The Cost of Traveling Australia

By Nomadic Matt | Published April 8th, 2010

sydney city viewEveryone 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 go through their budget quickly 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.

Moreover, Australia’s strong dollar means you don’t even get any advantage when exchanging money. It’s virtually on par with the American dollar, and the weak euro and pound have even given Europeans less value for their money.

While I was in Australia this year, 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 dollars 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.

sailing in the whitsundays

When you travel Australia, your typical costs tend to look like this:

  • Hostels: In northern Queensland, you can find hostel prices for about $20 per night. On the west coast, it’s about $24, but from Noosa down to Melbourne (the densely populated east coast), expect to pay $27–35 per night. The smaller the dorm, the higher the cost. Private rooms are $65–100 per night.
  • Food: Your average meal in Australia will run you about $15–20. A good meal at a nice restaurant will run you about $40. Even McDonald’s is expensive—a value meal is about $8.
  • Drinking: For a country of drinkers, they make it very difficult to do. Beers cost around $8. Happy hours and backpacker bars tend to have cheap drinks, and you can usually find a pint of something for $4–5.
  • Tours: Tours in Australia are a lot cheaper than tours in New Zealand, and there’s also a lot less of them to spend your money on. A typical multi-day tour will cost around $200. Most day trips can be found for $100.
  • Transportation: You can find cheap transportation in Australia if you look hard enough. But outside of the heavily populated and highly competitive east coast, it’s not always that easy. Because of limited competition, flying is very expensive except on the west coast. It’s often cheaper to fly than get a bus out there. If you can get a deal on a tourist bus, that can be cheaper than either Greyhound or flying. On the east coast, Greyhound offers many good-value passes. I’d take them over any other transportation. The Cairns to Melbourne pass is $485.

How to save money in Australia:

  • Cook. Cooking your meals can save you a lot of money. I cooked for a week with pasta, a few meats, and ready meals, and I only spent $60 dollars.
  • Drink Less. Alcohol causes all good budgets to die. A six-pack of beer is $14. If you want to save money, drink less. Or drink goon (boxed wine). Goon is the perennial favorite of travelers. It’s $16 dollars for four liters of wine. Actually, it’s not wine. It’s fish, dairy, and milk products—no grapes here. It gives you a killer hangover but also the most bang for your buck.
  • Couchsurf. Couchsurf with locals, stay at their place, and 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.
  • Buy Packages. Buying tours together can save you money. In Australia, it’s cheaper to go to a hostel tour desk or a place like Tribal and book your activities all together. You’ll save more money than booking on your own. Surprising, I know.

sunset in uluru

On the absolute minimum budget, I think a traveler could get by on $77 per day. Most people travel Australia for about a month. If you did the Melbourne to Cairns route, your costs would be $810 for hostels (average price of $27 per night), $500 for food (mixing cooking and eating out), $500 for tours, and $500 for your bus ticket. That budget doesn’t cover any drinking or additional expenses that might occur. If you Couchsurfed for five nights and bought all your own food, you could (in theory) lower your budget to $64 per day. (Excluding drinking or other random expenses.)

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 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.

For more information on Australia, visit my guide to Australia travel.

Note: all prices are in AUD unless noted otherwise.

comments 47 Comments

Margaret

Thanks…this really helped. I’m going to be backpacking in Oz starting May and was really starting to wonder how much i would need to get by without working for while. This came in handy!

Susan

While my friend and I were there, we became devotees of the vodka & cranberry. Cosmos were 12 dollars, vodka & cranberry was only 6. We didnt miss the Cointreau and saved money.

I think it was the price of bottled water that gave me the most sticker shock.

Adri

I’ll add my thanks for this post! I’m moving to Australia (Brisbane) in 7 weeks and will definitely be using some of your tips to conserve cash.

Sofia - As We Travel

“For country of drinkers, they make it very difficult to do it.”
Haha, imagine if it was easy, I don’t know if I’d like to see that.. :P

We found that the australian gumtree site was quite helpful in finding cheap accommodation and cheaper vans and stuff like that.

solid tips… hopefully the stars will align so i can put them to good use!!

