Australia is a notoriously expensive destination. Here are some tips for traveling in Australia on a budget, and easing the Aussie string on your wallet.
1. Avoid Christmas and Australian school holidays.
Australians take their summer holidays at Christmas and in January. At this time of year, you’ll be competing with locals for domestic flights and accommodation, and the prices will skyrocket. If you’re seeking a beachy holiday, there are still plenty of other months when Australia is plenty warm enough for swimming and enjoying the beach, and mid-summer tends to be too hot for comfort anyway.
2. Stock up on things like sun block before you go.
Sun block and these types of sundries, or things like a new bathing suit, tend to be expensive in Aussie. Get them before you leave home rather than thinking you’ll pick them up when you get there.
3. Check local websites for flight prices.
Jetstar is a budget airline owned by Qantas. They offer cheap, no frills flights that are ideal for short hops, such as between Sydney and Melbourne. Search on local Australian flight search sites, to get the locals’ pricing.
4. Use miles and points.
Since the prices are high, Australia is a great destination to use your miles and points, if you have them available. From the US, you can fly United to Australia, or use American Airlines points to fly Qantas. The Park Hyatt Sydney is a particularly popular aspirational redemption for people with Hyatt hotel points.
5. Get two countries for the price of one.
There are a few other options like flying to Australia and getting a stopover. You can fly Air NZ from San Francisco, Los Angeles (and soon Houston) to Auckland in New Zealand, enjoy a stopover, and then carry on to Australia. You can also fly via Hawaii e.g., Jetstar fly non-stop from Honolulu to Australia. A Hawaii stopover is a highly recommended way to break up the long flight, especially if you’re coming from the East Coast of the US. Fiji is another potential stopover option as Fiji Airways fly from Los Angeles to Fiji, and then you can get a flight onto Australia.
Ok, this is not really a money saving tip but it will allow you to potentially get more value from your flight costs.
6. Use a credit card with no foreign transaction fees and an ATM card that offers fee free international withdrawals.
Don’t add 3% to your trip costs by using a credit or debit card that has foreign transaction fees.
Almost everywhere in Australia will take debit cards so you probably won’t be needing to use an ATM very much. Depending on your relationship with your bank, you may be able to request credits for international ATM fees, without getting a new account somewhere else. We did this successfully with our New Zealand bank.
7. Prepare your own meals and snacks.
Restaurant prices are incredibly expensive in Australia. However, they include tax and there is no need to tip. Grocery prices are still expensive but you’ll save a bundle if you can reduce your number of restaurant meals. Plus, going to a restaurant once a day rather than three times a day will free up much more of your time for sight seeing.
If you’re vegetarian, Govindas restaurants are good value in Australia.
Think about the cost of drinks too. If you’re a diet coke addict, prepare for some major sticker shock if you attempt to buy a small bottle of coke anywhere in Australia.
You can keep your costs down if you’re thoughtful and order cheaper items off menus, rather than rushing into a restaurant when you’re hungry. Australia has lots of immigrants and ethnic restaurants are plentiful and more affordable e.g., Greek, Thai.
8. Free wifi can be hard to find – here are tips.
McDonalds and libraries are often your best bet for free wifi. T-mobile in the US will also give you free data and texts in Australia if you’re on one of their Simple Plans (no affiliation). Be aware that Australia is a huge, sparsely populated country and internet in Australia can be incredibly frustrating. If you’re planning to download any large files, or even apps etc, do it before you go.
Likewise, do as much of your trip research before you go, so you’re not relying on wifi as much.
9. Travel when the Aussie dollar is weak against your currency.
Now is a great time to travel to Australia because the Aussie dollar is weak. Two years ago, the Aussie dollar was incredibly strong and you would’ve gotten 1 AUD for every 1 USD. Now you’ll only need 80c US to get 1 AUD! Not great for Aussies, but good if you’re going in the other direction.
Check out this chart to get a sense of the historical rates.
10. Use public transportation.
Public transportation can be an attraction in itself. For example, the Sydney to Manly ferry. Australia has some good public transportation options e.g., the bus from central Sydney to Bondi beach, or the airport train from Sydney or Brisbane airports to the respective central cities.
11. Check out Australian deals sites.
For example, check out local Groupon deals.
12. Try AirBnB
AirBnB allows you to rent a whole apartment or a room in someone’s home (most people I know go with the whole home/apartment option). You can rent for as little as one night but multi-night options allow you to spread the cleaning fee over multiple nights. The cost probably will be on par with a hotel room but you’ll typically have access to full cooking facilities, which as previously mentioned, can really help you keep your costs down. Plus, what could be more of an awesome Aussie experience than a house with a BBQ by the beach for a few days.
This post is presented in partnership with Cheapflights but written by us and views expressed are our own.