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There’s no denying that a trip to Australia is not exactly budget-friendly. Not only do plane fares from the U.S. run into the thousands of dollars, but food, lodging and entertainment in Australia is more expensive than in other destinations. One way travelers can save money is by backpacking and staying in hostels and campgrounds instead of hotels. If you think you want to backpack around Australia, here are some things you should know.
Backpacking around Australia doesn’t necessarily mean hiking. While you can certainly hike – and camp – within Australia’s many national parks and along the major hiking trails, you can also travel around this vast country via car, rail or air.
When you first arrive in Australia, you’ll probably land in one of the major cities such as Sydney or Melbourne. However, getting to the other parts of Australia is easy with the abundance of cheap, regular domestic flights. In many cases, you can book flights for less than $100 each way (or even less!) at the last minute, letting you easily explore several parts of Australia during your trip.
If you have more time and want to see as much of Australia as possible without the hassles and expense of driving, then take a rail journey between major cities or regions. Enjoy the changing scenery from the comfort of a train – you might see beautiful parts of the country that can’t be viewed from the major roads. Another option is using the abundant “hop-on/hop-off” buses that travel around the country transporting tourists. Many of these tours offer discounts or specials that make them an attractive option for backpackers.
Of course, driving is always an option, whether you take a bus or rent a car and explore on your own. There are several recommended driving routes for an unforgettable road trip, such as the Explorer’s Trail between Adelaide and Darwin, which gives you the chance to stop and experience the diversity of Australia along the way. Take some time to learn the rules of the road before you head out on your driving adventure; Australians drive on the left and use kilometers instead of miles. As long as you have a valid driver’s license in your home country, you can drive in Australia without an international driver’s license.
The choices of accommodations for your backpack adventure are as varied as the ways to get around. Hotels and motels are always options, but if you’re hiking through Australia, you can set up camp along the trails or rent a campsite at one of the hundreds of campgrounds or caravan (RV) parks.
For travelers on a budget, hostels are an attractive option. Almost every city and regional center in Australia offers multiple hostels, and most are clean and well-kept. If you’re looking for a more rustic option, look into accommodations on a ranch or farm in a rural area. Many farms offer free or discounted room and board to travelers who are willing to pitch in and lend a hand with the work.
If you’re traveling with a large group, look for a vacation home or apartment to rent and split the cost. These homes are usually available in the larger cities or tourist areas. They offer plenty of space at an economical rate to serve as “home base” for your backpacking adventure.
Part of the beauty of backpacking is the flexibility of it. Many backpackers arrive in Australia with only a general idea of an itinerary; they go where the road and the day take them. If you prefer this method of travel, all you need is a good guidebook, a map and a willingness to see what comes your way.
If you want a little more structure in your Australian adventure, you can sign up for one of many organized backpacking tours. These tours generally focus on one region or area, such as the Great Barrier Reef or Uluru. Organized tours are great for those who want to meet other travelers – especially those visiting Australia alone – or for those with limited time or patience for unpredictability.
When traveling with a backpack, packing light is essential. Pack only the necessities – a few changes of clothes, basic toiletries and camping equipment if necessary. You can always do laundry or shop for more toiletries in town. Unless you’ll be spending a lot of time in the bush or backcountry, you can bring your laptop and cell phone, since most campgrounds and hostels have Internet and cell service. Don’t forget your map and guidebook and sturdy, comfortable walking shoes.
Where to Go
Certain areas of Australia attract backpackers from all over the world, and you’re likely to find like-minded travelers in these spots. Bondi, Manly and Coogee, beach towns near Sydney, offer backpackers a laidback beach and surf feel, while the Fitzroy neighborhood in Melbourne is an eclectic and bohemian enclave. Hit the Northbridge district in Perth for affordable hostels and restaurants, and explore the historic city. Mitchell Street in Darwin is a traveler’s paradise, and you’ll find other backpackers from all over the world ready to swap stories about their adventures. Cairns is a party hotspot, and Byron Bay in New South Wales is home to a vibrant music scene.
Backpacking is an economical way to experience the beauty and diversity of Australia. With an open mind and a sense of adventure, it can be an unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime trip.
This guest post article was written and provided by Erica Gustafson who is an avid Australia traveler, freelance writer and digital media consultant for Expedia.