Australia Travel Tips

The lovely Uluru in Australia
Australia is one of the most popular travel destinations in the world. It’s a major backpacking, camping, and driving destination but, no matter what your travel style is, there is something to draw you here. The country is filled with incredible natural beauty from Uluru, to the outback, rainforests, pristine white sand beaches, and, of course, the Great Barrier Reef. Sydney’s Harbor Bridge and Opera House are iconic man made wonders and Melbourne’s café culture will make you feel like you are in Europe. Throw in some world class surfing and it is no wonder Australia is so popular. I’ve been three times and each time I find something new to love.

Destination Guides

Alice Springs Brisbane Cairns Gold Coast Fraser Island Melbourne Perth

Typical Costs

  • Accommodation: Hostels cost around $20 – 35 USD per night for a dorm room. Private rooms with a double bed and a shared bathroom in hostels range between $65-100 USD per night. For budget hotels, you are looking to spend around $80 USD for a double room, private bathroom, TV, and breakfast. Camping costs between $10 – 20 per night for a spot that can either be for a car or tent. Read more: My favorite hostels in Australia.
  • Food: Food isn’t cheap – most decent restaurant meals cost $20 USD or more. Originally, I thought I was doing something wrong spending so much but as many of my Aussie friends told me, “we just get screwed here.” If you cook your meals, expect to pay $70-80 USD per week. For that price, your groceries will include pasta, vegetables, chicken, and other basic food stuffs. An average restaurant meal will run you about $15-20 USD for no frills eating. If you are staying in hostels, most offer meals each night for around $6 USD. Grab and go places cost around $10 USD for sandwiches.
  • Transportation: Local city trains and buses cost $2-3 USD. The easiest way to see the country is via Greyhound. Passes begin at $107 and go all the way to $2,500 USD. There are also backpacker buses like the Oz Experience that have passes starting at $300 USD. The most popular and cheapest way to travel is to drive yourself. Camper-van rentals start at $45 per day and can double as places to sleep. Flying can be very expensive due to limited competition, especially when going from coast to coast. I generally avoid flying unless I am pressed for time or there is a sale.
  • Activities: Multi-day activities are expensive, generally costing 300 – 400 USD. Day trips will cost about 100 to 170 USD. For example, a one day trip to the Great Barrier Reef can cost 170 USD while a 2 nights sailing the Whitsunday Islands can cost upwards of $400. A 3 day trip to Uluru from Alice Springs is around $355.

Read more information on budgets and the cost of traveling Australia

Money Saving Tips

  • Get Telstra – The telephone company Telstra has really improved their service and offers the best phone packages. They have great coverage throughout the country and if you spend $100 USD, you get $1900 worth of credit. It’s a great deal. Their rates aren’t that high either so the credit will last you awhile.
  • Drink Goon (Box Wine) – Goon is infamous on the hostel trail. This cheap box of wine is a the best way to drink, get drunk, and save a lot of money. 4 liters typically costs $14 USD (compared to a six pack of beer costing the same). Drink this before you go out and save on spending money at the bar (where it is about $7 USD per drink).
  • Cook often – Eating out is not cheap. The best way to reduce your costs is to cook as many meals as possible. Typically, it costs about $60 USD per week to cook all your own meals.
  • Car share – Australia is a big country that can be expensive to get around in. If you are traveling with friends, the cheapest way to get around is to often buy a car or camper-van and split the costs of gas. You can also hitch a ride with travelers using sites like Gumtree, Jayride, or a hostel message board.
  • Book tours as a package – This country has a lot of activities that eat into any budget. Booking activities together through a hostel or company like Tribal Tours will get you a discount and save you hundreds of dollars.
  • Get free Internet – The Internet in Australia is painfully slow and expensive but libraries and McDonalds have free wi-fi.
  • Clean for your room – Many hostels offer travelers the chance to work for their accommodation. In exchange for a few hours a day of cleaning, you get a bed. Commitments vary but most hostels ask you stay at least a week.
  • Buy a rail pass – Train travel is really expensive here with most single journey passes starting at $700 USD per trip. However, rail passes range from 450 to 800 USD and cover the whole network (saving you between 50 – 70%). They are one of the best transportation deals in the country.
  • WWOOF it! – WWOOFing is a program that allows you to work at 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.

