Australia Backpacking Budget

Australia Backpacking Budget

(Map of Australia from wikitravel, can be re-used under CC BY-SA 3.0)

Daily Travel Costs in Australia on a Shoestring Budget

US$70 | 100 Australian Dollars

Although a very popular destination with young budget travellers, Australia is certainly not a budget travel destination. It’s at least as expensive and perhaps more costly than almost all of Europe and North America and our suggested Australia backpacking budget of 100 Dollars per day certainly reflects that. Certainly if you intend to cover large distances, which you will have to do if you want to see a large portion of the country, then transport costs are going to be high while food, drink and accommodation is in line with what you’d expect in any expensive developed country.

However Oz does have a few saving graces as far as the budget traveller is concerned. For one the relative ease of getting a short-term work visa and abundance of seasonal or short-term jobs makes it one of the few places where travellers can easily and legally make some money to support their travels. There are also a lot of places where you can get student/youth discounts and there are plenty of special deals on bus travel designed to help out those exploring the country but it’s still overall an expensive place to visit.

By staying in one place or one part of the country for a longer period of time and perhaps doing a bit of couchsurfing, whilst not going wild on the partying or activities then you can maybe get by on closer to US$50/day but it won’t be easy as there is a lot of cool stuff to do that will eat into your budget.

See where Australia ranks on our World Budget Travel Table.

More Comfortable Australia Backpacker Budget

US$90 | 125 Australian Dollars

125 Australian Dollars is quite a lot of money to be spending every single day but if you want to really take advantage of the extreme sports and adventures that Australia has in store whilst also doing a far bit of socialising then it’s not an unrealistic budget particularly if you are doing a lot travelling around. If that’s you then consider ride-sharing to get from A to B by either using an app or checking noticeboards in hostels. It can often work out much cheaper than public transport.

Compare this to the cost of travel in New Zealand!

Sample Prices in Australia

Melbourne to Cairns (Hop-on Hop-off bus pass) – 550 Australian Dollars

Flight from Melbourne to Sydney (1 hour 20 mins) – 50 AUD with Jetstar + 35AUD for backpack

Dorm bed in basic hostel in Melbourne/Sydney – 20 AUD/night

Dorm bed at Byron Bay – 30 AUD/night

Cheap private twin/double room in a city  – 50 AUD/night

Meal in a relatively cheap restaurant – 18 AUD

Large local beer in a bar/restauarant – 7 AUD

Surfing lesson – around 60 AUD


Currency – Australian Dollars

£1 = 2.03 AUD

€1 = 1.55 AUD

US$1 = 1.39 AUD

(All exchange rates are correct as of June 2016)

MFT Recommends

Long-term travel in Australia is very difficult unless you have huge savings so consider getting a working holiday visa and doing some work whilst you are there to help fund your travels.

street art in australia

street art in Melbourne, Victoria (via Fernando de SousaCC BY-SA 2.0)

Share your Travel Costs!

If you’ve been to Australia recently, please let everyone know your typical daily costs by commenting below 😉

This article was published in June 2016.

Five Unusual Things To See When Backpacking Around Australia

Getting Off The Beaten Track: Five Unusual Things To See When Backpacking Around Australia

From my home in New Zealand it’s not too much of a hop over to Australia, relatively speaking, and it’s a country I know well and love. Oz is a truly unique, beautiful land, and no matter how long you’re visiting for, you will never run out of things to do. But while everyone knows about the tours of the Sydney opera house, the walk up Uluru and the amazing snorkelling trips, there are a few more surprising things you could find to do if you’re in Australia on a gap year or holiday. If you’re looking for something a bit more out of the ordinary and a bit more off the beaten track, here’s a fun little top five for you to think about.

Lake Hillier

With its lurid, bright pink water, Lake Hillier in the Recherche Archipelago is a truly breathtaking sight and one which few people seem to take in during trips to Australia. Nobody is entirely sure what causes the shocking, bubble-gum shade of the lake, but the prevailing theory is that its high saline content makes it the perfect home for the pink halo bacteria. Because Lake Hillier is on an island used for research purposes, you can’t get to it by land and taking a dip is out of the question, but seen from a helicopter this is one of the most unusual things you’ll discover in a country which is already full of surprises.

Newnes Glow Worm Tunnel

Located in Putty in the Wollemi National Park, this man-made tunnel was once part of Newnes railway which closed back in the 1930s. As so often happens when man leaves, nature quickly moves back in. Six hundred metres in length, this tunnel is now home to thousands upon thousands of glow worms, with the larvae of the harmless fungus gnat making sticky strings of glowing mucus all along the cave walls. Venture towards the middle of the tunnel during daylight hours and you’ll be treated to one of the most unusual light displays you’re ever likely to see, definitely well worth leaving the beaten track for.

