Is Australia a Value Destination?

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Kate at Walpa Gorge

It’s one of the most expensive countries in the world. Is Australia worth the cost?

Over my three weeks Down Under, I choked at prices several times. The first time was at a little general store and cafe near Litchfield National Park in the Northern Territory when I wanted to buy a cup of coffee. Coffee was served in real mugs — no takeaway allowed — and a tiny mugful cost $4.90 AUD ($4.60 USD).

That was my first indication that Australia was even more expensive that I thought it would be — one of the most expensive places I’ve ever been. Yes: I found Australia to be more expensive than Japan, Stockholm, Iceland, London, Paris, New York, and everywhere else I’ve been except Switzerland.

While Australia has always been on the pricey side, in recent years, the currency value has climbed. In 2009, one Australian dollar was equal to $0.65 USD. For a while, it averaged around $0.75 USD. Today, one Australian dollar is equal to $0.92 USD. This is significantly lower than it was earlier this year.

To put this further in perspective, minimum wage in Australia is currently $16 AUD ($15 USD) for those over age 20. Even though the Australian dollar is close to equal to the US dollar, in contrast, the US federal minimum wage is $7.25 USD.

You’ve got a country that’s expensive to begin with, a soaring currency making things even more expensive for international visitors, and it’s expensive to fly there. A trip to Australia will cost you a lot of money.

Sydney Opera House in Black and White

My Personal Costs in Australia

Once arriving in Australia, you need to get into a different financial mindset. If you try to keep on the same budget that you’re used to in North America or Western Europe, you’ll be traveling at a much lower level than you’re used to (like hostel dorms rather than private rooms) out of necessity.

I was initially planning on visiting only Sydney and Melbourne, and possibly heading up the coast to see friends. I knew Australia would be pricey, and being on a tight budget for this year of travel, that was all I could afford. Staying with friends, which I did for a week in Melbourne and one night outside Sydney, saved me about $1000 USD overall and played a pivotal role in making Australia affordable for me.

The other pivotal role was that of Northern Territory Tourism, whose representatives I met in May. When they heard about my trip, they offered to host me in the NT on their dime in exchange for coverage and content, which allowed me to extend my trip to three full weeks.

Had I been planning a singular trip to Australia, I would have been able to save more money and travel to more places — but it would have to be a budget trip. (My version of budget travel means cheap private rooms with good wifi and paying more for better or shorter transport, while I keep most other expenses down and splurge on occasion.)

Here are some examples of what the costs were in September and October 2013:

Lodging: My Airbnb rental in Bronte, Sydney, cost $56 USD per night and was a room in the owner’s house. I stayed with friends in Melbourne, but when researching private rooms in hotels and hostels, I couldn’t find anything under $140 AUD ($128 USD) per night (a whopping $980 AUD ($898 USD) for a week!). The cheapest private doubles in Darwin started at around $75 AUD ($69 USD). The cheapest private doubles at Ayers Rock Resort by Uluru, in the Outback Pioneer, cost $198 AUD ($181 USD).

Food: In Sydney and Melbourne, I typically paid $15-20 AUD ($14-18 USD) for breakfast. My cheapest restaurant meal was a bowl of pho in a no-frills Vietnamese restaurant in Northcote, Melbourne, for $9 AUD ($8 USD). Dinner entrees in cheap-to-midrange restaurants usually ran $15-25 AUD ($14-23 USD). Grocery stores were a bit more expensive than the US. Coffee was cheap, though — often $3 AUD ($3 USD) for a fantastic flat white.

Internet: Australia has the worst internet of any country I’ve ever visited, including Cambodia, Laos, and South Africa. It’s slow, expensive, and often tough to find. Internet at my lodging in Darwin ran me $4 AUD ($4 USD) for 24 hours and barely worked. Some cafes and McDonald’s have free wifi, but the quality is often terrible, especially in rural areas.

Phone: I was able to get a Telstra mobile plan with texting, calling, and 400 mb data for $30 AUD ($27 USD). I later paid $50 AUD ($46 USD) to increase the data to 2 GB. I wouldn’t have been able to provide a fraction of the social media coverage that I did without this plan. Coverage was great in Sydney, Melbourne, and Darwin; it worked in the main town of Kakadu and Ayers Rock Resort but not in the national parks.

