Traveling to Australia is an amazing experience, but it can be an expensive destination. While we can promise every dollar will be worth it, that doesn’t mean you have to pour your entire life savings into it. In this post, we will cover the different costs you should consider when budgeting for a trip to Australia, and some tips to save a bit of cash so that you can plan your dream trip!
How much does it cost to travel in Australia?
Depending on your budget and the type of trip you are planning, you can expect to spend around $50 USD per day on a tight budget. However, $100+ is more realistic for the majority of travelers. This includes accommodation, food and drinks, transportation, and any entertainment or activities you plan to do. Keep in mind that if you are traveling in more expensive cities such as Sydney and Melbourne, you may need to budget a bit more for your daily expenses. So let’s break this down:
Accommodation costs in Australia can vary greatly depending on the type and location of accommodation you choose. As Australia is a popular destination, high-season prices and be significantly inflated as well, particularly around the school holidays. The most expensive time for accommodation though is always during the Christmas and New Year's period. It’s summer, many locals have this entire week off work and it’s peak tourist season.
For budget travelers, hostels are a great option and can start at $20 ($14 USD) a night for a dorm room. Although, most are closer to $50 ($35 USD). Many hostels offer private rooms and shared dorms, so you can choose the option that best suits your budget. Hostels usually have basic amenities such as kitchen facilities, free Wi-Fi, and common areas, making them an ideal option for budget-conscious travelers.
If camping is your jam, then there are thousands of incredible, free campsites around the country. The more popular ones sometimes require a reservation or do have a small fee though. Wikicamps is a great app for finding all kinds of campsites throughout the country. While you do have to buy it for $8 ($5.50 USD), even if you only use it once, that’s already cheaper than one night in a hostel anywhere else in the country!
For those looking for a slightly more comfortable stay, mid-range hotels in Australia offer a higher quality of accommodation at a reasonable price. Hotels in this range generally offer a variety of amenities such as free Wi-Fi, room service, and breakfast included in the price. Depending on the location and season, you can expect to pay anywhere from $100-200 ($70 - $140 USD) per night for a mid-range hotel.
For those looking for a more luxurious stay, Australia offers a wide range of luxury hotels. These hotels typically offer a variety of upscale amenities, such as spa services, fitness centers, private balconies, and fine dining. Luxury hotels in Australia start at $200 ($140 USD) per night and can range upwards of $500 ($350 USD) depending on the location and the season.
Food & Drinks
Food and drinks in Australia can vary in price depending on where you are. Eating out is generally more expensive than in other parts of the world. For a sit-down meal in a restaurant, you can expect to pay around $20-50 AUD (or $14 - $36 USD) per person at a standard cafe or restaurant.
If you want to cut down on your food costs, cooking your own meals is going to be the cheapest option. For example, a 500g packet of pasta and a jar of pasta sauce would cost you around $5 AUD ($3.50 USD) and would be enough for 3 - 4 meals. For all-day activities, bring your own snacks and drinks with you to save some cash.
Alcoholic drinks can also be quite expensive in Australia, so if you are looking to save money it is best to stick to non-alcoholic drinks. The average price for a cocktail is $20 AUD (or $14 USD), while a beer will set you back around $8 ($5.50 USD) if you buy it from a restaurant or $4+ ($2.80 USD) if you buy it in a 6-pack from a bottle shop.
Australia is not a cheap country to get around, no matter what type of transport you choose, but it is a worthy investment since this country has so much to offer!
Domestic flights can be as little as $50 ($35 USD) for shorter legs like Melbourne to Sydney. For flights that go from the east coast to the west, expect to pay at least $300 ($210 USD). Flights from the South to the North are similarly priced. Jetstar and Virgin offer the cheapest flights, with Virgin offering a few more comfort options than Jetstar. However, in recent years, REX, an airline that previously only serviced small, regional airports, now also offers competitive prices between a few of the big cities.
While a road trip through Australia is by far the best way to explore this diverse country, car rentals can be expensive. Of course, the cost will depend on the type of car you choose and the length of your rental, but you can expect to pay around $50-150 AUD ($35 - $105 USD) per day. While this is a pretty significant difference for prices, you are more likely to find prices on the lower end of that range if you book for a week or longer, and shorter rentals, or rentals during peak times will be closer to the upper end.