Thanks for sharing! I had no idea Australia was so expensive– when I plan a trip there, I’ll certainly make budgeting a top priority!

Awesome – I’m glad you wrote on this and broke it down a bit. It is a freaking expensive place to travel (or live)… which is why I don’t do much at the moment!

Budget secrets, I love it.

In 2004 my splurge was all-you-can-eat pizza at Pizza Hut.

In my opinion, the real choice is Oz or NZ. I pick NZ any day.

i’m returning home to oz soon & all i keep reading about is how expensive everything is getting! i’m saving up my pounds to afford to live there – crazy!

Craig Ford

When you talk about the high cost of drinks this even includes non-alcholic drinks too. Coke is so expensive.
When our family travels through Australia we do our best to get a condo so we can cook our own food.

Catherine

It’s interesting to hear that travellers find Australia so expensive. As Aussies we have put up with ridiculous exchange rates to Europe and the US (among other places) for years. This used to virtually cut your savings in half before you even started. I’m rapt that our dollar is now getting us a better deal overseas, however, I am alarmed that our cost of living appears so exorbitant. I guess you don’t notice these things so much when you are a resident, but prices here are cheap compared to the UK and much of Europe. A tip on drinking – buy beer on tap it’s heaps cheaper (certainly less than $5 in most places). Happy boozing!

Dont tell me abt costs..just returned fm a US trip and Im broke

Okay, if McD is expensive I’d say we have a problem. Just sayin’. :) Luckily Australia has never lured me or held my attention for very long. One day I’ll go, but lower down on the bucket list.

Great money saving tips Matt. I definitely think those tips could apply to any trip, which is great.

One tip that I’d like to offer:

Make a detailed itinerary before you go. If you can get on the Internet before you leave for your destination, find a few things you’d like to do and plan ahead. When you plan ahead, you can avoid stress, and wasting time and money. Think about WHY you are traveling to your destination. Is it because you want to experience that particular culture? Have you always wanted to visit one of that destination’s World Heritage Sites? When you know why you are going to a particular destination, you can better plan around your budget and put your money into things that you really want to do.

Nicola

Thanks, I think this is helpful, I just hope I know what I want to see and do once I get there, I’m doing the WHV with my boyfriend for a year, i’m really looking forward to the experience but not the panic of finding a job fast so we do not run out of money and have to come home back to rainy England!

Nick

Those are actually some great tips to rely on. Visiting a place for adventure costs you a lot more than what you have already thought, as told by our travel guru Matt (Thanks for that!). Use as much of public transport as possible, that is the best way to save on conveyance.

Josh | The Wander Project

Nice post Matt. It’s great to get an idea of expenses from someone who’s on the ground in Oz- much more helpful than a guidebook’s last year (at best) prices.
As an aside: If there’s an upside to massive cost of living in NYC, it’s that you’ll never again experience sticker shock when abroad – 7 bucks for a beer (unfortunately) seems about right to this New Yorker!

Stephen W. Weiss

This is more of a general comment after looking at your posts, but where haven’t you been?! Your life seems extremely interesting/exciting.

Australia has been a dream of mine to go to, and after reading this I may have to hold off on going there for a bit, considering I don’t have a job.

I’m an Aussie who’s been living and traveling overseas for over 10 years. I returned home a few years ago and was stunned by how expensive everything had gotten- ridiculously high inflation. it wasn’t long before we got on the road again and haven’t been back for 18 months.
I’m shocked that the price of a beer will now set you back about $8, you are right to a country of drinkers that is scandolous!!!!
Really informative post Matt which I’m sure will help prepared people when they go to this amazing yet expensive home of mine!

Cheska

What about using traveller cards like YHA or MAD Cards, you get a lot of discounts with those not only on accommodation but also drinks, food and activities. Can you recommend any budget places to eat in Oz for real backpackers on a budget or did you only eat in expensive places?

Australia is shockingly expensive, but you’re doing a very typical backpacker mistake Matt in the way you have budgetted it.

