Travellers planning a trip around Australia will no doubt be aware of all the big attractions – climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge, surfing at Bondi Beach, driving the Great Ocean Road, having fun at the theme parks on the Gold Coast and scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef.
Chances are you'll need to have a fat wallet in order to see and do all of these things. So, we've compiled 101 travel tips, hacks and shortcuts to help you enjoy travelling around Australia - whilst not burning a hole in your pocket.
Things to see and do across Australia
Here are some of the lesser known things you can do around Australia for free or next to nothing, starting in Sydney and then going beyond:
Coastal Walks – You can do the gorgeous walk between the famous Bondi around to Tamarama. On the walk along the coastline you can check out the colourful Sculptures by the Sea (29 Oct - 15 Nov 09). On the northern side of the city there's also the Manly to Spit walk.
Kuringai National Park - Depending of course where you're staying, and providing the weather is co-operative, any of the local parks dotted in and around the cities make for a lovely place to stop, watch the passing scenery and have a bite to eat.
Hyde Park – Free to walk around and catch the annual Noodle Markets and art lining the central walkway of the park during October.
Centennial Park – Free to walk around but only a small fee to yee-haw it on horseback!
Sydney's Botanical Gardens - Free to roam around and get a beautiful aspect of the harbour, opera house and bridge all in the same photo. You'll experience the local fruit bats, ibis and cockatoo's in close proximity to the CBD.
Homebush - Home to the Sydney Olympics in 2000, this a great place to walk or cycle.
Circular Quay - A great place for sight-seeing and taking in some local culture.
Bondi Beach – In many respects Bondi is the epicentre Australian lifestyle (sun, sand and surf). However, parking at Bondi is notorious and the parking stingers will pounce on any offenders! Ideally park your vehicle at King's Cross or Bondi Junction and catch the bus over for your day at the beach.
Tap Gallery, Darlinghurst – Free exhibition of "fringe" art and cheap drinks.
Free Pool Tables – Be on the lookout for a number of Sydney CBD bars and hotels offer free use of pool tables including the Roof Bar, every Tuesday until Saturday after 5pm or the Golden Barley, 167 Edgeware Road, Enmore on Tuesdays after 7pm. Also check out Nag's Head Hotel, 162 St Johns Road, Glebe for free pool tables all day Sunday.
Mardi Gras (Sydney) - fantastic colourful & lively, it's a yearly spectacle that you can catch early March.
Luna Park (Sydney) – It's free to get into Luna Park but if you want to experience one of the rides it'll cost around $10.
Combined Pass or Discovery Triple Pass –
Save up to 20% off full price admission for the Sydney Aquarium, Sydney Tower (including OzTrek) and the Sydney Wildlife World.
Sydney Opera House – The iconic landmark on Sydney's harbour. You're free to roam around outside but a 1 hour guided tour inside will set you back $35 for adults. Save up to $6 when you book it online.
Visit the set of Home & Away – That's right, drive up to Palm Beach on the Northern Beaches of Sydney and you can wander around where the beach scenes of Home & Away are filmed. Time it right and you can watch the show being filmed too!
16. Kincumber Mountain Reserve, Central Coast – Check out the historic Aboriginal carvings and axe-grinding grooves which can be seen at Kincumber Mountain Reserve amongst the 700 ha of undisturbed rainforests.
City Ghost Tours – At the Rocks (Sydney), Picton (Sydney's south), Quarantine Centre (Manly) and Melbourne, not to mention at places like Port Arthur in Tasmania
Queen Victoria Markets – Melbourne's Queen Victoria's market host an eclectic mix of food, art, clothing and home wares (to name but a few) worth a stroll-through.
Melbourne’s Free City Tram - Melbourne is home to the free city circle tram which you can hop on and hop off anywhere along the route.
Haigh's Chocolates, Adelaide – Situated in Adelaide, Haigh's offer a free 20 minute tour of their chocolate factory along with free samples afterward!
