When travellers choose Australia as a holiday destination, they soon find that it’s a vast country. To see and do as much as possible, it’s important to figure out a reasonable budget and itinerary. But everyone’s needs are different, so the best you can hope for is to get some guidelines as to what to expect.
For this exercise, I’ve calculated roughly how much you would need to travel in Australia for 4 weeks, taking into consideration accommodation, food, and transport alternatives. It can help you figure out how to travel down-under on a budget without sacrificing too many luxuries.
Accommodation in Australia can be pricey, especially in the popular cities like Sydney and Melbourne. Depending on how many people in your group, you can stay at backpacker’s hostels from around $27–$45 per night. If you decide to stay in private rooms, even lower rated basic motels or Bed & Breakfast accommodation, it can cost you from $65–$100 per night.
There are several online accommodation booking sites like Booking.com and Trivago. If you like the idea of self-catering accommodation, such as an apartment or holiday home, it can work out to be surprisingly affordable, particularly if you’re sharing with one or two other travellers. Advantages of this kind of accommodation include having all the comforts of your own home, kitchen, laundry facilities and a place to all your "base." One of the most popular and easiest sites to book with is HomeAway. The site has filters enabling you to choose your location, budget, dates and accommodation type.
So 4 weeks in shared/very basic private accommodation, paying an average of $60 per night would come to around $1,680. If you chose a self-catering option, you’d be looking at anywhere from $100 per night upwards (depending on location) which would come to $2,800 for 4 weeks.
Once again, depending on where you choose to eat and drink, restaurant prices can be high. Some hostels have kitchens, allowing you to keep costs down by cooking your own food. A good way to save is to stick with a basic cereal breakfast and save your dining out for later in the day. The two most popular supermarkets in Australia are Coles and Woolworths. The great thing is that they stock all the fresh food you’ll need, plus alcohol, and if you save the receipts, you are even entitled to many discounts, including petrol.
Dining & Drinking - In
Groceries: A week’s worth of basic shopping in an Aussie supermarket for one person would come to around $70, including meat, soft drinks, and bottled water.
Alcohol: A 5 litre cask of wine will cost between $13–$18. A carton of beer will cost around $50. A bottle of spirits like vodka or bourbon can cost between $30–$50.
Summary: Using the above breakdown, the total for food, drink and alcohol supplies for one week, (depending on the amount of alcohol consumption of course), you can expect to pay around $140, or $20 per day.
Dining & Drinking - Out
- Two-course meal at an inexpensive restaurant $30–$50
- Meal from a fast-food outlet like McDonalds, KFC $10
- Beer or glass of wine at a bar or restaurant $5 - $10 each
- Bottle of wine at a restaurant or bar $35
Bearing in mind that everyone’s alcohol requirements are vastly different, it’s too difficult to figure out even an approximate cost for dining out, but the above prices will act as a guide.
Depending on where you want to go, and how much you want to see, travel costs in Australia probably will have the biggest impact on your budget.
Rail Travel: Many people like to travel by train, and there are plenty of options to buy cross country rail passes. Websites like Rail Australia and Great Southern Rail have pre-organised trips from east to west, north to south and everything in between. Australia’s NSW TrainLink Regional train and coach services will take you to destinations as far west as Broken Hill in the outback, as far north as Brisbane and Queensland’s Gold Coast, as far south as Melbourne, and to the nation’s capital, Canberra. A Discovery Pass allows unlimited travel on the XPT train, and the Xplorer rail services and connects to over 360 destinations. A one-month unlimited travel pass starts at around $350. Bear in mind that unless you combine the journey with a tour, or have specific destinations in mind to visit, train travel can be a little limiting.
Bus Travel: There are many coach tour companies in Australia, which cover all areas of this vast nation. This gives you the opportunity to hop on and hop off, and is a great way for intrepid explorers to see the country. An example would be to choose a Greyhound Bus Kilometre Travel pass, which can cost from $120 for up to 500km to $2,500 for 25,000km travel.
Self-Drive: When it comes to travel in Australia, one of the most popular ways as a tourist to see the country is to drive yourself. As mentioned, the country is massive and much of the landscape can only be appreciated from the road. There are several companies in Australia that can cater to your self-driving needs. You can choose to either rent, or if your budget allows, purchase a vehicle, which in most cases can be sold back to the company you bought it from. First, decide on the vehicle that best suits your needs, based on how many travellers and how far you want to go.
A basic station wagon, with a mattress in the back for you to sleep on would cost from $35 per day. Or you could buy one for $3,000–$5,000.
You can hire a campervan from only $45 per day, or buy one from $9,500–$16,000. Of course, you need to think about fuel, and in Australia, you can expect to pay up to $1.60 per litre for petrol or diesel.
An example: If you hired a 2-3 berth budget campervan for 4 weeks, from Sydney to travel to Darwin, where you would drop it off, you would pay around $1,850. Approximate fuel costs, based on travelling 4,000km and paying $1.55 per litre would cost around $744 (although if you spend over $30 in Woolworths or Coles and save your receipts, you can enjoy further fuel discounts of up to 8 cents per litre). Campsites would cost on average $10 per night, a total of $280.
With the advantages of being free to come and go as you please, campervan hire is a great option to consider, especially if you’re travelling as a couple.
Australia might be well out of the way in relation to the rest of the world, but with vast expanses to explore including breath-taking scenery, spectacular wildlife (including the human variety), amazing cuisine, and a relaxed, carefree way of life to enjoy, it doesn’t need to be beyond your budget.