The people I’ve met over the last 9 months of being here (and I’ve certainly not spent $100 a day, more like $15 a day on average) seem to be divided into the year long working holiday’ers and those staying a month on holiday (who over spend like yourself).

Australia is certainly not a budget destination, I’d say it is more expensive than the USA and most of Europe on average and to think otherwise is a budget killing mistake (I know I did it too, almost falling over at the price of beer ‘Only $8!’.

I wouldn’t be surprised if it keeps dropping off the backpacking radar (it certainly kills most peoples budgets passing through) and is more of a luxury hotel dwelling place (just go to Surfers Paradise – it’s nothing but hotels).

I wrote a guide here on my site. Although didn’t discover goon at time of writing. Which I’ve managed to pick up 4.4litres for $10 in many places. Although as you mentioned in this article – can lead to stonking hangovers.

Not sure what sort of traveling style you have (budget? luxury? something in between? short trip or working holiday visa? outdoor or city and sightseeing?), but you can do australia fur much less than that, especially if you explore places further away from the civilization. find some travel buddy with a car, then make your own food instead of eating out all the time, sleep in the car or tent 2 days and in a hostel/campside/caravan park one day to take a shower and restock your water supplies and repeat that cycle as long and often as you can. you avoid paying fir dirty hostel dorms or tours and you get to decide who sleeps and snores in your tent/stationwagon.
there are a lot of great places or experiences in australia who are not featured by any tour or guidebook – like sleeping under the stars somewhere in the desert, driving for hours without seeing any other car passing by or cooking some tea on the campfire.
However, people who don’t wear a hat like indiana jones or crocodile dundee wouldn’ t enjoy this sort of adventure :)

Most people wouldn’t dream of trying to see all of Canada, Russia or the States in three weeks, but feel they must cross Australia or at least head to Uluru aka Ayers Rock in the middle.

Not only are they wasting money, they are wasting time and missing many worthwhile places not so far away.

im currently on a working holiday in sydney, taking a break from 3 years on the road and ur rite, Oz is bloody expensive :s went to melbourne last weekend and was paying $11 vodka redbulls arrrrrgh! but if u do it on a budget i reckon u could shave a fair bit off the $100 a day, perhaps even as far down as $60 per day BUT that means exclusively drinking goon – ur wallet will love you but your liver wont :S

carla moreno

good to know Matt! will b traveling there soon.

As an Aussie that used to work in the hotel and pub business it seems you’ve overlooked a lot of advantages of the local pub. If you are looking for a way to save money on beer consider going to a “drive thru” bottle shop (don’t worry you can walk through them too). You can buy a “slab” (24 cans) of most beers for a pretty good price and if you are not too fussy and shop that weeks special you can save more.

Most slabs are around the AUD$30 to $40 (and that is with sales tax) mark which works out to less than $2.00 a can. Considering the price of soft drinks that can work out cheaper than a can of coke depending on where you shop.

For cheap private accommodation you can try pubs. Lots of pubs, especially those in country towns still have over the pub accommodation even if they don’t advertise it just ask. I’ve stayed in a few of them and they are not glamorous and you usually have a share shower/toilet down the hall. They usually are clean, though as you are sleeping above a pub don’t expect an early night. They average around $50+ a night for a double and you get to meet the locals downstairs in the front bar.

Pubs are usually also good places for food, from a filling but basic counter meal to a full blown restaurant out the back where you can have a top class dinner made with local ingredients. I’ve eaten some great meals in pubs, some very scarily bad ones too so make sure you go to one where you see the locals eating and you should be set.

Just a note I’m from South Australia so prices might be a bit more on the East Coast.

Also a lot of people traveling to SA save money by combining travel and accommodation expenses in a small campervan usually no bigger than a minibus. You can get a wide range of those and I saw one adventurous group down the local beach manage to squeeze 6 guys into one. I have no idea how they slept but they had their boards strapped to the roof and seemed to be having fun traveling around surfing.

