After a year backpacking in Asia we had gotten used to staying comfortably within our daily budget of $50 each. Food is cheap, budget accommodation is easy to come by, and lots of attractions are free or very cheap. Travelling in Australia and New Zealand has been a very different experience! Staying within budget was challenging and near impossible at times, but here are a few money-saving tips I’ve picked up along the way!
Food is one of the biggest expenses we encountered in Australia and New Zealand. Back home, the later in the day you eat the more expensive it is – but here, breakfast, lunch and dinner will cost similar amounts of money. Breakfast and brunch is a big affair, and while the food is delicious, eating out every day just isn’t an option unless you have a massive budget.
Here are some tips to saving money on food!
1. Make your own food
The biggest benefit of staying in a hostel or Airbnb rather than a hotel or guesthouse is access to a kitchen. Prepare your own meals and make yourself lunch to bring with you while you travel. We backpacked with a fold up cooler bag to move our food from hostel to hostel and to store our food in the hostel fridge- a tip we picked up from other travellers here.
2. Shop at budget supermarkets or markets
In Australia buy your groceries at Aldi rather than Coles or Woolworths, you’ll pay a lot less for the same items. Fruit and veg is quite expensive here so find your nearest market and you can pick these up for a bargain – especially if you go near closing time!
In New Zealand, shop at Pak’NSave which is a budget friendly supermarket. There are some really good deals to be found here, and you can prepare your lunches and dinners at your hostel.
Eat Asian food
If you’re looking for a cheap eat on the go, we’ve found that Asian food is a great budget-friendly option. You can pick up a sushi roll for $4, a banh mi for $5, and many Asian restaurants have great lunchtime deals! We ate the most delicious pho in Queenstown for just £6, surrounded by restaurants that were charging 4 times that for lunch.
You can easily find local Asian restaurants on Google maps, or search for your nearest Chinatown or Vietnamese / Thai equivalent.
In Asia, our method for finding cheap accommodation was to turn up in a new place and find something last minute. In Australia and New Zealand it’s the opposite – for the best prices booking in advance is essential!
Recently were looking for a place to stay in Melbourne and a comfortable double room in a luxury building with an en suite and gym and pool access was cheaper per night ($60) than two beds in an 8 bed dorm room ($90). Always take a look on Airbnb to see if there are any rooms going cheaply if you feel like a bit more privacy and comfort, as well as saving some cash!
WWOOFING, or Willing Workers On Organic Farms is a popular way for backpackers to travel cheaply. Work for around 4-6 hours a day and you can eat and sleep for free.
Types of work include sowing seeds, making compost, gardening, planting, cutting wood, weeding, harvesting, packing, milking, feeding, fencing, making mud-bricks, wine making, cheese making and bread making. Lots of farms take couples or friends so it’s not just for solo travellers, and despite the horror stories of backpackers being worked to the bone or living in bad conditions I’ve never heard from someone who has actually had this experience. Check out the Australian site here, or New Zealand here. It’s also a great way to give back while you travel.
Most airlines and train companies in NZ and Oz offer a super-discounted limited-availability fare along with their normal fares. These go quickly so book as soon as you possibly can if you’re planning to take a trip. Air New Zealand also offers a flexi-fare that allows you to change your travel date up until the day of departure, so if you know you want to have a trip but aren’t sure of the exact date then locking in a cheap flexi-fare could be a way to save a lot of money.
Sign up for airline mailing lists
Flights in and between Australia and New Zealand are far more expensive than in Europe and Asia, but it’s a lot more common for airlines to have a weekly or monthly sale on airfares.
Sign up for all of the airline mailing lists and you’ll get an email when flights are discounted and you can pick up some really cheap fares. Jetstar in particular do a ‘Friday Frenzy’ sale every week where flights are discounted for 8 hours. Find your flight as soon as you see the email, the best routes and times go quickly and often by the end of the day I’ve been left with 6am mid-week flights as the weekend flights have been snapped up
Do a camper van / car relocation
Car and camper rental companies are always looking for people to move their vehicles between their depots. You pay from $0 to $5 per day for the vehicle and a lot of the time you’ll be given a fuel allowance.
We drove the great ocean road in a 6-person Mercedes Benz camper for $5 per day with a $75 fuel allowance and it was the best experience ever! Our camper had a full kitchen, bathroom (with shower) and we never could have afforded it if we didn’t do a relocation. We got our relocation from Transfercar and had a great experience. There is a lot of competition for cars and campers but new campers are added at 9am each day so keep watching the site and snap yours up right away.
Use the free tram zone
Some cities have a free tram zone in the centre, staying along this line can save a bunch of money in transport. You could afford to spend a little bit more in accommodation in this zone, as the savings on travel will offset the cost.
Use East Coast Car Rental
East Coast Cars is a rental company in Australia that offers great rates on car rentals in the east coast of Australia. We use them anytime we travel on the east coast and cars are as little as $20 per day.
The cars are always new, clean and blindingly white. The service has always been quick, and we’ve never had trouble after dropping off the car.
Book when you’re in the country
You can save a lot of money by waiting until you’re in the country to book any activities and tours. This is especially true for New Zealand. It might be tempting to pre-book things so that you can lock them in, but the prices you’ll be offered locally will be much cheaper.
Hostels and tourist offices are great ways to find discounted prices for tours and activities, in Queenstown we saw up to 50% reduction in the prices we had seen online. Go to an i-Site to pick up a bargain, and save your money for other things.
Take advantage of happy hours
Alcohol can be expensive in Oz and NZ and a night of drinking can easily take a huge chunk out of your budget. Happy hours are really common over here and you can get a glass of wine or schooner of beer for $5 between 4 and 7 in a lot of bars.
Keep your receipts
If you shop at Woolworths or Coles you will find great drinks deals on the back of your receipt. 2 for 1 bottles of wine and cheap crates of beer are often on offer so keep these receipts if you shop at either place.
Aldi sells own-brand equivalents of many popular beers, plus several award-winning wines, at much lower prices than other stores.
Shop in outlets
Outlet shopping is really popular here and you can pick up some really cheap, good quality clothing from high street and high end brands! Nike, Adidas and Converse are popular in Outlet malls along with Aussie brands like Cotton On and Glassons.
Buy Toiletries from Chemist Warehouse
This discount store is a great place to buy your toiletries, make up and medicines for really cheap prices. Pick up big brand make up and hair products here for a steal, the prices are a lot cheaper than supermarkets and rival chemists. Chemist Warehouse has many stores in Australia but it’s just made it’s way to New Zealand so it might not be as easy to find a store. Do make an effort to go here if you need to stock up on anything as the prices are rock bottom!
And if you’re here on your birthday…
Make your birthday even more special with free stuff! Sign up for bar / restaurant and shop mailing lists to get free drinks, meals and gifts for your birthday. You’ll need to have a dig around on Google to find local bars that offer the deals but free booze is worth it if you’re backpacking!
I hope you enjoyed this post! If you have any other tips for travelling around Oz or New Zealand on a budget then comment below and let other readers know!
Thanks for reading!