Tips for touring Australia on a budget

Let’s face facts. Australia is not a cheap country for international travelers.

But don’t let that stop you from visiting this truly magnificent island continent. No doubt there are some places where you simply HAVE to shell out the big bucks. If you’re looking for budget options, this is where you bid a teary farewell to helicopter tours over the Great Barrier Reef and sunrise camel rides to Uluru.

But take heart. With a little bit of planning, you can still save quite a few dollars when pulling together your Australia itinerary.

Here are some tricks that we used to make sure our wallets didn’t take too much of a beating when we planned our 2 weeks in Australia.

  • Limit your stops

My number one tip if you are tightening the purse strings is to limit the places you add to your itinerary. Australia is MASSIVE – it is after all the largest island in the southern hemisphere.

For example, it is simply not practical to visit Perth, Melbourne, Sydney and Tasmania in one week. Logistically it may be possible but you would spend so much time traveling that it just wouldn’t be worth it. Be realistic about the time you have and shortlist a few favorites that you can really do justice to.

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Prioritize your stops

By limiting your destinations, you will not be required to fork up for expensive tickets and instead can get the most out of a few select places.

  • Find alternative transportation

If you have the luxury of time you could opt for things like camper-van rentals or relocation rentals like Imoova, where for as low as $1/day you will be provided a vehicle, pick-up and drop-off locations and time-frame with sometimes even fuel thrown in!.

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Consider alternative modes of transportation

But if you are like us, time is precious and a several hour long drive is far less appealing than a 1 hour jaunt by air. Nevertheless this is a great option for those who have more time on hand and plan well in advance.

  • Opt for cheaper domestic air travel

If you must fly locally, skip the big brand names like Qantas and opt for smaller airlines like Jetstar or TigerAir instead. We caught a total of 5 domestic flights in a 2 week period (not counting our international flights to and from Australia) and thanks to these airlines we didn’t have to break the bank.

Look for budget air travel options
Look for budget air travel options

If you can manage to travel without luggage like we did, even better. All of the flights we took came with a 7kg cabin baggage allowance and in many cases our backpacks were not even checked!

Bonus Tip : There were multiple flights per day for local destinations and we found that the night flights worked out to be much cheaper. This was perfect for us as it meant we weren’t wasting precious daylight hours stuck in a flying box. Wherever possible we took the last flight out so that we could maximize our time at each destination.

  • Free walking tours

Not all tours in Australia will cost you over 100 dollars. And I do not exaggerate. We did pay well over that price for a few tours! But fear not. Like many international cities, Australia does offer some free walking tours.

im-free
I’m Free tours in Melbourne

We used the I’m Free walking tour in Melbourne and Free Tours Sydney in yep, you guessed it, Sydney.

sydney-tour
Free Tours Sydney

Both tour companies run off tips paid to the guides so while you are not expected to fork up a 100 dollars, a small tip is recommended as this is how they support the company and keep these tours going.

  • Use public transport

Both Sydney and Melbourne have well developed public transport systems. In fact Melbourne even has a free tram within the CBD that you can use to see some great sights in the heart of the city. Just hop on and off as you choose and roam to your heart’s content.

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Melbourne City Circle Tram
  • Jucy is juicy

Jucy is a website I found quite by chance. They have some fantastic deals on vehicle rentals as well as deals on activities, which we used for Cairns. We managed to snag a tour to Fitzroy Island for 56 AUD per head, a price much lower than what we found advertised on other sites at the time.

If you are flexible with your dates, you could possibly find even better deals with them.

  • Groupons are your best friend

Before your trip make sure to search through discount coupon sites like Groupon if they have any offers running for the activities that you would like to do. You can often get tours and activities at significantly lower rates. For example, we managed to snag our whale watching tour in Sydney at a 59% discount! Well worth the fifteen minutes or so it took me to find the voucher.

opera
Groupon vouchers can lead to considerable savings

 

  • Cheap eats

Dining in Australia can quickly get very expensive. The easiest way to avoid this is to cook for yourself. Cough cough! But I am on holiday. And I refuse to slave away in a kitchen. Even if that means just slapping some jam and butter on sliced bread for breakfast. I repeat, I am on holiday.

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It can be quite easy to find great dining deals in Australia

Some restaurants offer great weekday deals or combos at very reasonable prices. Also make sure to have a hogging session at local markets. Your tummy will thank you for this, I promise. We spent an entire day at one of Melbourne’s markets doing nothing but eating. It truly wasn’t something we planned to do but when the cards are dealt, you play with them. Or some such witty adage.