Buying a Campervan
Because car rentals can add up very quickly, many people who are traveling the country for longer periods of time often buy a campervan when they arrive and sell it when they leave. This covers both accommodation and transport costs and can be an excellent way to save money. They are usually equipped with a kitchen and all the cooking equipment you’ll need, allowing you to cook from wherever you are and spend less money on eating out.
However, you will need a fair bit of cash upfront to buy the van, as these typically sell on Facebook Marketplace or Gumtree for around $15,000 AUD ($10,500 USD). While this number seems daunting, don’t forget that when you leave, you will be able to sell it to either break even or at a small loss.
The other thing to keep in mind is you will want to give yourself plenty of time at the end of your trip to make sure you can sell it again. Before COVID, there was such a big turnover of travelers who were choosing to explore the country this way, so that was much less of a concern. However, these days, even though tourism is picking up, it’s yet to get back to its pre-COVID levels.
Whether you are renting a car or buying a campervan, make sure to factor in the price of fuel as well, because that can be another big transport expense. The average price of petrol is $1.70 per liter (or $4.75 USD per gallon). On top of that, the prices increase by at least 25% in the more remote parts of the country. So make sure to budget generously if you are heading to the outback or parts that are off the beaten track.
If you only plan on taking a bus once or twice within Australia, flying is generally a cheaper option. A one-way bus ticket from Melbourne to Sydney with Greyhound for example costs roughly $120 ($85 USD). However, if you are planning on taking multiple bus legs, Greyhound also offers package deals like 30 days of unlimited travel along the east coast for $249 ($175 USD).
Firefly is a cheaper alternative to Greyhound, but keep in mind their route is far less extensive and buses travel less frequently. For comparison, a ticket on the same Melbourne to Sydney leg would cost around $95 ($66 USD) - which is still more expensive than the average flight for the same route.
Inner city public transport
For transport within cities, there are decent bus, train, and ferry systems. These range in price from state to state, and you can check the transport site for each state for routes, timetables, and fare information:
Many of the best experiences in Australia revolve around the outdoors, which is great if you’re on a budget because outdoor activities are often free! However, if you’re interested in an activity that you do have to pay for, the prices can range greatly. As a very, very rough estimate for how much to budget for activities, while you’re in Australia, $40 USD should be enough. In Australia, the biggest attractions tend to either be free or pretty pricey, there’s not much in between, so that number comes with the assumption that your time will be split between free and paid activities. If your bucket list is filled with more paid experiences than free ones, of course, you’ll have to up your budget. To give you a better idea though, here’s the cost for some popular Australian experiences:
Snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef: $190 ($132 USD)
See the Sydney Opera House: free
Sunset tour of Uluru: $75 ($52 USD)
Explore Melbourne’s graffiti street art: free
Tour to the 12 Apostles along the Great Ocean Road: $104 ($73 USD)
Swim at Bondi Beach: free
Take a wine tour through the Barossa Valley: $120 ($84 USD)
Find penguins at St Kilda Pier: free
Climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge: from $268 ($187 USD)
Check out the iconic Brighton Beach Bathing boxes: free
Skydive at Airlie Beach: $329 ($230 USD)
Enjoy the stunning Bondi to Coogee coastal walk: free
Entry to Kakadu National Park for 7 days: $40 ($28 USD)
Top money-saving tips for travel in Australia
Take the local ferry on the weekends in Sydney for some of the best views of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House. You'll see the same things you would on a paid tour but for a fraction of the cost.
If you want to buy a van (and resell it), join some Australian backpacking groups on Facebook. People often sell vans there, and they come with everything you need for an Aussie road trip. Gumtree (Australia's Craigs List equivalent) is another good alternative.
Most big cities have free transport in the city center that passes by the big attractions. Use these to your advantage!
Try Couchsurfing to save money on accommodation - not only that but you can meet some really cool people and get a good sense of what life is really like here.
Join a free walking tour of the city. If you enjoyed it then pay a tip at the end
Opt for free activities. Australia is full of them!
Travel in groups to share the costs of car rentals and accommodation
Planning a trip to Australia can be expensive, but with careful budgeting, you can find a way to make the most of your time, without compromising on incredible experiences!