Coke sign in Sydney, Australia

High Prices in the Land Down Under

I knew before I traveled to Australia that the land down under would be expensive. It wasn’t until I’d spent a couple weeks there — and watched my bank account balance plummet faster than it ever had — that I really understood just how much it costs to travel in Australia.

The root of the high prices, I’m told, is the fact that the Australian minimum wage is around $17 per hour, a hike intended as a social protection, but whose real-life effect has been to raise the cost of just about everything. Other factors — import tariffs, high internal taxes, Australia’s large population and high GDP — also affect the amount you have to pay when you travel to Australia.

Regardless of the underlying cause, the fact remains that Australia is among the most expensive places I’ve ever traveled. Although it’s possible to travel in Australia without going completely bankrupt, you shouldn’t count on any aspect of your Australian holiday being cheap.

Traveling to Australia? Read our travel guide.

Cost of Food in Australia

The first food item I purchased in Australia was actually pretty cheap. It was a Vietnamese bahn mi sandwich, from an Asian boulangerie on Smith Street in Melbourne. It cost $4.50, or approximately what I would pay for the same sandwich here in Austin.

Alas, I was unwise to judge this particular book by its cover. Over the course of the six weeks I spent in Australia, I only rarely encountered prices for even café meals whose prices were in the single digits. The average price of a simple lamb kebab (usually a cheap food) is $10. I got to the point where I thought $15 a plate for Chinese or Thai was “cheap.”

And breakfast? Let’s not even talk about breakfast. I wasn’t shocked to pay $14 for two eggs and a piece of toast in Sydney’s trendy Bondi suburb, but it was a little surprising that the price fell only incrementally as I traveled north along the Australian coast.

Overall, I’d say I got accustomed to spending around $50 per day on food in Australia, which takes into account the fact that water in Australia is priced at $2-3 for a small bottle, a cost that’s slightly lower in supermarkets. On the subject of supermarkets, you shouldn’t expect a huge amount purchasing groceries and cooking them in your hostel or friend’s home — all food in Australia is exorbitantly priced, in my experience.

Transportation Costs in Australia

Transportation is the second of the “big three” factors I consider when assessing the general cheapness or expensiveness of a destination, and transportation prices in Australia run along the same lines as those for food. A one-way, four-hour tram ticket in Melbourne costs $4 — and that’s just within the city’s “Zone 1.” By comparison, it costs €1,40 ($2) to travel from central Lisbon to Sintra, a historical town located in its most distant suburbs of the Portuguese capital.

Costs are even higher for what I term special transport, i.e. from cities and into the airport and vice-versa. One-way bus tickets between central Melbourne and either of its airport run between $17-20, while a train ticket from Sydney’s airport into its CBD runs a whopping $15. Want to buy a weekly pass on the Sydney train system? They start from a cool $41. Conversely the same ticket in New York City, perhaps the most expensive city in the U.S., runs just $29.

Prices rise even more the further out of cities you get, in some cases anyway. When I was in Australia’s red center, for example, a round trip bus ride to Uluru cost a whopping $55 — and that was just for the ride, no tour included.

Of course, it can be cheap to move yourself about in Australia. If you’re a backpacker traveling up the Australian coast, I recommend purchasing a Greyhound bus pass. For less than $400, you can travel all the way from Sydney to Cairns (almost the entire coast) and hop on/off almost as you please. Best of all, the ticket is valid for up to 90 days, which averages out to less than $5 per day if you take your time.

Plane tickets for internal Australian travel are likewise inexpensive, internationally speaking. I paid $199 each way to fly Virgin Australia between Sydney and Uluru, and just $39 to take JetStar from Melbourne to Sydney, a fare that gives Southwest Airlines a run for its money.

Accommodation Prices in Australia

Hostels in Australia are not excessively expensive, at least not compared to how much everything else costs down under. I’d say the average price I paid for a bed in a 6-10 person dorm was $30 per night, which is at least in the same ballpark as hostels in Europe’s most affluent cities and countries.

Indeed, the problem with hostels in Australia isn’t cost, but value. In Amsterdam, for example, $30 will not only get you a bed in a four-person dorm, rather than a 6-10 sleeper, but that dorm will be climate-controlled, have its own bathroom and your nightly rate will include a pretty good breakfast.

Not only do hostel bookings in Australia not include breakfast (although, to be fair, one or two included dinner), but hostels in Australia are generally cooled with small fans, even in the hottest parts of summer, are cramped and, in some cases, even dirty. If you’ve traveled in Europe without going broke, you’ll definitely be able to afford staying in Australian hostels; you will just be disappointed in the quality of the product.

One suggestion when it comes to hostels in Australia: Don’t book in advance. The quality of hostels in Australia is so uniformly low that you’re better off haggling with the people who are waiting for your bus to arrive, getting a low rate and not having a credit card on file than you are trying to cancel a booking you made for a property that was grossly misrepresented (in its favor) on HostelWorld or HostelBookers.

