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Budget Traveling Around East Coast Australia

There are lots of ways to save money when budget traveling around East Coast Australia. I will show you the main ways you can save your Aussie dollars on accommodation, shopping, transport and much more so you can come home with more souvenirs and more happy memories without an empty pocket. I have lived in Sydney and Brisbane as well many other towns and cites on the east coast, hopefully my experience will save you lots of money!

Australian money

Money in Australia is called the Australian dollar. We have $100, $50, $ 20, $ 10 and $ 5 notes, and $2, $1,.50 cent,.20 cent,.10 cent and 5 cent coins. Many shops will charge for items something like AU$ 10.99 for a product, just for marketing effect, but in the end you will pay AU$ 11.00. Capital cities expenses are usually more than country areas but sometimes it is the reverse. For example fuel can be more expensive in the country areas but not by too much. The list below is an estimate average of the prices charged in Australia, to be referred to as a guide only. It is all based on 33 years experience…


Budget tip: Use the Internet to get bargains and save loads of money. Some of my favourite sites are on the links page. If you’re travelling on a shoestring budget then I would suggest staying in hostels or caravan parks. They vary in price based on quality and location. A word of warning caravan parks especially along the coast are not what they used to be. These days they have almost resort style facilities so they can be just as expensive as staying in a motel.

Getting around

By air: Australia has 4 main airlines to choose from: Qantas: Usually the most expensive VirginBlue: Basic service at cheaper rates JetStar: Similar to VirginBlue TigerAirways: No frills basic budget service. Some of these don’t fly to certain parts of the country so you need to do your homework.

Public transport

A great way to save money on a tight budget. Queensland Rail or QR mainly covers south east Queensland (Brisbane, Ipswich, Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast) now offers a goCard which is valid for train, bus and ferry services mainly in Brisbane. It is cheaper than paying by cash. I am a big fan of getting the train around Brisbane. It is convenient, safe and cheap. You can also purchase daily, weekly or monthly QR passes. The longer the pass the more money you save. QR also offers concessions for pensioners and students. City Rail (New South Wales): covers Sydney, Wollongong, Central Coast and Newcastle): Has loads of different tickets to save you money.

I used CityRail all the time when I was living in Sydney. Sometimes the trains run late but for the most part it is a good safe service. For families consider the Funday Sunday pass where currently (2009) you will pay just $2.50 per person you just need a minimum of one adult and one child. City Rail also offers other discounted tickets Cityhopper (for Syndey only), day tripper and the Sydneypass (Sydney only for 3, 5 or 7 days for travel within a 8 day period) which gets you unlimited train, bus and ferry around Sydney. Concessions are available for students and pensioners.

Getting to or from the international airports

Avoid taxis. These will cost you a small fortune mainly because of traffic congestion. The price of a ticket from the Domestic Airport to the City is $14.60 and from the International Airport to the City is $15.20. And sometimes the cabbies get lost.


Instead consider airport shuttle services. Do a Google search for Airport transfers in the city you are landing in. For example ‘Airport transfers Sydney airport’. Sydney New South Wales: Usually price range for shuttle services will be $20 return to major CBD locations but may be cheaper if you book online. Brisbane Queensland: Airport transfers by Rail. These are privately owned companies that don’t usually offer concessions. They are an excellent way to save money though. Brisbane Airtrain: This is a rail service that will get you from Brisbane International or Domestic terminals to Brisbane CBD, Brisbane suburban areas or Gold Coast. The price shouldn’t be more than $30 one way to most destinations. Check out the Airtrain interactive map on their website to give you an idea Airport Link Sydney: Similar to Brisbane. As of 2009 a one way ticket to the CBD from the Domestic or International airport terminals will be a little under $20. Check out the FAQ section on their webpage for details.

Hiring a car

East Coast Australia has all the major hire companies Hertz, Budget, Avis and independents which may be better for budget travelling. There are all types of cars and vans to choose from, the bigger the car the more you will pay. They’re a few websites out there that allow you to compare hire car prices. Use them, they will save you lots of money! If you will be here for a bit longer then consider hiring a van. There are lots of options for you. In Queensland a popular choice is Wicked. In NSW they have depots in Sydney and Byron bay. In Queensland their depots are in Brisbane, Hervey Bay and Cairns.

Grocery Shopping

Australian grocery shopping is dominated by 2 big ‘players’ in the market namely Woolworths and Coles. If you spend over a certain amount your sales docket will get you cheaper fuel (see below) You will find Woolworths and Coles in most bigger towns and they are of course in every capital city. They now use ‘price per weight’ tickets so you can compare and save whilst browsing the shelves. Australia also has Aldi stores in most regional towns and all capital cities down the Australian East Coast. These are my favourite for budget shopping especially if you are travelling and you only need basic items along the way.


Cheaper items are usually below eye level. That’s right the more expensive items will be on the middle shelves so look down and grab a bargain. Australia’s generic brands such as Home Brand, Black and Gold and Woolworths and Coles own varieties are just as good in value as the bigger name brands. Aldi are cheaper than Woolworths and Coles and the quality is just as good. You will though have to take your own bags to pack your items or buy bags at Aldi. There are other supermarkets in Australia such as Foodowrks and IGA and they are great if you just need a few items in your travels.

