Couldn’t resist this one. If you’re going to write a post about money it’s got to be Pink Floyd or Abba that accompanies it (I guess at a stretch you could argue for Fifty Cent). This is a rare difference of opinion for us but Andy’s writing it so he won.
We don’t plan to write a lot of posts about how much we’re spending to travel. However, we thought it might be useful to give some idea of what our travel costs are in Australia. We’re quite clear that although we’re travelling on a budget, we’re not budget travellers. Therefore, whilst we do save money by camping, housesitting and cooking for ourselves, when the opportunity arises, we also splurge. If you’re looking for information on how to travel as cheaply as possible in Australia, this post may not be for you. If, however, you’re interested to see what your travel costs might be if you still want to indulge in some of the good things in life, carry on reading.
Managing our money
We keep most of our money in a savings account to earn interest and transfer funds into a transaction account as needed. We use very little cash. That’s easy to do in Australia as just about everywhere takes cards, even coffee shops and taxis. We use three credit cards, all of which give us airline points. One of them also doesn’t charge for international transactions so that will be our primary card when overseas. We pay off the balances every month so never have to pay interest. The points come in useful for flights and we can also use them for booking hotels. To add to our airline points we are members of supermarket frequent shopper schemes which also contribute to the balance.
We do set ourselves a budget and we use the app Trail Wallet produced by Simon of Never Ending Voyage to keep a track of our travel costs. All of the budget images and graphs in this post are taken from the app. We recommend it highly and actually used it before we began travelling to keep an eye on our budget as we tried to maximise our savings.
Costs in Australia
This post centres on a period of travel that took us 53 days from Cairns through Queensland, New South Wales and Canberra to Victoria. Most of this journey is detailed in our posts; ‘Trains, Planes, Automobiles……and Dinosaurs’, ‘How Aussie Can You Get?’, ‘Swallow Don’t Spit Chapter 2’, and ‘We love Australia, but what about Canberra‘.
We had allowed ourselves $10,000 for this portion of our trip which equates to $188.68 per day or $94.34 per person. In general, in Australia we are aiming to average less than $200 per day for all travel costs.
Another important thing to note is that these are our total living costs. Our accommodation is instead of us paying a mortgage or rent, and associated bills. It’s interesting to add up what it costs to live for nearly two months if you’re not travelling full time.
NB: All amounts referred to are in Australian Dollars (AUD) but we’ll just be using the $ symbol for simplicity.
You can see that overall, our spending for this period came in under budget at $9407.41 or an average of $177.50 per day. Result – we did it. These travel costs were incurred across three States and The Capital Territory. They also represent a mix of regional and metropolitan locations. We therefore think they give a pretty good guide to the cost of travel in Australia when you’re not penny pinching.
Using Trail Wallet you also have an easy to read breakdown of how your travel costs fall into different categories. There are a number of useful categories already programmed in the app, and you can add your own. Here’s a breakdown of the categories where we spent the most.
We spent the most on food at $2,372.11, averaging out at $44.76 per day or $22.38 each. We cook for ourselves the majority of the time, but we also like a bit of a treat when we have the chance. Our biggest single food expenditure was on a meal at Subo restaurant in Newcastle which cost us $283 but that did include wine. That weekend was an expensive one as we were staying in a hotel so had to eat out all the time. Our total food costs in Newcastle were nearly $450. In contrast, during the five days immediately after when we were housesitting, we only spent $105 on food; $25 per day or $12.50 each.
We think that if you didn’t splurge and just had the occasional pub meal or takeaway it would be fairly easy to feed a couple well for $30 per day.
The pictures below sum up our approach to food. Cooking with our camping stove on the deck of an AirBnB one night, dinner at Subo the next.
This category represented the second highest amount of our travel costs. The total was $1,854.49 averaging out at $34.99 per night. Our most expensive night was the train carriage at Undara Lava Tubes which cost $180. Apart from that night we spent another 5 nights paying for hotel or motel rooms. Our total spend on hotels was $750.85 averaging out at $125 per night. Not counted in this are three additional hotel nights which we booked using airline points.
We had 17 nights camping. The most expensive was $40 per night in the Hunter Valley, and the cheapest was a free camp at Smoko near Bright in Victoria. Our average cost for accommodation when we camped was $26.50 per night.
