28
Feb-2012

Travel tips to visit Australia on a budget

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You have decided to go to Australia? Whether for a month or a year, you will have to prepare yourself because Australia is an expensive country in which it is better to know the tips to avoid coming back completely broke! Here are all our transport and housing advice to prepare your trip …

The flight to Australia

It scares many people : about 24 hours of flight almost in a row ! From France (Paris), to get the best price, I advise you to call the company Vacances Australie : it has offered me a very attractive formula with Etihad Airways : I could change my date for the way back twice for free, and my departure city for return by paying a little extra. And the return ticket cost me about 1100 euros (I’ve booked about 3 months before departure). I could even extend my stopover in Abu Dhabi to stay a week and visit Dubai before returning , for only 70 euros more.

How to move around in Australia?

To move around in Australia, there are several popular formulas :

Rent a van

Living in a van a few weeks is definitely an experience in a life ! This is a real feeling of freedom.

Attention, it is not allowed to sleep anywhere. You will find signs saying it is forbidden to spend the night in your car in some parking lots. The risk you take by defying the ban is to be woken up at 5am by a police officer. If they are nice (often), they will simply warn you and tell you to move immediately, but if they are not friendly (it happened to us, so be careful), they will require a fine of $ 125 (they just give you a paper… so you can take the risk of not paying also !)

To rent a van, there are several companies : WICKED and their tagged vans , HIPPIE Camper vans with their beautiful flowers, the more discrete green and purple vans of the  company JUCY or the vans BRITZ, APOLLO or BACKPACKER, more conventional.

We chose WICKED company which is certainly the cheapest, but the vans are quite rustic and not spacious compared to some mobile homes of Britz and Apollo, for example. Thus, there is no fridge and you’ll only have a kitchenette, camping stove and a gas cooker. But it’s easy to cook in Australia thanks to many free BBQs everywhere throughout Australia. I rented a van with this company twice. The first time, no worries ! But the second time, we took a comprehensive insurance and they told us that we were insured for any type of accident unless you were drunk driving or driving that night. But when we gave ?the van back, they forced us to pay $ 800 because we had damaged the rear window of the van, bumping against a tree. So be aware that insurance actually works ONLY if you have an accident with another car and you made a statement, unlike anything the staff of WICKED could tell you. Another bad surprise : we had to leave the information of our credit card and we were assured that it will not be used … A few months after giving back the van, we got an email to tell us that we will be charged $ 50 for administrative costs related to the treatment of our case with the police because we had not paid a fine which we were sent to France (but we never received any email from the company before to warn us of the fine ) ! In short, I would discourage you to travel with WICKED because in the end, you do not really make savings…

Buy a van

Beware of scams! Often the van is falling apart after a few weeks… I have not bought so I do not really have any advice for this, but be very very careful ! There are a lot of backpackers who sell their van as they realized there was a problem… But if you ‘re lucky, this is obviously the ideal solution because you can easily sell it before leaving the country for almost the same price at which you bought it…

The Greyhound bus

This is a very popular solution for backpackers but still quite expensive. There are many options, including the pass that allows you to travel using the Greyhound bus as much as you want on a certain distance and for a number of days. You can find schedules and different formulas on the site Greyhound bus.

The train

Attention! The train lines are not very numerous and the tickets are very expensive (often more than the plane) . However, there are some legendary lines as the Indian Pacific between Sydney and Perth (3 nights) which is an experience in itself, but that costs $ 783 !

The plane

To move from one city to another, it is ideal as there are low-cost airlines that allow you to save time and money. So you will easily get tickets from Sydney to Melbourne for $ 70. The low-cost carriers are Jetstar Airways and Tiger Airways. You will also find some good deals on Virgin Australia. On Tiger Airways, you will also find good deals on flights to Asia (this is an opportunity to make a little trip to Thailand or Bali, for example!)

Organized tours

You’ll find hundreds of opportunities for organized tours in the most touristic places in Australia (especially to go to Fraser Island and the Whitsundays !) These tours cost a fortune, but you are guaranteed to see all the most beautiful places and be with other backpackers. I did a day tour and it was really fun, but 100 dollars a day , I still prefer to get organized by myself !
Tip : go to travel agencies for backpackers which are numerous in big cities like Sydney (on the streets of Kings Cross and near Central Station), they will give you good advice and guide you to buy the tours which suits you the best ! They also often have promotions.

Hitchhiking

Maybe you had never thought about hitchhiking, but it is the best formula on the market! To have experienced it  on 3000 km, I can tell you that this is a great option because it does not cost you a dollar and you will get the chance to meet locals. This is very exciting because you never know who you’re gonna meet or how long you will have to wait, and we never had any bad surprises. If you are girls, don’t worry, the average waiting time is about 10 minutes! By cons , do not just do it on your own if you are a girl… Read our tips about hitch-hiking on our low-cost traveling formulas page.

Where to stay in Australia?

Hostels

Hostels are obviously the best way to meet other backpackers and spend a great nightlife ! You will find some hostels more focused on nightlife (which will take you for free in nightclubs with some free drinks) or other which are more calm and relaxed. Some hostels also have their own bar and offer entertainment every night, which is often very nice, but this is not necessarily the cheapest option because then you can not use your own drinks. Some hostels even have a pool ! Get informed by reading comments on booking websites like Hostel World and Hostel Bookers. It is sometimes advantageous to book directly through the site or by going to the hostel and pay there. Be also aware that the hostel does not offer all the beds on Hostel World website… so there might still be some beds available even if they say it’s full on Hostel World. Contact them directly.

Good to know: hostels in Australia very rarely offer free Wi-Fi ! If it says that the hostel has Wi- Fi on Hostel world, you must understand that it has Wi- Fi but you have to pay for it ! By cons, do not worry, there are many computers with internet available to you free of charge in travel agencies for backpackers as PeterPans . You can find a office near your hostel if you are in one of the major tourist cities.

couchsurfing

The cheapest formula is the couchsurfing ! Australia has an excellent network of couchsurfers, volunteers who will welcome you with all the kindness and hospitality for which Australians are famous on their couch and often in their guest room ! But couchsurfing, it is above all a state of mind ! This is to meet the locals, who will be delighted to show you the places they prefer in their city. You have to play the game and do not consider couchsurfing as a free and comfortable accommodation !

A question ? Other tips to add ?

Share your experience with other backpackers to enrich this article! Feel free to ask questions or leave comments below, we will answer with pleasure!

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