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3 Secrets To How I Traveled Australia on The Cheap

backpack australia cheap

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.

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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.

I’ll explain.

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. 🙂

backpack australia cheap koala

-Any questions or comments? I encourage you to ask this koala or more conveniently, me.- 🙂

-Daniel “Adventure” Born-

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Come to Melbourne and Experience Four Seasons in One Day!


The Brisbanites and the Sydneysiders from the north warned me that Melbourne has shitty weather this time of year (November).

“Get ready to experience four different seasons in one day!” they would say.

Then I would think to myself. Pssshh, please. I’m from Michigan. If you really want to experience four seasons in a day for the rest of your life, just go and live there. I’ve suffered through snow, hail, rain, and sunshine all in just a few hours before. Fact!


Besides the weather, just like the rest of Australia, my expectations for Melbourne were calculated to be nonexistent. So far I haven’t been disappointed, but this time I was doing things differently.

  • Spend about a week in Melbourne with my friend Ben.
  •  Take a four-day trip to Tasmania.
  • Spend another week in Melbourne on my own, exploring the surrounding area.

I have a lot on my plate, but first, here’s how my time with my friend Ben played out. I arrived in Melbourne via flight early in the morning where my fellow traveling buddy Ben picked me up. It was a taxing process, as I had to sleep for a couple hours in a parking lot restroom before the Sydney airport opened up. Anyways, I met him in Antigua, Guatemala (January 2015). He taught English alongside me and later we hit up the beaches of El Tunco in El Salvador after our teaching stint there was complete. My fondest memory of Ben is when we climbed up a volcano called Acatenango over the course of two days, which still has been one of coolest hikes I’ve ever done.


He scooped me up in his little yellow jeep. Nothings changed much in his appearance except now his hair has grown longer and he was sportin’ a man bun. We got some groceries on the way, stocking up on essentials including kangaroo meat that I’ve been wanting to try and a few boxes of Weet-Bix cereal, (Weetabix in the UK)  my new obsession in life. The American cereal aisles absolutely DESTROY Australia’s cereal selection, but thank God for Weet-Bix. It’s extremelely rare to find over in the States.

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I can’t decide which one I like the best.

Ben lives just outside of the Melbourne city center and shares a home with his friend and roommate Glady. I also another friend of his and also neighbor by the name of Nick. I found myself constantly laughing whenever they spoke to me, whether they were cracking a joke or not. It was at this point I realized I have been laughing all over Australia. I think the Aussie accents make everything sound funny to me. The three of us played his N64, with all of the classics I played as a kid with Mario Party, Smash Bros, and Pokemon Stadium included in that mix.

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Ben’s a swim coach and gym instructor so I had plenty of downtime when he was busy working. I took some time to investigate the city central of Melbourne on one of its nicer days.

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From the looks of it, Melbourne appeared to be a touch more diverse as far as the people around and the placement of the different architecture and surroundings. Loads of cafe’s and cozy restaurants lined up the river that ran through the city.

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Somehow I lost the key he gave me to his place. That sucker must have jumped right out of my pocket on the train between cities.


Also nearby was a large outdoor Noodle Market that served up lots of Asian inspired cuisine with an emphasis on noodles. Ben and his buddies took me here to get my taste buds flarin’. If you’re a fan of noodles, specifically Asian culture inspired noodles, then this is the place for you! I personally found it to be overpriced and over crowded. There was a line about 50 people deep full of patrons waiting to buy a tiny baby scoop of ice cream! Psshh.


It didn’t look anywhere close to this amazing. Photo courtesy of Chris Phutully.

Ben is basically a party animal. Back in our Guatemalan days, he was the one known to tear up the dance floor at the bars and clubs in Antigua. I am the total opposite (unless I’m boozed up) but knowing him, I was fully prepared for at least one night in a club of sorts. Besides a button up shirt that I brought but haven’t wore once since this Quest to the Seven Continents began, I didn’t have the proper attire on hand. Luckily, Ben had some extra pants and some black shoes that weren’t anything I would ever wear, but they actually fit perfectly. We met up with his totally down-to-earth friend Alyscha at her house and pregamed a bit before going out.


