There’s no denying it: Australia is an expensive country. Sure, it’s worth every cent when you’re holding a koala in your arms or sifting the warm Bondi sand between your toes, but it comes as a shock when the bartender asks you to fork out 8 Australian dollars (£4.20) for a beer. Grab a calculator and put your accountant’s hat on as Culture Trip figures out how much money you need to pay for that dream trip Down Under.
Exotic Australia feels like a long way away from the rest of the world, and the airlines agree, charging a pretty penny to cover all that distance. Even if you book months in advance, expect to pay between 1,200 and 1,500 dollars (£632-790) for a return flight between Sydney and London or New York, or a little less from nearby Asia.
After you’ve bought your flight, it’s time to pay for another boring necessity: your visa. Unless you’re from Australia or New Zealand, you’ll need a visa to enter the country as a tourist. Visitors from most European countries can apply for the free eVisitor visa, while some travellers from Europe, North America and a handful of Asian countries have to pay 20 dollars (£10.50) for an Electronic Travel Authority visa. If you’re not eligible for either of those, you need to apply for a Visitor visa – fees range from 135 to 340 dollars (£71-179).
There’s an accommodation option to suit every budget wherever you travel in Australia, especially on the east coast’s well-trodden tourist path between Cairns and Melbourne. If you’re travelling on a shoestring, hostel beds start around the 20-dollar (£10.50) mark in regional areas but are closer to 40 dollars (£21) in big cities. And the savings don’t end with the price of the bed – hostels usually feature a kitchen to cook your own food, central locations that help slash transport costs, plus bars and common areas for a cut-price tipple in the evening.
If you’ve got a little more wiggle room in your budget, you can find a comfortable place on Airbnb for upwards of 100 dollars (£53). And if you’re really splashing out, nice hotel rooms begin at 200 dollars (£105.40) or so – cities such as Sydney and Melbourne offer a great selection of stylish boutique properties.
High wages, tax and quality of produce will make food and drink one of the biggest expenses on your Australian holiday. A burger or schnitzel at the pub costs about 15 dollars (£7.90), while a meal at a restaurant will set you back more than 20 dollars (£10.50). A three-course dinner at one of Australia’s top restaurants will stretch into the triple digits.
Australians love a drink, but they certainly pay for it. A beer at the pub should cost between six and eight dollars (£3.20-4.20), but you won’t receive much change from a 20-dollar bill at a trendy cocktail bar. Sniff out happy hours (usually after 5pm) and backpacker bars for something cheaper. Non-alcoholic drinks are also on the pricy side – expect to pay four dollars (£2.10) for a coffee or three dollars (£1.60) for a can of Coke.
For a single journey on public transport, it costs around three dollars (£1.60). Travellers should pick up an Opal card in Sydney and a Myki in Melbourne – contactless smart cards that you can load up with credit then use to tap on and off buses, trains, trams and ferries.
Almost all major cities, towns and regions are also covered by Uber, which is a lot more affordable and comfortable than trying to hail a taxi, especially at airports. A 20-minute journey costs about 20 dollars (£10.50).
Speaking of airports, domestic flights are one part of your Australian itinerary that won’t break the bank. Tigerair and Jetstar are reliable budget carriers – Jetstar even offers a price-beat guarantee that can save you a bundle – while Qantas and Virgin provide a more premium product. Travellers will spot 50-dollar (£26.40) flights from Sydney to Melbourne (1.5 hours) and 100-dollar (£52.70) fares from Sydney to Cairns (three hours) if they do their research.
Trains and buses are a good way to see more of the countryside, but the dollars and cents often don’t stack up. For example, the decision is a no-brainer when the 11-hour Sydney-to-Melbourne express costs between 65 and 120 dollars (£34.20-63.20), while a 50-dollar (£26.40) flight gets you there in a fraction of the time. Greyhound’s bus passes might make sense if you’re planning plenty of pit stops – you can buy a Melbourne-to-Cairns hop-on, hop-off pass for 549 dollars (£289.20), or 21 days of unlimited travel for 399 dollars (£210.20).
Car or camper van hire is also a popular way of conquering such a huge country, especially if you’re covering a lot of distance in a group. Car hire starts at around 50 dollars (£26.40) a day or 250 dollars (£131.70) for the week, while you can get seven days with a camper for about 400 dollars (£210.70).
Here’s some good news about travel costs Down Under – many of Australia’s biggest draws don’t cost a cent. Thousands of sun-kissed beaches? Free. Miles of Outback terrain? Free. Top museums like the Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art Australia and Melbourne’s National Gallery of Victoria? Free. Perth’s leafy Kings Park and Brisbane’s jacaranda-covered gardens? Free.
National parks usually carry an entry fee – Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park costs 25 dollars (£13.20), for example – as do most museums and historic sites. UNESCO World Heritage wonders Fremantle Prison in Western Australia and Port Arthur in Tasmania are priced at 22 dollars (£11.60) and 39 dollars (£20.60), respectively.
Get up close and personal with native Aussie wildlife at Australia Zoo for 59 dollars (£31.09), or join the sporting animals at a game of football or cricket for as little as 30 dollars (£15.80). Expect tickets to these kinds of big-ticket attractions to cost somewhere between 20 and 60 dollars (£10.50-31.60).
Tours are a convenient way for travellers of all budgets to explore more of Australia, with day trips typically priced around the 100-dollar (£52.70) mark. The classic three-day tour of Uluru from Alice Springs costs 350 dollars (£184.40) or so, while a cruise of the Great Barrier Reef from Cairns will set you back 120 dollars (£63.20). A seat on a scenic two-day trip down the Great Ocean Road from Melbourne is approximately 200 dollars (£105.40).
If you’re a budget traveller squeezing every penny – sleeping in dorms, eating instant noodles in the hostel kitchen, and devoting most of your budget to cheap drinks at backpacker bars – then you could scrape by in Australia for 60 to 70 dollars (£31.60-36.90) a day.
With a little more money to spend, mid-range travellers should allow about 140 to 160 dollars (£73.80-84.30) – enough for a couple of sensibly priced meals, one activity and your share of a two-person hotel room or Airbnb.
Tally up the price of a luxury hotel room, top restaurants and full-service tours, and big spenders can easily splurge anything in excess of 300 dollars (£158.10) a day – or what backpackers consider a month’s worth of instant noodles.