The most expensive AirBnB we stayed in was $97 per night in the New South Wales Southern Highlands. ‘The Bothy’ was, however, a fantastic unit and we had it all to ourselves. The cheapest nights were in Lake Macquarie where we had our own bedroom, bathroom and living area in Jessica’s house. This was $41 per night. Our 9 nights in AirBnBs averaged out at $79 per night.
Finally, we had two housesits during this part of our travels. These accounted for 16 nights where we had no accommodation costs. We also stayed at a friends house for two nights where again we had nothing to pay.
We think this gives a fairly good representation of the costs of different types of accommodation. As stated above the costs also represent accommodation across a mix of regional and metropolitan locations. If you’re not a fan of camping and you don’t want to housesit, your average accommodation costs could still come in under $100 per night for a couple. This would be based on a mix of hotels and shared AirBnB rentals.
For the eagle eyed among you, the totals from each type of accommodation add up to slightly more than the overall total. This is because we had to pay cash for three of the cheapest campsite nights. This is accounted for in the Miscellaneous category explained below.
This is a category where we probably could spend less. At $1774.74 or $33.49 per day I’m sure many other couples wouldn’t spend as much. However, it’s fair to say we like our wine and our coffee. We don’t go out to pubs and bars that much but we do like a few glasses of wine of an evening. Most of the time we seek out the bargains in this area too. We’re lucky that in Australia, local wine is really good and it is possible to buy a decent bottle for $10 or $15. Exceptions to this rule include when we’re visiting wine regions. The Hunter Valley formed part of this trip as you can read in ‘Swallow Don’t Spit Chapter 2’. Whilst there we spent around $800 so that accounts for a fair bit of this spend.
It’s not just wine we’re partial to. There is a growing craft beer industry in Australia. Whenever we’re somewhere with a brewery we like to sample the local brews. We wrote about one of these times in ‘How Aussie Can You Get; Bogans, Kangaroos and Beer in New South Wales’. Newcastle and Canberra have great craft beer cultures so we took advantage when we visited.
Not all visitors will want to spend as much as we do in this category so it would be a fairly easy way to cut costs. Maybe when our savings are dwindling it will be an area of travel costs we cut back on too (or maybe not).
We couldn’t have travelled everywhere we have without a capable four wheel drive vehicle. The downside of this is that it isn’t very fuel efficient so that accounts for most of our spend in this category. We both had fuel cards when we were working so we didn’t worry too much about fuel costs. However, we’re now super sleuths when it comes to tracking down the cheapest fuel in town.
Some of our spending does relate to public transport, particularly when we were in metropolitan areas. In Canberra, for instance we bought MyWay cards and hardly used the car. We also took the occasional Uber. The total amount we spent on transport was $1591.90 or $30.04 per day.
Incidentally, the car didn’t need any servicing in this part of our travels. However we have incurred those costs in other sections of our Australian journey and still kept our average spend under $200 per day.
We don’t spend a lot on entertainment as most of the things we do are free. The biggest spend in this category was our private wine tour in the Hunter Valley. That amounted to over 50% of our total spend of $735.94.
This spend of $522 is mostly cash we took out from ATMs. As mentioned above we don’t use much cash but some places don’t accept cards. We therefore just put these travel costs down to miscellaneous although some of the spend might more accurately be accounted for in one of the other categories.
We spent fairly small amounts in the remaining categories; clothes, health & beauty and kit. Indeed, the spend across these three categories only amounted to 6% of our total travel costs. Health and beauty is anything spent in a pharmacy and haircuts etc. Not that Andy has any spending there. Kit includes our phone credit and we’ve purchased a few small bits of kit we’ve found we’ve needed along the way. A good example were some small picnic stools. When we stop for a picnic lunch it’s good to have seats easily to hand rather than take our camping chairs off the roof of the jeep. We’ve also not needed to buy many new clothes on our travels as yet.
We achieved our goal of spending under $200 a day. We think that anyone could do this and not feel like they were on an ultra strict budget.
Even without camping or housesitting, as detailed above, we think that if you shop around, you can get good quality accommodation for around $90 per night. An average of $30 per day can feed a couple well, even with the occasional meal out. To properly explore Australia you really do need to factor in transport at around $30 per day. Entertainment and drink could easily be covered for a couple with $25 a day.
If you add in $20 a day contingency for the remaining categories this gives a total of $195 a day. As we stated at the beginning this guide is intended for travellers on a budget not budget travellers. We’re sure you could get by on less but this hopefully gives you an idea of what it’s costing us.