Activities: This is where you’ll pay the most money. The Sydney Harbour BridgeClimb currently costs $198-308 AUD ($181-282 USD); the Uluru Cycles motorcycle ride costs $170 AUD ($156 USD); the Uluru Camels ride costs $100 AUD ($92 USD), not including the $185 AUD ($170 USD) Sounds of Silence dinner; the three-day camping tour in Kakadu starts at $705 USD.

Kakadu National Park

Why Australia Is Worth It

There are two things I want you to keep in mind: the first is that value is a personal thing and varies from traveler to traveler. While I found Australia to be pretty good value for me, it would be much less value for a shoestringer who doesn’t love the great outdoors.

Secondly, “best value” is not a euphemism for “cheapest.” If that were the case, Cambodia would be my top value destination, and I think we all know that’s not going to happen. Value is determined by what you get for the price, and it’s often intangible.

I found Australia to be a wonderful country that I enjoyed immensely, and I found it to have high value. The reasons:

Natural beauty. From the bright red sands of the Red Centre to the silky-smooth beaches of Sydney and the craggy, Jurassic Park-esque landscape of the Top End, Australia will bring you to its knees. I know I only saw a tiny piece of Australia, but places like Whitehaven Beach in Queensland, the Twelve Apostles in Victoria, and Wineglass Bay in Tasmania look heart-stoppingly beautiful.

Infrastructure. Australia is built for tourism, and no matter what kind of trip you want to have, you’ll be able to execute it brilliantly. The language is English and there are a variety of ways to travel, from simple camping to five-star resorts (or “six stars” if you stay where Oprah stayed at Uluru). With the exception of the awful internet, Australia has everything you could want as a tourist. I also felt very safe in Australia.

Diversity. On my trip, I got to see the nearly untouched, prehistoric-looking gorges of Kakadu National Park, then sip flat whites in hip Melbourne neighborhoods a week later. Australia is similar to the United States in that it has so much natural and geographic diversity within its borders. That was my favorite part — how a single country could offer both such wild national parks in addition to cities that regularly get ranked among the world’s best places to live.

People. While Australia was once colonized by convicts, today you can’t deny that Australians are some of the most gregarious, talkative, fun, spirited, and party-loving people you’ll ever meet. Come to Australia and you’ll leave with many new friends.

Uniqueness. While Sydney to me was a mostly nondescript city with gorgeous beaches, and Melbourne was a nicer, cleaner, less tragic, much more expensive version of Berlin, the Northern Territory was the truly unique part of Australia, home to crocs lurking in the rivers, the world’s oldest rock art, an enormous red rock commanding the desert. Australia’s natural environment is what sets it apart from the rest of the world, which is why I recommend you get out of the cities. Plus, where else will you see kangaroos and koalas in the wild?

Dream factor. Australia is a dream destination for many people, often a dream since childhood. I think there’s a LOT of value in standing in front of the Sydney Opera House, or seeing your first koala in the wild, as you grin to yourself, thinking, “I’m finally here!”

Melbourne Knitting Mafia

How to Save Money in Australia

Get into points and miles. Airfare to Australia is obviously quite expensive for most people. One way you can subsidize the cost is getting into points and miles. My recommendation? Read The Points Guy. It’s the single most comprehensive source on the web (not to mention the fastest in reporting new deals), and it’s all free.

I used my British Airways Avios, which are best used for flying short-haul, to fly from Sydney to Melbourne on Qantas for just 4,500 Avios and $13 USD. Much better than $60-90 AUD ($55-82 USD) for a 12-hour bus ride or $150+ USD for a flight.

Rent apartments. If having a private (re: non-dorm) room is a priority for you, I recommend staying in Airbnb rentals or other apartments. The prices are much lower than hotels and rentals often include decent internet and laundry for free, which will cut down your costs further.

Get a mobile phone plan and use it to tether on your computer. Unless you’re doing a lot of heavy uploading, which I do as a blogger, this will be your best option for internet. I found my aforementioned Telstra phone plan to have good coverage for a decent price.

