I’ve now been budget backpacking in Australia for almost 2 years and have spent a good deal of time across almost every state – apart Western Australia and Tasmania – working, camping, sightseeing, hiking, farming and exploring. As such, I have a fairly good knowledge of the lie of this land and an appreciation of some of the cheapest ways to do things here.
Unlike many of the countries I’d travelled in before, Australia is different because of its levels of development, first world status, high cost of living and amount of regulations! Don’t let this deter you however, Australia is still a wild, beautiful and incredible place to journey, it can just be an expensive one as well if you don’t watch out! So here are my 7 Great Tips for Budget Backpacking in Australia that you will have you making the most out of your time here as well as the money you have to spend.
AU Flight App
This is such a great app for comparing the price of internal Australian flights. Given the size of the country, you’ll probably be getting on a plane to go somewhere else in Australia at least once during your trip, and this is the app to help you do that. At only $1.49 you can buy the advanced version of the app, which lets you search flights from and to any Australian airport for an unlimited period of time. The search includes budget airlines like Jetstar and Tiger, as well as regular airline carriers such as Quantas and Virgin, so you can easily gauge who offers you the best deal – and believe me you might be surprised by the results! You can’t book flights through the app, but you can easily just transfer to the airlines website and book there.
When I first arrived Down Under I couldn’t believe everywhere was charging me to use wi-fi, including hostels where I’d paid to stay! I mean this was 2013! Ever the budget-conscious traveller however, I quickly worked out that, instead of paying, I could simple head to the nearest library, which every town has, and log on for free, either via computers or my own device. Byron Bay was a classic for this and I spent many an hour on a comfy chair in the window of the library there watching the rain outside!
I also discovered there were free wi-fi hotspots in some town centres or shopping centres across the country, including in Darwin and Noosa, although these often had time or download restrictions. And the last resort if nothing else was open? Maccas aka McDonalds! These folks are always good for free wi-fi and a toilet trip if nothing else!
In last few months however, the situation of free wi-fi in Australia has improved as Telstra, the country’s main telecommunications company, are now offering a lot of free public wi-fi hotspots, which are operating out of telephone boxes on the street. I’m not sure if this is just an East Coast thing at the moment, but just look for the symbol – Clever!
As soon as you get to Australia, open a Gumtree account and use it for everything – somewhere to stay, somewhere to work, someone to give you a lift, someone to take trip with and someone who can sell you whatever you need from surfboards to cars. It’s the duct tape of travel Down Under! I even used to get myself a boyfriend! Ha Ha HA!
Supermarkets are expensive here, even for a basic shop, probably due to a lack of competition, so get down to the nearest market instead and bag yourself a cheap load of veggies there. Australians love local, independent traders and almost all towns have a market full of them at least once a week. The cities have even more selection of course. So go on, bag yourself a bargain and support the local community at the same time.
Noosa Farmer’s Market, every Sunday here on the Sunshine Coast, is my current favourite and a firm hit with residents and tourists alike! It sells a wealth of fruit and veggies, including organics, as well as a great array of breads, pastries, coffees, smoothies, fermented yummies, sweet treats and Asian foods.
There are literally hundreds of national parks and state forests across Australia, most of which offer a wealth of free activities such as hiking, fishing, waterfall swimming and picnicing! Many also have basic, but wonderfully cheap, camping facilities that range in cost from free – $20 per night. They are perfect for star-gazing and when the budget gets tight. Find out more in my post Australia’s National Park Network
I’ve used the National Park and State Forest network right across the country and it’s a great way to see a different side to Australia, as well as discover for yourself the vastness of it all. Most campsites can be booked through the state park authority online or on the phone. You will need your own transport to get there, as well as a good number of provisions, but most campsites have toilets, picnic areas, BBQs and water.
Rideshare or Relocation Deals
Sure you can take the Greyhound like everybody else, but why not hop on gumtree or coseats.com and score a cheaper, quicker rideshare instead. Hundreds of tourists and locals are always shuttling up and down the coast looking to share fuel costs and fun conversation. So be brave and give it a go. I’ve used this method for almost all my travels across the country and have never once been let down. It’s amazing how many close friendships can made be over a few days road tripping as I found out on Fraser Island!
The other equally brilliant, if not better, option for getting around Australia is to look at sourcing a relocation deal and then getting some people onboard to share the costs of that with you. Check out my post Relocation Deals: The Cheap Way to Road Trip for more info.
Working or WWoofing
There’s no denying Australia can be an expensive country, so making it more affordable through working or volunteering can be a great way to extend your time here. Getting involved like this will also help you to immerse yourself in the local culture better, make friends and learn new skills too.
Working Holiday Visas are available for many people under 31 from an array of countries around the globe. Just check the government website for more details. Most are available for just 1 year, but can be extended to 2 years if you fulfill certain specifications. Find out more with my post How to Extend your 1 Year Australian Working Holiday Visa.
WWoofing, which stands for Willing Workers on Organic Farms, is a large organisation across Australia, which matches hosts with potential volunteers. Just go to their website, pay an annual fee of $65 and get a whole heap of resources including a book with a list of every registered farm host in the country. Farming in Australia can be a really good way of accessing remote and unusual areas that you wouldn’t see otherwise. Its also a great insight into a different sort of life and can be really open your eyes as to how and where our food comes from. I have WWoofed in Queensland, New South Wales and the Northern Territory as part of my second year visa requirements and loved the very different opportunities each placement presented. I really recommend it as a good way of seeing parts of the country beyond the coast.
If you’re looking to save money while you’re out in Australia then I also recommend checking the HelpEx and Couchsurfing websites, which are other exchange organisations that can link you with local people.
So there’s my 7 Great Tips for Budget Backpacking in Australia. Hope to see you here soon!
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