I’m sure you’ve all heard about how expensive Australia is.
But still… how could you possibly resist a visit. I bet that warm weather, some coral reefs, and those white sand beaches are pretty darn tempting.
So is it possible to see Australia on a backpacking budget? Well friends, I’ve lived in three different Australian cities (Hobart, Newcastle, and Sydney) over the past 27 years, and I’m about to share as much knowledge as I can to assist you in planning for an affordable backpacking trip around this crazily laid-back country.
Important note: These costs are an average of what I would normally spend on a day-to-day basis, and are a rough estimate of what you might spend while backpacking Australia. The following prices are per person and in AUD.
If you have any questions about budget or costs, please feel free to ask in the comments!
Most international flights will head into Sydney or Melbourne. Obviously the price of flights won’t be the same for everyone as the cost will vary depending on your city of origin and the time of year you want to fly, so do a web search to find out how much your flights will cost from your city.
Return flights from North America or Europe normally sit between $1500-$2000. Remember that being flexible with your travel dates may save you money.
6-8 bed dorm rooms are quite common in Australia and you can expect to pay around $30-$45 for a bed.
Private rooms are a little pricier at around $45-$60 per person for a double or twin room.
I know, it’s not cheap. This is a pretty average price to stay in one of the major cities or popular coastal towns, but it might be slightly cheaper in more rural areas or smaller cities.
If you’re looking to reduce the cost of accommodation, you can look into staying in 8-12 bed dorm rooms, camping around rural areas/national parks!
This country is bloody large. You might think you can hop on a quick bus from Sydney to Melbourne, but in reality it’s going to be a long, cramped, tiring 14-hour bus ride so you may as well fly and save yourself 12 hours of frustration.
Domestic flights – The cheapest routes (such as Melbourne to Sydney, or Sydney to Brisbane) can be as little as $50-$100 one way, the most expensive routes (such as Sydney to Perth) might be around $200-$300 one way. An average cost would be about $150 per flight.
Car rental – Another option is to rent a car or campervan and drive between cities. This is particularly popular along the East Coast where you can hop between coastal townships fairly easily. The cost will vary greatly depending on the length of your rental and type of vehicle.
Also be wary of fuel costs, it’s not cheap here and if you happen to pull into the fuel station on a weekend or public holiday, you’ll pay a premium.
Buses and trains in major cities should cost about $2.50-$4.00 for short trips. I’d recommend a budget of about $7 per day for a return trip to somewhere within a city.
Keep in mind that public transport in Australia is not anywhere near as good as many other countries. Yes, there are buses in most major cities and some trains as well, but the networks aren’t all that comprehensive and you may get frustrated at the infrequency and unpredictability of the timetables.
National Maritime Museum in Darling Harbour, Sydney
Museums – Popular museums such as the ACMI in Melbourne or the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney are likely to cost $10-$20 in entry fees.
Tourist sites – If you want to do the activities geared at tourists, expect to pay a fair bit. Taronga Zoo in Sydney costs up to $55 and the Sea Life Aquarium costs up to $35. Many of the tourist activities are still worth the visit, but I’d recommend picking only a few of the expensive activities so that you don’t blow your budget.
If you’re heading up to the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland, I would recommend putting a heap of money aside for sightseeing! As one of Australia’s main attractions, every tour operator charges a hell of a lot more than what you might expect. Damn those pretty colourful fish and turquoise waters.
National parks – Some national parks will charge an entry fee, you can expect to pay around $20-$25 per car for a one day pass. If you’re planning on visiting numerous national parks, month-long or multi-visit passes are sometimes available depending on which state you’re exploring.
Free activities – You won’t find a shortage of free sightseeing activities in Australia. You can enter some museums, landmarks, gardens and parks all free of charge!
If you average out costs of doing a paid sightseeing activity every second day (varying between museums, tourist sites, and national parks), the cost should average out to around $10-$15 per day. Add on extra if you’re planning on paying for day tours and excursions.
Food and Drink
The cost can vary greatly depending on how much you’re willing to spend – here are the average costs for eating out in Australia.
- Coffee: $3.50-$4.00
- Lunch (sandwich or similar): $7-$10
- Lunch (restaurant): $12-$20
- Dinner (take out): $10-$20
- Dinner (restaurant): $20-$35
- Alcoholic drinks: $5-$8
When I travel, I usually try and eat out only once per day, and buy groceries for breakfasts and either lunch or dinner. If you do something similar then you could expect to average about $25-$35 per day.
Groceries – Woolworths and Coles are the major competing grocery stores, which is where you’ll find the best prices for groceries. If you’re staying in the CBD of a major city, try and avoid the tiny convenience stores. You will end up paying twice as much as you should.
Eating out – Restaurants will be cheaper the further you are from the tourist areas. The selection of Asian foods in Australia is super amazing and reasonably affordable so try seeking out Chinese, Thai, or Vietnamese restaurants.
Pubs – If you want to eat out but not drain your credit card at a restaurant then consider having a meal at the pub. I know pub food is often nose-wrinkling in other countries, but many pubs in Australia put together a great meal. And who could say no to a cold brewski and burger after a long day of relaxing on the beach? You’ll find the cost of a pub meal to be somewhere between take out and restaurant prices.
Drinks – Unfortunately Australia is one of the most expensive places to drink as alcohol is heavily taxed, so if you love having a drink or two in the evenings, your daily cost will go up significantly! Sorry guys, the fun police have spoken.
Water – One other thing to note is that in most parts of Australia, tap water is fine to drink and bars/restaurants are legally required to provide it to you if you ask. You’re a sucker if you waste money buying bottled water.
Insurance – Yes, you do need travel insurance. I used to work as a travel agent and boy, did I hear some horror stories of people travelling without it! Australia’s medical system is ok (not great, but ok) however insurance is still super important for things like cancellations and emergencies.
Visas – Most nationalities will require a visa for even a short stay in Australia. Check out this Do you need a visa website to find out if you’ll need one.
If you’re planning on acquiring a working holiday visa, check out this informative guide by an EU citizen on how to get an Australian Working Holiday Visa.
One of Sydney’s many beaches
Total per week of travel
- Accommodation (in a combination of dorm beds and private rooms) at $45 per night: $315
- Intercity transport (once per week) at $150 per trip: $150
- Local transport at $7 per day: $49
- Sightseeing at $15 per day: $105
- Food and drink at $30 per day: $210
This amounts to $829 per week of travel, plus your international flights, insurance, and visas.
It’s important to remember that this budget can easily be blown out with schmancy hotel rooms and lobster dinners, or significantly reduced by dining on packet pasta and getting cosy in a room with 11 other people.
Hopefully this has given you an idea of how much your upcoming trip to Australia will set you back. I know it might seem expensive, but I’ve never known anyone to regret visiting Australia. It really is a remarkable country.
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