How much money do I need, to Backpack Australia?

One question I get asked by friends and family all of the time is, “Is it expensive to live in Australia?” My gut response is usually a definite yes, but in reality when I actually do the currency conversion in my head, it’s not as bad as it first seems. I think there is an initial shock when walking into shops and seeing prices for the first time here, because the numbers are much higher. At the time of writing this $1 is approximately £0.48. My brain always instinctively sees the numbers in front of me in pounds and usually recoils, back into its cave of frugality.

This being said, some things really are expensive in Australia and I believe it is important that you know this before setting out with only a small amount of savings for your backpacking trip of a lifetime. So the question here is:

How much money do I need, to backpack Australia?

Australian immigration require you to have $5000 on entry into the country and a return flight booked OR the funds to book one, when on a Working Holiday. The idea being, that this should keep you going for a few months whilst you find your feet and look for a job.

This is rarely checked when you reach Australia (I haven’t met anyone who has been asked) but the figure is there for a reason! It seems like a huge amount of money but you will understand why they have set it at this figure when you read on……

Do I need the exact amounts you have specified?

No!

This article is extremely subjective (more of a guideline than anything) and money needed, will greatly depend upon your general lifestyle and what you want to get out of your trip. If you are happy to Couchsurf, only eat noodles and cheap bread everyday, not go on any tours or trips and you don’t partake in either alcohol or nicotine, it goes without saying that your overall trip will cost far less than someone who thinks the above certainly does not live up to their backpacking ideals.

To give you the best idea possible of how to budget for your travels I have broken things up a little more below.

Accommodation

 

This is probably going to be your biggest expense. A bed in a hostel dorm is usually somewhere between $24 and $33 per night. For the sake of this article I am going to average it at $28. Of course you may not be sleeping in a hostel every night of your travels. You may find a shared house in the city if you are settling to work there for a while, and this usually works out much cheaper than hostels. Couchsurfing is obviously completely free, but I am yet to meet anyone who has spent their entire trip doing just this. Working for accommodation will also mean a free roof over your head. Airbnb is another option that can work out cheaper and give you more space and privacy, and if you are camping (in free campsites) you obviously won’t be paying for a bed.

With this in mind, lets say that you spend 40 weeks out of your 52 (granted on your working holiday visa) in hostels, that average $28 per night.- $180 per week (as most hostels will give you a discount if booking a week or more).

Estimated Total Accommodation cost for 1 year:

$7,200 = £3,470

Food:

A backpacker staple
A backpacker staple

The money you spend on food will vary greatly from person to person. If you are happy to eat Woolworths homebrand noodles, bread and pasta with very little vegetables and meat, you can actually eat pretty cheaply.

If on the other hand, you are gluten intolerant, prefer to eat free range and organic products, or just want more variety and nutritional content in your diet, you can definitely expect to spend far more.

How are they more expensive, when they grow here!?
How are they more expensive, when they grow here!?

It goes without saying that the cheapest way to eat is to do a food shop and cook your meals in bulk, which is entirely possible in a hostel kitchen. The only difficulty with this, is that most hostels do not have a freezer, so the lifespan of your delicious home cooked food is somewhat more limited.

If you are someone that likes to eat out a lot, your food budget will definitely be stretched, with some main courses in restaurants costing $20 or more. There are some amazing places like Govindas Hare Krishna restaurant in Perth where you can have a platter of home cooked Indian food for $10, and go back for seconds if you have space….it’s places like this that you need to keep an eye out for!

I have compiled a shopping list to give you an idea of the prices that you can expect for basic foods (HB is Woolworths homebrand- think Tesco value, Sainsburys basics etc):
IMG_3971Total cost for basic weekly shop (that is pretty devoid of much nutritional value): $20.82 = £10.05

If you want to add in some fruit and vegetables (and I hope you do!) you can see the price increase quite rapidly:

IMG_3972

Add these onto your basic shop above and your weekly food shop is now: $42.15 or £20.34. Bear in mind that this is with no meat or meat substitutes, drinks or treats!

