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What is the cheapest way to travel Australia? I spent a year down under for only $5000… and I’ll show you how to travel Australia cheaply while having fun. See the popular East Coast of Australia to the budget cities in the South with little to no money… or as we say here “cheap as chips, mate”. Let’s go!
What Is The Cheapest Way To Travel To Australia?
Your cheapest option will depend on where you are departing from and when. Because the continent is so far from most other major cities, flying will probably be the cheapest way to travel to Australia.
|Depart||Arrive||Cost (Economy / One-Way / July 2023)|
|London||Sydney||From ≈A$700 (≈$370 GBP)|
|Los Angeles||Sydney||From ≈A$900 (≈$600 USD)|
|Vancouver||Sydney||From ≈A$1500 (≈$1360 CAD)|
|Hong Kong||Sydney||From ≈A$430 (≈$2250 HKD)|
How To Save Money Flying To Australia
- Low Season / Winter (June to August) is the cheapest time to fly to Australia, followed by the Shoulder Seasons of Autumn (March-May) and Spring (September-November).
- Sign up for the airline email newsletters in Australia: QANTAS, JetStar and Virgin Blue for sales/discounts, as well as the budget carriers in your departure country.
- Book in advance. Fares booked 6+ months in advance are significantly cheaper.
- Direct flights are the most expensive, so book journeys with 1 or 2 stopovers to save money.
How To Travel To Australia Cheaply By Sea
A less common way to travel to Australia is via sea – by cruise ship, freighter or sailboat. This isn’t a fast way to travel but is a scenic and budget alternative from some departure destinations.
Cheap Cruise Travel To Australia
Cruise travel booked in Low Season can be the source of bargains, as well as using Cruise Critic, a comparison website. Search for Repositioning Cruises, one-way trips where cruise ships are moved in the off-season.
Cheap Freight Travel To Australia
Some cargo and freight ships offer passenger travel to Australia for those who are happy to ride alongside containers in basic accommodation. The pandemic affected this travel option greatly, so you’ll need to research companies still operating, but I’ve read many stories of adventurous travellers speaking highly of it.
Cheap Sailboat Travel To Australia
Hiring a sailboat to travel to Australia is expensive and for experienced sailors only. Costs and duration vary widely but expect to spend $1000 AUD or more per day. Experienced sailors can work or volunteer to be part of a sailing crew. Aussie & Kiwi Yacht Crew list crewing opportunities. Join as many online groups/forums as you can and ask around. You may need to be flexible with your dates and departure location.
What Is The Cheapest Way To Travel Around Australia?
Australia, at 7.688 million km², is BIG (it’s the world’s sixth-largest country). You will, therefore, spend a bit of time using transport down under. After accommodation, this will be a major expense, so it helps to plan ahead.
Cheap Car Travel Around Australia
During my A$5000 Year Around Australia – purchasing a small second-hand car which I sold at the end of my trip – was the cheapest way to travel around Australia; for me. There are a number of associated risks (and costs) involved with this, so it is cheapest for longer trips only. Read this post for a breakdown of all of my costs and tips for saving money when buying a used vehicle in Australia.
If you want to drive for a short period, you’ll likely want to hire a car. Depending on the vehicle and how far you want to go, prices are ≈$50-$100 AUD/day. The highest prices occur around the Christmas/New Year period. Compare prices on Economy Bookings to find the best deal.
Cheap Air Travel Around Australia
To move around Australia, flights will be the quickest option but are rarely the cheapest. Distances between cities are vast, so occasionally a sale airfare is equivalent (or sometimes less) than by road – especially if you need to stop and include accommodation costs – but flights in Australia can be expensive.
|Cairns to Melbourne||≈3500km|
|Sydney to Melbourne||≈900km|
|Sydney to Perth||≈4150km|
|Melbourne to Darwin||≈3755km|
There are four domestic carriers – Qantas, Virgin Australia, Jetstar, and Rex – who cover the major cities and regional centres, most with multiple daily services. A new carrier, Bonza, launched in 2023 to offer discount fares to and from the smaller regional cities and towns.
|Depart||Arrive||Cost (Economy / One-Way / July 2023)|
Many of the same tips for saving money when flying to Australia apply to flying in Australia: book in Low Season and sign up for information on sale fares well in advance. Budget fares (like the ones above) are usually for the early and late flights of the day, with carry-on (<7kg baggage) only. Additional costs add up quickly, especially baggage, so for the cheapest flights in Australia – travel light.
Cheap Bus Travel Around Australia
Major Interstate Bus Companies include Greyhound Australia, Firefly (VIC), Premier Motor Service, Integrity Coaches (WA) and V/Line (VIC).
