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How Much Does it Cost to Live in Canberra?

cost of living in canberra

Canberra, the capital of Australia and the country’s political centre, is a thriving city full of history, culture and plenty of fun things to do. It’s also home to some of the best universities in Australia – and the world – with excellent results in law, physics, mathematics and more.

With so many drawcards, Canberra can offer a more affordable lifestyle compared to other major cities, practically designed for students.

The cost of accommodation in Canberra

The city isn’t as geographically spread out as other places in Australia, but the cost in Canberra rent can still vary between living directly in town and slightly outside of it.

Inner city

Rent in Canberra will fluctuate depending on where you choose to stay, and if you have roommates. In the city, you can expect to spend $550 a week for a one-bedroom unit or between $320-$350 for a room in a shared apartment. 


Apartments for rent in Canberra’s suburbs can range between an average of $450-$540 a week for one bedroom, down to around $300 for a room in a three-bedroom unit, and anywhere between $180-$350 a week for a room in a sharehouse with the cost of bills included.

Student accommodation

UniLodge offers a wide range of affordable on-campus student accommodation in Canberra and the surrounding area. Prices will vary depending on the number of rooms and the location. You’ll find private studios from around $370 a week and a room in a five-bedroom apartment for around $200. There are also often common rooms, BBQ facilities and access to laundry.

Student accommodation can often be quite competitive so it’s important to enquire as early as possible to avoid missing out. 


Students also have the option of considering a homestay experience with a local family. The Australian Homestay Network provides pricing options that start from $225 a week for a shared room and up to $380 a week for a private room with three meals a day, seven days a week.

Which one to pick?

It’s important to weigh up these options. Think about what’s important to you when it comes to accommodation, such as proximity to the city, university and nightlife, and how much you want to spend. By living further out, you may pay more for public transport and taxi fares, but you will probably get a bigger living space.

The cost of public transport in Canberra

Unlike other cities, Canberra’s main university campuses are more spread out across the city. However, they’re all easily accessible on public transport.

Canberra public transport runs on a network called Transport Canberra which covers both buses and the light rail service. You will need to purchase a MyWay smartcard at one of the many authorised agents across the city. You can also get around with bike shares costing $1.30 for every 30 minutes. 

Concession rate

If you are a full-time student attending an Australian university, you are entitled to a discounted fare. This means a single trip will only cost you $1.61 during the week. You will never be charged more than $4.80 on any given day, as a maximum cap is placed on how much you pay per day, no matter how many trips you make. On the weekend, this maximum fee is even lower at $2.17 per day.

The cost of food in Canberra

Canberra is home to a growing number of great cafes, restaurants and bars, so you’ll want to set aside a bit of money to check out the city’s dining scene. However, thanks to Canberra’s high student population, there are also plenty of cheap eats to be found, too. 

Eating in

If you choose to cook and eat in, you can generally expect to spend a few dollars for breakfast, $5-$10 for lunch, and $10-$15 for a home-cooked dinner. Of course, this depends on your grocery preferences.

Eating out

On average, breakfast or brunch at a cafe in Canberra is going to cost you around $15-$20, but make sure to budget a bit extra if you’d like to add a coffee. For lunch, you will likely have to spend around $20 for a meal in the city. You can expect dinner to be slightly more expensive at around $25-$40 a meal.

It’s important to remember that in Australia, waiters and servers get paid a liveable minimum wage. This means that your sandwich or salad may cost a little bit more than you expect, but it also means the staff are being paid fairly for their time. 

The cost of entertainment in Canberra


Some bars that feature music, burlesque or other live entertainment will likely enforce a cover charge. At most pubs and bars, you can expect a glass of wine, beer or cider to cost approximately $10-15 each. Cocktails are more expensive at around $15-25, depending on the venue. Canberra’s bars and pubs often have happy hours (such as two drinks for the price of one), so make sure to look out for any good deals.


Because of the high cost of travelling to Australia, concerts can be more expensive. In Canberra, a ticket to a sporting match can cost as low as $20 to over $100 for live music at a larger venue. Other events like dance or theatre performances will usually cost between $50-$90, depending on the artist or show. Always make sure you investigate the weekly city guides, as there are plenty of regular free events taking place around Canberra.


A movie at any of Canberra’s cinemas will likely cost under $20 with a student card. Make sure you take advantage of any cinema membership programs that can get you discounted tickets and free food.


If you prefer to spend your downtime at the gym, a membership at one of the more common gym franchises like Fitness First or Anytime Fitness, will start from $17.99 per week for a basic package, all the way up to $34.99 for the Platinum Plus membership which includes Reform Pilates. In many of these circumstances, the cost will vary depending on your plan, what you’re hoping to get out of it and any extras included.

For more information on the cost of living in Canberra, Australia, make sure to check out our Cost of Living Calculator.