For secrets on how I traveled Western Europe on the cheap, click here.
How was I able to visit Australia with very little planning and for relatively cheap?
I recently spent almost two months backpacking around Australia. I began in Brisbane on the East coast and ended in Perth on the West coast. In addition to those two cities, I visited areas surrounding Sydney, the Sunshine Coast, the Gold Coast, Melbourne, the Great Ocean Road, Rottnest Island, and even Tasmania.
I visited the landmark Sydney Opera House, swam in tons of beaches, played with (and ate) kangaroos, visited the Blue Mountains, road-tripped along the Great Ocean Road, took selfies with smiling quokkas and so much more. Everything was on the whim and I didn’t spend nearly as much as one would think…
I had a tried and true formula for visiting an expensive country/continent like Australia.
The first secret to this strategy was to make a ton of Australian friends beforehand.
Like Western Europe, Australia was never on my radar of places to visit quite yet during my past ventures around the world. As I was backpacking much cheaper parts of the world like Southeast Asia and Central America, I naturally met other Australian backpackers in hostels or Australian volunteers in my placements. Fortunately for me (an American), Australians love to travel outside of their country. You can find them just about anywhere in the world.
These guys were great fun! I kept in touch with many of them over the years via social media, specifically Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. I began to realize how many Aussie buddies I had and planned on a future trip to travel around Australia, visiting many of them in the process. When I announced to them that I was visiting their country, they were psyched for me to come and even offered me to come stay with them for awhile.
I think it’s a thing where you are much more excited about people you met while traveling to come and visit because of the unique experience you shared in whatever random country you both were in.
I naturally made so many Aussie friends and luckily for me they were scattered all throughout the country and in the big major cities: Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, and everywhere in between. I even had a couple friends who invited me down to Tasmania, which was a quick and easy return flight from Melbourne.
Basically, I just had to figure out who lived where and when they were free. I gave them all a little heads up as to when I’d be near their home turf and many of them accommodated or met up with me perfectly and happily.
On this trip to Australia, I stayed with nine of my Aussie buddies, a free Airbnb, and three hostels.
I explain how I scored the free Airbnb here.
I could have gone through all of Australia without staying in a single hostel if I chose to, but there were times I wanted to explore on my own and meet new people while I was there. The first hostel was in Sydney. I wanted to meet up with other backpackers I met from Fiji who were staying in hostels. The second was an over-night hostel on the Gold Coast before I met up with two other friends the next day. The third hostel was in Melbourne and that was to see the city more. I had a friend who lived about 30-minutes outside of the city who said I could stay with him for as long as I wanted, but I have an unwritten rule for myself that I won’t stay with anyone for longer than a week. However, I broke that rule a few times on other trips much to their persistence. 🙂
How did I get around these places?
Flights, trains, public buses, boats, and rental cars. Flights between the major cities were relatively cheap and there were lots of deals going on. The most expensive flight was from Melbourne to Perth, flying from the East coast to the West coast. Australia is super easy to get around in.
I made a slight hiccup when reloading my public transportation card in Melbourne which I highlighted here. Learn from my mistakes!
The second secret to this strategy was having plenty of disposable time.
How much time you have is essential for every trip. Even with all the time in the world, I knew I wouldn’t be able to see all of Australia in one go.
This is important. Try not to see too much in one trip. It’s impossible.
This is the one major mistake many newbie travelers make. Australia is huge as heck. You’ll be tempted to try and do everything, which equates to more traveling and more money spent. Try to be realistic.
Knowing that my friends were taking me in and showing me around, I planned to have plenty of time as to give them the freedom to plan for me accordingly. They were doing me a favor by hosting me; the least I could do was adjust my trip to their schedules. Most of them took off from work for my visit, which was awesome.
I never felt like I was rushing while traveling through the continent. I took my time and did whatever I wanted because of all the time I had to spare.
Time is key for any trip!
However. While I was in Australia, I discovered another key strategy that other backpackers, specifically from Europe, used–backpacking Australia while on a working holiday.
The third secret to this strategy was to apply for a working holiday visa.
I didn’t use this secret, as I discovered it while I was backpacking in Australia.
At the three hostels I stayed in, I met backpackers from Europe who were all in Australia on a working holiday.
What is a working holiday?
A working holiday is where a foreign citizen is granted a temporary visa for up to two years to work and live in Australia. Countries part of the Commonwealth are granted a two-year working holiday visa while others such as the USA are only granted a one-year working holiday visa. Although, to extend into that second year you must have proof that you’ve done some inland farm/regional work while in Australia for a minimum of about three months.
Also, you must be between the ages of 18 and 31 to apply for one of these bad boys.
(There is a legislation that has been passed that may increase the capped age at 35, but it’s been repealed. Who knows if things will change. Hopefully, it will!)
A proof of funds (I believe around $5,000 AUD or equivalent) is also required but this on a case by case basis.
Find out how to apply online here.
Many backpackers I met had a job and found them quite easily. One guy even got an easy interview at the Sydney Opera House as a dishwasher! Many became bartenders and others became construction workers or worked in hostels. They worked and saved up money for a few months while living in hostels or in a shared apartment and then traveled around Australia with the money they saved up.
If you are within the age limit and wanna try something new for a while, I highly recommend this strategy if you don’t have the time to go around the world making Aussie friends.
Other secrets and strategies to travel around Australia on the cheap?
Yes, I have the answers.
You can also try volunteering in Australia which can usually be free or for a minimal cost. The best way to go about this is by using Workaway or WOOFing (Working Weekends on Organic Farms). I highly recommend you try out Workaway as there is a variety of different jobs (teaching, gardening, babysitting, construction, hostel, etc) in exchange for housing and meals. This is a great way to meet locals as well.
I didn’t use Workaway while in Australia, but I did use it in Mozambique and I had a fantastic experience. I spent a month there and didn’t spend a dime. Just some money for a sim card and data.
If you don’t want to work and just travel cheaply, you could always try Couchsurfing, a friendly online community where gracious locals offer their living space to travelers for free. No strings attached.
Like I mentioned earlier, I used my points from my Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card to rent a car and to use on some domestic flights. I also used this card for purchases, as there are no foreign transaction fees with this specific card. If you don’t already have a credit card with travel perks and is foreign transaction-free, then I would suggest applying for one.
For ATM’s I use my Fidelity debit card which only takes 1% of the fee and rebates you all the transaction fees back into your account at the end of every month. There is also Charles Schwabb Online banking that rebates all of your transaction fees.
How much did I spend in Australia?
Know that Sydney is one of the most expensive countries in the world and most of Australia has prices similar to other Western countries such as the USA. I spent most of my money on flights. I used my travel credit card points to rent a car for the weekend and for some of the domestic flights.
Nights out were the second biggest expense. Booze is truly a wallet drainer during travel and it ain’t cheap in the land down under.
I spent a total of approximately $1,700 USD in two months.
Sydney got me the most when I stayed in the hostel and ate out. But I also did everything I wanted to do with no worries of breaking the budget.
To sum it all up!
Get your feet wet and travel around much cheaper places first like Southeast Asia and Central America (they are stupid cheap), gain some useful travel experience, make some awesome friends (I guarantee you’ll meet a ton of Aussie travelers), create the time, don’t try to see the whole country at once and bada bing bada boom, your Australian adventure has suddenly become that much more of a reality, as opposed to some unreachable dream! Also, consider a holiday working visa to make some quick travel cash or volunteer for free if you really want to save some dough. 🙂
-Any questions or comments? I encourage you to ask this koala or more conveniently, me.- 🙂
-Daniel “Adventure” Born-
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