Affordable travel

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Good news - you don't need stacks of cash to see Australia.

Whether you're a seasoned traveller or you're heading off for the first time, there are lots of ways of exploring this country on the cheap. Here are some ideas.

Managing your money

Of course you will need some money to travel. Just be realistic about what's within your reach. Add some planning and imagination, and you can make your cash go a long way.

Get started by looking at your cash reserves, planning where you want to go and drawing up a budget of your expected costs. Check out our 'Budgeting' page for some tips and ideas. The internet is good for this kind of research - you can start by checking out the links at the bottom of this page.

Your funds will need to cover:

  • Transport
  • Accommodation
  • Food
  • Sightseeing and activities (e.g. admission charges, tours)
  • Emergency money
  • Travel insurance (just in case something happens like you get sick or your camera is stolen)

Your biggest two expenses will be transport and accommodation - more on these below.

Three money tips for travellers

Work within a budget - it's easier to make funds last if you set a daily spending limit.

If you have a credit card, pay extra money into your account before you travel. Then you can cover bigger expenses as you go, rather than going into debt, paying interest or carrying lots of cash.

What about doing a spot of fruit picking or other work during your trip? Sometimes you can even swap work for food and a place to stay - take a look at the Willing Workers on Organic Farms (WWOOF) (new window) program.

Transport

Getting around will be one of your biggest costs, so shop around and consider all the options. Some travel agencies specialise in discount and student deals. Look for off-peak or last minute bargains, or packages that combine flights, accommodation and/or car hire. Bus and train passes can be great value. Some student concessions may give you cheaper transport.

Tourists can sometimes buy special tickets that give them unlimited use of public transport over a set period of time, plus free or discounted entry to local attractions. Other travel options for tourists can be quite expensive so it's worth checking out ferry, bus and other services used by locals.

Travelling by car gives you freedom and flexibility but it can be expensive and a hassle, especially if your car's dodgy (see our 'Driving Interstate' page) or you're paying for all petrol and maintenance. Still, buying or hiring a decent car can be worthwhile. If you do, find others to split costs and share the adventure. A van gives you the option of free accommodation, and maybe even a portable kitchen.

For a different experience, how about travelling by bike (new window) or joining an organised bicycle tour?

Hitchhiking might seem appealing but the risks aren't worth the money you might save. Don't hitchhike.

Accommodation

Low-cost accommodation options include:

  • Budget motels
  • Hostel & backpacker accommodation with shared, dormitory-style accommodation
  • Caravan parks
  • Camping

Australia has fantastic national parks. Some national parks charge campers a small fee, and require bookings. Camping is illegal in places such as some public parks and gardens.

Food

It's not that hard to find tasty, fresh food almost anywhere you go. At restaurants, you'll often pay through the nose extra for service and food preparation, so look for opportunities to buy your own food and cook on public barbecues, in communal hostel kitchens or on your own camp stove.

Check out markets and supermarkets, and make the most of local produce. You can get cooked food at takeaway outlets and food courts, but go easy on greasy, fatty foods. Some accommodation deals include the cost of breakfast. Some people like to get the best of both worlds by making their own food most of the time, then rewarding themselves with the occasional bought meal.

Low cost & valuable experiences

The tourist circuit can be expensive and a bit same-same. One smart way to way to keep your costs low, and the quality of your experience high, is to stay in one place and get to really know it. Give yourself time to wander, explore and meet the locals, and you'll stumble on lots of free and low cost activities. Get ideas from local newspapers and library/community noticeboards.

Be creative and have fun with your travel cost-cutting measures, without getting too hung up on what things cost. It's no fun hanging out with a scrooge, and life's best experiences are about so much more than saving a few dollars.

Links for affordable travel

Tourism Australia- Backpacker essentials
Information for travelling on a budget in Australia.

Better Health Channel
Here are lots of articles about travel and holidays on this Victorian Government site, including healthy eating and food safety.

Willing Workers On Organic Farms (WWOOF) Australia
Find out about a fantastic range of Australian farm-stay holiday experiences where you pay by contributing your labour.