From Perth’s pristine beaches to Melbourne’s bustling nightlife to Sydney’s iconic landmarks, Australia is a vast playground – and budget travel is the key to exploring without breaking the bank.
Originally from the United States, I journeyed to Australia with one mission: to explore as much of the country as possible on a tight budget. Throughout my adventures, I picked up some handy tips and tricks, which I’ve rounded up here to help you stretch your travel dollars a little (or a lot) further. From student discounts to cheap travel destinations in Australia, here’s everything you need to know.
5 budget travel tips
To start, let’s take a look at my top five budget-friendly travel tips.
Seek out student discounts
Travelling on a student budget can be tricky, but it’s made much easier with the help of student discounts. That’s right – much like you can save on day-to-day items such as clothing or electronics, you can also save on your next trip simply for being a student.
Flight Centre offers full-time tertiary students (aged 18-30) discounts on airfares and travel packages when they book in store.
Certain airlines also offer deals and perks exclusively to students. For example, when you fly with Singapore Airlines, you could save 10 per cent on various fare types, enjoy increased baggage allowances and have your booking fee waived. Check with your airline to see if it provides similar discounts or added benefits.
Look for flight deals
Google Flights is a great place to seek out cheap flights. Its map feature allows you to find the best deals for various destinations and dates. If you’re flexible on dates and locations, you’ll have even more opportunities to save.
If you don’t have a destination in mind yet, head to Google Flights and enter your origin city (where you’re departing from) and the dates of travel; however, don’t enter a destination. Click Explore and the system will generate a list of suggested locations and the estimated flight costs for each one.
You can also find some flight deals directly through airlines, many of which run sales throughout the year. Jetstar regularly offers deals on flights as well as discounted travel packages. You can usually find even more savings around Christmas (including Black Friday and Boxing Day). Virgin Australia and Qantas also have designated web pages for travel specials.
Learn from and connect with others
In my experience, many of the best travel tips I learned came from other students! Be sure to ask your coursemates, flatmates or co-workers if they have any advice for travelling on a budget. They may know about travel-related student discounts or travel packages that you may have never heard of before.
Additionally, chatting with your peers may open the door for you to find a new travel buddy. Travelling with others is an awesome way to not only cut down on certain travel costs (e.g. sharing a hotel room, splitting the cost of a rental car, etc.) but to make lifelong memories.
Consider your transportation options
When you’re in a new place, it can be tempting to take a taxi or Uber everywhere you go. Sure, it’s convenient, but the costs of these transport methods can start to add up quickly.
To save your hard-earned cash, you may want to opt for public transportation, particularly if you’re visiting an urban location. Australia’s capital cities boast safe, efficient and reliable public transport systems, which can help you explore the city seamlessly (and affordably).
Don’t be afraid to look beyond Australia
There’s no denying that Australia is full of incredible sights to see. But what about all the unseen gems that lay beyond Australia’s borders?
New Zealand is a direct flight away (from many Australian capital cities), and your dollar will go further there due to the exchange rate. I also travelled around Southeast Asia and spent less than $200 on a one-way direct fare from Singapore to Sydney. Accommodation in Southeast Asia also tends to be very affordable. In places like Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, you can often find hostel rooms for less than A$10 per night!
Cheap holiday destinations in Australia
Although there are countless amazing travel spots beyond Australia’s borders, this section is dedicated to the most affordable destinations to visit in the Land Down Under.
When I went to Uluru, I managed to find a one-way flight for around $40 (though this typically costs $200 to $300, depending on where you are travelling from).
The national park’s beauty and immersive indigenous cultural experiences were unique and memorable. However, since Uluru has limited hotel, tour bus and restaurant options, prices will be higher than in other parts of Australia.
When I travelled to Cairns and Port Arthur, I saved money by staying in an Airbnb with seven other people. In Cairns, it’s also super easy to entertain yourself without spending any money. There are countless national parks you can hike through, beaches for you to lounge on and waterfalls for you to chase.
Check out even more cheap and free things to do in Cairns here.
On an eight-day group trip to Tasmania – which provided convenient transportation and the opportunity to connect with other international students – I explored a variety of settings from peaceful small towns to the bustling city of Hobart. A trip to Tasmania isn’t complete without an encounter with Tasmanian devils and taking a deep breath of the cleanest air on Earth!
A day-long bus tour from Sydney to Australia’s capital city, Canberra, is offered just about every weekend during the academic semester. The trip initially caught my attention through a student organisation on campus. Due to its proximity to Sydney, some students also opted to rent a car for the weekend and drive themselves (a journey that takes roughly three to three and a half hours).
As the national capital, there are various attractions to check out in Canberra, including Parliament House, the Museum of Australia Democracy (MoAD), the National Museum of Australia (NMA) and the National Gallery of Australia (NGA) – all of which are free to visit (excluding special ticketed exhibitions).
Please note that the contents of this article (including flight prices) speak to the individual experience of the writer.