World’s Most Expensive Country? How to Travel Australia on a Budget

If there’s one thing I can tell you now that I’ve spent twenty months here in Australia, it’s that this is a country every traveler must experience at least once in their lifetime. Stunning landscapes, friendly locals, and unbelievably good weather make it an ideal vacation destination, except for one thing: Australia has been rated the world’s most expensive country for the past four years. But all is not lost! It is possible to see this costly country inexpensively, I promise! Here are a few tips to save money while traveling Australia.

Sydney view

These views don’t come cheap!

1. Turn your holiday into a working holiday

If you’re planning to spend an extended period of time in Australia, why not apply for a working holiday visa? This will allow you to spend up to a year down under, and even if you’re keen to spend more time traveling and less time working, when your cash supply is running low, you can always do a few days of casual work to replenish your wallet. Casual employees earn upwards of $20 per hour, so working just a few hours a week is not a bad way to boost your funds.

2. Road tripping? Rent a campervan!

There’s no better way to see the real Australia than an epic cross-country road trip. You’ll need a way to get around anyway, so why not rent a vehicle that can double as accommodation? Campervans or RVs are a fantastic and economical way to see Australia. You can save money you’d otherwise spend on hotels and have tons more flexibility when it comes to where you’ll stay and when. DriveNow is super handy for comparing various companies’ rates and vehicles, letting you save even further on your road trip, and offers campervan rentals in Sydney and other cities.

Australian road trip

My great Australian road trip last April

3. Going a bit farther? Fly discount airlines

Australia is a big country. I mean really big. So, if you want to get a little farther than a road trip will reasonably allow, you’ll need to turn to flights. The good news is that Australia has a few discount airlines. They aren’t perfect, but I’ve found them to be at least a little less frustrating than Europe’s low-cost airlines. When flying within Australia, check out Jetstar and Tigerair for better deals.

4. Sticking in a city for a while? Airbnb it up!

I’m a massive fan of staying in hostels while traveling, but, unfortunately, I’ve found many of Australia’s hostels to be pricey and subpar. Often, for similar prices to a dirty shared hostel room, you can find lovely Airbnb rooms, especially if you’re willing to venture a little out of the city center. It’s a great way to discover new neighborhoods and meet people in your new city. And, believe it or not, Australia’s cities can be enjoyed on the cheap. Check out these tips for exploring Melbourne on a budget or my ideas for free or inexpensive sights in Sydney.

Uki, Australia

Not complaining about the view from one of our Airbnb rentals in Uki last year

5. Hit up the grocery store

I’d always recommend trying local foods when you’re traveling, but if you’ll be in Australia for a long period anyway, cooking at home can offer some big savings. Meals out in Australia will usually set you back at least $20 Australian/$15 U.S., but essential groceries are fairly inexpensive. Coles and Woolworths are the least expensive supermarkets, and both offer great deals on home brand items. Even if you’re camping, you can make some pretty impressive dishes: check out this recipe for Dutch oven roast lamb.

6. Become a happy hour aficionado

Also frustratingly expensive in Australia? Alcohol. If you’re a backpacker, I’m sure you’ll want to make the most of your trip by having a drink or two (or ten), but this will add up quickly. Fortunately, there are loads of daily happy hours around Australia, often offering drinks that are cheaper even than liquor stores (or bottle shops or bottle-os, as they’re called here). $4 Australian/$3.10 U.S. for beers, cider, or wine? Yes, please! Check out some of Sydney’s best happy hours here, or do a quick Google search to find those near you.

Sydney happy hour

Thanks, happy hour!

7. Reclaim tax and superannuation when you leave

If you’ve spent more than $300 with a single business, you may be eligible for a tax refund when you fly out of Australia, and this can seriously add up. Learn more about Australia’s Tourist Refund Scheme here. Additionally, if you’ve worked while in Australia, you’ll have earned 9.5% superannuation on your income, which Australians must save for retirement, but you’re welcome to access the money when you return home. You can find more about claiming superannuation here.

Yes, Australia’s high prices may be off-putting, but you can still see this spectacular country even on a backpacker’s budget. So what are you waiting for?

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post, but all opinions are entirely my own, as always!

18 Responses

  1. Valerie Moliterno says:

    So now you tell me, after I just spent half my retirement fund! Just kidding but it IS expensive. One other tip: if you’re visiting wineries and are buying, ask if they have cleanskins. Same wine in a bottle with no label is much cheaper.

  2. Hi Kirstie,

    I’ve visited Australia many times and absolutely adore it, especially Queensland which my favourite. Your selling points for the country are hard to argue against.

    As a Brit, in the last decade I have found the place quite pricey compared to home but I may struggle to agree with it being the most expensive country. Maybe I just manage to control my costs?

    Either way, in the last couple of years the Australian dollar has weakened a fair bit. Now, whilst Australia is still more pricey than home it is becoming more and more affordable.

    With your tips, it is even more accessible for the money conscious, sensible traveller.

    • I’m actually pretty surprised it was named the most expensive country! It is expensive, but it’s also fairly manageable, especially, as you mentioned, now that the Australian dollar is weaker.

      By the way, I still owe you questions for my Travel Talk series! I’ll get those to you soon!

  3. Ben says:

    I have never been to Australia but I have heard that it is quite expensive there. We will keep your tips in mind when we finally make it to Australia.

  4. Wow! I can’t believe you planned on just going for a few months and now you live there, so inspiring!! I can’t wait to get out to Australia, the people seem so nice and friendly and laid back. Is it really as expensive as everyone says?

    Did you find work there? Or do you travel around? Thanks for this post!! xx

  5. Yes we have! So nice meeting you 🙂 Excited to follow your journey!

  6. Gina says:

    Awesome post!! Australia is up there for places I want to visit, and this guide is so practical for planning a trip there. Thanks for joining Wanderlust Stories, Kirstie! I’m so excited to browse your blog 🙂 I studied abroad in Spain, so I can’t wait to hear all about your adventures!

  7. Robert says:

    My wife and I enjoyed our first trip to Australia last spring and with a little planning, we made the trip quite affordable coming from Canada. Instead of dining out for each meal, we hit the grocery stores and liquor stores and saved a ton! We selected more modest accommodations and next visit will certainly take advantage of airbnb. Great tips Kirstie!

  8. Dan says:

    Great post! My girlfriend and I are from Colorado, now living in New Zealand in the beginning stages of our great world travels around the world. We are thinking of trying to hit up Aus next, but as New Zealand is currently bleeding our bank accounts dry, we are not sure if Aus is going to be next or if it will have to wait after a year in S.E. asia. Either way I look forward to catching up on your blog more. We just started ours and are seeking other travel bloggers to connect and learn from.

    • I can understand the feeling of having your bank accounts bled dry! Hmm, Australia and Southeast Asia are both fantastic options. Before I was sponsored for a longer-term visa here, my plan was sort of the reverse: travel New Zealand and then Southeast Asia. I still plan to get there eventually!

  9. Great tips here, which as a fellow tourist who has also been in Australia about 2 years I agree with! I did find hiring campervans or RVS pretty expensive though, so stumbled upon the whole of process of Relocation Deals – where rental companies basically give you very cheap or free hire of a vehicle to drive it from one destination to another within a set amount of time, they even chip in for some of the fuel costs! I used this method to drive all the way from Alice springs to Darwin for $60 and loved it! Check out my post – Relocation Deals: The Cheap Way to Road Trip

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