Hobart's Salamanca Markets - Not to be missed if you're in Tasmania.
Bus Depot Markets, Kingston, Canberra – Check out the excellent quality hand-made foods, crafts and art
Floriade, Canberra - Held each September in Canberra it's a beautiful month floral display that you should check out if you're passing through. Entry during the day is free.
Koala Hospital, Port Macquarie – Port Macquarie is situated half way between Sydney and Brisbane on the NSW Mid North Coast. Get up close to injured koalas and kangaroo's for free.
Byron Bay Lighthouse – Visit the most easterly point in all of Australia and practice your pointing pose. The lighthouse is free to look around as are the walks.
Minyon Waterfalls, Byron Bay – Surrounded by rainforest. Free entry to the national park with plenty of places to hike and picnic.
Pacific Fair on the Gold Coast - A lovely place to spend the day browsing, shopping and walking around in the open air.
Gold Coast Theme Parks - Various theme parks are located on the southern end of the Gold Coast – Dreamworld, Movieworld, Seaworld, Wet'n'Wild and White Water World. The parks are a real hit with little kids and big kids. Save money by purchasing a combined pass.
Frasier Island, Queensland – Visiting this world heritage listed tourist destination is a real must but expect to pay around AU$300 for an island tour.
Great Barrier Reef – There's no ultra-cheap way to see the Great Barrier Reef due to the sheer size of the reef and distance needing to be travelled. However, a couple of hundred dollars will take you on a fishing charter off the reef.
Federation Walkway – It won't cost you a cent to stroll along the 620m Federation Walkway. Open 9 to 5 everyday, the path weaves through the grey gum canopy and affords you views of the Kings Park botanical gardens, Perth, Western Australia.
Bibbulmun Track, WA – This is only for hardcore trekkers! The long-distance walk trail is a world-class, 963 kilometre trek that stretches from Kalamunda to Albany.
Sunset at Cottesloe Beach, Perth – Think about this; most Aussies never get to watch the sun setting into the sea because most Aussies live on the eastern side of the country. Enjoy watching the sun set over the Indian Ocean.
Australia is full of great wine regions, and while purchasing wines will obviously cost money, sampling them usually won't. Do it even cheaper and cycle around vineyard to vineyard. We recommend you visit the following wine regions:
The Barossa (South Australia) – Settled 165 years ago by European immigrants, the Barossa is now home to a thriving wine community with world renowned brands, boutique wine companies and artisan winemakers.
Hunter Valley (NSW) – Just a few hours' drive north of Sydney you‟ll find the Hunter Valley famed for its wine, olives and chocolates.
Mudgee (NSW) – Why not park up and cycle around the boutique vineyards for a picturesque (and energetic) wine tasting tour.
Yarra Valley (Victoria) – A wine region akin to Bordeaux or Burgundy. Situated closest to Melbourne, this is where you can sample yet more great wines and port.
Margaret River (WA) – Three hours drive from Perth, you'll arrive at Margaret River, the enthusiastic wine region of the west coast. There are no less than 110 local wineries to visit.
Travel Tips for Cheap Food and Drink
Eating out at restaurants, pubs and bars could quickly deplete the traveller's budget. Aside from preparing your own meals or eating bush tucker, here are a few ideas for finding cheap food and drink:
Free Water Refills - Refill a water bottle at a public bubbler (water fountain) instead of spending $2.50 per bottle of water. Beware; do not drink from any taps marked as 'bore water' as it‟s not safe for consumption.
Coffee Culture – Australians love coffee. The average price for a cup of coffee in Australia is AU$3.00
Shopping Malls - To get away with spending little you can hit the food courts in any of the shopping malls at around closing time and grab a dinner or three for a fraction of the cost.
Do Lunch – When you're on the road it's so tempting to eat out at restaurants every night. So, if you're set on eating out, why not go for lunch instead? Lunch menus are usually much cheaper than evening menu's for dinner.
