Australia is one of the few countries that we have visited on our round the world adventure that $100 USD a day for a family would be very difficult to achieve without being creative. One night alone for accommodation can easily reach $100+ and this does not even begin to factor in food, transportation, or sightseeing. However, we have found that it is very possible to see Australia on even less than $100 per day with a little planning. We managed two months in Australia for a total of $3,263.56 or $53.50 per day for the 3 of us. I thought I might share some tips we have learned along the way to help you keep costs down while traveling around Australia.
Housesitting is a great way to save money on accommodation anywhere around the world. There are numerous sites that list worldwide housesitting opportunities. I really don’t think one is better than another, we just happen to use Trusted Housesitters. Some sites seem to have more opportunities for a specific country. For example, Trusted Housesitters seem to have a lot of options for the UK, Australia and New Zealand. On our travels, we have been very fortunate to be able to do three house sits so far, two of which were in Australia. Both house sits in Australia were in places we would not have normally traveled to and we really got to experience Australia off the beaten path.
Although housesitting can really help save money, it is very competitive. It can take lots of applying before actually getting one. For each housesitting opportunity we secured, we had to apply to around 20 to 30 different opportunities. My advice is apply as soon as the housesitting opportunity is listed and just keep on applying. Don’t get frustrated if you do not hear back from the homeowners. The right one will come along. Several of the people we have housesitted for have told us that they received hundreds of applications when they posted the opportunity. If you plan to use housesitting as a way to help decrease costs while traveling, do some local housesitting before you leave to build up those references.
We first learned about HelpX.net while talking with a fellow traveler in the Jordanian desert of Wadi Rum. The traveler was helping proof read a website for a Bedouin adventure camp in exchange for food and accommodations. We first decided to pursue a HelpX opportunity while in Australia between our 2 housesits. During our week long stay we helped a family owned permaculture farm near the town of Casino and had a wonderful week. During our stay we learned a little bit about the principles of permaculture, built things, planted things, and made new friends. We also got to experience a slice of rural Australian life that we would not have normally seen. The experience gave us the sense of satisfaction and accomplishment that we have not felt with just traveling. Our only regret was that we did not choose to pursue HelpX before coming to Australia.
Typically most HelpX opportunities will expect about 4 hours of helping out per day in exchange for accommodations and food. The length of stay can very from a couple days to months. There are a wide range of experiences from helping design a website, to childcare, to helping out on a farm. But unlike WOOFING or other sites, HelpX is worldwide and is not nearly as competitive as housesitting.
On our round the world adventure, we have been fortunate enough to be invited to stay with two different families that we did not know, once while in Prague and then again in Brisbane. The first time we decided to accept the invitation we did not know what to expect and we were a little nervous. But afterwards we were so glad that we decided to take the chance. By accepting these invitations we have meet two wonderful families and had a lovely time. Both families have also been kind enough to show us around and share their knowledge about the city and country. If you are not so fortunate to be invited to stay with others, another way to find people who are open to having others come and stay with them for free is through Couchsurfing.org. We have talked to several traveling families who have done couchsurfing through Couchsurfing.org and have had some very positive experiences.
Camping is definitely a cheaper way to see Australia, as long as you bring your own camping gear. Most caravan parks charge $20 to $40 per night for a camping site and usually are well equipped with showers, communal kitchens, BBQ’s, play structures, and other activities for families. While in Australia we had thought about camping, but after adding up the cost of buying camping gear it just didn’t work out for us. We instead splurged a little and went “glamping” in a luxurious safari tent at Agnes Water Beach. The tent had an ensuite bathroom, kitchen, power, and even Sky TV. The caravan park was family friendly and the best part is that it is located on the beach. While there we enjoyed playing on the beach, wandering around the cute town, and renting surfboards to try some of Australia’s famous waves (which were really small).
One thing we have noticed about Australia is that anything remotely associated with tourism is insanely expensive. For example, we had thought about camping and doing a self-drive on Fraser Island. Sadly, we were getting quotes of $1000 for 3 days and this was definitely out of our budget. But one of the nice things about Australia is that most National Parks are free to visit. So just getting outdoors and enjoying what nature has to offer is a great way to save money. We spent a lot of our time in Australia doing some phenomenal bushwalks, including climbing to the top of Mount Warning. Getting out and about in nature also gives you a chance to see and hear some of Australian’s iconic wildlife.
Also most towns and cities in Australia have some wonderful city parks and this can be a nice way to spend the day. Many of the city parks even have BBQ, so bring some “snags” to put on the “barbie” and maybe even meet some locals along the way.
Utilizing a relocation service is one option we did not pursue while in Australia, because we seemed to always be traveling the wrong way. But if you have the time and flexibility this definitely seems like a very promising option. Utilizing a relocation service means that you agree to drive a car or caravan from point A to point B for a very reduced rental rate. Looking at the options, daily rates appeared to vary from $1 to $5 and sometimes the relocation even covered gas, ferry, and tolls. Just an observation in helping plan out your route if you interested in doing a relocation service, it seems like most relocation services go from north to south. Here are the links to the two relocation services I am aware of: Imoova.com and Drivenow.com.au.
In Australia, the distance between towns can be vast and petrol (gas for us Americans) is not cheap. On average a liter of petrol costs 1.50 AUD or 1.33 USD. This equals about $5.03 USD for a gallon of gas. After all rental fees, tolls, and petrol costs, sometimes flying can be a much cheaper option. Just as an FYI to help you decide whether to drive or fly one-way fees for rental cars can be very hefty. We paid $200 to pick up our car in Sydney and drop it off in Toowoomba. Here are the major airlines for Australia: Jetstar, Tigerair, Virgin Australia and Quantas.
When we first noticed the prices for dining out, our jaws dropped. We were thinking “Oh (bleep), this is really going to suck surviving off Ramon noodles for months on end.” Fortunately, we soon discovered that groceries are significantly cheaper versus eating out. Fellow travelers had told us the place to shop for groceries while in Australia was at Aldi. After looking at the prices and comparing to other supermarkets like Coles and Woolworth, it truly is the cheapest place to shop. Aldi doesn’t have a lot of choices, but definitely has enough choices to be able to do most of your shopping there. To help give you an idea about the food costs at Aldi check out Aldi.com.
Find a Place with a Kitchen
I know this seems like common sense, but just to reinforce it, having access to a kitchen wherever you are staying is essential in keeping costs down. It would be better to pay a little extra for accommodation with a kitchen versus just eating out. Eating out is outrageous in Australia. It is by far the most expensive country we have encountered around the world and even “cheap” places are expensive. We saw advertisements for the meal deal at McDonalds for $12+.
Despite what people may say, Australia is a country that can be seen on a budget for a family. It just takes a little planning and creativity and thinking outside the box. I hope that some of the suggestions above help you save money the next time you are in Australia.