australia just to attend expensive nightclubs? I certainly didn’t! You’ll notice that after 9 or 10pm (especially on weekends) the prices of drinks go up. Seriously, to all those backpackers in Australia – get yourself a carryout, a box of goon (wine cask) and some tinnies and hang out with your new found friends.

9. Cut back on Facebook

I also met a couple of guys in Brisbane moaning about the price of the internet. I never once paid to use internet in Australia. Leave Facebook alone until you really need it. What do you think travellers did 20 years ago before the likes of Facebook? Exactly! Get to meet people in the hostels and campsites and hang out with them.

I went five weeks without being online when I was in Tasmania. I had some experiences and travel tales in that time that I wouldn’t have got sitting on Facebook! If you really, really insist on using internet in Australia at least be clever about it – maximise your usage when it's offered free in your hostel. The next campsite or hostel may not have it or may charge for it.

If all else fails, bring a small laptop with you,  buy the cheapest coffee in McDonald's and use their free wifi (free all over Australia and normally with a 20-minute limit).

10. Don’t book things in advance

Why pay a deposit online for a hostel that you will stay in next week? Scared it will sell out? Even if that happens, you’ll have your tent and can offer to sleep in the garden for $5. Most hostels will take pity on you and let you sleep on their sofas anyway. Book as you go, and if it's a hostel, sleep in the cheapest dorm.

Honestly, folks this might sound like a bit of a rant and in many ways it is, BUT I just really want to let people know that Australia is a magnificent country and a great place to go. And it’s cheap if you know what you’re doing!! Those are just a few of my tips – there are tons more ways to save money.

Go to Australia, economise, live cheap and love it. You’ll probably have better fun than those you don’t and come away moaning about the price of the wonderful land Down Under.

Happy travelling!

Jonny BlairDon't stop Living | Jonny Blair

"I’m in my early 30s and have an absolute passion for people, places, travel, beer and football. Sometimes all at the same time. I have managed to travel, work and live around the world, visiting all seven continents and almost 70 countries in the process. "

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