Come live here for awhile! The ultimate option. If you’re eligible for the working holiday visa, come to Australia, spend a few months earning a high Australian salary, and use that to finance your travels around Australia.

Melbourne Street Art

Should You Go to Australia?

Of COURSE you should! Australia is a dream destination for so many people, and you should absolutely go after your dream!

But I will say this — if you’re planning a long-term budget trip around the world, I wouldn’t recommend spending extended time in Australia.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go to Australia. Just don’t go for months on end. The money you’d spend on a single month of backpacking Australia could pay for three or four months of backpacking Southeast Asia. If visiting Australia is a priority for you on your long-term trip, and you don’t have buckets of cash, I recommend you keep your visit on the shorter side but filled with the places you’ve dreamed of visiting. If you’ve got the cash, though, then by all means, stay as long as you can!

Australia, in my opinion, is best done as a special trip when you have more money to spend. This doesn’t mean you have to splash out in luxury — quite the opposite. If you save up for awhile, you can stay in a nice apartment rental in a great location instead of staying in a dorm on the outskirts of town because you have no other choice. You can eat in restaurants instead of hitting up the grocery store for every meal. You can do activities like the Sydney BridgeClimb instead of passing them up for cheaper fare.

You can do Australia on a shoestring if you’d like to. I know people who have done it and who have enjoyed it. To me, though, it’s so much better if you have a bit more money to spend.

Have you been to Australia? Do you think it’s worth it?

Many thanks to Northern Territory Tourism for their generous support of the SOTM Tour and for hosting us in the Northern Territory. Many thanks also to the Sydney BridgeClimb for offering me a complimentary climb. Everything else in Australia was at our own expense. All opinions, as always, are my own.

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109 thoughts on “Is Australia a Value Destination?”

  1. I love that way of thinking about ‘value’ – when I was younger I was definitely burned by thinking about travel only in terms of what was cheapest, instead of appreciating that spending $15 instead of $10 more for something three or four times better was a much wiser decision.

    We’ve been to New Zealand but not Australia, as Ewan’s from Wellington – your posts have been making me think we should make a side trip next time we’re in that part of the world!

  2. I never would have imagined Australia is so expensive before reading this blog. My mind is still in the $0.63 to 1 Oz Dollar state. Any place where I cant drink beer on the cheap is not a value destination for me 🙁

    1. Don’t worry there’s absolutely no shortage of cheap (and REALLY GOOD) beer! and some wine – again, a LOT of quality wine in Australia – is somehow cheaper than some bottled water!

  3. Australia is the first stop on my rtw trip. I fly out to Sydney tomorrow! I’ve got two months planned there and the prices are terrifying me! I’m hoping I’ll be able to reach a nice middle ground though – scrimping where I can, and splashing out on the things that matter to me. Fingers crossed!

    1. Hi Sam,
      Try your hand at couch surfing if your keen to save cash & splurge elsewhere. I have a house in the Whitsundays & often host people from all around the world. I do know how expensive Australia can be for tourists although we still encourage you all to come & visit us! It also gives me a chance to travel the world through other people whilst staying at home.
      Happy Travels!!!

  4. Great points here, Kate. This was the main reason I decided to live/work in Australia: it’s a lot more affordable once you’re earning Aussie dollars (where I was there, the currency was at an all-time high–close to $1.10). Plus, I realized that it’s so far away that I would really only be able to truly explore with plenty of time at my disposal. Thank goodness for their working holiday visa! Such a great option for 20-somethings who want to travel more through Australia.

  5. Australia is one of those ‘one-day’ destinations for me…factoring the cost to get and stay there, as well as what I perceive to be the ease to get around (lack of a language barrier), means that I will likely go there when I am older.

  6. We visited Australia on our rtw trip and I can’t say I found it expensive. Admittedly we were on nothing you could describe as a budget, but the cost of things seemed to be rather average to me. I think Europe was a much more expensive destination for us. Admittedly, the Euro was worth about 2 USD at the time so it’s probably much more affordable there now than it was when we went.