Steve N

Australia sure has become an expensive place to live and travel. Overcharging seems to have become a national religion. My advice, as an Australian, is to give it a wide berth. If you want beaches and rainforest go to Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia. If you want desert go to Morocco. If you want great Alpine scenery go to Europe, Nepal or New Zealand because Australia doesn’t have it anyway. For great food, just try any of the afforementioned destinations. If you want culture you will find more elsewhere – sorry Aussies but it is true. And our beer really isn’t worth the journey. I’ve tasted better generic brand in Germany.

Travel for the majority of us will always be an effort/reward relationship. The point is, Australia is too much effort(and dollars) for too little reward. Why travel like bums sleeping in cars, showering every second night and drinking chateau-de-cardboard wine when you could be enjoying the beaches and food in Thailand, watching the sun set over the Mediterranean in Croatia or trekking the Tatry Mountains in Poland. Twice the fun for half the price.
Great article Nomadic Matt!

This is very true, I was shocked to discover how fast my money disappeared, but then I came here with just £1000! Luckily for me I worked as a stripper and made decent money to get by, but yeh, backpacking costs on average $700 a week.

I like Steve N’s post – Oz isn’t overly worth the effort for the things mentioned. The thing I think I enjoyed the most though was none of that, it was appreciating things like the wildlife which is on a different evolutionary branch to the rest of the world, and doing a road trip; although you can do a road trip on any other continent – it is rather easy in Australia due to the amount of beaches, free BBQs and stopping destinations along all major roads.

But as he mentioned, I really didn’t enjoy having to think about budget a lot more, having another beer means another 2 days of rice rather than better food.

All great tips!..I agree with Sandy when she says: make a detailled itinerary, that’s absolutely true: accurate planning will help you saving time and money. I personally dont’ find Australia expensive, expect maybe for drinking and eating out…Europe is far more an expensive place for living and making holidays though. And think about: the enchanting places of the 5th continent will reward you limitless :)

Katey

On the plus side, if you are working in Oz, you do tend to get paid more here. My comparison is between Scotland and Perth (Oz). I beleive that Perth is known to be the most expensive area to live in Australia though so not sure how it would be elsewhere. I am working a temp admin job at the moment and I am getting paid more than a very good professional job I was doing at home. For the same job I am doing now I would be getting paid heaps less in Scotland. So, although my rent is expensive, food is more expensive than home (even cooking yourself) and beer is more expensive I can still save more per month than I could at home in a good job. Heaps more. So if you are working in Oz as well as travelling then it all equals out.

fetu

A cheap place to eat in Aussie is Subway Sandwiches…..nice fresh food and filling. Get the full size and it will last 2 meals. They also offer breakfast….an egg, ham sandwich with a juice for something like $4.
Another place to eat is buffet dinners at club rooms….eg…outdoor bowling clubs or RSA (veterans) club rooms. You may need to sign in as a guest but they are cheap meals…..see all the retirees there!

I am happy to say that my boyfriend and I did OZ (about one month) for an average of $35 USD/pp/day. But we owe it all to couchsurfing, cooking in every day and rock climbing. There is so much to see and do that is free in Australia and I hope people don’t overlook that when deciding to tour around. (Our daily expenses even included a couple weeks of car rental!) As our primary activity is rock climbing, we got to trek into national parks, state reserves, mountain ranges and other places with mind blowing scenery that we otherwise wouldn’t see. Most of the time we only had to pay for our transport there. Our photo and memories definitely aren’t your “typical” Aussie tourist ones, but they are super special to us.

While we sacrificed eating out, couchsurfing and cooking in our host’s kitchens gave us many great moments, deelish food and much laughter….in a way that our wallet truly appreciated.

Know that traveling cheap in OZ can be done!

Amy

I appreciate the write-up about costs. This is helpful. Our one year RTW budget is looking perilous, and with Australia at the end and being so expensive, it is not looking good for us to visit this time around.

Nichola

One thing people miss in Australia is the good old camping and caravan parks. THIS is how Australian’s travel. Thats why you find hostels very expensive here…, the ausssies dont use them so they cater soley to the tourist market. Hell you can find camping and caravan [arks 15 minutes at most from most major cities in oz, and public transport in the big cities is pretty damn easy.

