Australia is one of the most expensive countries on the planet at the moment. High costs of living, high wages and a relatively stable economy mean that Australia hasn’t suffered the way the US or Europe has economically. Combined with the expense of buying Australian dollars and the cost involved in reaching Australia initially, it can be a very expensive place for travellers.
We’ve spent 3+ months a year in Australia for the past three years so have gathered some tips for making travel in Australia just a bit less expensive.
Here are ten of my top ten tips for making travel in Australia less expensive:
1. Rent cars from local, off airport companies. Not only is the cost of renting the vehicle much cheaper any added extras like carseats or GPS units are also significantly less expensive. You can find them by searching on Google. They often won’t show up in any car rental aggregator sites.
2. Do a vehicle relocation. Australia is a big country and lots of tourists choose to travel one-way meaning rental car and camper companies need to move vehicles around a lot. You get a cheap rental, like $1 per day, and sometimes even fuel vouchers towards your journey. The only catch is the limited amount of time you can take to complete the relocation.
3. Book flights from outside of Australia. You can save a few dollars on domestic flights by booking through flight search engines with a better currency conversion. Have a look at buying your Jetstar flights through Expedia.co.jp as an example.
4. Sign up for airline newsletters. The main airlines flying domestically in Australia are Qantas, Jetstar, Virgin Australia and Tiger Airways. Sign up to their newsletters & Facebook pages and watch out for deals. Jetstar have a weekly Friday Fare Frenzy and Tiger have weekly deals for email subscribers too.
5. Don’t pay cash on city buses! The fare is always much more (sometime more than double) when you pay cash on boarding the bus. Instead, get a transport pass or re-loadable swipe card. You can get these from convenience stores and newsagents. Stick with buses when you’re travelling around a central city. A bus-only transport pass in Sydney is MUCH cheaper than one that lets you use rail or ferries. Pay for those only when you need to.
6. Book an airport shuttle. Taxis are expensive in Australia so don’t rely on them as an option for getting to or from the airport. Or take a public bus. Catching the train in from Sydney is quick and convenient but actually super expensive.
7. Watch Groupon for accommodation deals. Once you’re a month or two out from your trip, sign up to Groupon Australia and get the email alerts for their travel deals. You’ll find lots of city hotels on for 1-2 night stays as well as longer stays in holiday destinations like the Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast.
8. Book mystery hotels. Wotif.com is my favourite site for booking hotels in Australia (and New Zealand). The have great hotel deals all the time but also do mystery hotels. A mystery hotel means you won’t know the exact name of the hotel before you book but you can narrow down search results by criteria like location, star rating etc. You can pretty much work out which hotel you’re booking by checking the amenities list and comparing it to the hotels listed. Priceline is another great way to book mystery hotels cheaply. Read my guide on using Priceline Express Deals here.
9. Self cater where you can. If you’re staying in an apartment or hostel or touring in a campervan it’s easy to self-cater. Supermarket food in Australia is a lot more reasonable than eating out as wages are high for restaurant workers. Even if you’re not staying somewhere with catering facilities, the weather in Australia is great for picnicing and eating outdoors. It’s really easy to find shared gas BBQs in common areas in parks and beachfronts too.
10. Search for coupons and vouchers. -Supermarket dockets (receipts) in Australia have really great coupons on the back for local attractions, cheap eats and discount hotels. You’ll almost always get a fuel voucher on your supermarket docket too. Entertainment books are also a great source for vouchers for dining and activities if you can get your hands on one (you might need a local to help you). Look on Groupon for activities and dining vouchers too.
Got any more tips for making travel in Australia less expensive?
Leave me a comment below. I’d love to know your tips!
I think you have about covered it! Australia is super expensive. Self catering can definitely save a lot of money and make sure you buy food, drinks etc from big supermarkets. Little shops are crazy expensive.
Yes we found that out the hard way when we were staying in Sydney. Crazy prices just for a bottle of water or milk in a corner store!!!!
Thanks for the tip about the mystery hotels on Wotif.
I had seen them but wasn’t prepared to take the risk in getting a hotel that didn’t have the facilities I wanted.
I will g back and have a look now that I know you can narrow the guess work.
Definitely all good tips. We definitely have an advantage with family there – accommodation and even cars are often taken care of, plus we still have our bank accounts so purchasing currency doesn’t sting so much. I’ve noticed the tourism ads have gone seriously upmarket – they’re now selling the country to People Of Means (contrast this with the infamous “Where The Bloody Hell Are You” campaign of a few years back).
But it’s true, you can definitely cut costs A LOT by taking a few simple steps. Two more:
– Camp grounds are often quite nice if you don’t mind staying in a tent. Some caravan parks have on-site vans for overnight rental as well. It’s not quite as bustling with families as it was when we were kids, more the “Grey Nomad” set these days. We stayed in an onsite van recently in Tasmania and it was quite comfortable and the kids had a good area to run around.
– Self-catering doesn’t mean you need to rent an apartment with a kitchen. A lot of parks have BBQs and picnic tables which can be used for free without booking. Especially good for families with kids as the kids can use the playground at the same time. You can also get a wide variety of picnic-style ingredients from supermarkets – including the usual sandwich stuff but also things like cous cous salads, felafels, etc etc. Bakeries are also a good idea and sell mini-pizza breads, pies, etc (although not that cheap for bakeries, they’re a lot cheaper than sitting at a cafe!).