    We rented a car in Melbourne, and it didn’t seem to be that expensive. And the helicopter flight to see the Twelve Apostles seemed reasonable. I believe it came in at around a hundred a person, similar to the flight we took from Vegas over the Grand Canyon. So no, I can’t say that I thought Australia was expensive.

  7. Solid information here… I could’ve used this a few years ago.

    Australia (and New Zealand) was my first major international jaunt. I went for 6 weeks back in 2010 as solo traveller with a naive budget in mind. I couchsurfed half the time, and it still averaged out to $70/day — I didn’t even visit Uluru! Had I known beforehand that the entire trip would’ve cost me $4500 including flights, when I had only budgeted $3000 — I’m not sure I would’ve done it. But in hindsight, and as you said… the experience was ABSOLUTELY worth it.

    1. I have an opportunity to meet up in Australia with a friend who grew up there and even though it will be the first ink on my passport I think I am going to go for it.

  8. This is why people are shocked when Aussies are travelling abroad for so long – I’m currently 13 months into a trip encompassing Europe and Asia, where I am travelling and spending at a rate on parity with which I would be living in Australia. A lot of people who I have met in my travels who have travelled to Australia can’t believe they have seen more of my own country than I have, but I think that is a commonality amongst all travellers – they have seen more of other countries than their home country.

  9. I agree that it’s not the best option when you’re doing a long-term, round-the-world trip. I went there after 7 months of backpacking, with little money and the intention of working to save money before continuing my travels. I worked at a cafe in Melbourne for 4 months and managed to save about $7000 because the wage is so high and I was putting in 60hrs a week. For me, once I had saved enough money, I was more keen to move on to Southeast Asia where I’d be able to stretch my dollar much further. I made the decision that I’d go back to Australia another time with a larger budget and more time to explore it the way I wanted to.

    In all I’d say it’s definitely worth going to, it’s great that you can work there if need be, but more practical as a one-off trip than a leg of a long journey.

  10. I definitely didn’t realize how expensive Australia is! My friend mentioned it in passing once – but wow! You make a good point about the working holiday visa – I may have to make that my next destination. Alas, I still have 1 year and 9 months left on my UK visa to brave the cold grayness that is London.

    Thanks for this post, Kate!

  11. I’m Australian, so everywhere in the world that I go I think it’s cheap, ha ha!

    BUT I really do think the main reason people think it’s expensive is because they don’t leave the CBD of Sydney or Melbourne. Go a little further out and you’ll be surprised at the price difference. Plus, as you said, there’s plenty to see & do when you’re away from the city 🙂 x

  12. I’m from NZ, so like Chelsea and other Aussies on this thread, everywhere I went on my own RTW trip was cheap in comparison. Yes, even Switzerland, but not by much.

    Have you been to NZ Kate? I haven’t spent much time in Aus but I’m pretty sure they still have better internet than us.

    For me, Western Europe was my expensive dream destination, and worth busting the budget for at times. Being so isolated in NZ, it’s crazy pricey to fly anywhere, so fewer but more epic trips is the way to go.

  13. This is why Sweden and Japan both surprised me by being cheaper than I’d expected!

    My main takeaway from this is the US minimum wage! I can’t believe it’s so low. And even if the Australian is $16, I don’t know anyone who would work for that. $20-$22 would be more average and $25-6 is good.

    Looking forward to going to America next year now to check out some low prices! I’ve never been there or to SEA so I think I’ll be shocked the opposite way to you were here.

  14. Great Article Kate, I love that you have come to Australia, it will give this wonderful country a wider range of readers (a potential travellers) from around the world!
    A few things i found interesting in your article, $140 in Melbourne is pretty cheap, whenever we have travelled we have battled to find anything decent under $200 (but we usually stay in hotels).

    I couldn’t agree more, the internet in Australia is TERRIBLE – we hate travelling because of it, however living in Australia its sometimes easier to take a 3 or 5 day trip somewhere “local” like Sydney or Melbourne than SE Asia (which would be nice!) People are often gobsmacked as the prices, a few places we have stayed have charged $27 per day!!!!!!!

    I would suggest if someone is wanting to travel to Australia to plan far a head and subscribe for airlines and hotels newsletters to catch great deals! They usually have short term specials and usually send them through emails 🙂

  15. I haven’t been to Australia yet (as it’s expensive and I need to keep saving for it) but I think it would be a place of high value.

