Many dream of a new life down under, but few make it a reality. While moving to Australia permanently can be challenging for some due to their relatively strict set of requirements for migrants, temporary or working holiday visas are easier to come by. In this post we’ll look at some of the cheapest cities to live in Australia and consider which are the best options for everyone from people taking a gap year to professionals, remote workers or retirees hoping to balance a high quality of life with affordable living.
At the bottom of the page, we also have a comparison table which will help you locate low cost of living cities in Australia. Figures were last updated in May 2023, taking into account the significant recent increases in prices across the country.
5 Options for Cities to Live in Australia
Australia is an expensive country, so of course in global terms you might argue that there simply aren’t any cheap places to live. Even cities like Adelaide, which once offered a significant discount on some of the other major urban centres, have seen costs spiral in recent years.
With a population of just over a million, Adelaide is the 5th largest city in Australia so you can get a taste of big city living but will be spared the crowds of Sydney and Melbourne. Its metropolitan area stretches almost 100 km along the shores of Southern Australia and almost regardless of where you choose to live, you won’t be too far from the beach. Adelaide experiences long, dry summers with average temperatures of over 22°C for seven months of the year between October and April. The wettest and coolest months are June, July and August.
Aside from beach life, Adelaide also boasts a vibrant food and wine scene. You can tuck into everything from gourmet burgers to the freshest seafood while the nearby Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale and Adelaide Hills rank among the best wine regions in Oz.
Living Cost Index – 3600 AUD/month
Some 2500 km north of Adelaide, lies the city of Cairns in northern Queensland. A popular travel destination, most well known for being the gateway to the world famous Great Barrier Reef, Cairns is a great base for anyone who prefers an outdoors lifestyle and would rather avoid living in a big city.
Cairns is a coastal town of around 150,000 people, surrounded by thick rainforest and the shores of the Coral Sea. It’s clearly a great base for anyone who enjoys diving or snorkelling and it boasts a laid back atmosphere with an international vibe thanks to its huge popularity with travellers from other parts of the world. It is a major stop on our Australia backpacking route.
It has a very different climate to cities in the south of the country. Cairns is a tropical place with the monsoon season running from late November through to May bringing some torrential downpours. Temperatures stay warm throughout the year with July, the coolest month, still seeing average daytime highs of over 26°C.
Living Cost Index – 2600 AUD/month
Across to the west of the country now for another of the best places to live in Australia. Perth is, like most cities in Australia, located on the coast with sandy beaches spread out across its sprawling suburbs. It is a major hub for arts and culture with a wide range of theatres and galleries as well as a vibrant music scene.
Perth’s main disadvantage is that it is quite an isolated place. As the only real city in the vast state of Western Australia, it’s a long way from anywhere else and it takes around four hours to fly to the major metropolises on the East Coast such as Sydney and Brisbane. Perth is though home to one of the best and busiest airports in Australia with good connections across the country and overseas.
The city does have a distinct seasonal climate although winters are still mild with temperatures regularly exceeding 20°C even in the coldest period of the year from June to August. December to March is hot with average highs of around 30°C, a lot of sunshine and very little rainfall.
Living Cost Index – 3400 AUD/month
Another of the cheapest places to live in Australia is the Sunshine Coast, which is a golden stretch of around 60 km along the Queensland coastline, just north of Brisbane. It’s the permanent home to over 300,000 people, making it the 9th largest urban area in Australia although it attracts around ten times that number of tourists each year with famous attractions such as Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo and an underwater marine park.
It’s also a very popular destination for anyone moving to live in Australia, with its combination of warm weather and an abundance of beaches, as well as its overall affordability key factors in attracting so many people to its shores.
As you might expect given the name, the Sunshine Coast boasts a sunny climate, although it’s a bit of a myth to say that every day serves up glorious blue skies. The annual rainfall is greater than in Sydney and about twice what it is in Perth. There is less seasonal variation though and fewer extreme days of heat or torrential rainfall with a mild year-round climate and average temperatures of between 20°C and 30°C in all twelve months of the year.
Living Cost Index – 2750 AUD/month
Finally, we head to Geelong which is rarely the first thought for foreigners moving to Australia but it could be a good option for anyone looking to live somewhere slightly smaller with a more local flavour than you get in some of the larger or more tourist-orientated destinations.
Victoria’s Second City is perhaps best known nationally, in what is a sports mad country, for its famous Aussie Rules team – the second oldest in the country. Again the waterfront is very much the centre of life in Geelong with an art deco boardwalk, pretty marina and of course numerous easy to reach beaches. It’s also only an hour away from the heart of Melbourne meaning you can enjoy the benefits of living somewhere slightly smaller with all the attractions of the big city, easily accessible too.
The state of Victoria does have a slightly cooler climate than other parts of Australia with four distinct seasons making it somewhat more akin to what you may experience in Europe for example. Temperatures have even been known to drop below freezing in the winter months in Geelong, although this is rare and from December to March you can usually bank on warm weather with average highs between 22 and 25°C.
Living Cost Index – 2500 AUD/month
Australia Cost of Living Calculation Explained
Clearly there will be huge differences between how much people spend depending on the circumstances of each individual. The cost of living index estimates in this article are primarily designed to be a means of comparison. We’ve used numbeo’s cost of living calculator, which is based on real data from people living in the country, as a guide to help work out the estimated cost of living in Australian cities.
The figures should give you a very rough estimate of possible living expenses of a single person, including the cost of renting accommodation. Anyone willing to live in a flatshare and really watch what they spend should be able to get by on a bit less. The same goes for anyone looking for a quiet life without a large amount of going out and socialising. Those with more lavish lifestyles or anyone looking to really take advantage of all the activities and things that Australia has to offer will almost certainly spend more.
Note that travel or health insurance costs aren’t included in these figures. They will vary a lot depending on your age and other factors. Get a quote in less than a minute from SafetyWing for an idea of how much this may cost in your circumstances.
Cost of Living (2023) – What are the cheapest cities to live in Australia?
|City||Cost of Living Index (Monthly in AUD)|
You can clearly see that Sydney is the most expensive city in Australia and it ranks among some of the most expensive places to live in the world. However costs have also risen significantly in places like Canberra and Brisbane in recent years. The picture is changing all the time with the switch to remote working having some impact on costs in the other cities.
For many, it’s still well worth the extra few hundred Australian Dollars a month to live in somewhere like Sydney or Melbourne over one of the cities further down the list. However if you’re in the process of looking into a new country to live or stay for some time, there are plenty of cheaper options than Australia. Most major Aussie cities are pricier than the best places to live in New Zealand which is by no means cheap itself while the best cities for living in South Africa are all significantly cheaper.
Compared to the US and Canada, only the cheapest cities to live in North America would offer more affordable living conditions than those in most major Australian cities which all offer better value than places like New York and San Francisco.
As of May 2023, one US Dollar gets you 1.49 Australian Dollar, one Euro gets you 1.63 AUD and one British Pound gets you 1.87 AUD.
This post on the cheapest cities to live in Australia was last updated in May 2023. Comments and questions are welcome but please note we are not experts on Australian immigration laws, nor local job markets.