Last Updated: 3/29/23 | March 29th, 2023
Everyone has sticker shock when they land in Australia. They see how much things cost and their jaw drops. Heck, even Australians get sticker shock — and they live there! Time and time again, 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.
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 — if not more!
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 25-30 AUD in smaller cities and 25-70 AUD per night in places like Sydney or Melbourne. As always, the smaller the dorm, the higher the cost. Private rooms are 80–150 AUD per night.
- Food: Your average meal in Australia will run you about 20 AUD. A fancy meal at a more upscale restaurant costs closer to 60 AUD. Even McDonald’s is expensive—a value meal is about 13 AUD.
- Alcohol: For a country that loves to drink, they make it very costly to do so. Beers cost around 10 AUD. Happy hours and backpacker bars tend to have cheap drinks, usually for around 50% off. But booze adds up fast here!
- Tours: A typical multi-day tour costs around 400-750 AUD. Most day trips can be found for 60-450 AUD.
- Transportation: You can find cheap transportation in Australia if you look. Greyhound offers several discount passes ranging from 15-365 days. Expect to pay 349 AUD for the 15-day pass, 439 AUD for the 30-day pass, and 499 AUD 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 70-80 AUD per day. This is a suggested budget assuming you’re staying in a hostel dorm, cooking most of your meals, limiting your drinking, using public transportation to get around, and 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 AUD per day to your average.
If you Couchsurf or camp, hitchhike, and cut out drinking altogether, you can lower this by 20-30 AUD per day.
If you are staying in private hostel rooms or Airbnbs, drinking a lot, and eating out often, expect to spend closer to 200 AUD 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 250-400 AUD 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 a few helpful tips to ensure you keep costs low:
Cook – Cooking your meals can save you a lot of money. 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. It may not be glamorous, but you’ll save fortune.
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.
Stay with a local – 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.
If you just want to rent a car and share the cost with friends, use Discover Cars to find the best deals.
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. It’s a great way to reduce your expenses and connect with a local family.
Book tours as a package – This country has a lot of exciting activities and tours that eat into any budget. Booking activities together through a hostel or tour agency can get you a discount and save you hundreds of dollars.
Camp – Camping is very affordable here, with basic tent plots costing as little as 7 AUD per night. If you have gear, this can save you a ton.
Bring a reusable water bottle – The tap water in Australia is safe to drink so bring a reusable water bottle with you to save money and lower your plastic use. LifeStraw makes a bottle with a built-in filter to ensure your water is always clean and safe.
The best way to save money in Australia is to mix and match how you spend. You need to counter the high costs of one activity with the lost costs of another. That’s why I always say it’s 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 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 the bank either!
Book Your Trip to Australia: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Book Your Flight
Use Skyscanner to find a cheap flight. They are my favorite search engine because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.
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:
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:
- Safety Wing (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!