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Backpacking Australia: How much does it cost?

Backpacking Australia: How much does it cost?

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!


Map of Australia

International Flights

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.

Accommodation

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!

Melbourne, Victoria

Melbourne, Victoria

Intercity Transport

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.

Local Transport

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.

Sydney, Australia

National Maritime Museum in Darling Harbour, Sydney

Sightseeing

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.

Wine and Cheese

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.

Beer

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.

other costs

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.


Australian Beach

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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Ashlea Wheeler

Blogger & Photographer at A Globe Well Travelled
I'm Ashlea, an excitable Australian who loves photography and exploring the world. Find out more about me.

22 Responses to “Backpacking Australia: How much does it cost?”

  1. Raven

    This is brilliant! Thanks so much for sharing. I’m sure it’s worth every penny (or AUD dollar in this case).
    I best get saving!

    Reply
  2. Mariel

    I’m going to be studying in Brisbane for three months this fall. Looks like I’ll be penny pinching. At this point I’m more concerned about all of the deadly creatures that I hear live in Australia and just getting out alive. 😉

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      It will be worth the penny pinching Mariel, I’m sure you’ll love Brissie (as we call it in Australia). And don’t worry too much about the deadly creatures, I’m sure you’ll only a have a few close encounters 😉

      Reply
  3. Mstraveltipsy

    That’s some great tips. Tried kind of a backpacking way of living when I was in Australia 2011 for a month, I’m not good at it 🙂 Really do not want to share bed room, but on the other hand we were 4 people that travelled together so not a problem really. Like me, if you do not fancy the backpacking way you can try the flashpacking way 🙂

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      It’s great if you’re travelling with friends as you can split the costs a few ways! I’m also not a fan of dorm rooms, but I do love private rooms in hostels – much cheaper than hotels and you still get the hostel atmosphere!

      Reply
  4. Renuka

    Wow. That’s a nice summary of expenses in Australia. I guess $45 – $50 for a room is okay. Not bad!

    Reply
  5. Tessa / Bramble & Thorn

    As an Australian, I never really realised just how expensive our alcohol was until I went overseas over the age of 18. It’s incredible that beer costs the same as Coke in Europe, and is sometimes cheaper!

    Tessa at Bramble & Thorn

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      It’s unbelievable isn’t it! In Eastern Europe we were paying only $1.50 for a pint of beer and here in Aus it’s $8 minimum!

      Reply
  6. Stephanie Rogers

    I’m planning on going to university after I graduate so all of this advice is so great! It’s nice to know how much I need to save up!
    thelifeofastudenttraveller.blogspot.co.uk

    Reply
  7. Bibiana

    Actually, as an Australian health professional who’s worked in the UK and also knows and has compared notes with other health professionals in NZ, Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa, Ireland, Germany, Canada and the USA, our health care system is fantastic. Aussies have it great and take it completely for granted. And free too! For instance, standard practice for a drunk turning up in the ER is to babysit them until they’re sober in case they leave the department and get hit by a car or something AND to give them saline to help avoid a massive hangover. When I tried to do the same in the UK, I was told off for wasting resources and to just kick that person out.

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Haha wow! Thanks for your insight Bibiana. I think the main problem with the health system in Australia is that funding is constantly being cut so there’s often problems with hospitals being understaffed, not enough space for the number of patients, and waiting lists being ridiculously long, but I’m in no way an expert!

      Reply
  8. Merlin

    Thank you! Really helpfull 🙂 Going to Australia in August, when i finish school, and i can’t wait!

    Reply
  9. yvonne

    It is so expensive, for me at least.. that is why I put visiting it off. I guess that Australians are actually lucky with the fact that it is expensive at their country, it makes every other country like super cheap for them! Imagine them visiting Prague or something!

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      You’re absolutely right Yvonne, it’s super cheap to travel internationally because so many countries seem cheap to us Australians!

      Reply
  10. ricky

    Hey Ashley, I liked your blog about OZ. The only thing I disagree (hope you don’t mind) is the public transport. I have lived my life in this Sydney and kinda have to agree that Pub trans may not be the best in the world but it is lot better than a lot of places in the world. Matter of fact it is better than Tube in London or even Paris or local trains anywhere in Europe in regard to its cleanliness and safety and by the way I do a lot of peak hour travel as I work in the city. Yes, city is expensive but if you know where and what to do there are cheaper options. Surely the food and alcohol is cheaper in Europe but if you compare what we earn here and what we pay it will work out the same if not cheaper. Just thought I keep my personal opinion here. Nice blog though and enjjoyed reading this segment. May read other ones to learn a little more about your travel experience.

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Thanks for your comment Ricky, I don’t mind if you disagree. I was writing the post from the perspective of a foreigner visiting the country rather than someone that lives here. I’ve travelled to many countries over 4 continents and there’s only been three times that I’ve found pricing similar to or more than they are in Australia (London, New York, and Zurich). So if anyone is travelling here from a place that isn’t one of those, they’ll likely find it more expensive!

      I can’t say I agree with you about the public transport in Europe, I thought it was stellar in most of the cities I visited! And in London you only have to wait a couple of minutes for the tube to come along (and the same in Paris, Moscow, and Berlin), whereas most of the lines in Sydney have a 15 minute wait in between trains even in peak hour!

      Reply
  11. Kirstie

    Another accomodation option is house sharing. You can find rooms for around $120 per week in a share house (high or lower depending on luxuries etc). Good option for someone who wants their own room at a reasonable price.

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Good tip Kirstie, I’ve never tried house sharing before (aside from when I’m actually renting a place to live long-term) but I’ll definitely look into it!

      Reply
  12. Brittany

    I love your blog! What website do you use to make your blog graphics? They are beautiful 🙂

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Thank you Brittany! I just had someone ask the same thing to me on Facebook 😛 I use InDesign, I usually trace a map of the location with the pen tool, then add in some text and icons 🙂 It takes a bit of time but I’ve been a graphic designer for years and find this kind of thing fun to make! You can find some of my tips for making blog post images here.

      Reply

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