We had a great time and grubbed on McDonalds at the end.


Speaking of grub, the kangaroo meat tasted great. Just like beef. However the thin layer of vegemite spread on toast was something I don’t ever need to try again. I tried it on two separate occasions just to make sure of what I was tasting. The verdict is: ehh, I can live without it. The fairy bread though…that was pretty scrumptious! What is fairy  bread? It’s pretty simple. All it is, is bread with butter spread and lots of sprinkles (hundreds and thousands as they call it here in Australia) on top. It’s mainly served at children’s parties but since I am a giant kid, it fit my tastes nicely.

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My first week in Melbourne was pretty low-key which was what I wanted. It was a warm sunshine and then cold sudden rain most of the days, just like the northerners predicted, but still I was able to get some work done and lounge, explore, and play the N64 at my leisure. I had another full week in Melbourne later where I knew I would constantly be on foot, so I was completely fine with relaxing all week.

But before that week, I was invited down to the island state of Tasmania for a few days. I didn’t have any intentions on going to Tassie initially, but then I thought “Why not?” Return flights are cheap and I have two friends who live there that are ready to welcome me with open arms.

Ben thanks for having me! Hopefully you get closer to my neck of the woods over in Canada. Off to Tasmania!

The World According to Will

You have to be pretty darn neat to have your name in the title of one of my blog posts.

There have only been three others to ever claim that honor: English Lucy,  German Björn, and a Mexican horse that won me money by the name of Don Porfirio. Unfortunately, Will is no Mexican horse that can win me money, but he’s still pretty darn neat enough to be added to this prestigious list.

Will is an Australian traveler I met while volunteering in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam in 2013. Before he even met me, he attempted to steal my bunk bed while I was away on a weekend trip in the country. I came back to my dorm and found someone’s giant backpack placed on my bunk, “claiming” it as theirs. I figured it was one of the newbie volunteers I haven’t met yet, so I removed the bag and chucked it on the floor. I come to find out later it was Will’s and so he kindly moved it to another bunk. That sinister bunk thief turned out to be a nice person…

Except for that instance when he joyously found humor in my neck injury…


This was back in July 2013 while in Vietnam when I accidentally hurt myself. Long story.

Still he had the generosity to escort me to the hospital in the first place so I guess he’s actually capable of being a decent person.

BUT, there was another instance where he copied my trip to Mui Ne and took the exact same photos that I did. Some might call it an inspiration, but I call it plain old thievery!

Mine are on the left. His are on the right.

Perhaps he was truly inspired from my photos? (Probably not though. He did try to steal my bunk after all).

Anyhow, we’ve kept in contact over the years, keeping up on each others travels. In July 2015, Will came to New York for the first time where I was able to meet him there, along with a few other friends of mine including League of Eight Extraordinary Events squad member Veronica.


We visited places of interest like the day draining Statue of Liberty, the Rockefeller Plaza, and even Long Island to name a few. I’m not a big fan of New York, but with friends like these, the trip was absolutely worth it.


Fast forward to present day, I was now in Will’s territory exploring the sights in Sydney. During the afternoon one Friday, I met up with him at the Sydney Opera House, per his suggestion, for drinks along with Josh. Although drinks at the Opera House are typically more expensive than other places around, you really couldn’t beat the surrounding views.


We ended up casually bar hopping and visiting another off-shoot bar where we drank too much before calling it a night.


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He’s either always stealing or sabotaging my photos.

The next day, Will had a plan to guide us (myself, Josh, and Timo) to the Blue Mountains, located on Sydney’s borders along the Great Dividing Range. It gets its name based off the blue hue the mountains get when viewed from a distance. It’s something you should see if you ever get the chance to come to Sydney. I’m not sure if I was seeing any blue but I suppose it depends on the day.