    There is a lot of natural beauty like in the US — only better with koalas and kangaroos!

  16. I have to say, I visited Australia for a couple of months on my RTW this year and really didn’t see the value. It’s expensive yes but in New Zealand where it was equally as pricey I really felt like activities, food, accommodation etc were much better value and the scenery was breathtaking.

    I wish we’d made it up to the north like yourself as a lot of what we saw down the east coast was disappointing. But then I’m the weirdo that loves Sydney and really didn’t like Melbourne!

    1. louisa klimentos

      To Maddie ,what was dissapointing about the east coast ? You must have gone to the touristy areas and not the less visited areas .Did you visit Capeyork Peninsula,Agnus water ,Rainbow beach ,Morton island South strabroke island Hat head National Park .Stoniey creek Yiragir National Park ,Seal rocks ,Cape Hawke,Jervis Bay region ,Benboyd national park Coajingalong National Park and a side trip to Wilsons promontory.These are mainly on the east coast of Australia.So many natural beaches to choose from..I have visited overseas and found their coast line more built up for tourism than the Australian ones and Cyprus and England don’t have the typical Rainforests meet the sea type thing.Where in the world would you find Kangarood wombats colourful birds along our beaches.So what were you looking for and where did you go to be so disappointed.Maybe you should have visited the West coast of Australia if you are looking for less visited areas and you can have a beach all to yourself ,with no one on it..Several years ago ,a tourist from the US couldn’t believe how much undeveloped coast coast line that Australia has.She travelled from Victoria ,up to Nsw then onto Queensland.She and her travel buddies went off road alot down dirt track roads ,searching for good surf.If you are a lover of touristy places ,then go to places like Byron bay and the Gold coast ,oherwise stick to seeing our beautiful naional parks

  17. I remember when I went to Australia, I was worried about how much it’d be because of warnings from friends, but as a Brit, I found it to be almost the same as the UK. The internet though….shudder. Although Sydney more than made up for it! 🙂

  18. I visited Australia in 2004 and thought prices were similar to the US. When I went again a couple months ago, I was completely blown away by how expensive it was–the most expensive place I have ever been. We struggled to find ANY meal for less than $10–even at cheap, hole-in-the-wall places. These are basically the same things you mention in your article.

    Sydney is my favorite city in the whole world (LOVE it), but I would not recommend for a budget traveler go to Australia. We spent more in 2 weeks in Sydney & Melbourne than we did the previous month in Eastern Europe. The value just isn’t good enough when you are trying to stretch your money.

  19. We left Perth Australia May 2012 to travel the world and have found it to be much more expensive then anywhere else (bar Israel & Dubai). It’s been labelled the 10th most expensive city in the world above New York & London. And yes the internet is terrible. Most SE Asian countries have better internet then Australia, speed and reliability. Bali probably the only one worse. But we have beautiful beaches, amazing wildlife and lovely people – all of which are free 🙂
    Great article and glad you found the value.. .Now I will have ot figure out how to travel Australia like we did the rest of the world lol.

  20. We ended up skipping Australia on our 2012 trip, but we spent nearly two months in New Zealand (my favorite spot on the globe outside of Oregon), and the similarities are real. Prices for basics are through the roof. I think the exchange was closer to US$ 0.73 to the NZ$ when I lived there as a university student in 2004. It’s amazing how costs have gone up in just under a decade.

    I agree with you: accommodations with friends or through airbnb and the like are really the way to go for longer stays. And the wifi is truly appalling. (Maybe not quite as bad as our internet experiences in South Africa, though?) But the value – the experiences, the people, the landscapes, the feeling of being on the underside of the planet – is totally worth it if you can make smart travel plans.

    Great post!

    1. I will say about the internet in Australia was that it wasn’t rationed by the MB as often as it was in South Africa. If you paid, you’d have a determined amount of time, not data!

      Would LOVE to visit New Zealand. Hopefully soon.