The average weekly spend for a backpacker on food is usually between $30-$80. Obviously this will depend on the person, but for arguments sake, I am going to average it at $50 for food shopping and add another $20 for the times that you will eat out.

That gives us a grand total of $70 per week, which in a year comes to:

Estimated Total Food cost for 1 year:
$3, 640 = £1,754

Travel

Screen Shot 2015-08-24 at 15.14.15

Again this will entirely depend on the individual. Your preferred method of transport will be very personal to you, so for this section I am going to give you a rough idea of how much I have spent on different methods of transport that I have used whilst on my working holiday so far. I’m not including the cost of our car. I’m also not including my flights to and from the UK, or those between Derby and Perth as they were due to having to go home for a couple of weeks and wouldn’t be usual costs.

Bus:                      $30
Train:                    $15
2 taxi journeys in Perth: $70
Internal Flights :
Broome to Darwin:         $282.50
Darwin to Cairns:         $275.26
Greyhound Coaches:
Derby to Broome:                                                     $56.04
Cairns to Melbourne (Hop on - Hop off:                               $529.38
Fuel costs for 19 day West Coast roadtrip (shared between 2 people): $286.27

 

Total cost of travel 32 weeks: $1,544.45

Obviously I can’t say the rest of my travel costs as I have no idea yet what they will be. To make it fair I have divided the above total by 52 (to work out a weekly average) and have added the last 20 weeks of my working holiday to the above sum, to get an estimated total travel cost.

Estimated Total travel cost for 1 year:
$2,138 = £1,031

For some backpackers food, travel and accommodation are their only costs but most will have additional costs….such as:

Activities and Trips

The Whitsunday Islands (source: australiantraveller.com)

Some backpackers will make their own fun and not bother with tours or trips, preferring to discover Australia under their own stream. Most people will want to do some activities to get the most out of their time here. Below are some average costs for some of the most popular trips/tours and activities.

Tandem Skydive:                                                 $320
Whitsundays 1 day boat trip:                                    $150
Fraser Island (2 days ,1 night):                                $350
6 night tour of the West Coast (Perth- Exmouth:                 $970
5 day (3d/2n) PADI open water dive course (Great Barrier Reef:  $945
Sydney Harbour Bridge climb:                                    $268
3 day Uluru/Ayers Rock explorer:                                $535.50
Rottnest Island (Ferry, snorkel and bike- 1day:                 $100
1 Day Wine Tour:                                                $95
Surf Lesson Byron Bay:                                          $65
Caversham Wildlife Park:                                        $26
Taronga Zoo Sydney:                                             $46
Crocosaurus Cove Darwin (entry):                                $35
Crocosaurus Cove Darwin Cage of Death (2 people):               $125 pp
Swim with Whale Sharks at Coral bay:                            $380

I’m basing my estimated activities costs on the activities that I have actually done/am planning to do:

Caversham Wildlife Park:                                         $26
Rottnest Island (Ferry, snorkel and bike- 1day):                 $100
Whitsundays 1 day boat trip:                                     $150
Fraser Island (2 days ,1 night):                                 $350
Crocosaurus Cove-Darwin (entry):                                 $35
Crocosaurus Cove-Darwin Cage of Death (2 people):                $125 pp
Surf Lesson-Byron Bay:                                           $65
Tandem Skydive:                                                  $320
Estimated Total Activities cost for 1 year:
$1,171 = £564.89

Alcohol

Cold beer on a hot day

If you are partying most nights of the week, you will watch your bank balance very quickly get obliterated. Alcohol is not cheap in Australia, with an average pint in a bar costing between $9-$13. The cheapest beer I found in Perth was a house beer in a bar called Ezra Pound (awesome place!) for $6 and the cheapest spirit and mixer was a rum and coke in the same bar for $9. There are backpacker nights put on in some bars and clubs which will allow you a drinks deal on entry for a group of people, or cheap drinks on certain nights of the week.

