Last Updated: 1/5/21 | January 5th, 2021
Everyone has sticker shock when they get to Australia. They see how much things cost and their jaws drop. Heck, even Australians get sticker shock — and they live there. Travelers blow through their budget quickly here because no one ever expects the country to cost as much as it does.
When I first traveled to Australia a few years ago, I grossly underestimated how much I needed. It cost me double what I thought because of a strong Australian dollar and poor planning. This time around I was better prepared, but I still overspent because I wasn’t prepared for such dramatic inflation.
However, on my most recent trip to Australia, I spent $3,400 USD in 33 days. That total includes all my day-to-day expenses, flights, transport, tours, and anything I bought. Averaging roughly $100 USD a day, it would have been a lot more had I not been able to stay with friends and get discounted tours. I ate a lot at expensive restaurants, flew a few places, and spent a lot of money using the Internet on my phone. If it wasn’t for my friends and the discounts I got, I would have spent about $150 USD per day.
Here’s a breakdown of where my money went, typical costs, and how you can save money while you’re here.
Typical Costs in Australia
When you travel to Australia, your typical costs tend to look like this:
- Hostels: Hostels cost 15-20 AUD ($12-15USD) in smaller cities and 20-40 AUD ($15-30 USD) per night in places like Sydney or Melbourne. As always, the smaller the dorm, the higher the cost. Private rooms are 80–110 AUD ($62-85 USD) per night.
- Food: Your average meal in Australia will run you about 20 AUD ($15 USD). A good meal at a nice restaurant will run you about 45 AUD ($35 USD). Even McDonald’s is expensive—a value meal is about 12 AUD ($9 USD).
- Drinking: For a country of drinkers, they make it very difficult to do. Beers cost around 9 AUD ($7 USD). Happy hours and backpacker bars tend to have cheap drinks, usually for around 50% off.
- Tours: A typical multi-day tour will cost around 400-540 AUD ($308-416 USD). Most day trips can be found for 50-300 AUD ($39-231 USD).
- Transportation: You can find cheap transportation in Australia if you look hard enough. Greyhound offers many good-value passes ranging from 15-365 days. Expect to pay 329 AUD ($254 USD) for the 15-day pass, 399 AUD ($308 USD) for the 30-day pass, and 449 AUD ($346 USD) for the 60-day pass.
How Much is a Vacation to Australia?
A trip to Australia can cost a lot or a little — it all depends on your travel style and ability to budget.
If you’re a backpacker, I’d budget between 70-90 AUD ($55-70 USD) per day. This is a suggested budget assuming you’re staying in a hostel dorm, eating out once a day at a cheap restaurant, cooking most of your meals other meals, limiting your drinking, and using public transportation as well as sticking to mostly free activities like hiking, free walking tours, and hitting the beach.
If you’re going to do a lot of adventure activities, drink a lot, or move around a lot, I’d add at least another $20 per day to your average.
If you Couchsurf or camp, hitchhike, and cut out drinking altogether, you can lower this by 20-40 AUD ($15-30 USD) per day!
If you are staying in private hostel rooms, cheap hotels, drinking a lot, and eating out often, expect to spend closer to 150 AUD ($116 USD) per day, with your average spending going up from there. If, in addition to that, you’re taking a lot of group tours and fly between destinations, expect to spend closer $175-200 AUD ($100-110 USD) per day.
How to Save Money in Australia
There’s no doubt that Australia is an expensive country to visit. So what’s a traveler to do? Here are eight ways to save a lot of money in Australia:
- Cook – Cooking your meals can save you a lot of money. I cooked for a week with pasta, a few types of meat (locally raised meat is always the cheapest), and ready meals, and I only spent 60 AUD ($47 USD). That can be the cost of a day’s food in Australia. Cook your meals as often as possible. Hostels, Airbnbs, and even some guesthouses have kitchens where you can cook. Also, look for hotels with free breakfast so you can score a free meal.
- Drink less – Alcohol causes all good budgets to die. If you want to save money, drink less. Or drink goon (boxed wine). Goon is the perennial favorite of travelers. It gives you a killer hangover but also the most bang for your buck.
- Couchsurf – Couchsurf with locals to save on accommodation. Every night out of the hostel is more money for activities. This is also a great way to meet locals and get involved with the local culture.
- Get a phone plan – If you want data during your trip, get a plan from Optus or Boost. They have some of the best coverage and plans around the country.
- Work for your room – Many hostels offer travelers the opportunity to work for their accommodation. In exchange for a few hours a day of cleaning, you get a free bed to sleep in. Commitments vary but most hostels ask that you stay for at least a week. Ask at the front desk if this is something you want to try.
- Car share – Australia is a big country that can be expensive to get around. If you are traveling with friends, it’s smart to buy a used car or campervan (or rent a new one from one of the many rental companies in the country) and split the costs of gas. You can also hitch a ride with other travelers using sites like Gumtree, Jayride, or a hostel message board.
- WWOOF it – WWOOFing is a program that allows you to work on organic farms in exchange for free room and board. Everyone I’ve met who stays in the country long term does it for at least one month. You don’t even need to know anything about farming – you’re mostly picking fruit the whole time! It’s a great way to reduce your expenses and make an impact on the local environment.
The best way to save money in Australia is to mix and match how you spend money. You need to counter the high costs of one activity with the lost costs of another. That’s why I always say it’s very important to research costs beforehand and know what you want to spend money on. Once you do that, you can create a budget that is better tailored to your needs.
The general numbers above are just that – general. Your mileage will vary (and can be better) once you know what you want to do in the country.
However, we all know budgets, no matter how well we plan, get broken. So, to cover all your costs and have a little extra, I’d budget 100 AUD ($77 USD) per day. You never know what might happen. Maybe you’ll have a big night out or maybe you’ll break your camera. It’s always better to leave a country with extra money than overspend.
Australia may not be a cheap country to visit but, with the right planning, it doesn’t have to break your bank either.
Book Your Trip to Australia: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Book Your Flight
Use Skyscanner or Momondo to find a cheap flight. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned. Start with Skyscanner first though because they have the biggest reach!
Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the biggest inventory and best deals. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. My favorite places to stay are:
- Base St. Kilda (Melbourne)
- Wake Up! Sydney (Sydney)
- Surf n Sun Hostel (Gold Coast)
If you’re looking for more places to stay, here are my favorite hostels in Australia!
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:
- World Nomads (for everyone below 70)
- Insure My Trip (for those over 70)
- Medjet (for additional repatriation coverage)
Looking for the Best Companies to Save Money With?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use to save money when I’m on the road. They will save you money when you travel too.
Want More Information on Australia?
Be sure to visit our robust destination guide on Australia for even more planning tips!