  21. I’m a Kiwi and half Australian so I was surprised at first to read that you thought Australia was expensive, but on reflection I agree it would seem so in comparison to the very cheap South East Asia and if you stayed in Sydney and Melbourne – both expensive cities. Sydney is one of the most expensive cities in the world and Melbourne is not far behind. Darwin is also expensive but for different things as many things have to travel up to Darwin! Some suggestions for your readers on how to make Australia a cheaper place to visit – 1) look at alternative accommodation. You did the right thing by looking at AirBnB but another idea is to approach travel bloggers from Australia and do a swapsy kind of deal. As in, you stay with them in Aus and they stay with you in the northern hemisphere. Australians and NZer are BIG travellers and generally very hospitable and will most likely oblige. 2) Base yourself outside of the big cities. Places like Rockhampton or Coffs Harbour can offer the experience of the beach and the Great Barrier Reef (in the case of the former) but are significantly cheaper places to stay. 3) Look at ways of seeing the city without paying through the nose. Catch the ferry to Manly or Rose Bay in Sydney and see the beautiful harbour for a tenth of the cost of a harbour trip. This trick works in most of the major cities. 4) Re-evaluate your eating options. Australia has great food and coffee and you are just as likely to find it in a suburban cafe on Sydney’s North Shore as you are at Bondi, but for half the price. I could add a few more suggestions but don’t want to monopolize your comment pane. But if you and Mario are keen to come to NZ we’ll definitely put you up for a while. Vx

  22. Nice post Kate. I’m Australian (from Sydney) and pretty much agree with most things you said…. except from the reverse direction: every time I visit the US I’m amazed how cheap everything is!

    You are particularly spot on about the crappy internet, though I had to laugh at your description of my hometown as “non-descript”…. it is really all about the natural beauty of the place (harbour and beaches), and Melbourne probably is the more interesting urban environment.

  23. I’m definitely saving Australia for when I have both the time and the money to “do it right.” I have a lot of things on my Australian bucket list, and I don’t want to have to skip them because of the price tag.

    Great, balanced post!

  24. Great post..
    i love to be iv Australia …
    But just waiting for cricket world cup series over there…
    Because being in Australia as a Indian Cricket Fan will be my one of greatest memories..

    thanks for this post..

  25. I meet so many travellers who are on a tight budget then tell me they have a month or more scheduled in Australia – I’ll point them here in future! I spent a month in Australia back in 2004 and it was cheaper than London (where I was living at the time). I’m glad I visited then and although there is still so much to see, I’m going to hold off on a return trip in the hope the tide will change and Australia will be come a bit more affordable again. Maybe it will happen…maybe?

  26. I’ve never had the strongest urge to make it to Australia, but that seems for the best since there is no way I could afford it right now! Also, $4.60 for a normal, brewed coffee….how would I survive?!

    These are great tips especially since I bet a lot of visitors don’t realize how expensive it is actually going to be! Like you said, we always think of countries like Japan, Sweden and Iceland to be the most expensive ones.

  27. Australia is becoming more expensive from year to year. I have been travelling around Australia for 10 years and have noticed a dramatic increase in prices, especially in the last 5 years. But again as you say Australia offers high value travel and unique experiences that is hard to beat. With savvy planning you can get round to booking great value tours and cheap flights without breaking the bank. Staying in private accommodation or in hostel and hiring a campervan can be viable alternatives to expensive hotels too.

  28. Kate, you definitely need to come to New Zealand – the Aussies will hate me for saying this, but NZ’s even better. You won’t want to leave!! 🙂

    1. louisa klimentos

      Sue you probably only done the east coast of Australia and haven’t visited remote wilderness regions

  29. I am a Kiwi who has lived in Australia for the past 11 years and I find it hard to believe that you couldn’t find anything cheaper than $140 per night in Melbourne. I have stayed in the city centre for about $105 per night and on Spencer St for less than $100 – and believe me when I say that I do not stay in hostels! I found looking for accommodation in New York & London was simply horrendous. Plus if you do get a hotel room in Australia, generally it is going to be bigger than a broom closet (unlike other places around the world!). If you are lucky enough to have friends in these places then yes it is cheaper but not everyone has friends to stay with or wants to ‘couch surf’.