Top Things to See and Do

    • Visit Uluru - Uluru (Ayer’s Rock) is one of the biggest and best attractions in the country. Make sure you are there for both sunset and sunrise as it is spectacular. (If you go on an organized tour, most schedule a time when you are there.) It’s a pretty breathtaking sight considering it’s just a big rock and there is an Aboriginal center nearby where you can learn about the local people.
    • Dive the Great Barrier Reef - Find Nemo in the Great Barrier Reef. There’s a ton of marine life and beautiful coral here. Behind Uluru, it’s probably the biggest attraction in Australia. Even if you don’t dive, you can still take a boat out to the reef and go snorkeling. Try to get on a boat that has a permit to go to dive sites far away so you can avoid the onslaught of other boats and divers. Here is a video of my trip to the reef:

  • Explore Fraser Island - The world’s largest sand island is a popular place to do some camping, swim in lakes, hike, and avoid dingoes. It’s an extremely popular with the locals as well as tourists because it is such a wonderful and rustic place to go camping and close to the mainland.
  • Sail the Whitsundays - The 3 day, 2 night sailing trips are a popular way to see some of the most beautiful sand islands in the world. Whitehaven beach on a clear day is mesmerizing. and make new friends doing so. The water and beaches here are perfect and there’s some excellent diving too. (I ran into a couple of turtles and dolphins.) A few of the islands have resorts if you want to go on your own and stay longer.
  • Hike the Daintree - The world’s oldest rainforest (yes, older than the Amazon) offers easy to challenging hiking, dense jungle, beautiful mountains, waterfalls, wildlife, and cliffs. Make sure you spend a few days hiking around and getting out of touristy Cairns. If you really want to get off the beaten path, head all the way up to Cape Tribulation and enjoy some real peace and quiet.
  • Explore Sydney - Australia’s largest city has a range of activities to do. Climb the Sydney Harbor bridge, surf in Bondi Beach, party in King’s Cross, sail across the harbor, visit the Opera House, and hang out in Darling Harbor, which has a lot of world class and innovative (though a bit pricey) restaurants. Sydney is an exciting big city that still has a laid back, beach vibe too it.
  • Chill out in Melbourne - Melbourne is much more relaxed than Sydney. There are more cafes, restaurants, and fewer clubs. Melbourne is where you relax by the river, walk through the gigantic and well kept gardens of the city, eat some amazing food (Melbourne is the food capital of Australia), jam out at amazing rock concerts, and party in St. Kilda, my favorite nightlife spot. Melbourne has a well deserved reputation as the country’s hip city and I prefer it over Sydney.
  • Have a Sunday Session in Perth - Perth is Australia’s west coast capital and is often overlooked by most travelers. It’s expensive to get out there from the east coast so most people skip it. However, Perth is a city that feels like a large town with fabulous beaches, nightlife, surfing, and the best place to have a “Sunday Session” (an Aussie tradition of drinking on Sunday afternoons). Perth is my favorite city in Australia and if you have the time, make the journey out here.
  • Explore the outback - No trip here is complete without a trip to the outback to see crocodiles, valleys, lakes, and the red desert. Find your own Crocodile Dundee. The Red Center and Western Australia are the best places to go for this.
  • Surf in the Gold Coast - Australia is famous for its surfing. One of the best places to learn to surf is on the Gold Coast right outside of Brisbane. You’ll find world class waves, a wide beach, and lots of lessons. If you don’t like the Gold Cost, there is always Noosa, Byron Bay, Bondi Beach, Perth, – well, you get the idea.
  • Take a Wine Tour - Whether you go down to Margret River, Hunter Valley or the Barossa Valley, you will have many chances to taste Aussie wine from the source. Whether you go by organized tour or make up your own, visiting the wine country should be on your list of things to do.
  • The Ningaloo Reef – The Great Barrier Reef gets all the hype but the Ningaloo reef on the west coast is a far better reef system. There are less people out there, it’s less developed, there are more fish, and you can even swim with whale sharks. Plus, at points, it comes so close to the shore that you can swim right to it on your own. More fish, less crowds, a better time.
  • Western Australia – The most overlooked area in the country, the west coast is where the country really shines. Here you can escape the crowds of the east coast, explore the outback, the Ningaloo Reef, Coral Bay, Broome, Perth, head down to Margaret River, have the beaches to yourself, and get a much better feel for that “Aussie” outback experience. I’ve never understood why people skip this area but that just means less crowds for you. If you take one piece of advice from me, it should be to visit this area.
  • Tasmania – This is a very “off the beaten track” destination. Despite everyone knowing its name, hardly anyone ever makes it down here. Tasmania has amazing hikes, beautiful bays, small towns, and excellent people. If you have the time, take a visit down here. You can take a ferry from Melbourne.
  • The Blue Mountains – Right outside of Sydney, the Blue Mountains are an awesome place to explore—particularly in 4WD. As you adventure into the rainforest of the outback, you will see kangaroos, parrots, kookaburras, and more.
  • Cuddle a koala – Get close and personal with a Koala, Australia’s most unique native animal, at the Featherdale Wildlife Park. You can observe them up close and even have your picture taken with one for a fee. The park also features a rainforest aviary, reptile house, nocturnal houses, and more.
  • Rockingham Bay – Just outside of Perth, Rockingham Bay offers dolphin cruises and swims. Get in the beautiful turquoise water with over 100 wild bottlenose dolphins. You are provided with a wetsuit, snorkel, and mask.