4 Ways to Travel Around Australia Cheaply

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Whether you’re a veteran backpacker or a novice tourist, everyone wants to know how to get the cheapest deals when travelling. From transport and accommodation, to finding cheap eats and free activities, we have you covered:

1. Transport Hacks

Public Buses

When considering whether to take public buses around Australia consider this: on the east coast this will be your cheapest option, but on the west coast this will not be your cheapest option.

Given the limited competition and the fact that not many people move up and down the west coast, buses are relatively expensive.

However, on the east coast this is not the case.

There are multiple bus services that drive up and down the coast; the two biggest ones in Australia are Greyhound Australia and Premier.

Depending on the length of the trip, bus tickets can range from $19 (Brisbane to Gold Coast) and $109 (Sydney to Melbourne), to $205 (Darwin to Alice Springs).

Important things to consider when travelling by bus is that night buses are usually more expensive and also, booking in advance will typically be cheaper than making a last-minute purchase.

Drive

If you really want to travel cheap, driving is the way to go. The landscape of Australia is the perfect environment to take a road trip.

It may take longer to get to your final destination, but you’ll get the chance to discover the hidden gems of the coastline.

One of the best things about driving is that you have complete flexibility; no timetables, no schedules—you can do whatever you feel like.

By driving, you have the opportunity to be more spontaneous. For example, if you see something in the distance that peaks your interest you can pull over and check it out.

There are 868 km between Sydney and Melbourne. If you were to drive, the fuel costs would be approximately $170 (depending on petrol prices and the car).

This is one of the cheapest ways to get from point A to point B, especially if you have a full car. Not only can you split fuel costs, but the bonding time with your friends and family is priceless.

If you want to take it a step further, you can hire a campervan. It gives you a built-in place to crash. Campervans cost between $90 to $200 a day.

The following companies are a good place to start when looking for campervan options:

  • Jucy
  • Mighty Campers
  • Wicked Campers

Trains

If you like the idea of a road trip but don’t want the hassle of driving, why not take the train?

Trains cover the majority of Australia and offer a great option to get around the country at a relatively cheap price.

A trip from Sydney to Melbourne would set you back $130 (economy class) for the 10-hour journey.

If you’re looking for a more scenic route, be sure to book in advance as these trips can book out months prior. The Great Southern Rail is one of the more popular scenic trains.

Flying

If none of the above interest you, flying to and from your destination is not completely out of the question if you want to travel cheaply.

Though commonly known as the most expensive way to get around Australia, it is generally the easiest and quickest. By driving, you may need to stop overnight for longer journeys, which you need to factor into the overall transportation cost.

Airfares are typically 8 percent cheaper three weeks before departure than fares booked six months prior.

Though, if you’re someone who doesn’t do particularly well with waiting, be wary; having to wait for the airline to drop their prices will test your patience.

It is common for the cost of flights to fluctuate daily, so be sure to check regularly if you plan on taking this course of action.

Not only can potential passengers benefit from purchasing late, but you can also save a few if you’re looking out for fare sales and budget deals.

Tiger Airways is a prime example of a budget airline. For a one-way trip from Sydney to Melbourne: Tiger costs approximately $84, Jetstar $125, and Qantas $240.

Transport Costs: Side by Side Comparison

Across all modes of transportation mentioned, we can identify the cheapest option by comparing the Sydney to Melbourne route; the second busiest air route in the world.

SYDNEY TO MELBOURNE

  • Public Bus – $109
  • Drive – $170
  • Train – $130
  • Fly – $84 to $240

2. Accommodation 

Hotels in Australia can be expensive. If you’re travelling with a partner or friend, there’s a much more affordable option. We recommend opting for AirBnBs over hotels.

The process of booking and securing an AirBnB is smooth and easy. As long as you have an internet connection, you can download the app and book a place anytime, anywhere.

Scroll through reviews of the AirBnbs and their hosts, easily compare homes and locations—all online. Some AirBnB’s even let you book instantly, securing you a place on-the-spot without requiring confirmation. Too easy.

Not only are AirBnB prices usually cheaper than hotels in the same class (particularly when splitting the payment between two or more people), you generally get more bang for your buck. Depending on where you stay, you could score a free breakfast, a bigger place, perhaps even a home-cooked meal or free tour guide if your host is feeling extra nice.

If you’d prefer to stay on your own, you can filter down your search to find AirBnBs offering their entire place, as opposed to a private room. Either way, the AirBnB experience is exceptional overall, and depending on your taste, you may even enjoy it more than a hotel stay.

If you’re travelling solo, staying at hostels is likely the most affordable option. It’s a great way to meet new people and make travel buddies while you’re at it.

3. Food

Finding a good, inexpensive feed in Australia has become easier with the help of online reviews. A quick Google search will find you a list of restaurants in your area, reviewed by locals and tourists alike.

You can go one step further and check out food review apps such as Zomato and Yelp. Reviewers will likely provide information on the quality of food, service and pricing. This is a great start to finding cheap food that, more importantly, satisfies.

There’s one other tip you’ve probably heard before: eat like a local. Mingle with locals (or chat with your AirBnB host) and discover where locals eat. This way, you’ll avoid tourist traps and eat at the best places possible.

If you’re going out on a day trip, or simply feel like spending less, we also recommend packing your own lunch. A quick trip to the supermarket will allow you to stock up on supplies and cut down on food expenses. Sandwiches, wraps and fruit work well for long beach days or hikes, especially in areas where food is likely to be scarce. If you forget lunch, expect massive price hikes at locations with few food options—a lack of competition means more money for the one lonely kiosk or cafe.

Certain areas within cities will offer cheaper eats for quality food; you just have to know where to go. For example, in Sydney, Chinatown serves delicious Asian food at respectable prices. This is another reason to mingle with locals: they’ll know all the secret food hubs waiting to be discovered. Hint: you’ll likely find these goodies off the beaten track.

4. Activities

Look for free events in the area you’re staying. One way to do this is by making new friends, chatting with locals, or simply wandering around a new city and checking out all its nooks and crannies. If you’re not about the spontaneity, check out Facebook and other social media apps for current events you might be interested in, such as festivals, gigs and local markets.

TripAdvisor, Lonely Planet and Pinterest will also help you (not only with trip planning) but also while you’re on the road and looking for more to do.

Take advantage of summer weather if you can. Luckily, Australia is generally warm for most of the year, especially if you’re staying in Queensland. Take advantage of the glorious sunny, blue skies and immerse yourself in nature.

Nature is free, beautiful and there to be enjoyed by both locals and tourists. Have a picnic on the beach, check out local hikes and get active.

With all this new information under your belt, it’s time for you to put your new expertise to good use and book a trip. Australia is waiting!

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