In March 2017, I took a 2 week trip to Australia. Two weeks was nowhere near enough time to see all I wanted to see (or anything close to it), but that’s what I was working with. I spent weeks beforehand working on an itinerary and budget for my trip, so I had an accurate idea of how much I would spend. I also tried to prepay for day trips, hostels, and transportation.
One of the most helpful things I did was inflating my budget for food and “misc. activities” so that while I was gone, I was constantly underspending and didn’t feel guilty for splurging for my daily latte (especially Melbourne’s turmeric latte *heart eyes*). I also opted to get carry out food or buy it from a grocery rather than sitting down for meals, not only because it was cheaper, but mostly because I would rather spend time exploring than sitting down and eating.
Although flights were one of the more expensive expensive, mine only accounted for a little under half of my budget. Before I left for a trip to London in October of 2016, I got a Chase Sapphire credit card because my other credit card wasn’t as widely accepted outside of the US. I wrote a post that goes into further detail of Why You DO Want a Credit Card, but the short story is that I ended up getting four flights (LA to Brisbane, Brisbane to Cairns, Melbourne to Brisbane, and Brisbane to LA) for only $455 USD. I booked tickets to and from LA for about $210 separately, so my flights to and from my home to Australia ended up costing less than $700, which I think is quite the bargain.
I flew from Los Angeles to Brisbane, then flew from Brisbane to Cairns, then took a bus (about from Cairns to Port Douglas, where I stayed for four nights at Port Douglas Backpackers for around $20 a night. Before I left, I had booked a trip out to the Great Barrier Reef for my first full day in Australia so that my body didn’t have any time to think it was jet lagged. I didn’t have time to suffer from exhaustion, and although I went to bed around 8PM every night in Port Douglas, my body was able to keep up and managed to stay awake for my tours. The tour itself cost $237 AUD (US $175) and included a shuttle to and from my hostel, all snorkeling equipment, morning tea, lunch, and the full-day tour.
The day following the Reef tour, I went to the Daintree Rainforest with Tropical Journeys. This tour included a walking tour through the Daintree Rainforest (with a cassowary sighting), a walk around Cape Tribulation, and to Mossman Gorge. I booked ahead of time for $195AUD (US $143), but the tour included transportation to and from my hostel, morning tea, lunch, entrance into the Gorge, and a knowledgable tour guide. I booked the Reef tour and Rainforest tour together on Tropical Journeys website and saved $20 AUD, making the total for both trips $403.75 AUD ($298 USD). Although it was slightly pricey, the trips were completely worth the money and I don’t think I could have done it on my own for any cheaper.
I spent my last day in Port Douglas avoiding heavy rainfall, walking down the Four Mile Beach, and hanging out in the hostel with some new friends, while also preparing for my early shuttle to the airport in Cairns at 6AM the next morning. My expenses for the day were coffee, a sushi lunch, and french fries for dinner. Cheap day.
I flew into Sydney and arrived at my hostel, Secret Garden Backpackers (think about $25 a night), around 2PM. I dropped off my bags and immediately walked to the Sydney Harbour Bridge, which took about an hour or so. I wandered around for another couple of hours and went on a free walking tour of the Rocks, which starts at 6PM every night and no reservation is required. Although the tour itself is free, tipping the tour guide is expected– it is still much cheaper than booking a city tour would be.
I had booked a tour of the Blue Mountains with Colourful Tours before I left for $115 AUD (about $85 USD), which included entrance into Featherdale Wildlife Park to see and pet Australian Wildlife (kangaroos, koalas, wombats, etc.), lunch, transportation to and from Sydney, a tour into and around the Blue Mountains, and a voucher for a drink at the bar in the Sydney YHA bar after we returned to the city. I thought that the whole day was a great value for the money, though I did pay an additional $20AUD to pet a koala for about 10 seconds at the wildlife park. That was not worth it, but check out my instagram pic.
My last day in Sydney was spent going on the I’m Free Sydney sights tour and taking the bus out to Bondi Beach in the rain. I bought my bus card and credit for it for under $20, so it was an inexpensive day in Sydney.
To read more about my time in Sydney, check out my post here: 3 Days in Sydney
I decided to travel by train from Sydney to Melbourne so that I could see more of the country, and I bought the ticket early enough to snag a first class seat for $85 AUD ($65 USD). The train lasted all day (it wasn’t as bad as it sounds, I promise), so my expenses were basically just coffee and food on the train. I arrived at at Greenhouse Backpackers, which I had booked online for $190 AUD ($145 USD) for 5 nights.
I spent the next few days in Melbourne wandering around the city with friends, going to the beach, and going on another I’m Free Melbourne Sights tour. My expenses included food and drink, a tram card, and of course the tip for the tour guide. Besides drinks, I think the most expensive “splurge” food item I got in Melbourne was a mediocre, $7 donut.
On my last day in Australia, I went on a tour of the Great Ocean Road with Sightseeing Tours Australia for $96 AUD ($72 USD) which included transportation, a well-prepared lunch, and tea and coffee. It even included time to spot wild koalas!
To read more about my time in Melbourne, check out my post on it here: Too Little Time In Melbourne
I am so pleased to have spent so little and have seen so much on this trip that I had spent years mentally planning. Even though tour groups can be hokey and full of tourists, they’re a great option to see everything you want to see when you’re traveling alone. If you attempt this trip with a friend or a few friends, you all might be able to make it even more cost-effective by renting a car and downloading information about the sights from the internet.