The Devil’s Marbles

Known to the Aborigine people as Karlu Karlu, the Devil’s Marbles are an unusual feature of the Northern Territory’s outback landscape. You may already be familiar with photographs of these near perfect, spherical stones standing proud in the desert landscape, but taking a detour to see them up close is well worth it. Some have a diameter of twenty feet, and because the conservation area they are in covers more than 4,500 acres, you’re unlikely to meet many other people getting in the way of a good photo opportunity.

Melbourne Storm Tunnels

You might think you’ve seen all there is to see in Melbourne. This is a fantastic city, fact. You’ve probably become familiar with the metropolis and sampled all the delights you’ll find on the surface. If you’re feeling adventurous, now might be the time to take a closer look at the underside of the city by touring the maze of storm drains beneath its streets. With nine hundred miles of concrete tubes snaking around beneath the urban landscape, this is an unusual and fascinating experience which so often gets missed off the itineraries of most tourists.

Wolfe Creek Crater

The sheer scale of Australia can make you feel small at the best of times, but visit the Wolfe Creek Crater and you’ll start to feel even tinier. With a diameter of 3,000 feet and a depth of 200, this perfectly preserved crater was formed when a giant meteorite struck in the outback thousands of years ago. This is one of the least known and most awe-inspiring sites you can visit while backpacking in Australia. Somewhat surprisingly given the age of this big dent in the earth, it wasn’t ‘discovered’ until 1947, although the aborigine people had known about it long before then. If you’re looking to do something a bit out of the ordinary, then making your way out to this fantastic landmark must make it onto your to-do list while you’re in Australia.

Narrowing down the amazing and unusual sites you can visit while backpacking in Australia has been an incredibly difficult task. Whether you can find the time to fit in any or all of these during your stay is going to be determined by how long you have and how adventurous you’re feeling. My advice would be to take some time out at the beginning of your trip to decide where you want to go and what you want to do. Perhaps the best place to start is by finding your feet with Oz Intro, who can offer practical advice and guidance on how best to get around and enjoy this fantastically rich country. However long you’re there, and whatever you decide to do, Australia is a country which never disappoints.

About the Author

Isaac is an established travel writer and one of the main contributors to Going NZ and OzIntro a Sydney backpacking tour. In 2014 Isaac moved from the UK to New Zealand to pursue his love of travel and setup a business in Auckland.


This article was published in May 2016.

Popular Backpacking Route in Australia

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Backpacking Route in Australia

australia backpacking route

Australia has long been a popular travel destination and tends to attract young and energetic crowds to its main backpacker trail. It’s a fun place to visit and its only really challenge is the size of the place, given that they speak English and it is relatively safe and well organised compared to other popular budget travel destinations. Our backpacking route for Australia takes in six states, all the main cities, the best beaches, idyllic islands and loads of nature.


Although many travellers turn it into a working holiday so stay for much longer.

POSSIBLE BUDGET – £4100 €4750 $5000

This is based on January 2017 prices and exchange rates and works out at just under 7000 Australian Dollars but doesn’t include flights to Oz which can be very expensive. You may also need a visa and travel insurance for your trip (costs not included in this budget). Consider couchsurfing or finding a bit of casual work as you go to cut down on costs.

Read more on the cost of travel in Australia.


EU citizens are eligible for the eVisitor program which enables stays of up to 3 months with no cost. Most other nationalities need to apply for a visa. Due to the cost of travel in the country, many travellers opt for a working holiday visa for Australia, which gives you more time in the country and the right to work.


Essential for backpacking trips in Australia, which generally tend to be quite active with an increased risk of injuries. World Nomads are a safe bet for travel insurance for backpackers and are based in Australia.

Australia Backpacking Route

map coming soon.


Cairns (access to great barrier reef)

It may be a city and quite a decent one at that but Cairns is a base for exploring some of nature’s great wonders. This is the best spot to check out the Great Barrier Reef with plenty of skuba-diving options available for you to get close up to the coral. Thrill seekers will enjoy the opportunity to bungee-jump or sky-dive while the Wet Tropics Rainforest is another essential visit.

MFT RECOMMENDS – Gilligans Backpacker Resort, Cairns 

This place combines hotel luxury with all the social benefits of staying in a hostel. There’s even a nightclub!

great barrier reef

Townsville & Magnetic Island

Sparsely populated Magnetic Island is reachable from Townsville. It’s good for jet skiing, bush walks and boozy nights and is Australia’s best destination for full moon parties.