Thanks Bronwyn! We have lots of family dotted around Oz too so usually have someone to call on for a night or two of free accommodation. 😉
I’m not much of a camper myself but caravan parks etc are great here in NZ so I imagine they would be in Oz too.
Oh whoops, just saw you had that about the BBQs. How on earth did I miss it the first time? But we never get self-catering accommodation when away from relatives in Australia and nearly always self-cater anyway.
Great tips – thanks for sharing! We are planning our trip to Australia and NZ and are definitely worried about the costs. I love that you mentioned Groupon – I totally forgot about my beloved Groupon. I used to get on and check for deals every day in the States, but since moving to Thailand I’ve completely forgotten about it.
Can’t wait to do some BBQing on the grill though. Something else we have dearly missed since coming to Thailand! Thanks again!
We use Groupon a lot in NZ too so don’t forget about it here either!
I totally need to start paying more attention to Groupon for hotels. Sometimes even a minibreak near our home would be nice.
Fab post Bethaney, and one that travel folk need more of in different variations. Totally agree that Australia is so expensive to get around. Something we did quite a lot of when we hired a campervan in Tasmania was the free camping thing – and there are lots of free or cost-next-to-nothing spots in the National Parks in SWA too. You’ll find some free camping spots going North up to the Coral Coast too. Definitely a plan for a night or too to recoup a bit of cash.
Australia’s expensive enough to get to from our part of the world. Which makes your money-saving tips even more relevant. We look forward to putting them into practice.
Great tips! I spent 18 months in Australia and my biggest tip would be to make use of the free gas BBQs. They’re everywhere and they’re always really clean. It’s much more fun to gather a group of friends and have a barbie on the beach then to go out for an expensive meal.
Thanks for this advice. The main reason I haven’t gone to Australia yet is because of the cost.
Excellent tips – definitely useful, and hopefully more people (including our family!) will give Australia a second look. 😉
Useful! Cost is the main reason I’ve skipped travel to Australia.
Really helpful! I sometimes forget how awesome groupon deals can be.
Vehicle relocation is a brilliant idea and something I would not have thought of doing before reading your post. Thanks for sharing!
Great tips – and some of them apply the world over too… so you’re giving even more bang for your buck!
May I ask a question please? What is the name of the script font you have used in the top photo? The one with the Opera House in it?
What smart tips! The rental car relocation and bus passes sound particularly helpful. I haven’t been to Australia in a while but these are great to keep in mind.
Fantastic tips! I’ve lived in Sydney for many years and this list is pretty comprehensive as far as saving money in Australia.
I love the idea of the relocation car rental. Renting cars is always so expensive, but in a country such as Australia it is probably a lot of fun roadtripping. Love your new site design by the way. How did I miss that?
Definitely agree on the non-corporate rental cars. As long as the car is in basic condition I don’t think it matters that it’s not brand new (if money is tight). Not quite sure that I agree how expensive Australia is – been to Switzerland (or anywhere in Scandinavia) lately? : )
I am happy to read this because you shared a great tips to save money on tours in Australia. I love the idea of relocation car rental. These tips will useful and helpful to everyone to save maximum money. I’m planning to visit Australia in coming summer. Your blog will helpful for me to save money on that trip. Thanks a lot for sharing this information…..
Australia’s costly enough to get to from our place on the globe. Which creates your money-saving guidelines even more appropriate. Also I really like the concept of the moving car hire. Leasing vehicles is always so costly, but in a nation such as Sydney it is probably a lot of fun roadtripping.
Will have use these tips for our upcoming return!
Great tips! I’m heading to Australia in February and I know it’s an expensive country, anything I can do to save money will probably go a long way. I had heard about the Expedia Japanese website before, I need to actually do that!
Luckily for you the Australian dollar has dropped a lot lately meaning you can buy more Australian dollars for you dollars or pounds… it makes everything cheaper!
Totally agree with all of that. Also, hostels are a great choice over here.
If you can get into a YHA, do it. The service is always great, with all the facilities you could need, and they usually always have family rooms, and they are more often than not very cheap, too. The Brisbane City YHA on Upper Roma Street is the cheapest in Brisbane. I stay there every time I’m in the city.
Note: I’ve heard some people say they couldn’t stay at youth hostels because of their age. So not true. Majority of them aren’t fussy at all. If you’re not sure, just flick them an email.
Great post. Camping is a great way to save money; there are plenty of spots across Australia that are free, and many that are just a few dollars a night. With the right setup camping is very comfortable, and can save you a bucket load!
Thanks Aaron. I’m just afraid of creepy crawlies and not showering!!!!
Australia has been on my bucketlist for a long time now, but I still can’t even afford the flight!
Love your tips! I’m an Australian and has spent a lot of time travelling around Australia, including a 5 month camping trip in 2009. (I can see that a lot of people have already recommended camping, although you’re either a camper or not a camper!) One other tip I’d recommend is to avoid school holiday times, particularly the December/January school holidays. All the accommodation is extra expensive, and places along the coast will definitely be busy.
I didn’t read through all the posts but I live in Aus and here are a few travel tips:
– Big 4 caravan parks are really family friendly and often quite cheap
– If you want to dine out, it is better to go out for lunch. And most pubs have a family friendly zone and and you can normally gets $15 lunch special including a drink. Some places even have a “kids eat free” night.
– utilise AirBnb for accommodation
– Venture away from the big cities, you will still get amazing scenery and beaches and it will be far cheaper.