How to Save Money Traveling in Australia

How to Save Money Traveling in Australia

One of the first things I notice when I get back to Australia is how expensive everything is. There are ways of saving money if you're planning to visit, but Australia is not a budget destination. If you're coming for Europe, expect prices to be about on par with Switzerland. Making things worse is the rise and rise of the Aussie dollar, first against the US$, now also against the Euro. 

This article aims at giving some tips to save money on food and shopping while you visit. 

1. Food Shopping

Eating out is one of the areas where you'll spend the most money. The majority of hostels and backpackers have kitchen facilities and big fridges to keep groceries. Its probably a good idea to get in the habit of cooking and self-catering if funds are tight. 

Supermarkets are cheaper than 7-11

In some countries there isn't much of a price difference between convenience stores and supermarkets. Australia is not one of these countries. Expect to pay much more for common items at convenience stores like 7-11 and petrol stations - often 50-150% more. The main supermarket chains in Australia are Coles and Woolworths. Unfortunately they operate in a sort of  duopoly, so prices are very high by international standards. If you're on a tight budget, the cheapest option is usually Aldi, but the range of products isn't nearly as good as in Europe. Expect to see some very disappointed German backpackers if you visit an Aldi near a popular backpacker destination.

When shopping at the main supermarkets, its worth paying attention to price tags. There's often a very large difference in price between very similar items. Supermarkets are laid out in a way that's intended to encourage impulse buying - so don't shop when you're hungry. You'll find that staple foods like Milk, Bread and eggs are located at opposite ends of the store so that you can't just get in and out quickly. Usually products on shelves at eye level are more expensive, with things at the botom being much cheaper. No-name brands are often made on the same production line as brand-name products but can be significantly cheaper.

  • The House of Dirty Tricks!Cheaper items are often away from eye level on the shelves
  • No-Name brands cost much less
  • Meat and vegetables cost more if they're already shrink-wrapped or packaged

 2. Electronics & Fashion

Electronics are much cheaper in Asia and especially the USA. Australian prices are about the same as in Europe. If you're already in Australia, you can often save a lot by buying online from overseas - any purchase under $1000 (including shipping) doesn't attract GST or import duties. So for example, a Panasonic GH2 shipped from B&H in the states costs A$921 including shipping, compared to A$1599 bought in an Australian store.

Clothes are also much more expensive than just about everywhere else. Many people arrive with a bag full of summer clothes in Melbourne and expect it to be constently warm. It isn't, even in the middle of summer. If you're spending a long time in Australia, make sure you pack a variety of clothes - a fleece and long pants (aka. "trousers" in some parts) are essential. 

Water can be FREE!3. Eating out

There's always going to be times when you just can't be bothered cooking. 

Drinks seem to be disproportionately more expensive in Australia than other plces. Expect to pay at $4-6 for a soft drink ("pop", "soda", "Cool drink") with your meal.

An alternative that's free and much better for you is tap water - almost all resteraunts have non-bottled drinking water available for free. Even sports venues such as the Melbourne Cricket Ground MCG where they sell bottled water for $5.20 have drinking fountains - water from the tap is perfectly safe to drink in Australia.  

4. Free Stuff

Throw another Its not all bad news. One of the great things about Australia is that there are lots of free activities to keep you busy. These include:

  • National Parks
  • Beaches
  • Parks, including free public BBQs
  • Toilets

Many parks and beaches have free BBQs to use. The perfect place to try some "Kanga Bangas".

(If you're reading this from Australia, it may bot be obvious that you have to pay to use toilets in many countries!)

How Much Does it Cost to Travel in AustraliaWhats Cheap:

  • red meat
  • rice
  • potatoes
  • interstate flights
  • wine in boxes
  • flights to Bali

What's Grossly Overpriced:

  • Coke and soft drinks
  • Beer and Alcohol
  • Cigarettes
  • BreadAustralian Bread: Overpriced and barely fit for human consumption
  • Chocolates, confectionary, sweets
  • Most electronic goods
  • Banks
  • Anything sold in a convenience store

How Much Does it Cost?

This depends quite heavily on what you do. At the moment a shoestring backpackers' budget for Australia is about A$70 per day. You might be able to bring this down a little if you don't do anything and couchsurf, but I wouldn't bank on it. 

Have you traveled Australia lately? What did it cost??