Shopper dockets - Take advantage of 'shopper dockets' and coupons, which see meal and drink offers on the reverse of receipts issued with purchases.
Hostels – If you're ever staying in hostels watch out for cheap meals on offer. Or you can help with cooking meals for a greatly reduced price – or even free.
RSL’s – There's hardly a town or suburb in Australia without a local RSL club (known as the “aarry”). You'll always find cheap and cheerful meals and cheap drinks in a truly local venue.
Money Saving Shopping Tips
Check out our money saving tips for travellers seeking a bargain in Australia:
Shopping Malls – There is no shortage of shopping malls with free and plentiful parking for a certain amount of time (after which you'll have to pay). Many are located near train lines and public transport is well-connected.
Cheap(er) Movie Tickets – What better to do on an overcast day than go to the cinema? It's also a great way to get out of the heat on a hot day. Enjoy the movie and the air conditioned cinema watching a decent movie. And many of the big cinema chains offer cheaper tickets on 'cheap Tuesdays'.
Factory Outlets -
DFO Outlets at Homebush (Sydney) and Essendon, South Wharf (Melbourne) allow you shop for best loved Aussie brands up to 60%.
Surf Shops - For the surfers amongst us, you can't go past the many 1,000's of surf shops (particularly on the Gold Coast) where you can purchase a board from the shapers that make them. The Gold Coast always has a glut of excellent, cheap 2nd hand boards for sale.
Tips for Free (or Cheap) Sporting Events
Australia excels at sport and it would almost be a shame to visit Australia and not go to one sporting event. Check out some of the sporting highlights that are either completely free or cheap to attend:
Quiksilver Gold Coast Pro - Each year the surfing World Tour kicks off at Coolangatta, Queensland. Watch for free right on the beach as the top professional surfers battle it out in the waves for US$340,000 up prize money. (Date: End of Feb – Mid March)
Rip Curl Pro – Iconic Bells Beach, Torquay, Victoria hosts the second event on the surfing WCT. The contest has been running each year since 1973 and is about as core to surfing as you're likely to get. (Date: End of March – Mid April)
Manly Annual Surf Carnival – Manly is 7 miles away from the hustle and bustle of Sydney's CBD and each year the Surf Life Saving Club run the Surfing Festival runs over days in January. It's a lot of fun and you might pick up some new skills.
Noosa Longboard Festival - Grab a spot on the beach or the Noosa headland and watch the surfers cruise on down the point. The festival runs from Nov.
54. Cricket – Go to a cricket game during the Australian summer. The average ticket price for a 20/20 cricket game at one of the 7 venues is around $30-$40. It's best to buy tickets online.
Rugby League – No helmets, no padding, real men. The season runs from March to October and you can get a ticket usually for about $30 off.
AFL Aussie Rules –The hybrid Aussie sport has its main fan base in the states of Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia. The season runs from March to August. Grab cheap tickets from $19 for a fun night at a game.
Rugby Union – Known as 'the game they play in heaven' rugby union is most popular in NSW. Get cheap tickets from $30 online.
Horse racing – On the first Tuesday in November, Melbourne is host to the Melbourne Cup. 'The Race that Stops a Nation'. And, if you're really into your horses you can go to the most famous racecourses. Keep your eye out for venues such pubs and hotels where you can watch the live action for free on big screens.
Travel Tips for Staying Safe
Australia is a vast country where wildlife can kill, the sunshine can burn and other dangers lurk. Check out our travel tips for staying safe and making your travel around Australia an enjoyable trip:
59. Sun Care – The constant sunshine is appealing but it also is dangerous. Proper care is required with respect to sunburn. A hat, sunglasses, sunblock and adequate clothing is a must.
Take cover at the beach – Do your skin a favour, invest a mere $30 and buy a sun shelter beach tent. It'll give you 100% UV proof lining. Go halves with your travel mate and you can spend more time at the beach without being burnt to toast!