Airlie Beach (gateway to the Whitsundays)

Airlie Beach is a big backpacker hub with a predictably chilled out vibe in the day and raucous nightlife that parties on well into the small hours. The Whitsundays are gorgeous and are made up of 74 stunning islands. Don’t be surprised if you end up spending weeks rather than days here!

the whitsundays backpacking

Agnes Water

This was the site of the original landing spot of Captain Cook in 1770 which was effectively year 0 for Australia as we know it today. It’s a nice spot to relax on the beach and read up on a bit of history at the Agnes Water Museum which documents the life of Cook and his voyages.

Hervey Bay (for Fraser Island)

From late July to early November Hervey Bay is a fantastic place to spot some whales. Its other main attraction is for access to Fraser Island and the southern Great Barrier Reef. Fraser Island is 120km long and with a mild year-round climate and lots of beautiful scenery including crystal lakes and endless beaches, it’s a great place for camping out for a few days. Swimming isn’t recommended though due to dangerous tides and lots of hungry sharks.

Noosa (Sunshine coast)

Yet more glorious long sandy beaches and nearby national parks make Noosa another popular stop with backpackers in Australia. Make it to the Glasshouse mountains and you will get a terrific panoramic view of the whole Sunshine Coast.


City lovers rejoice as this is the capital of Australia’s sunshine state and a good chance to stock up on anything you need at the 700+ stores in the city’s central shopping mall. It’s a youthful lively city famed for it’s live music and large numbers of bars and clubs. With a relaxed riverside location, Australia’s third largest and fastest growing city generally leaves a positive impression on visitors.

Gold Coast (Surfers Paradise)

Just South of Brisbane is Gold Coast, a city of around 500,000 people based as the name would suggest on the coast. Surfers Paradise is its touristy hub with an array of high rise structures, late night venues (some very seedy) and lots of drunk people. It’s a popular destination with Australian teens celebrating the end of high school. An Australian equivalent of Ibiza, Malia or Cancun. You’ll either love it or hate it.

New South Wales

Byron Bay

A relaxed beach setting but there is still lots and lots to do here. It’s a popular place to learn to surf, you can kayak alongside dolphins and do a bit of skydiving. An essential stop on almost every backpacking route in Australia.


Nimbin has gained a reputation as a bit of a hippy town and is a nice inland spot if you just can’t handle any more beaches. Can be visited on it’s own or on a daytrip from Byron Bay. The nearby Nightcap national park is home to an array of peaks, waterfalls and wildlife.


One of the most easily recognisable cities in the world thanks to the iconic Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge. Its setting is one of the best of any major city in the world and a boat trip or water-taxi in and around the Darling Harbour area is a must. Add to that a few world-famous beaches and an array of fine restaurants and nightlife and you will realise that you are in one of the world’s most liveable cities.


MFT RECOMMENDS – Railway Square Hostel, Sydney 

Smack in the middle of Sydney, you won’t find a better location. Great facilities including a small pool.



With a distinctly different vibe from Sydney, Melbourne is less brash and maintains a European cultural vibe with plenty of quaint remnants of Britain. Melbourne residents are sports mad with major international events such as the Australian Open Tennis and Formula 1 taking place in the city as well as numerous teams in Australia’s sports leagues. There are enough galleries and theatres to entertain culture vultures while the multicultural population serves a range of different cuisines. Melbourne is full of lively neighbourhoods worth checking out and you will need several days here to take it all in. Trips out of town include a visit to Phillip Island where you can see the nightly penguin parade.

Great Ocean Road

This 150 mile stretch of road that runs west from Melbourne features numerous points that are worth short visits but perhaps not overnight stays. These include traditional fishing villages, surfer beaches, lush rainforests and the bizarre cliff formation of the 12 Apostles.

great ocean road

Possible End Point

For those travelling on a tight budget or heading onto New Zealand, this may be a logical point to end your trip having seen the main cities and more than enough of Australia’s golden coastline. However for travellers who want the full Australian experience the route continues through South Australia into the wilderness of Northern Territory before finishing in the Western Australian city of Perth.

South Australia

Kangaroo Island

A reasonably large island off the coast of Southern Australia home to an abundance of wildlife including you guessed it kangaroos! It’s a very scenic place and has a few settlements so pick one and base yourself there.


Adelaide is the capital of otherwise sparsely populated South Australia. It’s the fifth largest city in the country and although it might not have as much going for it as some of the other big cities it makes for a nice stop for a couple of days. This is also a big wine producing area so vineyard visits are popular.