    I also don’t understand the internet comment either.. there are a number of places you can stay that have free wifi. I have traveled to Melbourne a lot and I have never had the issues you say you did with internet or accommodation.

    Oh and I agree with some of the other comments – you have to go to New Zealand! Yes it is as expensive (if not more) than other places in the Western world but believe me when I say the natural beauty of the place completely makes up for it!

    1. It might be hard to believe, Sarah, but it’s the truth. I searched on Kayak, HostelWorld and Hostelbookers and the cheapest price for a double room, with taxes and fees, was $140 AUD. And those were for the worst rooms in the city.

      I just did another search for Melbourne two weeks from now, and the cheapest rate on a double room I could find was what appeared to be $46 USD each but turned out to be a whopping $153 with taxes and fees. This was for a private room at a hostel called Nomads.

      And yes — I found internet to be expensive and awful on my trip. I don’t know why you think I’d be lying about this — what would I honestly gain by lying in this piece?

      1. I agree that looking for a private room can be expensive in Australia, but if you are prepared to share at hostels (in dorms) you can usually get a bed for under $30 per night. I’m not sure what you were meaning by taxes and fees though? We don’t really have taxes here – our GST (sales tax) is 10% but usually built into the quoted price on websites, so isn’t added at the booking page (FYI the law here says that the price you advertise must be the final price unless it is very clearly stated that the GST is to be added on, so usually the quoted fee is inclusive of taxes). I’ve rarely been charged any other fees – and charge a small booking fee (I think it’s something like $3 per booking, not per night) but that’s it. Maybe it is something to do with booking from overseas? If so, you can get it much more reasonably if you wait til you are in Australia.
        I agree our internet is not fast, and if you are mobile the coverage is not good. But I find in the cities/towns it is the same as I found when I was in the US earlier this year (west coast)- the free stuff at McDonalds etc was slow and patchy, and plenty of places I stayed still charged you extra (sometimes a ridiculous amount) for wifi.

        1. By taxes and fees, I was describing what showed up as taxes and fees on booking sites like Kayak, Orbitz, Expedia, etc.

          Yes, dorm beds are almost always cheaper than private rooms — but we didn’t want to stay in a dorm.

  30. I studied abroad in Sydney for 6 months a couple of years ago. While it was a great experience, I wish I would’ve chosen a different country for my study abroad semester. As a student who was spending all of my money on tuition and rent, I didn’t have many extra funds. Also, since I was bound to leave within a few months it was difficult to find a job. Plus, I didn’t really want anyone anyway as I already had schoolwork to do and wanted to have free-time.

    That being said, I cannot wait to go back when I am able to work and/or have money saved so that I can more properly enjoy all that this awesome country has to offer. Very helpful post for those considering coming to Australia!

  31. Originally, we crossed Australia and NZ off our itinerary because of the cost. Now I’m seeing quite a few house sitting opportunities there through the house sitting sites so we’re contemplating heading there after SE Asia, if we can secure free accommodation. We’re not that into adventure activities, so we would save on that, and perhaps with free housing we could keep it within budget. Thanks for the great information!

  32. I am originally from Australia (now based in Colombia). The reason for the high prices in Australia is because of the higher salaries there. It is the same in all countries…. Cost of living has to be kept at a certain percentage of the average wage otherwise you end up with a country full of rich people and the Australian Dollar loses value. Its no problem for Aussies living there, but becomes a huge problem for tourists, especially with the costs involved in just getting there.

    This is why most of Australia’s tourists come from China… Cheap flights and they get a good exchange rate.

  33. Hi Kate,

    Thanks for the post! From my experiences, if someone is going to travel to that area of the world, New Zealand is much more worth the price and Australia! The saying goes – if you are going to both, make sure to go to Australia first because if you go second, you’ll be disappointed because NZ set the bar too high!

