It’s not often that you’ll hear the words ‘cheap’, ‘travel’, ‘destination’ and ‘Australia’ in the same sentence.
Australia is an amazing country and one that offers a vast array of travel experiences, but a visit here comes with a hefty price tag. For many overseas guests, it’s a once in a lifetime experience, but if you don’t want to be paying the trip off for the rest of your life, here are ten great ways to save money on travel in Australia.
1. Pick a cheap time to travel
Choosing when to visit Australia for a short trip (say two or three weeks) is important if you want to get the best from your budget. Australia’s peak seasons work in reverse to much of the northern hemisphere. High season is generally the summer months of December and January, which is when most Australians take their annual holidays. Airfares and accommodation prices always spike at this time.
Also avoid Easter and Australian school holiday periods (these vary depending on which states you plan to visit).
Australia enjoys amazing international airline connectivity. Key hubs into the country include Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the Middle East, Singapore, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing in Asia, and Los Angeles, San Francisco and Vancouver in North America. Airfares have actually dropped significantly in recent years, thanks to greater competition. Browse the airfares of 450+ different carriers in one place on Faremart — a cheap fare mart where you can book your ticket at the best possible price. It’s worth doing a search across different dates just to see what fares you come up with.
You can also set up fare alerts on Faremart for domestic flights within Australia, and get great deals as they are released.
3. Sleep cheap
If you plan to stay in hotels, these are the cheapest months to travel to Australia’s key cities according to Trivago:
Expect to pay anywhere from $120 to $220 per night for a reasonable hotel. If you are booking hotels as you go, call ahead and see if the hotel will beat the best price you have found online. Chances are they will.
Airbnb is huge in Australia, but renting a city apartment is generally not much cheaper than staying in a hotel. Hostels are by far the cheapest accommodation option and you’ll find dorm beds available from between $20 and $40 a night. YHA Australia operates several hostels that offer private rooms with ensuite bathrooms. These are superb value, and are usually in great locations.
Australia has a world-class dining scene, but if you plan to eat out a lot, you’ll need a big budget along with that appetite. Expect to pay around $30 to $40 for a main course in a mid-range restaurant.
That said, there are some easy ways to save on your holiday food bill.
It’s nearly always cheaper to eat lunch at a top restaurant than dinner. Look for lunchtime set menus and special deals.
Go BYO. Ordering alcohol in any Australian restaurant will double your bill. Opt for restaurants that allow you to BYO (bring your own) and purchase a nice bottle of wine at a local bottle shop first.
Avoid tourist precinct restaurants. They’re generally expensive and not so great. The key to this is planning. Plan where you are going to eat. If you just wander out and hope for the best, you’ll end up in an overpriced tourist restaurant.
Self-cater where you can. Most Australian cities have a great fresh food market, like the Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne. Shop for fresh food you can prepare easily and buy small amounts so that you don’t waste food.
Make Chinatown your dining destination of choice. Most Australian cities have one and they’re undoubtedly the cheapest spots to eat out.
Join the Aussie food van following. Food trucks are growing in popularity around Australia, and they usually offer tasty and cheap eats. Search online for pop-up locations.
Blow the breakfast buffet at your hotel and head out to a local café instead. You’ll get a much better breakfast for half the price.
Australia has hundreds of fabulous attractions, but the entry costs will really add up — especially if you are travelling with a family. Invest in a Multi-City Flexi Attractions Pass. The pass offers savings of up to 40% on many top attractions and things to do in Sydney, Melbourne, Hobart and the Gold Coast. Choose a five or seven attraction pass, then get strategic and plan how you can maximise your saving.
Also research the websites of top attractions for special entry deals. For example, Melbourne Zoo offers free entry for all children on weekends.
7. Do a walking tour
Guided walking tours are a fabulous and generally low cost way to get the most from your visit to Australia’s key cities. Every major city offers an array of guided walks, and ‘free tours’ (where you give a donation at the end if you enjoyed the experience) are also on the rise. Here are some of the cheapest and best value guided walks:
If the budget is really tight, you can usually download self-guided city walks from local tourism bodies onto your smart phone.
8. Hit the road
Yes, everyone wants to see the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the majestic Opera House on their visit to Australia, but reducing the amount of time you spend in capital cities like Sydney will cut the cost of your trip dramatically. So, get out and see the country!
Travelling by bus or car is generally the cheapest option. Check out Greyhound’s hop on hop off bus passes. Self-driving is great as you’ll have the freedom to go where you want, when you want. Here are some tips for saving money on car hire.
Don’t even dream of picking up your vehicle until the day you leave town. Parking in Australia’s capital cities is ridiculously expensive and could drain $50 to $100 a day from your budget.
Research all the available car hire rates in one place through DriveAway.
Always fill up when prices are low. They can skyrocket overnight.
Check whether your travel insurance covers your vehicle excess. Many policies do.
If you’re up for some company on the drive (and someone to split the petrol costs with), advertise your spare seats on Gumtree.
9. Travel light
You have to travel light on a visit to Australia. It’s that simple. Lugging heavy suitcases around a country this big is not much fun, and checked luggage is not automatically included in low-cost domestic airline fares. Add to that the fact that Australia’s airlines (full service and low-cost) are getting stricter by the day on enforcing carry-on luggage limits. If you are even a kilo over the seven-kilogram carry-on limit, chances are you will be charged. And no, playing the hapless tourist won’t cut it!
Save money by:
Keeping your entire kit at 20 kilograms (maximum!), including your checked luggage and carry-on. That way, you can purchase 15 kilograms of checked luggage on a low-cost carrier (usually the minimum) and carry five kilograms with you on board.
Invest in lightweight, durable luggage.
Pre-purchase your checked-in luggage. It’s always cheaper than doing it at the airport.
Purchase a set of light-weight portable scales and weigh your luggage before you leave your hotel. Repacking on the floor at the airport is never a good look!
10. Remember that the best things in life are free (or close to it!)
Forget expensive attractions and pricey restaurants. Tick off each of these experiences and you will have seen the real Australia — for next to nothing!
Spend a day at the beach. Bondi in Sydney, St Kilda in Melbourne, Glenelg in Adelaide and Cottesloe in Perth are some of the best-known options.
Do a bushwalk and breathe in the scent of eucalyptus. If you are staying in Sydney, the Blue Mountains offers hundreds of amazing walks.
See some age-old Indigenous rock art. It can be found across the country. You just need to do a bit of research.
Enjoy a cold beer in a country or outback pub. You’ll meet some real characters.
Spot our iconic wildlife in the wild. From koalas by the Great Ocean Road to kangaroos grazing in paddocks at dusk, there are endless opportunities to see the furry and feathered locals.
Have a great trip!
This post was published thanks to Faremart.
Do you have any suggestions to add to our list of the ten best ways to save money on travel in Australia? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.
Additional images: Bigstock
About the writer
Adam Ford is editor of The Big Bus tour and travel guide and a travel TV presenter, writer, blogger and photographer. He has travelled extensively through Europe, Asia, North America, Africa and the Middle East. Adam worked as a travel consultant for a number of years with Flight Centre before taking up the opportunity to travel the world himself as host of the TV series Tour the World on Network Ten. He loves to experience everything a new destination has to offer and is equally at home in a five-star Palazzo in Pisa or a home-stay in Hanoi.