Wildlife – It's true, Australia is home to many dangerous creatures, so care is a must when bushwalking, at the beach or in the bush. Even cute kangaroos can be pack a (deadly) mean upper-cut... if provoked.
Don’t wander off – You might think that you are Bear Grilles but going into the wild in Australia is fraught with danger. Bush walking is popular with tourists but be careful and stay on the bushwalk tracks.
Emergency Services Numbers - Call 000 for the emergency services anywhere in Australia.
Protect your wallet – As always, watch out for credit card thieves and skimmers. Be vigilant with ATM's as criminal gangs have been known to set up dummy ATM card readers coupled with mini-cameras which can read PIN numbers from as far away as 100 metres.
The ATM ate my card! – Imagine the scene: you‟re 10,000kms away from your local bank but the ATM eats your card! If possible try to keep use of ATM's during business hours at a bank. That way, you‟ll be able to have it retrieved much easier.
Secure your documents – Spare yourself some drama by storing your passport and traveller's cheques safely. Also, make digital copies of your passport, traveller’s cheques and emergency numbers then email it to yourself or store in Google Docs.
Personal safety – If you're not able to drive and need a taxi, stay safe and only use a registered taxi.
On the road
Travelling around Australia by road is wonderful experience and gives you so much freedom to go wherever you want, whenever you want. Check out our list of travel tips for the road:
Free Parking - If you are driving around the cities and towns parking can be a bit of a 'head melt'. However, you are allowed to park in clearways between the allocated times. Take heed of the parking signs.
Speed Limits – Remember that the national speed limits are KPM not MPH. Road traffic police are not likely to let you off the hook if you plead ignorance!
Avoid Speeding Tickets – In some states speed cameras are very clearly marked. There will be 3 roadside signs telling you of upcoming speed cameras, in other states there are no warnings at all! Take heed and stick to the speed limit.
School Zone Speed Limits – Watch out for alternating speed limits and speed cameras around schools. If school is on, the speed limit will change to a lower limit in the morning and afternoon when school kids are coming and going.
Other Road Traffic Fines - Always wear your seatbelt, it is a legal requirement. On bank holidays, there are double demerit points & nasty fines for not wearing a seatbelt and fines for mobile phone use while driving.
Road safety - It might be stating the bleeding obvious, but care needs to be taken when driving – or even walking – in Australia, particularly if you are accustomed to driving on the right-hand side of the road. Tourists are injured (or worse) each year simply because they fail to check traffic correctly before crossing the road (remember to look right first then left).
Stop, Revive & Survive - Don't drive for hours and hours without having a break, Look out for yourself, your passengers and others on the roads by stopping at
Stop, Revive & Survive stations & lay-bys for free teas + coffees.
Cheapest Day to Buy Petrol - Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the cheapest days to top up on fuel for your
campervan (so says
MotorMouth). This alone will save you between $0.05 - $0.10 per litre and up to $0.15 for city based areas. Avoid Fri & Sat also wherever possible and avoid the start of Australian holidays/long weekends when prices will be unfairly hiked up by as much as 25 cents.
Another Way to Save Money On Petrol - Keep the dockets (receipts) from Coles, Safeway, Woolworths, Big W & a host of other stores. Check out the bottom or back of receipts for fuel coupons. These coupons will save you up to $0.08 per litre simply by presenting your docket.
Tourist Maps - Get free tourist maps at acredited information centres and information stands all on major streets across the city. These info booths are set up to help with free info about things to go and see locally.
Tips on How to Get Work
If you are coming to Australia on a working holiday or you‟re headed Down Under for more than just a holiday, then here are our tips on how to get work:
Word of mouth – If you're on a working holiday to Australia one of the best places to find work is from your contacts in the hostels and from other backpackers.
On the Web - There are certain employment websites (such as
Career One) that will make things easier
Newspapers – Check out the jobs in any of the free local newspapers for access to local employers who might be interested in the skills and experience of the working holiday maker. The big national and region daily newspapers tend to advertise only the career jobs.
