The backpacker’s secrets for travelling Australia on a shoestring

Is there such a thing as travelling for free around Australia? As full time travellers we soon start to learn some tricks of the trade on how to travel Australia on a shoestring and in some cases even for free, some shared by fellow backpackers others learn on our own experience. So how do we travel with less than $40 each a day?

You might think of hitch-hiking, well it might be indeed a technique for make your way around Australia for free but that’s not our case. Get your own way of transport, that’s right, buy a car. Anything from a station wagon, small bus, utility van or hippie camper. We are convinced that in the long term it’s the cheapest option to travel, no wonder it’s widely used by many travellers. If you play your cards wisely and know what you get, we have the evidences that you could even make some profit out of it which means you will travel all the time for free.

LPG. If you get your own wheels try to get one on LPG; it’s the cheapest fuel to travel around. It is something around 44 cent per litre in some area around Melbourne going up to 84 cent per litre in the north of Queensland, the more further to remote area you go, the pricey it will get.

Relocation. If you are only travelling for a short time it might not worth it the risk of buying a car and, if your destinations are flexible and you keep your ears open, you might get a campervan as little as $1 per day. In fact some rental companies will let you drive their van almost for free to bring it from point A to B. Of course there is a time limit, normally it has to be done on a short timescale, but if they are not in hurry they will let you used it for few extra days. Check it out Apollo Relocations.

If you opt to get one of the above options of transport then you could also sleep for free. Having a mobile bed means you could get advantage of the many free rest areas along Australia East Coast, if you are lucky even ocean front. Sometimes you will need to pay a small fee for some extra comforts such a shower or if you travel with good spirit and are flexible and adaptable, well….

In most cases there is no reservation but the only problem is those spots full up very quickly early in the morning, especially the most known by the campervans’ crowd that year after year come back in the same place.

Bush camping and camping at remote locations is also free; even some hotels or restaurants in the Outback will offer you to park overnight in their car park for free with any purchase at the bar.

Camping on the many National Parks, apart for being an amazing experience, it’s also low-cost something around $5 each per night while others, like in NSW, are free; for the most popular campgrounds you would better off to book it in advance and for the more remote you will need a 4WD to reach them.


We couldn’t have done our big loop without our bible, Camps Australia 4, where they are listed all camping grounds which saved us hundreds of dollars, and without taking advantage of all camping among NSW State Forest, Parks Victoria, Queensland National Parks . Camps4 can be pricey for a backpacker (I think it is something around $50-70, we were blessed it came with our van) but I can bet it would be the best thing you ever bought, it’s just priceless.

Food. We know we all have to eat as we would at home but, there is no secrets, the more we cook ourselves, using also the free bbq in many beach and pick nick areas, and the less take away we buy or eating at restaurants the more we save. As I said in many occasions if you fancy casting your own line you could end up also eating for free.

If you have to catch a plane try Tiger Airways, it’s not free but you could fly Melbourne – Sydney for only $32, that’s a bargain.

Don’t waste your money on enclosed wildlife’s encounters. You will have many opportunities to come face to face with Australian wildlife even if you don’t visit a zoo or a farm, from crocs to whales-watching, dolphins and kangaroos, if you are patient and go a bit “closer to the wild” you could spot these animals in their own environment.

If you fancy to earn some cash while travelling and having fun there are plenty of chances to work your way around Australia from fruit-picking, teaching, working in bar and hostels

Stays connect for free. Although I am not a great fun of MacDonald, even if I would not eat there by being cheeky I enjoyed many hours of web-surfing on the house; you could take advantage of free wifi at many libraries too.

Australia has many natural attractions that can be simple enjoyed for free while for others touristy attractions I always watch out for those great discount’s vouchers on the many free magazines distributed in hostels, train stations and travel agents. Even if I don’t have a voucher my motto is always “shop around”.

Happy travel!

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