How to see Australia on a budget

The state of our dollar makes travelling in our own backyard all the more attractive, but a low dollar doesn’t necessarily mean you have plenty in your pocket. And besides, the most expensive activities don’t always offer a true reflection of the nature of a nation – especially Australia. You certainly don’t need a lot of money to see the best of our sunburnt country. So, with that in mind, here are our top tips for seeing Australia on a budget.

Booking flights
There’s certainly no shortage of budget airlines that service Australia’s major cities. Virgin, Tiger and Jetstar may not have the prestige of Qantas, but they’ll definitely get you from A to B. And there’s always Regional Express Airlines, or Rex, as it’s better known, should you want to visit some of those more out-of-the-way places, such as Coober Pedy, Broken Hill or King Island.

Cheeky ways to cheaper flights include:

  • it always pays to compare your quotes with the prices on www.webjet.com.au or Wotif before you book direct with airlines. You may find a less expensive flight, or you may find another airline with a better connection for less.
  • the best days to fly are Saturday afternoons, Sunday mornings, Tuesdays or Wednesdays
  • if you can help it, fly with carry-on baggage only, that way you’ll save on excess baggage fees
  • it’s cheap to travel by train into the city from Sydney or Brisbane airport, especially if you’re travelling solo. However, if you’re with a group, or if you’re brave enough to ask a few nearby travellers in the cab line, and depending on the time of day (i.e. not peak hour in Sydney) it may work out cheaper to catch a taxi into town
  • Melbourne’s Skybus service will set you back $18 from airport to city, or vice versa
  • some airlines will fly to an airport outside of the major cities, such as Melbourne’s Avalon airport. Flights to these airports may seem cheaper initially, but a cab or bus ride from Avalon will quickly counter any discount you received on flights.

Driving cross country
Have you heard of one-way vehicle transfers? It’s when a hire car (or campervan) company needs its vehicles transported from wherever they are back to home base. Only, rather than having them put on a tray truck, they offer cheap hire fees, often from as little as $1 per day, for intrepid travellers to return them instead. This not only means huge savings for you, but you’ll also get to see much more of the countryside and its people than you would on a budget flight.

Food and drinks
Quite often, one of the biggest expense on any holiday is food and drink – especially if you’re a foodie or you like the odd tipple. Australia is home to some darn fine food, and many of our pubs take so much pride in their fare that they compare favourably to some of the finer restaurants in other countries – at a fraction of the price. So take advantage of the local pubs as you pass by. Also keep an eye out for fish’n’chipperies, kebab shops and bakeries; we have some of the best in the world and they won’t cost you your first born to buy a good feed. Check out www.eatstreets.com.au – it’s a wonderful website that’ll help you find cheap eats wherever you are.

As far as drinking goes, if you’re driving across country, pack an esky (but don’t drink and drive!). If you’re staying in a hotel or hostel, the odd six pack from the local bottle shop will save you some dough (assuming, of course, that your accommodations allow it). If you don’t drink alcohol, then bring along a reusable water bottle, as our tap water is better than most expensive ‘spring’ water (in the author’s opinion).

Accommodation
For discounted deals on hotels and hostels, try Wotif or www.lastminute.com.au. For even cheaper sleeps, check out www.couchsurfing.org – although be warned, most couch surfers are aged between 18–29. Still, it doesn’t hurt to get in touch to see if they’ll open a spot on their sofa for you. If you have your own house anywhere in Australia (or other parts of the world) you could try www.aussiehouseswap.com.au or www.houseswapholidays.com.au, and trade a stay in theirs for a stay in yours. You could also try Airbnb, which is bound to have an option that suits your budget. And, if you like the great outdoors, there are a plethora of camping grounds and caravan parks that will accommodate you and your tent at any time of the year, although it pays to book ahead if you’re hoping to stay during peak times.

Culture
We’re lucky that we have some great galleries and museums – even luckier that most of them are free. Here’s a list of the best of them:

So, that should get you started. If you have any other ideas for how to see Australia on the cheap, why not share them with our members?

Related articles:
Seven travel money wasters
Affordable travel across Australia
Don’t pay to stay

Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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