Miscellaneous Australia Prices

Australia is a huge, huge country, and unless you’ve rented a car or camper van to take you about, you’ll have to book a lot of organized tours to see the country. Prices of tours in Australia are expectedly high. For a one-day excursion to the Great Ocean Road near Melbourne, for example, I paid $100. A one-day trip to the Great Barrier Reef with two dives was $280. Ouch!

Additionally, most Australia attractions require entry tickets, which are almost never included in the prices of tours. Some of these aren’t excessive — $25, for example, is a small price to pay for three days at the wonder that is Uluru — but others are extremely high: A one-day adult admission to the Australia Zoo costs $60.

None of this is to complain too loudly about my Australian travel experience in general. You do get what you pay for and, with the exception of hostels in Australia and a few other experiences I had there, the quality of products and services in Australia is extremely high. Australia is likewise the lowest-stress place I’ve ever traveled: The only significant delay I experienced the entire time I was there was when the United Airlines plane I was taking from Sydney back to Los Angeles didn’t make it down the runway.

In all, I’d say you should expect to spend no less than $100 per day traveling in Australia, which will cover a hostel dorm bed, your day’s transportation costs and three basic meals. Depending on the number of things you see and tours you take, your per-day cost could be as high as $150 or even $200. As long as you make peace with this before you depart — and, most importantly, don’t get too caught up on the prices of individual items — you should return from Australia unscathed, if a bit broke.

About The Author

is the author of 498 posts on Leave Your Daily Hell. Robert founded Leave Your Daily Hell in 2010 so that other travelers would have an entertaining, reliable source of information, advice and inspiration at their fingertips. Want to travel more often? Subscribe to email updates today!

  • http://www.toursinuganda.com gorilla safari

    What about hostels, I know that budget travelers would definitely consider cutting down cost further than the 100 dollars per day

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  • https://plus.google.com/116480057469316097585?rel=author Robert Schrader

    Hi Gorilla Safari, I stayed in hostels in Australia, and even still paid over $100 per day!

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  • gen

    Travelers in Sydney, head to King Street New Town (the city road end- you can walk from the city or catch a bus from Central Station and you can get cheap thai food for about 6.50 a plate at lunch time. It’s good quality and cooked to order. Lots of little restaurants in that area have this deal. Nice shops and vibe in this area too, it’s where University of Syd students hang out

  • https://plus.google.com/116480057469316097585?rel=author Robert Schrader

    Thanks for your suggestion Gen! I have heard that New Town can be quite cheap, which I suppose is necessary for all the students who hang out there!

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  • http://twitter.com/worldswaiting WorldsWaiting

    Australia is a very expensive place. I say that and I last lived in London. The place I am most disappointed about this is restaurants and shops where the service is frequently terrible. I’m not saying customer service roles should not be paid a standard rate, but you can certainly tell the difference between Australia and countries where the workers in these roles are motivated by tips.

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  • shawn

    Just returned, and I have to agree with nearly everything. The Melbourne Zoo was priced nicely at about 25 dollars. I bought a pair of senior daily tram tickets for a couple of bucks each. In the markets you can often find fruit, cheese, and bread for a very reasonable price. Otherwise things get expensive quickly.

  • https://plus.google.com/116480057469316097585?rel=author Robert Schrader

    I didn’t realize the Melbourne Zoo was so cheap. It makes me feel stupid for not going!

  • mark

    just returned from a 6 week trip, and yes its unreal, i spent so much money that by week 2 i googled last minute cruise from sydney and had 2 weeks full board going round newzeland on a great ship ,own cabin 24 food and breakfast in bed every day , cost just £940, it was cheaper to leave than stay lol,

  • https://plus.google.com/116480057469316097585?rel=author Robert Schrader

    Mark, that is extremely unreal! Did you regret having left Australia?

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  • Nigel

    Spent Christmas in Perth with relatives. Wasn’t the typical Australia holiday in that we didn’t do a lot of travelling or sightseeing. Instead we lived more like an Australian family doing supermarket shopping etc. The UK is often called Rip-Off-Britain but haven’t seen the prices in Australia, Britain has it easy. The pound is quite low (1.5) so at first I attributed it to that, but even when I used the pre-recession rate (2.0) I was shocked to find prices were still very expensive. I think the key is that Australian salaries are high – someone described it to me like this. When compared with the UK, the cost of living in Australia is 2x but the salaries are more like 3x. So working and living in Australia you can enjoy a better life than in the UK. But as a tourist visiting the Australia, prepared to find the cost of everything very high. It spoilt my holiday a little because I simply couldn’t afford to do all the excursions we had hoped. If you want to visit Australia I’d say stick to the east coast – Perth is the most expensive part of the country and doesn’t really have that much to offer to the tourist.