The trip from here to Northern territory is long but you can break it up by visiting one of the many mining communities for a perspective on a less glamourous side to Australia which isn’t all about sun, sea and surfing.

Northern Territory

Uluru (Ayers Rock)

Ayers Rock is a giant lump of earth in the middle of the world’s largest island. For some it’s an amazing sight, but non-rock lovers may end up moaning about the distance and time it takes to get here (although oddly it does now have its own airport). It is found in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park which contains a couple of other sites that are considered sacred by the Aborigines. You will have to stay outside the park though probably at the nearby resort of Yulara where camping is possible.

ayers rock

Alice Springs

There is a sense of achievement for anyone who reaches Alice Springs. Most people have heard the name but given that is 1200km from the Ocean 1500km from the nearest city, few make the long trip here. Alice Springs is a base for exploring the surrounding outback and learning about the extensive indigenous history in these parts.

Western Australia


Unless you have a sadistic love of coach journeys that last days then you will probably need to fly from Alice Springs to Perth. Qantas has daily flights that will set you back between 350 and 500 Australian Dollars and take just under 3 hours.

Perth is a large but relaxed place and incredibly isolated from the rest of the county’s urban areas. Days can be spent on the beach, cycling around the city or visiting nearby nature reserves. At night enjoy a drink in one of the many pubs or delve into the lively indie or drum and bass music scenes.

As the Westernmost city in Australia, ending in Perth will probably make your onward journey or journey home a fraction shorter and many major international airlines fly in and out of the city. If you are planning on visiting New Zealand after Australia it would be more sensible to do this trip in reverse and start in Perth before ending in Cairns.

 Off the Beaten Track in Australia & Extending your trip.

Check out this great guest post on 5 Unusual Things to see in Oz, most of which you won’t find on a regular backpacker’s itinerary for Australia.

New Zealand and Fiji are the other most popular travel destinations in the region and you can easily combine the two. The Northern part of Australia, where this route starts is very close to Indonesia and therefore it’d be easy to combine this with our backpacking route for Indonesia. There are loads of flights to Bali from all over Oz so it would link in nicely and would provide a bit of contrast to your trip.

If you follow this route right through to Perth, you could consider flying on to South Africa or one of the East African countries such as Kenya. This would be a nice option particularly for anyone flying home to Europe or North America. Alternatively you could fly home via Southeast Asia or take on our India backpacking route.

Budget Accommodation

You may be able to find accommodation just by turning up and asking in the smaller, more backpacker-geared destinations but it’s advisable to book in advance in the cities, where the hostels are spread all over and the better ones often sell out during peak periods.

Airbnb is also a pretty good option in OZ, certainly in the cities. Read our Airbnb review here!

Getting Around Australia

by train

Trains in Australia are quite expensive but they do represent a nice way of seeing the country and there is actually a fairly extensive network which serves almost everywhere on this route. Seat61 has good information on prices and timetables of trains in Australia.

by bus

Although it is such a large country, travelling by bus is by far the most popular way to get around Australia. Excellent ‘hop-on hop-off’ passes offer a great deal for backpackers and give you the opportunity to travel at your own leisure. Oz Experienceprovide several different passes, for example the Sydney-Cairns pass enables you to travel in one direction from Sydney to Cairns (or vice versa) and stop as many times as you like along the way. As of January 2017 the cheapest package cost 639 Australian Dollars (roughly $480, 450 Euros or £400) and includes three extra tours/activities along the way.

The Oz Experience passes enable you to travel on Greyhoundbuses along your chosen route. They are Australia’s only national bus service and also offer their own hop on/hop off passes which are cheaper than the Oz Experience ones but don’t include the extra activities. You can also purchase KM passes where you purchase an amount of kilometres and then can travel in any direction until you run out of kilometres, which might be a better option for those that like to do their own thing and never bother with organised trips.

greyhound australia

by plane

The fastest way to get between any of the big cities and usually cheaper than the train and sometimes the bus. Budget airline Jetstar have very cheap fares and daily flights on many internal routes. The 1 hour 40 minute flight from Sydney to Melbourne for example is typically just 40-50 Australian Dollars provided you book at least 2 weeks in advance. Fares like this make flying a better alternative to the bus in some such situations so think carefully before committing to a bus-pass. Qantas are the national airline but are usually more expensive although they do have a more extensive network.

On our route it might be best to do a Cairns to Byron Bay bus pass as there are lots of fairly short stops and then take flights from Brisbane to Sydney and Sydney to Melbourne given fares are low and there is little in-between really worth visiting. The final sections are clearly much quicker by air but much more of an experience overland.

This article was last updated in January 2017.