Australia Budget Breakdown

In South America, most people were confounded when we told them our itinerary landed us less than two weeks in the world’s sixth largest country. Why not three months? Why not a working holiday visa? Why so little time?

As was our approach to the fifth largest country, we knew there was way too much to see, way too little time to see it, and it would be more expensive than our budget could sustain for a long-term visit. Australia is a fantastic country and, like Brazil, we hope someday to be able to return and seek out the many wonders in full. But, on this round-the-world trip, we chose a few critical must-sees down under and enjoyed our two weeks to their max.

Now, you may remember I said that Australia was cheaper than New Zealand for us. Originally, we expected our visit to cost us approximately $180 per day, or $90 per person a day. How did we do?

Total Spent: $1,805.48
Days in Country: 12
Daily Total: $150.46
Daily Per Person: $75.23

Woo! Cheap cheap! Here’s the detailed breakdown:

Money Spent % of Budget
Accommodation $380.12 21%
Eating Out $180.01 10%
Entertainment $71.39 4%
Going Out $14.28 1%
Groceries $218.27 12%
Miscellaneous $46.64 3%
Tours $326.81 18%
Transport $567.96 31%

Official Exchange Rate was 1.09 AUD per 1 USD. 

Transport - as usual - was our biggest cost. Other than a ferry from Clarke Quay to Manly and a parking meter charge, all of our transportation costs involved transfer to, from, and between airports: we took as many internal flights in Australia as we did in all of South America. Normally this would be bonkers if you’re on a budget, but it was the cheapest option for us. Long distance buses on our route were more expensive than planes and, despite trying until the last minute, we weren’t able to snag any last minute relocation deals. So, we flew between Sydney, Brisbane, and Cairns. After driving everywhere in New Zealand, it was a bit of a relief to be able to plop into a plane seat and relax for a couple hours at a time. Sydney to Brisbane cost us about US$90 a person while Brisbane to Cairns cost about US$95, both on Jetstar.

Accommodation was on par percentage-wise with our usual spending, but it could have been higher. Cathy, John, Martin, and Ziggy were the best hosts of all time and made our visit in Sydney truly special. 7 months later and we still think about how great we had it with them. In terms of budget, it also helped keep our accommodation costs down, but that was really just the second type of chocolate icing on an already incredible vanilla-raspberry-marzipan cake. We used points in Brisbane to offset the cost of a nice hostel in an otherwise expensive and lackluster market and stayed in a dorm at the solid Northern Greenhouse.

Unlike any of the countries before, our Groceries costs were higher than our Eating Out costs. Part of the reason for this is that we stocked up on toiletries in Cairns the day before we caught our flight out of the country. One night in Brisbane was spent tasting a wide variety of the myriad craft brews available in Australia, which we put under Groceries. And we just didn’t eat out very often - most of the time it was sandwiches or fish and chips or coffee. Breakfast and Dinner were always prepared in our hostel which is always the budget-conscious choice. In terms of percentage, though, both of them came in around what we expected them to.

Tours was another big category this time around thanks to our Great Barrier Reef trip. Yup, that whole category is just the one tour. SO completely worth it - I mean, did you see those photos?

Entertainment accounts for our entry to the Australian Museum in Sydney and the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane. Miscellaneous accounts for a memory card for our camera after we forgot to bring a backup to said koala sanctuary, sea sickness medication for our reef tour, and a Virgin Mobile SIM card and prepaid plan. Unlike New Zealand where we were most concerned about having an internet backup and a safety net while roadtripping, here we were mostly concerned with staying in touch with people. The data was useful a few times when looking for food or sending a picture, but it was most important for us to have the phone/text capability. Reception was good wherever we went, but we never ventured far outside of the cities. Overall it was worth it for us, but if we hadn’t had people to stay in touch with we wouldn’t have purchased it.


Sydney - 5 Days
Brisbane - 4 Days
Cairns - 3 Days

Australia in Retrospect

A short, sweet taste of a country that was everything you could ever want, we loved our time in Australia (I think I start every retrospect something like this…). I’m glad we approached it the way we did, content to leisurely explore the few cities we visited and focus on a few important experiences. It was an injustice to only visit Australia for twelve days - it would have been a greater injustice to run ourselves more ragged and not enjoy the little time we had there.

I think in reading Anais’s account of our Great Barrier Reef tour you really get a sense for just how amazing our visit was. Growing up for both of us the reef was a source of wonder and imaginings, something far off that neither of us were ever sure we’d get a chance to see. Getting to see it ourselves, to explore the coral and the abundant wildlife, was another dream come true. We chose a more expensive cruise option, but we’ve come to embrace that for big things like this since it’s often worth it to spend more money for a better experience.

Sydney and Brisbane are both cities that have a lot going for them. Sydney is certainly the darling between the two, but the relaxed attitude of Brisbane had us at hello. It helped in both cities to have the advice of true locals guiding our movements and choices and we wouldn’t have enjoyed either of them as much without their wonderful advice.

This short retrospect is perfect for our time there - short. As much as we want to get a campervan and go vagabonding across New Zealand, Australia might have a stronger hold on us in that category as there is so much more left for us to explore there. It would be a very expensive proposition to explore either country this way, so it likely won’t be in the cards for a while, but we will return someday. There’s just too much calling out to us not to go back.

As with all things, though, the only path is forwards, and so after a relaxing stay in Australia, it was time to start the longest section of our adventure - Asia. The time had finally come and, after a surprise business class flight, we touched down in Singapore for an eight month journey that we still haven’t seen the end of.