Fuel (Gas)

We call a gas station a service station. Australia has all the major fuel companies available (BP, Caltex, Ampol, Shell etc). Some offer 4c off your fuel if you present a supermarket docket. Caltex accepts Woolworths dockets and Shell accepts Coles dockets. I highly recommend using these especially if you are doing most of your traveling by car. Fuel prices go up and down through the week. Anecdotal research indicates the cheapest day to buy fuel is now either on a Tuesday or Wednesday. To save on fuel drive smoothly, limit using the air conditioner and don’t speed, this chews the fuel (and it is dangerous too!) A special word on Service station stops: All service stations want you to buy something else while you’re in the store such as drinks, chocolates, lollies, CDs etc. Avoid the temptation, as you will be paying extremely high prices for doing so. Instead plan your trip by buying drinks and food at a supermarket for your travels. Some service stations even offer 4c off your fuel if you buy $2 worth of food. This means you are worse off then if you didn’t buy the food or drinks. Don’t be fooled!

Phone calls

Cell phones are called ‘mobile’ phones in Australia. AVOID USING YOUR MOBILE (CELL) PHONE. INTERNATIONAL ROAMING RATES WILL STING YOU.Of course mobile phones are useful for emergency situations. Cheapest option when on a budget to save money when travelling is using international telephone cards. With one AUD 10 card, you can talk to the USA for longer than 2 hours. Keep in mind that making a lot of shorter calls will costs you more than a 1 longer call. For instance 6 calls of 10 minutes will cost you more than 1 call of an hour. There are lots of telephone cards available. Including: Ozcall, Daybreak and Gotalk. There are also lots of online sites to compare prices; just do a Google search such as ‘International telephone cards Australia.’ You can buy the cards from Newsagents or online and for a range of prices. To make it easy though buy them in even amounts of AUD 10, AUD 20 or AUD50 and use them from your home phone and also public phones.

Food and drink.

Eating out and drinking lots of alcohol can be very expensive. Depending on the bar or restaurant beer can cost from AUD 2.50 up to AUD 7.00.


Size of glass will determine the price. The Beer names given to different beer glass sizes varies from city to city in Australia and generally from state to state. For example asking for a Schooner in most Victorian or Western Australian Pubs will earn you a confused or annoyed look, as the don’t serve that size. Ordering a ‘Beer’ in Victoria will get you a 285ml (10 oz) ‘Pot’ however if you said the same thing in a Queensland Pub you might find yourself with a smaller 200ml (7 oz) glass. In other words a Pot (in Qld) is the same thing as a Middie (in NSW) and usually is a comfortable size to enjoy a beer. A schooner is larger and a pint is larger again. A jug of beer is (literally a jug of beer) is 1140ml or 40oz is the largest of all. Careful though, you’re not meant to drink straight from the jug, pour it into a pot (middie) and enjoy! Ordering spirit drinks (rum, bourbon, vodka etc) at a bar will normally cost you from about AUD 7.


One way to save is buying alcohol at a bottle shop. There are big ‘superstores’ such as LiquorChoice and Dan Murphys in all capital and some regional cities. A six pack of local beer (xxxx, Tooheys, Cascade etc) will be anywhere from $12 to over $20. A carton of beer consists of 24 cans or stubbies (small bottles). Local beer will set you back anywhere between AUD 35 to AUD 65.


Australia boasts some of the finest wines in the world and I highly recommend you try some while you’re here. The prices range but you can usually get a ‘good drop’ for about AUD 15.


Look for the ‘clean skins’, which are bottles with no brand. Some have labels some don’t but they are often in the bargain bin but can be tasty surprises. A ‘clean skin’ will cost you about AUD 7.

Eating out

Australia has all the main food chains McDonalds, KFC, Hungry Jacks Wine Australia boasts some of the finest wines in the world and I highly recommend you try some while you’re here. The prices range but you can usually get a ‘good drop’ for about AUD 15. I especially like the light variety of Moscato. It won’t give you a hangover and it won’t dent the budget. Subway and numerous pizza franchises: If you want to stay healthy on a budget Subway is a good option. They offer special prices for certain subs on each day of the week. Some pizza outlets such as Dominoes offer discounts on a Tuesday.


For budget travellers (backpackers and families) the best option is to: Buy food at the supermarket such as cheese, ham, and chicken and make sandwiches to pack for traveling. Also consider buying ‘popper’ packs, which are little square packs of juices that usually come in packs of 6. Australians love their pub meals and I highly recommend them. They can be costly though, expect to pay from AUD 15 upwards.Smokers Better stop smoking, as a packet will cost you about AUD 15 for a packet of 20 cigarettes. Some states in Australia also have strict laws about where smoking is allowed. Queensland probably has the toughest laws of all with smoking banned in indoor and outdoor public places. Also Queensland has just brought in a new law banning people smoking in cars if children under 16 are in the car too. Fine is $200 on the spot!


Movies (Cinemas): Go on a Tuesday, tickets are cheaper. DVDs: Again, buy on a Tuesday. Many outlets offer reduced prices on this day for whatever reason. Free entertainment for kids: Kids love beaches and there are loads along Eastern Australia. Keep the kids entertained for free by stopping off at some. Kids also love parks, and parents love them because they are free. Why not stop off at our great parks, which are often near beaches. The playground equipment is tested to the highest safety standards so you can rest assured the kids can play hard and then rest hard!


There are lots of ways of ways to save loads of money when travelling in Australia on a budget. My best advice is to plan ahead. That doesn’t mean a regimented itinerary but just some forethought such as picking up some groceries at the supermarket the morning you plan on setting off. My other super tip is to budget and add at least 20% on that. If there’s one thing I have learned in my travels is that despite all my good intentions and strategies I have always gone over budget. Hopefully though I have given you some tools and tips that will mean you keep more of your hard earned money in your pocket and leave the Australian East Coast with loads of happy memories!

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