Saving in Australia



Australia’s days as a cheap destination are well and truly over (well, for the moment at least). The glory days of getting three Australian dollars to the pound faded into the distance long ago. But this doesn’t mean that you have to feel priced out of visiting Australia – it’s simply a case of spending your money smarter. And by utilising some of the following tips, you can make your budget extend a lot further...

Try and line up some work before you go

If you’ve got contacts in Oz – be it friends, family or links through the company you work for at home – shamelessly pump them for assistance. If you can line up some work before you arrive in the country, you’ve got a massive head start on those who haven’t.

Keep some money back

On year-long round the world trips, many travellers assume that Australia will be the place where they can stop for a good few months and earn some money with which to fund the rest of the trip. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this assumption, but a common mistake is to arrive in Australia from South East Asia with barely a cent to your name. Unfortunately, it takes time to find work – often a month or more – and if you’re planning on staying in one place for a while, deposits on short-lease apartments can be chunky.

Avoid the Sydney trap

A lot of travellers arrive in Sydney, and end up having such a good time that they blow most of their savings within a couple of weeks. They then desperately try to recoup so that they can move on, but are so busy continuing to have a good time that they can never afford to break away and do some actual travelling. It’s an expensive city to live in (although pay rates tend to be better too), and if you can, make your entry point another Australian city. Perth or Brisbane, for example, can be less wallet-intensive options to base yourself for a while.

Go bush

If you’re really serious about working and saving money, then heading to regional parts of Australia and looking for harvest work is probably the way forward. It’s extremely hard labour, but positions are almost always available – there are rarely enough Australians willing to pick fruit all day in the hot sun. There are two key bonuses to enduring it, however. The first is that there’s less to spend your money on whilst in the middle of nowhere – you’ll save up more rapidly. The second is that you can get a year’s extension on your Australian working holiday visa if you do three months of harvest work in regional Australia.

Get a YHA membership card

It doesn’t matter if you never stay in a YHA hostel while you’re in Australia, the YHA card is a superb passport to discounts on everything from tours and bus tickets to pizzas and attraction entry. Almost certainly, it will more than repay the investment.

Buy a bottle, bypass the bar

Anyone pretending that drinking isn’t a major cost for most travellers is living in a fantasy land. For those who like a good night out, going teetotal as a budgeting measure will completely defeat the point of being in Australia in the first place. But you can save money by changing how you drink. Sure, you’re going to hit the pubs and bars reasonably regularly, but try and intersperse these costly nights out with sociable drinks in the hostel/ apartment or over a picnic or barbecue in the park/ by the beach. The takeout bottles and cans (or, if you must, ‘goon’ wine from a box) work out much cheaper. 

Head north

As a general rule, the further north you go the better the deals for accommodation and food get - hostels and destinations as a whole try to keep people there for more than just a few days. Hostel prices tend to be lower in Queensland, with dinner either thrown in for free or at a ridiculously low price. Hotels also tend to have more competition and can be desperate for clientele – particularly outside of peak season.

Look for meal deals and BYO restaurants

Obviously, the best way to save money on food is to cook it yourself. However, you’re probably going to want to eat out occasionally. Good value (and surprisingly decent quality) pub grub is prevalent across Australia and while Sydney’s $5 steak wars ended a few years ago, there’s no shortage of places to eat for under a tenner.  If it’s more of a special occasion, look for BYO restaurants where you can bring in your own bottles of wine for a small ‘corkage’ fee rather than pay through the nose for the house red. Otherwise, the city centre food courts and abundance of cheap Thai restaurants are good options for eating out on a budget.

Think carefully about transport


There are many ways of getting around Australia, and each has their pros and cons. If you’re just planning to hop between a few key sites, budget airlines will probably work out cheapest, although you’ll miss out on everything on the way. For solo travellers who want to see a lot of the country but aren’t overly fussed about having the freedom of their own wheels, a Greyhound bus pass with a kilometre limit will usually work out cheapest.  If you’re driving, the first priority is to get a group together – splitting petrol and rental costs between four works out much cheaper than trying to do it as a duo. Campervans can be surprisingly expensive, and site costs at caravan parks aren’t as cheap as you might think, so it’s worth doing your sums to see if a normal car would be a better bet. Use a selection of comparison sites to find the best deal if so. Buying a car works out as a bigger expense up front – plus you need to sort out tax, registration and paper work. But if you can sell it for a reasonable percentage of what you bought it for once the road trip is over, it will almost certainly work out cheaper. Unless, of course, you buy an old banger that constantly needs repairing or you don’t leave yourself enough time to sell it at the end of the trip...