But you are talking about going from one side of Oz to the other and wonder why the hell its expensive DURRRR. SEriously people say dont do more than 1 or 2 countries in europe in a month cos it is too spread out then complain about the travel costs in Oz. Think of each australia state as a COUNTRY then you have it close to how you should be travelling.

Hire a car, get out of the cities and check out those caravan parks. THAT is australia folks…

Claire

Ah, Australia. Yes, we are an expensive country. The key is DYI – do everything yourself. Camp, cook… but do NOT try to make your own alcohol, that will just end in tears.

If you buy a slab of beer over a six-pack, you will get much better value. Also I hate to say it, but alcohol and groceries are much cheaper in the bigger, blood-sucking grocery chains like Woolworths and Coles. Aldi has come to Australia and is doing nicely.

Definitely check out the RSLs – but only the really old looking ones in small towns – a lot of the nicer ones have jacked the prices right up. The Asian restaurants in country towns (left over from the gold rush days) are also a good place to get a cheap eat.

Transport does cost a lot. If you are doing a lot of travelling and have a lot of time, I would suggest looking into buying a car – especially if you’re travelling with three others. Rather than paying 4 fares, you split the cost of fuel and the price of the car 4 ways and save heaps.

I know we are expensive but don’t pass us by! We are worth it, we promise!!

Danielle

Would just like to say the only beer in australia that costs around $8 is imported bottled beer (and why would tourists be buying imported products?) if you buy local tap beer its usually around $4-5 depending on the type. Also with food you can get cheap meals if you look around, obviously the really nice restaurants are expensive but smaller businesses usually offer great delas. Also agree that other countries are more expensive than Aus, i paid approx $7 for an orange juice in Venice!

Yeah, I used to think Europe was expensive til I got to Oz. Luckily I won quite a bit at poker in Melbourne Crown Casino, so things could have been a lot worse.

Siddharth Maheshwari

Hi, I am a student and travelling to Australia for an internship of two and a half months. I am actually going to a place called Geelong near Melbourne. I want to take a tour to New Zealand. Can someone suggests me some good tours and travel website for it plus an rough guess about how much would it costs for 3 days travel to New Zealand.

hi everyone, I am a student in Sydney and I’ve been reading for everyone’s comments about how expensive living here, etc –

At first, I agree with you, but living here since the inflation for almost a year, its actually depends on what you do for your trip. If you like expensive stuff, etc, then it will cost you more.

For public transport, everything is really easy in here. You just need to get travel ten adults, its 10 trips by bus cost about $28 – you can use it up to 10 times – or you can get those tourists pass available at sydney tourism office. ALso, they have free shuttle bus running in the CBD.

For food, my big advices is to NOT eat in the restaurants. It will cost you $20 just for ONE meal. It’s really expensive I agree. But living as student here, you learn how to saving up your budget for food. My big tips for you, find a food court. Knowing what time is the food court close, they normally sells out a $5 food pack, 1 hour prior to their closing. Find out LUNCH SPECIALS – it will normally cost you for $7-10 bucks with good food. Thats what I do. I bought a few of those $5 food pack and save it on my fridge.

Talk to locals – this is the best way to find awesome good deals!

go to groupon.com.au – to find the best deals restaurants in town! the price is unbeatable !

Cook. its the best option – go to woolworths or coles to find their deals – they normally have a meal or something like that –

Mcdonalds, don;t go for their value meal, its too much – they have this loose change meal for $2 chicken burger or beef n cheese burger – and $1 small french fries –

Pizza hut, they do have PIZZA MIA – where it cost for about $6 – sometimes they have deals –

Tourist attraction is really expensive I’m afraid, but if you love theatre they do have cheap tickets etc –

if you are a student – pass your student card to ask around if you can get a good deal!