Qualifications - If you have some of the basic qualifications (like Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA) or experience in the building industry) then it can be easy to find temporary employment to help fund your travels.
Green Card – Safety regulations in Australia are strict. To work on building sites and the like you'll need to sit a test and earn a green card which will legally allow you to work there.
Freelance Work - Freelance writing, blogging, graphic design, consulting or data entry is a real possibility, where all you need are skills in the English language and a laptop will mean you can work from your hostel or hotel room.
Flexible hours - Call centre work requires no formal qualifications, and the hours are flexible with many centres operating 'round-the-clock'.
Tech Tips and Travel Apps
If you have a smart phone like an iPhone or Android then why not download one of the following apps to help you on your travels around Australia:
Free WiFi – Check your email, make travel arrangements etc from your smart phone or laptop from free WiFi hotspots. Find and use the internet using free WiFi at popular coffee shops and the golden arches.
Cheap SIM Cards – When you arrive buy a cheap Vodafone PAYG SIM card and insert it into your mobile phone. This way you can keep your phone bill down.
AroundMe – This free app shows you where you are (handy for the traveller who has no sense of bearing!) and what is closest to you, such as petrol stations, hospitals, banks, grocery stores and the like. Much like a GPS for your phone this
travel app could be your new best friend for both the first-time traveller and the experienced jet-setter.
Places Directory (for Android) – This free
places app allows you to browse nearby places in categories like Restaurants, Movie Theatres, Hotels and Banks. Developed by Google engineers for the Android.
Layar (for Android) - Only truly of help in the big cities
Layar is an augmented reality browser app that shows what is around you by displaying real time digital information on top of reality through the camera of your mobile phone.
Next Flight App - Handy if you've missed a flight and want to reschedule. With the ability to filter by airline, the
Next Flight app will help you get on your way with a minimum of fuss and stress.
Hear Planet - Know where you are but not what to do? This handy little app will allow you to plan your day by informing you about what attractions are near you.
World Customs App – Although you'll be hard pressed to offend the locals it is advisable to check out World Customs. It'll help you keep on the right side of the locals and the law.
Currency Exchange Rates Apps – There are too many free to use currency exchange rate apps to list. Such apps will help you figure out if you‟re buying at bargain prices or not.
Taxes and Visas
Keep your journey around Australia legal and above board:
Working Holiday Visa - A working holiday gives you the best of both worlds. You can holiday when you want, but legally work on a temporary or casual basis to add funds to your bank account when it looks like they're getting a little low. Just remember you can only work to top up your funds - not make a career. Depending on what country you're from, you need to apply for a particular subclass of working holiday visa, and not having one and being caught working will see you in trouble – and perhaps even deported (thus effectively putting an end to your holiday!)
Income – Remember you'll need to pay tax for any work you do in Australia. The percentage can vary depending on the kind of work you do. So remember to register for a TFN and/or ABN. Avoid paying emergency tax like the plague.
Student Visa - If you come to Australia to study you would have a Student Visa – and you are, of course, free to travel during semester breaks.
Visitors' Visa - enables you to come and go as much or as little as you like, provided no stay is longer than three months. It expires after 12 months, or when your passport does.
Departure Tax at Sydney Airport – This fee will already be included in the price of your ticket, but is more than AU$30 for passengers aged 12 years and over.
Goods and Services Tax (GST) – Many items purchased in Australia incur a G.S.T. of 10% of the total price. G.S.T. will be refunded on goods over $300 purchased in Australia when departing Australia. Other taxes in place, such as a fuel surcharge, so ensure the price you're quoted for the ticket is the absolute final price.
Reclaim your Super – Super is basically a pension fund that an employer will contribute towards for their employees. So, if you've worked in Australia on your working holiday you can rightfully reclaim your super.
Extend Your Stay - Want your holiday to continue? If you can handle some back breaking fruit picking or farm labour for work 3 months then the immigration can extend your WHM visa for an extra 12 months.
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