How to stay in an Australian City Cheaply

October 26, 2009 · 21 comments

So you just came from South East Asia and are used to spending $4 for a night in a guesthouse,  $2 for your daily meals and were happy with the money left in your wallet after a night of liver destruction and tuk tuk rides.

Then you came to Australia to earn some money and almost fainted at the sign ‘Pint of beer, only $7!’

Taking 'on a shoestring' to a new level

Taking 'on a shoestring' to a new level

It is time to budget and hang on to those colourful ozzie dollars, as they are going to go quickly without a plan. Accomodation, food, transport and alcohol are your primary requirements. But you’re not ready for that all inclusive farming job yet, you just came from busy cities so need to wind down.


Hostels vary in prices, but that adds up, especially if you need to settle in an area for a while, an alternative is to buy a camper van and sleep in car parks, with the odd night at a hostel for shower facilities.

A better route however is to get your own place; A shared room in a house is possible and often is cheaper than hostels. Having a fixed address is also advantageous for job and bank applications on arrival in this new country too.

As an example I am in a 3 bed small house at the moment, the rent is Oz$1358 a month. Scary number right? However it is 3 bedrooms, therefore the rent is split 3 ways, so we’re now down to $452 a month. But you’re used to dorms right? A backpack doesn’t need a whole bedroom, so another bed and person in there means your rent is now $226 a month, or $56.50 a week. Now it’s starting to sound better then that $25 a night hostel isn’t it?


Believe it or not, you can get your $1 (or even less) noodles here too. You just have to cook them yourself. This is the key to cheap living here. A lot of houses in Asia don’t have kitchens, which is one reason why eating out is pretty cheap. However like most of the ‘western world’ in Australia dining out is a luxury and therefore expensive, so get that white hat and apron on, and purchase your goods from the supermarkets and local markets to do a bit of home cooking.

A 4kg bag of potatoes and 1kg of cheese can be had for $4 and $10 respectively and provides a weeks worth of dinners for one (you can share the cost with your new housemates so this won’t be the same daily meal). A 5 pack of noodles can be had for $2.26, add hot water and the included sauces and it’s ready to go. Eggs are reasonably priced too at $3 for a dozen. Tinned vegetables work out cheaper then fresh and work well in fried food. Meat is fairly expensive. Kangaroo (give it a try, it’s better than beef!) tends to be one of the cheaper meats, but 1kg of mince beef can be had for under $5 if you shop about and gives flexibility in what can be made (burgers, meatballs, spaghetti bolognaise). Rice and pasta also works out as a cheap base for meals.


Of course transport is a necessary to travel too. Public transportation in Australia is reasonably priced and not as hard on the wallet as some countries can be (avoid the taxis though). However for long term (3 months+) you’d probably be better off getting your own transportation providing you have a licence. A driving licence in your own country is valid for use in Australia for up to a year after your arrival.

Check out newspapers, ads in local hostels, travel agents and websites such as Gumtree for vans, cars and motorbikes to suit your requirements.


Don't always try to empty this thing

Don't always try to empty this thing

You might not want to hear my best advice for this subject, simply: cut it down.

Bottle shops are popular in Australia and sometimes a cheaper alternative to buying from supermarkets, shop about and find whats best near you. Typically it’s best to buy a crate with a large number of bottles in then a pack of 4 or 6, look out for offers in supermarkets too, they do happen.

If you have any more tips for cheap living in an Australian city, please leave them in the comments section below.

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Candice October 26, 2009 at 9:45 PM

SWEET! Now I just have to find a cheap way of getting there…
.-= Candice´s last blog – The arts and the booze =-.


Amiee October 26, 2009 at 10:31 PM

Cheap travel – I likee! I would want to buy a camper van.


AdventureRob October 27, 2009 at 2:55 AM

Thanks for comments, I should be getting a camper van soon, but if there is a need to settle in a city for a while, these tips will help you out!
.-= AdventureRob´s last blog – The Netbook to Travel with: Samsung NC10 =-.


Amiee October 27, 2009 at 3:24 AM

You’re getting a camper van – stoke! Are you planning on staying in Australia for a bit then?
.-= Amiee´s last blog – Running (and Dancing) with Goblins =-.


AdventureRob October 27, 2009 at 1:40 PM

Yes I am in Australia on a working holiday visa, so have a year here according to the current plan.


Nancy October 30, 2009 at 4:17 AM

Great tips of cheap Aussie travel! Any tips on cheap Australia flights?? :)
.-= Nancy´s last blog – Photo Essay: A Day in Portland, Oregon =-.


AdventureRob October 30, 2009 at 2:26 PM

Hmm I’ve not taken a flight within Australia yet, but that would be a good addition to the article, I’ll get on that soon.
.-= AdventureRob´s last blog – Western Australian Winerys =-.


Marta Higuera November 14, 2009 at 10:41 AM

If you want to travel and sleep for free you can drive campervans back to their origins, just doing routes in the opposite direction of everyone else for almost no money! Deals come up often in
Also, you’ll find cheap flights between the low cost alternatives: Jetstar, Virgin Blue, Tiger airways…


AdventureRob November 14, 2009 at 10:45 AM

Thanks for comment and info Marta.

I’ve actually written about how to rent a car or campervan cheaply, it’s being published here on Monday :-)


Holgs November 16, 2009 at 6:13 PM

Nice article Rob! Hope you’re enjoying my home country ;)

I’ve got an article covering some of the same things, and a few others here:
.-= Holgs´s last blog – Backpacking in Egypt – Off the Beaten Path in Luxor?!? =-.


AdventureRob November 16, 2009 at 7:22 PM

Nice article Holgs, I’ve actually got a few of those things coming up on here myself, I tend to split articles up rather than have 1 long comprehensive one.
.-= AdventureRob´s last blog – A Cheap Way of Getting Across Australia =-.


Andrea Courtney March 31, 2010 at 1:01 AM

Omigosh- this is hilarious, and so informative. It’s like NYC, I nearly fell of my barstool when I saw a PBR was $7.

Happy travels my friend.



AdventureRob April 1, 2010 at 2:40 AM

I’d love to go to New Zealand, but unfortunately budget does not allow this time round :-(
.-= AdventureRob´s last blog – Changes =-.


Daniel April 12, 2010 at 10:00 AM

A car can be pretty pricey if you visit the bigger cities. i remember paying $20/day just to park my car in melbourne, and it wasn’t even very central. i would say a car is a good option if you don’t travel alone, otherwise you always have to pay for the expenses (insurance, repairs, parking) yourself…


AdventureRob April 13, 2010 at 12:46 PM

In the big cities I tend to park outside and get the train in, most train stations have free parking, and you’ll be looking at under $10 for a daily ticket.

Indeed it is a lot cheaper to manage a car with a partner.
.-= AdventureRob´s last blog – Esperance =-.


Tents June 3, 2010 at 7:48 PM

Top tips there guys, should prove useful.


Jeremy July 27, 2010 at 12:52 PM

Hi Rob, nice information you’ve got. I guess my problem now is to find partners to share the cost of the room.
Jeremy´s latest blogpost – Calway X-22 Irons Steel Shaft For All Types of Golfers


Ozie July 13, 2013 at 3:33 AM

That’s not travelling, that’s surviving. 1 Week Potatoes and Cheese, are you out of your mind?!


AdventureRob July 14, 2013 at 11:05 AM

Maybe you misunderstood, or I worded it badly. But you can have other options to cheese and potatoes as long as the cheese is refrigerated. That sentence is followed by other food options for example. I didn’t mean that people should eat just cheese and potatoes in one week!


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