Are you dreaming of pristine beaches, abundant wildlife and adventure activities? Australia is a bucket list travel destination offering all this and more, but it’s not so friendly on the wallet. As an Australian and a life-long adventurer, I’ve learnt some valuable tips and tricks, to help you stretch the dollar further.
Let’s take a look at 15 ways to travel Australia on a budget, so you can make the most of a trip ‘down under’.
Search for great-value flights
It’s no secret that there’s a lot of ground to cover, when you arrive in the ‘land of Oz’. While your options for transport are numerous, flying ensures you see as much of it, as physically possible. The only problem is, where to start, to find cheap flights?
The number one tip is to book flights within the country as early as possible. The later you leave it, the less likely you are to grab a bargain fare. Try to plan flights on weekdays and especially avoid Monday mornings, Friday afternoons and Sunday nights, as they tend to be the busiest times.
Before your trip, signing up for email alerts from the major carriers might just be worth it to get a cheaper fare. Jetstar, Qantas and Virgin offer updates on sales fares, when you join their email lists. Make sure you’re aware of your luggage requirements and pay for checked baggage in advance, as costs are much cheaper than at the airport.
Do a self-drive tour
Australia is crisscrossed with incredible roads along the coast, through lush rainforests and dramatic outback scenery. A self-drive tour is one of the best ways to get off the beaten path and really experience the country. Car hire is available in all major towns and cities, with options for pick-up and drop-off in different destinations.
The Great Ocean Road, in Victoria, winds over sheer cliffs, leading you to quaint towns and iconic scenery, like the 12 Apostles. If you’re an adventure lover, conquer the Nullarbor Plain, in Western Australia, for kangaroos and remote outback scenery. Kangaroo Island, in South Australia, offers 1,600 kilometres of roads to spot wildlife and enjoy food and wine trails.
Make use of public transport systems
Taxi fares add up fast and, with large distances to cross, don’t prove cost-effective. In all major cities, the public transport systems are easy to use and ultra-efficient. Most allow you to buy an all-inclusive transport card, covering buses, trams and trains.
When you need to travel from one state to another, get an Ausrail pass from Rail Australia. The next best bet is travelling by bus, with a company such as Greyhound. When you’re planning a long distance trip, it helps to research an itinerary, so you don’t miss out on any ‘must-sees’ along the way.
Stock up at the supermarkets
There’s no doubt about it, dining out is one of the biggest expenses on an Australian holiday. However, with so many parks and beaches offering free barbeque facilities and picnic areas, there’s really no need for your hunger pangs to eat into your wallet.
Eating in the ‘great outdoors’ is a national pastime for Australians, so hit the local supermarkets to stock up on your favourite foods. Then, all you need to do is pack a picnic and choose a sunny location for your feast.
Eat out at the clubs
If you do choose to eat out and you’re on the coast, head to a Surf Club. With prime positions practically on the sand, ocean views, great-value meals and friendly locals, mealtimes become an attraction in themselves. RSL (Returned Services League) clubs are scattered throughout most suburbs and also offer budget dining.
Enjoy Sydney’s cheap attractions
In terms of places to visit in Australia, Sydney ranks up there as one of the most popular. It’s also one of the most expensive, so when you’re looking for things to do in Sydney, make the most of free attractions. Stroll the coastal walk from Bondi to Coogee for panoramic ocean views, check out Centennial Park and the Sydney Botanical Gardens or soak in some culture at the Art Gallery of NSW.
Make Melbourne affordable
Trendy Melbourne is the home of fantastic restaurants, cutting edge fashion, art and a vibrant night scene. There’s a free city tram for super easy transport, so hop on and off to see the city sights. For cheap places to visit in Melbourne, head to the Queen Victoria Markets, admire numerous world-class museums and get lost in the art-lined city laneways.
Go for gold on the GC
Queensland’s Gold Coast is tourist central, with theme parks galore, however you don’t need expensive thrill rides to enjoy it. Along the coast, soak up the atmosphere of different beach districts, including Burleigh Heads, Nobby’s Beach and Main Beach. Go on a tour of the hinterland, for rainforest walks, thundering waterfalls and homemade goodies to tantalise your taste buds.
Do the Great Barrier Reef on a budget
Teeming with marine life and bursting with colour, the Great Barrier Reef is a highlight on a trip to Oz. It can be expensive, so the best way to see it is by staying in budget accommodation in Cairns and taking a boat tour. Most of them offer full day-trips, with food and snorkelling equipment included.
Hit the surf
It’s likely you’ll be spending a lot of your time in the surf, but you may just get to see the Pros in action too. Time your trip with a surf competition, such as the Quicksilver Gold Coast Pro, the Ripcurl Pro or the Noose Longboard Festival. They’re free to watch and the atmosphere is always electric.
Get into sports
Australian’s are sports-crazy and there’s no reason you can’t join in with the fun. Tickets are well-priced, you get to see how the locals live and save on your entertainment budget. From March to October, check out a Rugby League or AFL game.
Grab a bargain at the markets
No matter where you are in the country, you’re likely to stumble upon farmers markets, country fairs and arts and crafts stalls. They offer cheap fresh produce, second-hand gifts and entertainment, plus a fun atmosphere to spend a few hours browsing around. Try the Fremantle markets in Perth, or the Nimbin Markets in New South Wales.
Pub hop through the countryside
The ‘Outback Pub’ is something of an icon in Australian, with historic architecture, cheap beers and daily meal specials. On road trips, pop into eclectic roadside establishments for a pub lunch. Cities also offer traditional Aussie pubs, often with live music and comedy acts thrown in.
Take advantage of BYO
When you’re dining out, alcoholic drinks add up with hefty price tags. The good news is, many restaurants offer a BYO option, meaning you can buy your bottle of wine beforehand, at a much better price. Bottle shops (or ‘bottle-os’ in Aussie slang) are easy to find in all major suburbs and cities
Make friends with locals
At the end of the day, the best way to find cheap ways to travel Australia, is to make friends with the locals. This way, you’ll get insider info about free attractions, the best places to see in each location and any special events taking place during your visit. Practise saying, “G’day” mate and you’ll be well on your way to making new friends.