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3 Secrets To How I Traveled Australia on The Cheap

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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.

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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!

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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. 🙂

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

-Daniel “Adventure” Born-


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A Visit To Tasmania: An Unexpected Wonder

 

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What do I know about Tasmania?

Not a damn thing.

The only thing I do know is that the island is the native home to the most feisty marsupial in the world: the Tasmanian devil. I would love to see some of those guys in the wild if at all possible.

Besides that, some Melburnians jokingly told me to check the necks of any Tassie I meet. They said I should find a huge scar from where their second head used to be attached. The running joke here is that the local  Tassies are inbreeds since they’re all “stuck” more or less on a relatively small island. It’s kinda like how the northerners in the States poke fun at the people in the deep south; harmless and pure buffoonery.

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The 26th largest island in the world, Tasmania is an island state part of the Australian Commonwealth. It’s located just south of the main big island. There currently as of today (2016) just a little over half a million people populating Tas (which is a popular shortening people may refer of the state). I was fortunate enough to cross paths with two very welcoming Tassies early on in my Quest to the Seven Continents.

While in Fiji, I met two volunteers who hailed from Tasmania. Their names are Denika and Karissa, two full-on Aussies, born and raised from Tasmanian scratch. They both invited me to visit them during my trip through Australia when I found the time. At first I was reluctant. It wasn’t on my mind and it’s kind of out of the way, but then I figured, “Why the hell not?”. If anything the timing was perfect, return flights to Tasmania were cheap, the weather for the weekend predicted desirable forecasts, and I knew two cool people who wanted to show me the true guts and bones of Tasmania.

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Karissa on the left. Denika on the right. I think this photo accurately portrays how they are!

Just like that, I booked a flight to Launceston from Melbourne; an easy flight that took just under an hour.

Little Denika arrived and scooped me up from the airport and from there we made the two-hour drive to the northwest part of the island called Burnie. I briefly met her family before we headed to Boat Harbour Beach, one of Denika’s personal favorite spots.

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Later that day, I met up with Karissa near the Parklands. She mentioned to me that she reserved us a table for tea later in the evening.

“Who makes a reservation for tea?” I thought to myself. But hey whatever, I was down for some tea! I’m more hungry than thirsty but I’m sure this tea place had to have some grub.

In the meantime she showed me a little more of the surrounding area. So far from what I’ve seen, the roadsides of Tasmania reminded me of New Zealand; a perfectly cut, grass ocean as far as the eye can see. Oh and lots of cows and crops with mountains and hills in the wayside.

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We pulled up to an Italian restaurant, where we had the reservations for…tea?

“Wait, you guys call dinner, tea?” I asked Karissa. “I thought we were having actual tea.”

“Yeah that’s normal.” she responded laughing. “We are going for tea means food. How would you say it back in America?”

“Dinner!” I replied with a chuckle. “Supper, if you’re a weirdo.”

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That’s not the only difference I noticed. I’ve been hearing Denika say the word “shivers” in substitution for what should be the word “f*ck”. Like for example, something would go wrong and then she would blurt “Oh, shivers!” in her little Aussie accent. I couldn’t help but to laugh whenever she did that.

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Another pretty big thing I noticed is that, everyone knows freakin’ everybody on this island! There’s not a place we went to where Denika and Karissa didn’t know someone. The ice cream shop, the convenient store, the restaurants we ate in, the park, the parking lot, wherever! Living in Tasmania is equivalent to living in the world’s largest soap opera. Everyone is gonna know your business and there’s no hiding from it.

The next day, both girls took me on a short trail just above Sisters Beach. It was a linear hike that presented us with views of the aforementioned beach and of the Indian Ocean.

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During the trail, I noticed strange flora that resembled figments of my childhood. A prickly, pine cone thing that would have been a Furby if it had the googly eyes and also this bush tree thing that resembles a little jungle tribe warrior man. I can’t unsee them.

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Continuing on with my personalized tour of Tasmania, the girls took me to a waterfall in the Crown Reserve and through Stanley to the top of the Nut State Reserve. Amazing, amazing, amazing stuff!

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That same evening, while Denika went to work, Karissa took me to one of the coolest local waterfalls in West Ridgley that people could spend their summer days to swim in. I would have but it wasn’t warm enough yet for it.

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We also managed to find baby penguins back on the Parklands. Don’t shine your lights on them, it’s bad for their eyes. Instead, we were able to use lights with a red filter which don’t startle them. This may be a bit naive on my part but I wasn’t aware that Australia had native penguins. All I hear about are the kangaroos and koalas.

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We had a big weekend planned so for the next day, Karissa baton passed me back to Denika. (They both have steady jobs and have been passing me back and forth to each other to make sure I was always occupied and exploring their great State. They’ve been doing a great job!) With Denika, she had plans to go along the east coast of Tasmania along with a few of her friends and spend the night over there. When she pulled up, I met her friend Jack who was coming along with us, and together we went grocery shopping for the long ride to the East coast. Two other friends of hers met us there and would join us.

The drive was almost exactly like a drive through the country of New Zealand, except it felt like Tasmania had a lot more trees. Along the way, we made a destination stop at Bicheno. A coast influenced by giant orange-colored boulders and a break between conveniently placed crevices of stones where water shoots up through it every few seconds, aptly called the Bicheno Blowhole. I’ve got blown on a couple of times when I wasn’t paying attention.

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Our base was in an area called Swansea. Swansea is home to fascinating places like The Ugly Duckout takeaway restaurant and The Horny Cray takeaway restaurant.

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Swansea is also home to Loontitetermairrelehoiner Track.

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That’s a real thing folks! The reception lady said there was free ice cream for whoever could pronounce it correctly. The key words being FREE ICE CREAM. Believe me, I tried my hardest to figure out how to pronounce it. It was impossible, however.

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Continuing on with our east coast trip, the focus was to visit as many beaches as we could. First up, Friendly Beaches!

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Then this cool spot where we were the only ones there.

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Later onto Freycinet, to a place called Honeymoon Beach. It’s here where the water is so calm and the wildlife so peculiar, that it’s become a popular spot to snorkel.

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Freycinet also hold spectacular lookouts into the sea from various advantages along the coast.

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And then finally, Coles Bay has a postcard worthy lighthouse that overlooks a couple of much smaller islands harbouring seals just a short distance away.

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Did you see how amazing Tasmania actually looks?

Every single one of these locales were absolutely stunning and was the most “nature” I’ve gotten in Australia yet! The only bummer that it was not the right temperature to go for a dip in each of the beaches we visited. Regardless, it was still amazing to visit.

I had no idea Tasmania had such a diverse coastal line to explore. I had no idea about anything! It was literally one neat spot after another after another.

I gotta hand it to Denika and Karissa. They went way above and beyond to show me as much as they could in as little time as possible. A+ ladies 🙂

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See ya back in Melbourne!