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We had the genius idea of climbing down 900 ridiculously stupid vertical steps, dubbed the Giant Stairway, to get to the valley below the Three Sister rock formations. There had to be something great down there! We come to find there was nothing special at all. Just diverging paths to longer trails that none of us were mentally prepared for. So, back up the 900 steps we went. Going down wasn’t an issue but ascending back up…I may or may not have taken more breaks than I’d like to admit. There was a cable car nearby that went back up but why spend the money?

The range went as far as the eye could see. We scoped out the surroundings while on top of Echo Point and chilled out soaking in the sights.

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Back at Will’s place, he introduced to me a show I’ve heard of but never watched called Stranger Things. We ended up watching five episodes back-to-back while chomping on delicious Indian food we ordered for takeaway. I HAD to find out what happened to Barb! Those granny glasses though…

A recent conversation on Facebook…


Will is a huge beach bum. I knew that based on his Snapchats which mostly consist of only his feet in the sand with the ocean just at reach. #thingsbasicwhitepeopleliketotakepicsof 

Because of his affinity, he knew of some of the best beaches Sydney had to offer away from the much more touristy Bondi Beach. He drove us to Palm Beach and led us to a short trail just above Palm Beach to the nearest lighthouse where we saw the beach stretch out for miles.

palm beach australia

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We made our way back down and took a short drive to Whale Beach, which gets its name from the similar shape of a whale’s tail.

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The weather was great, the sand felt nice, but the waves in the water itself were VICIOUS!

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Will’s in there just getting wrecked.

They were mad crazy waves but it was still entertaining! A little scary when the tide sucked you back into the ocean, but still fun.

Later on, we went to a neighborhood eatery in North Sydney called The Greens. The Greens is an indoor/outdoor garden cafe that offers spectacular views of the Sydney harbor. It was wine time once again. Oh and also more Indian food. Two days in a row, whaaaat?



As far as my traveling companions go, I hold Will in high regards and is one of the people I looked forward to visiting most while in Australia because I knew it would be a hilarious time. No distance will ever cease our constant and effortless bashing on each other. Everything down to making fun of each others accents, stereotypes, mothers, etc (all in a 100% joking manner of course), we never get offended no matter how absurd we are and just laugh at everything, including at ourselves which makes the world that much more enjoyable.

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I’m certain our paths will cross again in the future, whether it’s tomorrow or ten years from now, and when it does, I know the world according to Will and it will surely be another hilarious reunion. Maybe Europe?

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Brisbane, The Sunshine Coast, The Gold Coast, and now Sydney have all exceeded expectations!

Up next: Melbourne!

Welcome to China…Er, I Mean Sydney!

Welcome to China...I Mean Sydney!

What do I know about Sydney? Not a thing.

After landing in, I gathered my bags and used my Opal card the nameless backpacker gave me in Fiji and embarked on a short train ride from the Sydney International Airport to the CBD (Central Business District) area of the city. As I began my fresh first steps onto the lit streets of the busy Sydney populous and scoped out my surroundings, I thought to myself…

“Man, there are Asians everywhere!”

“Am I in China?”

“They are legit taking over this city.”

Although come to mention it, Zara did tell me that when I came to Sydney that I would basically be visiting China at the same time. She hit the nail right on the head!

I walked to my hostel where I would stay for the next couple nights to meet up with people I volunteered with in Fiji who were in Sydney on working holiday visas. The hostel I stayed at is called Nomads Sydney Backpackers Hostel aka one of the crappiest hostels I have ever stayed in. The rooms weren’t the best but they made do. It was one of the cheapest so I guess I got what I paid for. I got used to the moldy smell after a while.

I spent the first day busy with some travel “work” while exploring my surroundings including Hyde Park (named after London’s more famous Hyde Park) and the iconic, tourist infested Sydney Opera House along with literal hordes iPad welding tourists. Why do so many tourists opt to use a clunky iPad or any other tablet as their go-to for photos?



