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. Canberra is 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, you’d be forgiven for thinking Canberra is an expensive place to live. In fact, the city is quite the opposite, with an affordable lifestyle practically designed for students.
The cost of accommodation in Canberra
Canberra isn’t as geographically spread out as other cities, but there can still be a big difference between living directly in the city and slightly outside of it.
In Canberra city, you can expect to spend $235 per week in a sharehouse (usually living with professionals and other students), $222 per week for a serviced apartment, or $460 per week for a one-bedroom unit all to yourself. Additionally, there are homestay options to live with local families that cost on average $310 per week.
In Canberra’s suburbs, a one-bedroom unit is slightly cheaper at an average of $410 per week, while a room in a sharehouse outside the city will likely go for around $182 per week depending on the number of bedrooms available.
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 on 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 runs on a bus network called Transport Canberra. The city is also in the early stages of building a light rail service, which will mean faster connections across the city. You will need to purchase a MyWay smartcard at one of the many authorised agents across the city.
If you are a full-time student, 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 there is a maximum cap 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, which is incredibly cheap.
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.
If you choose to cook and eat at home, you can generally expect to spend around $2 per breakfast, $5 per lunch, and $11 per dinner. Of course, this depends on your grocery preferences.
On average, breakfast at a cafe in Canberra is going to cost you $15, 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 $16. You can expect dinner to be slightly more expensive at around $25 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. Unlike some other places you may have visited, such as the United States, Australia does not have a tipping culture. Places may ask if you would like to tip, but it’s not necessary.
The cost of entertainment in Canberra
Some bars that feature music, burlesque or other live entertainment will likely enforce a cover charge, but rarely more than $10. At most pubs and bars, you can expect a glass of wine, beer or cider to cost approximately $10-12 each. Spirits might be anywhere between $12-$25 depending on the venue and whether you have a desire for cocktails. 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, $78 or more per ticket is an expected figure to pay for live music or sporting matches. For a larger act at a stadium or arena, over $100 per ticket is typical. Other events like dance or theatre performances will usually cost $47 or more. 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 around $13, which is a lot less than in most Australian capital cities. Make sure you take advantage of any cinema membership programs that will get you discounted tickets and free popcorn and drinks.
If you prefer to spend your downtime at the gym, a membership at one of the more common gym franchises like Goodlife, Fitness First or Anytime Fitness, will cost around $14 per week. Like many other weekly costs, this is a lot less than in other capital cities.
For more information on the cost of living in Canberra, make sure to check out our Cost of Living Calculator.