Firefly has services between Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide. Premier Motor Service travels along the East Coast from Eden (Southern NSW) to Sydney, Sydney to Brisbane and Brisbane to Cairns. Greyhound covers the greatest distance, with a 90-day Greyhound Bus pass for A$665 or a 120-day pass for A$789 valid for the entire Greyhound bus network.
There are over 2000 local bus companies in the country, many of which only cover a small geographic region (like the Northern Rivers of NSW, for example), so if leave the major tourist centres, you may need a local bus.
Sydney – Opal Card (trains, trams, buses and ferries);
Melbourne – myki (trains, trams and buses);
Brisbane – Translink Go Card (trains, trams, buses and ferries);
Adelaide – Metro Card (trains, trams and buses);
Perth – SmartRider (trains, trams and buses);
Hobart – Metro Greencard (buses);
Darwin – Tap & Ride Card (buses);
Canberra – MyWay (buses).
Cheap Train Travel Around Australia
There are more than 23 interstate train journeys, with trains offering a slow but scenic alternative to flying. Due to how long the journeys take, you can often book a ‘sleeper’ ticket that includes a bed in a small room on the train. Visit Australian Rail Maps for timetable and routes. Some of the most popular routes include:
|Sydney to Melbourne||XPT||A$78-$131|
|Sydney to Brisbane||XPT||A$67-$234|
|Brisbane to Cairns||Spirit of QLD||From A$390|
|Melbourne to Adelaide||Overland||From A$125|
The Ghan (Adelaide to Darwin) and Indian Pacific (Sydney to Perth) train services are tourist ‘experiences’ that cost from ≈A$2000-8000 and are booked out well in advance.
Interstate Train Passes
NSW: A Discovery Pass gives you “unlimited travel to 365+ destinations across NSW, Victoria, Queensland and the ACT” (on any Transport NSW regional train or coach, excluding suburban services) for between 14 days (A$232) and 6 months (A$420-$550).
QLD: A QLD Explorer Pass “offers unlimited travel for one or two months across the Queensland Rail Travel
network” for 30 days (A$299) or 60 days (A$389).
Other Cheap Travel Around Australia
Apps like Uber call themselves ‘ride-sharing’ but there aren’t many organised ways to find others to share the cost of a car ride or hire. You can try CoSeats, ShareYourRide, Facebook Groups or by asking other travellers. Rider Apps in Australia include Uber, Ola, Didi and Shebah (female-only drivers and passengers).
After some very famous murders in the 1990s (where a number of backpackers were slain by a serial killer while hitchhiking), fear around this is ingrained in the Australian psyche and you might get some well-meaning lectures about your safety along the way. Growing up with this, I’ve never hitchhiked here. Please be safe and do not ‘thumb a lift’ alone; especially if you are a woman – but you might find hitchwiki helpful.
What Is The Cheapest Way To Travel Australia’s East Coast?
For trips <30 days, the cheapest way to travel Australia’s East Coast is via bus.
A Greyhound East Coast Whimmit pass, with unlimited hop-on, hop-off travel between Melbourne and Cairns costs between A$265-$415. As I’ve mentioned, you can purchase a 90-day pass for A$665 or a 120-day pass for A$789 which is valid for the entire Greyhound bus network. Premier Motor Service offer a Sydney – Cairns pass for A$230 (30-day) and A$330 (90-day), plus a few shorter services too.
How To Travel Around Australia Cheap: My Top Tips
Cheap travel around Australia is within your grasp. Here are my top tips for success:
- Flying is usually the cheapest way to travel to Australia. Find specials from carriers like Qantas, Virgin Australia, Jetstar, and Rex – who cover the major cities and regional centres. A new carrier, Bonza, launched in 2023.
- Flying is often cheapest in Low Season (winter in Australia);
- Join a yacht crew;
- Volunteer, share and give;
- Smile when asking for a discount;
- East Coast bus travel is inexpensive but lengthy. Australia is very big!
- Buy a hop-on, hop-off bus pass – the cheapest way to travel around Australia (in my opinion) – flexibility vs cost.
- Buy a used car for longer trips with maximum flexibility – or hire a car;
- Train travel (public) is inexpensive and ‘sleeper’ night trains can be cheap accommodation, especially the regular Melbourne > Canberra > Sydney > service.
You can travel around Australia very cheaply with the right choice of transport. Will you buy or hire a car? Buy a bus pass? Travel by train to see the East Coast of Australia? With these tips, you’ll travel down under – cheaply on the best transport option for you – but without sacrificing any of the fun!
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Kate is a teacher, writer and CEOh of ohnomad.com and teachenglishonline.com.au. After travelling for years, she became a digital nomad/house sitter in 2019. Offline, she’s patting every dog at the park. Online: Twitter/LinkedIn.