I ended up sneaking up near the higher levels of the Opera House, past the blockades and up the stairs, realizing after the fact that I could have gotten in big trouble. I simply just wanted to see it.


Back in my smelly hostel dorm, I met a French backpacker by the name of Briac who had his bed right under mine. He was here traveling going up the coast as I was making my way down. He told me of an olympic sized swimming pool right underneath the Sydney bridge we could swim in. It has great views of the harbor and the city scape. Count me in!

We walked all the way from the center, across the Sydney Harbor Bridge, the longest steel bridge in the world, which took about twenty minutes to cross on foot.

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Just to the side, directly next to Luna Park, is not one, but two olympic-size swimming pools that cost just a few dollars to enter. One of the pools was indoor, the other was outdoor. We chose the outdoor pool which gave us some pretty cool views of Sydney at its best.




Briac’s time in Sydney was short-lived. He made his way northbound via train the next day. It was all good though because I had other people I needed to visit. One of them was Nakul whom I met during my second venture into Vietnam back in October 2014. He’s currently studying in his medical field in one of the universities (I can’t remember which one it was) near King’s Cross. We met up at a Japanese restaurant called DonDon and where we brought each other up to speed and what we’ve been up to. He was in the middle of exam week and had to get back to his studies before we parted ways once more. He did suggest that I meet his girlfriend Latha, who I have heard so much about, when I get down to Melbourne. I told him I would for sure.

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Next on my ridiculously long list of people in Australia I needed to visit was my friend and former student Duc. I also met him in Vietnam but as my college student in June 2013, then as his teacher assistant at the same college a year later. He was now living in Sydney with his newlywed wife helping to run a Vietnamese restaurant called So 9. He’s one of the main chefs and when I went to his restaurant, he personally prepared me two of my most favorite Vietnamese dishes: phở and bánh mì.


I haven’t had great Vietnamese since I was in Vietnam two years ago. This is simply the best meal I have had in a long time. I LOVE Vietnamese food! Minus all the seafood parts of course.

Duc works nearly everyday, working long hours in order to eventually get permanent residency in Sydney. Before we parted ways once more, I made sure to visit his restaurant one more time the following day because I HAD to get some more phở in my belly.

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Next up was a friend I haven’t seen or heard from since I met her in Kenya in July 2012. Her name is Damaris. She’s been off of Facebook (my main avenue for keeping in touch with most of my international allies) but noticed on my Instagram account that I was in Sydney and invited me out to dinner. She was an unexpected surprise, but I was happy to meet up with her. She and her boyfriend picked me up from my hostel and we drove to Bondai Beach where they treated me to dinner. Even though I haven’t heard from her for more than four years, chatting with her again felt completely natural as if I just saw her in Africa again yesterday. It happens more often than not with travelers I reunite with that I haven’t spoken to in a while. This was no exception. She’s doing great, by the way.


The remainder of my Sydney cohorts, except for one that I ‘WILL’ tell you about later, all came here as former volunteers from Fiji that I just met fairly recently. And all of them were here on working holiday visas. Josh from England, Timo from Germany, and Phoebe from a little island off of mainland England called Guernsey. I never heard of it either.

Josh and I shared a hostel and hung out quite a bit. He was busy searching for a bartending job, Phoebe was here visiting family on Manly Island before landing a retail job, and Timo somehow scored himself a job at the Sydney Opera House which is unheard of.


It was great seeing them. I literally just lived with them back in Fiji just a couple of weeks ago, so that was cool, but I was ready to get out of the hostel. I couldn’t get a “real” sense of Sydney because tourists ran the city. Maybe that IS what Sydney is? So to get a better feel, I went to go live with a live-action Sydneysider for a few days. He’s a very good friend of mine by the name of Will.

He would become my personal tour guide over the next few days to show me the outer bounds of what Sydney has to offer.

Let’s go Will!