– so again, it depends on your schedule and to do list in australia – if you are doing budgeting – considering also what you will do once you got here –

For mobile network, I recommend Optus – for IPHONE, get the $70 plan credit one, you got $1000 credit to call overseas and locals! and for blackberry prepaid they also have one – the only one!

best of luck

We spent $203/day for two people and 26 days in Australia. We had one break in Melbourne where we stayed for six nights with a friend, but besides that it was all on us. One tip you mentioned above that helped us a lot was cooking our own meals. We were really surprised (as everyone is) how much going out to eat costs in Australia!!

Thanks…this really helped. I’m going to be backpacking in Oz starting May and was really starting to wonder how much i would need to get by without working for while. This came in handy! check this link for more info http://urbancentral.com.au/

Hi Mett!
Great post! Australia is definitely on my bucket list, i’m especialy interested in going to Uluru, it looks magical.
I have a thing for mountains ;)

Andy

Hi Everyone… I’m visiting Sydney for about 2 weeks…I have a budget of 100 AUD a day, this is exculding stay… will that be enough? Also, i plan to buy an all access transport card for 60 dollars a week, which includes all modes, including ferry and train and bus… just want to check if 100 AUD is enough for food, drinks and souvenier shopping… nothing too fancy a living, basic cafe’s and fast food kinda eating!

Also, I plan to visit gold coast for 2 nights… what should be my ideal budget for spending lavishly there ( not much drinking, just 2 beers a night) … again, stay is taken care off… just want to know living and food costs! Thanks everyone!

Linda

On the good side – supermarket Milk and Bread are 1 dollar a litre and loaf

We have 30c icecream cones at Maccas and 1 and 2 dollar deals there as well

Bananas are usually only around 2 dollars a kilo – a great meal a RTW backpacker had regulary was a bread roll from the Bakery, 70c, 1 banana 50c, and 250ml milk – lunch for about 2 dollars

Jucy have great campervans, probably better than those others that have a bad reputation, starting with W

Petrol atm is 1.59 per litre, country price, cheaper in the city and more up north

Having travelled through Japan and New York, we always found eating from supermarkets and supplement food like above, and cheap food stalls, we could do a day on 10 dollars for foo
You can get a cheap Club meal for 6 dollars or a food mall meal, like we often have, 2 sorts of Chinese, eg Fried Rice plus Honey Chicken and Beef in Black Bean, toss in a can of Coke for 10 dollars

Free cold showers at all beaches so you can ‘free camp’ there, not that it is really legal, but nobody really tells you to ‘move on’ – waking up to sunrise over some of the most beautiful beaches. Lots of ‘rest stops’ beside the highways etc with drop toilets and water for a free camp

North West WA, eg Broome and surrounds and Darwin, are expensive for accommodation, as they are isolated and surrounded by a lot of Mining, which brings big wages. Cairns is pretty OK and has a lot of competition

We now have Tiger Airways, budget budget airlines, almost like EasyJet – flown with them 6 times and never had a problem – also Virgin and Jetstar – big sales quite a few times a year

Email me – if you would like any further info – hope this helps anyone coming to Oz or thinking to

Linda

Just to add – that hostel dorm accommodation in Sydney, lowest end is 23 dollars a night, hey a bed is a bed – using Booking.com and there are a lot of free tourist sights in Sydney all within eyesight of each other eg… Sydney Opera House, Sydney Harbour bridge, The Rocks, Botannical Gardens and all the ferries that cross the Harbour and onto Manly, a great day out or to Taronga Park Zoo, another fabulous place – you really would not need to spend very much on touring Sydney

A day rail ticket will take you west to The Blue Mountains – a whole day out

Of course, buses go east to the famous Bondi Beach, The Gap at Watsons Bay etc and north to Palm Beach, which is about as far north of Sydney you can go – famous for Home and Away programme off TV – beautiful scenery

We have a terrific free Coastal Walk near the city and right along all the famous beaches, Google it

Jeremy Gutridge

Hi, I would like some tips on how much living expenses would cost me me and my fiancé were wondering how much it would cost too live in Adelaide, Australia but also trying too get a student visa so we can research much of the area that we will be living in we are in the process. Do you have any tips for both me and my fiancé so we can plan and save some money for expenses for travel cost and so on…

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