  • Shop around

This goes without saying. A quick google search will give you tons of links to tour operators and details of their packages. But whenever possible, try and avoid the first few search results which are often sponsored and may not be the cheapest option out there. While I never rummage through 100’s of pages of results, I do make it a point to search the first three pages thoroughly and can sometimes find a gem or two tucked away in later page results.

 

  • Trawl through TripAdvisor

Make it a point to research recommendations from like-minded travelers on forums like TripAdvisor or Lonely Planet. Results and recommendations that may not pop up on a Google search can often be found here.

  • Invest in a local sim

If you’re going to be spending a considerable amount of time in Australia, I would advise you invest in a local sim to avoid any roaming rates. We opted for a Vodafone sim with data as well (invaluable when you are on the verge of chewing on your own hubby in hunger and need to look up the closest place to grab a bite). From what I understood, Telstra has even better coverage but can be much pricier.

Daintree river
Cruising the Daintree river
  • Sleep for cheap

Try searching on Airbnb for cheaper and often homier stay options. Couchsurfing will even give you free, yes FREE, stay options if you are open to sharing a home with complete strangers.

  • Speak to the locals

I cannot stress enough how important this is. While its all well and good to find online recommendations, the locals will be able to tell you about secret favorite spots that are off the beaten path. Thanks to local advice we stumbled upon some hidden gems that really left us with lasting memories. Australians are a genuinely friendly lot and will happily guide you if asked.

So there you have it. Some simple tips to keep your expenses in check.What are some of the means you use to limit your travel spending? Do you have any resources or recommendations that might help fellow travelers?

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25 thoughts on “Tips for touring Australia on a budget

    1. I’m so excited for you! An Australia trip with friends sounds amazing 😀 I’m sooo looking forward to reading about your adventures in the near future 🙂 And I have to get off my bum and publish the rest of those Ozzie posts languishing in my Drafts folder 🙂

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  1. This is such a brilliant post, Diya! I’ve always been one to travel on a budget and you’ve included some really fantastic tips in here. Even a few surprise one’s, like Groupon! I took free city tours in almost every place I visited when I was in Europe – it’s a great way to learn more about the place you’re in and also get your bearings in a new city. It’s nice to know Aus offers those as well 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so glad you found the post helpful. And yes, Groupons are a great way to save in most countries, especially on sight-seeing/tourist activities. We found many great deals that we would definitely have used if only we’d had more time (the usual complaint of most travelers!) 🙂

      And free walking tours are great! The one in Melbourne particularly was so much fun 😀 I’m definitely going to try more of these especially on the first day of a trip as it’s a great way to get your bearings around a city 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so glad you found the post useful 🙂 If you have a few more months that is plenty of time to plan and there really is nothing to worry about 🙂 If you need any help at all, just ask and I will help in any way I can 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a really good list! You’ve done well!
    Brisbane also has free walking tours. I think they’re called “Brisbane Greeters”. I suppose all of our major cities probably have something similar now.
    As for phones: Optus is another option (good coverage, data allowance, etc). I think some prepaid plans even include international calls.
    And, yes, ask for local recommendations! Even as a local myself, there have been times when I’ve just casually chatted to a waiter or barista and gotten good recommendations about other places to visit.

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    1. Very true. We had some fantastic meals at places we would have never discovered otherwise. And it’s always fascinating to hear about a place from someone who has lived there a while and not just from a glossy guidebook or tour operator 🙂

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  3. Food here is quite expensive, especially compared to Europe! Looks like you had a great time 🙂 As an Australian my number 1 would be research the travel time between destinations, I had to disappoint a UK traveller once when I explained that Uluru wasn’t just an hours drive away and he would have to fly (which was too expensive for him).

    Food wise, the locals usually know where to get the best deals and cheap eats. Pubs/RSLs etc often have specials on, especially during the week (like Steak Tuesdays or Sunday Roast nights etc).

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    1. Sighhh… Uluru was high up on my hubby’s wishlist too. But once we started doing our research we quickly realized it wouldn’t work for this trip. Distance and travel time are such important factors in planning an Australia trip.

      And I completely agree about the weekday specials. We used them too thanks to some local recommendations and were pleasantly surprised 🙂

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