To work out how much you will spend on alcohol I’m working on the assumption that you will be drinking for 40 weeks out of the 52 (I’m allowing the other weeks for work, detoxing and hangovers)!

So a weekly spend for:

1 carton of beer:            $40
1 4L box goon:               $12
1 big night out in the city: $100

gives us a total of: $152 per week on alcohol.

This will be far too much for most people (myself included), and nowhere near enough for those that really party hard and love their spirits!

Estimated Total Alcohol cost for 1 year: 40 weeks x $152 =
$6,080 = £2,933

Smoking

 

If you are a smoker, you may want to think about quitting before coming to Australia. Health implications aside, cigarettes are very expensive and you are likely to smoke more than you do at home because you will be around other smokers socialising and drinking, far more than you would be usually.

A 20 pack of JPS Red cigarettes: $16. If you smoke 3 packs a week that is: $48

Tobacco is cheaper and a packet of JPS red each week will cost: $22. However you have to factor in rolling papers and filters into the tobacco equation (maybe $5 more).

For the sake of this article lets say you smoke 3 packs of cigarettes per week.

Estimated Total cost of cigarettes for 1 year: 52 x $48 =
$2,496 = £1,203

Totals:

Dollars, Dollars, Dollars is what I need!
Dollars, Dollars, Dollars is what I need!
1 Year 1 Month 1 Week Daily
Accommodation $7,200 = £3,470 $600 = £289 $180 = £87 $26 = £13
Food $3, 640 = £1,754 $303 = £146 $70 = £34 $10 = £5
Travel $2,138 = £1,031 $178 = £86 $41 = £20 $6 = £3
Activities $1,171 = £565 $98 = £47 $23 = £47 $3 = £1.50
TOTALS $14,149 = £6,820 $1,179 = £568 $314 = £188 $45 = £22.50

 

1 Year 1 Month 1 Week Daily
Accommodation $7,200 = £3,470 $600 = £289 $180 = £87 $26 = £13
Food $3, 640 = £1,754 $303 = £146 $70 = £34 $10 = £5
Travel $2,138 = £1,031 $178 = £86 $41 = £20 $6 = £3
Activities $1,171 = £565 $98 = £47 $23 = £47 $3 = £1.50
Alcohol $6,080 = £2,933 $506 = £244 $152 = £73 $22=£10.50
Cigarettes $2,496 = £1,203 $208 = £100 $48 = £23 $7 = £3.30
TOTALS $22,725 = 10,963 $1,893 = £912 $514 = £284 $74 = £36.30

As you can see, your personal costs will vary but this should give you a rough guide to some prices and your expenditure whilst away on your backpacking adventure.

There are 2 things that I do want you to keep in mind:

  • Your wages

Wages in Australia are good and you should expect to be paid between $18-$30 an hour depending on the industry in which you work. When you look at your weekly pay cheque, the cost of living suddenly doesn’t seem quite so extortionate.

  • You will spend money at home

If you are sat there, reading this thinking “Oh wow, there is no way I can afford this trip”, it is time to take a good hard look at your current expenses.

You can afford to travel!

Take the time now to sit down and write out your monthly expenses on rent, food, petrol, subscriptions, gym membership, clothes shopping, nights out etc. and then compare it to the figures above.

You may be pleasantly surprised.

I really hope this article has been helpful to someone out there (because it was a lot of maths for my little noggin)!  Please feel free to comment or ask questions below and I will do my very best to guide and advise accordingly!

And remember:

Han xxx

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About The Author

Hannah

Creative unicorn ninja; Travel vlogger/blogger. Green tea enthusiast and lover of dance and art. Currently be found back in England planning the next adventure! Southeast Asia Odyssey coming very soon!

Where I can be found: UK

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