    Check out some NZ photos here:

      1. louisa klimentos

        1Australia does have some places as spectacular as New Zealand .The most amazing scenery in Australia is in the outback.It is sad to see that most tourists only see a small percentage of Australia, mainly the eat coast.Take Lake Eyre for example ,it is in the South Australian is normally a salt pan ,but back in 2011 ,due to the monsoons of Queensland ,Lake eyre was filled with water and created an inland sea ,half the size of Europe ,New fauna and flora emerged and the area was so greenWheather NewZealand is thought to be mor stunning than Australia ,it doesn’t mean australia does not have amazing places.Peoples tastes are different and should appreciate every countries beauty,otherwise don’t bother travelling

    1. louisa klimentos

      Tried to look at Josh’s travel blog and there isn’t any on Australia.So has he been.?He has been to countires with huge mountains such as the Rockies ,Africa and New Zealand.None on Australia,maybe Australia wasn’t mountainess enough for him,who knows?

  34. Fantastic post…..Australia is my last continent to visit and it constantly nags at me to visit. Money is the biggest factor in why I haven’t gone yet. Great comments and feedback here too, helps put the land of OZ into perspective. It will be a special trip for me…..saving money as we speak!

  35. This is a VERY comprehensive post about Australia. Fantastic, thanks for the detailed information. I do want to go there but have never researched it…yet. This is extremely helpful! I didn’t realize how expensive it is but sounds like it is worth it. Hello, kangaroos and koalas! 🙂

  36. “Australia has the worst internet of any country I’ve ever visited, including Cambodia, Laos, and South Africa. It’s slow, expensive, and often tough to find”

    Couldn’t agree more, I did a lot of web work in a small hut in Byron Bay using an Optus dongle and it was painfully slow!

  37. I took my 7 year old daughter there by myself in 2010 and we got pretty cheap flights from San Francisco, but it was by far the most expensive place I have ever been. Like you said waay more than Japan and Europe, but yes Switzerland is just as bad and maybe some Scandinavian countries. We went to Sydney, Kangaroo Island and Cairns and had a blast and I have a huge desire to go to Uluru but not sure it’s worth it.

    1. I found Uluru to be hugely worth it — if you have the money to both get there and enjoy it properly. It’s not one of the easier places to reach in Australia, but once you get there, WOW.

  38. I remember Sydney feeling cheap after Dublin, but the awful exchange rate for the Euro had a lot to do with that. But, I don’t think I would have made it to Australia when I did if I hadn’t been studying abroad. Being able to take out student loans for it made all the difference, but in hindsight that might not have been my wisest choice of financing 😉

  39. As an Australian who travels a lot, I have to agree with everything that you say. We are a very expensive country. We probably really noticed it the first time in Japan when we were told that it was expensive, but we didn’t find that. Similarly having been recently in the Netherlands and Belgium we were again pleasantly surprised but also shocked at the realisation that we are such an expensive country. As you correctly point out there are ways and ways to do it much more economically, and without a hint of bias …. it is totally worth exploring a very different country.

  40. I am “traveling” Australia by living here and earning a high salary just like you suggested! When I first arrived here from SE Asia I was absolutely shocked at the prices, but now that I am earning three times as much what I would in Thailand, its not so bad. Plus I get to travel to cool places like the Great Barrier Reef on my time off! The goal is to save 20k this year and then travel for two, like most backpackers I know that come here 😀

  41. I agree, traveling Australia definitely isn’t cheap! That said you’re spot on about recommending coming here on a working holiday visa (which people from most places can get pretty easily). If you’re earning the wage (I’ve worked in two cafes in Melbourne and Sydney, both of which paid about $20/hour) it’s really not so bad. It’s hard to see tons of it because it’s just so dang big, but living here is a great way to save up some money and then you can travel a bit too 🙂

  42. I will soon more to New Zealand on a working holiday visa and hope to pass by Australia. I had no idea it was this expensive!!! It is good to know though so I am not shocked later. Thanks for this post!

  43. Great post! I spent a year living in Melbourne, and I can definitely sympathise. The first thing I ever bought there was a cheese sandwich, which cost me $5 and almost made me want to turn round and come home.

    Having said that, there are lots of things you can do cheaply, or even free: instead of the Harbour Bridge climb, you can walk across the bridge for free (and there’s a lovely cake shop on the other side); Sydney and Melbourne both have free circular bus routes (Melbourne also has a free tram); and budget travel trips are available from companies like Mulga’s. (Though there are some things that I think it’s worth splashing out on – the Great Barrier Reef being one.)

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