  • https://plus.google.com/116480057469316097585?rel=author Robert Schrader

    Yeah, Nigel! I’ve heard that Perth’s prices are absolutely ridiculous!

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  • Fascantu

    if you want to travel like a bum and sleep in sleeping bag and nothing sandwiches and see kangaroos and see some water come to Australia, there is nothing here but a very long flight and rude people

  • Phr Vinokurov

    Planning travel to Australia this year. Great info, thanks guys

  • https://plus.google.com/116480057469316097585?rel=author Robert Schrader

    No problem!

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  • steve

    i live in perth australia and earn $150,000 a year and i still dont have enough to enjoy life like i did when i lived in the usa and earnt half that

  • Craig Hickson

    Australia nearly broke our travel budget when we toured there at the start of our RTW trip. A painful experience

  • http://twitter.com/JepJep92 Jeremy Gilbert

    What the hell do you spend your money on? I live with three other people (parents and myself, a student) in Melbourne our household income is around $100,000 (one worker, one retiree and myself) and we manage to live comfortably, my parents own their own house and paid off their mortgage, and we still go out every week. Plus, we travel overseas every year. I have no idea how you cannot do ‘everything’ you want with $150,000 a year.

  • zeng yi

    You’ve already explained it. It’s because your parents have paid off their mortgage that they now have money to spend on other things. Otherwise, for a person who is renting or still paying mortgage, it’s hard to save money. Property price and rent had doubled in 10 years or tripled in 20 years. Owning a property is the key to live comfortably in Australia. Even if you earn $150k before tax it would take you at least 12 years to pay off the mortgage even for a 500k property if you simply spend nothing on other things except on uncooked food from Coles & Woolworths. And what you get for $500k in Sydney? It’s like a one bedroom apartment in good suburb.

  • Jeremy Gilbert

    If you can’t survive $150,000 before tax, there’s something wrong. More than half the country, a lot more than half survive on household incomes of less than $100,000.
    My parents only paid their mortgage off recently. Mind you, they’ve never had an income more than about $90,000 combined the past 20 years.
    You don’t have to OWN property to live comfortably in Australia. It’s the culture to own a home in Australia, but it needs to change.

  • John Brown

    JB. It would help to be clear which $ is being referred to. Is it $Australian or $US please. We Brits are easily confused!

  • http://leaveyourdailyhell.com Robert Schrader

    Hi John:

    Not sure if you’re referring to me or to another commenter, but all prices in this post are AUD. Sorry for the confusion!

  • Elizabeth

    Hey Robert,
    I’m moving to Australia in January to be an au pair for a family. I’ll be living with the family rent free- they are paying me 250 AUD a week. They pretty much told me that the money they are paying me is money for me to use on the weekends. I’ll have every weekend off. Do you think I’ll be fine with that amount?
    thanks!

  • http://leaveyourdailyhell.com Robert Schrader

    Hi Elizabeth:

    If you only need to spend your own money on the weekends, this should be fine. Keep in mind, however, that the cost of doing quotidian things in Australia, such as eating out, drinking at bars and even using public transport, is just the beginning of your expenses in Australia. If you decide to go somewhere on your own for the weekend, you could easily be looking at a 300-500 AUD expenditure, when everything is taken into account. Do you know if you will have the opportunity to travel within Australia as part of your gig?

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  • Amy L. Wagner

    i just returned from Oz and can report that it is still insanely expensive.

  • http://leaveyourdailyhell.com Robert Schrader

    Womp womp!

  • val

    Some of these comments are quite old however I came across this today as I’m going to Oz. The average earning being x3 compared to UK is correct even though Cost of living in OZ is x2 as much as UK. However I once lived there when rent/food etc was a lot cheaper before GST which for a traveller hits you hard HOWEVER to say Perth has nothing to offer a tourist is unreal – what’s not to like and you don’t have to spend days in zoos and other excursions to enjoy – it is a country full of natural beauty – spending a day on a beach or bush walking costs nothing – do some research and find out where to go yourself not rely on companies who charge the earth – most hostels advertise cheap trips with shared petrol…..food is expensive but the quality of a sandwich to fresh snapper is usually excellent quality and large portions-not everyone earns $150k PA I know many folk who earn $80-$90k pa – raise kids and pay mortgages but they still manage to enjoy going out may b not as much as they’d like but who does in the UK – Australia is a wonderful country stop whinging!!

  • Octavia

    Hiya, I am going to be visiting Perth for six weeks this Christmas, my boyfriend will already be out there renting a place with a friend so I will probably just have to give them a small amount towards their bills. My boyfriend will probably pay for a few things, not a lot, but I want to take enough money with me so I’m not struggling. I will need to pay for food and probably going out a few times but nothing very extravagant. I was thinking of taking around £1000. Do you think this sounds like the right amount? Enough, too much, not enough? Because I just have no idea at all. My boyfriend is going out there this October for 5 months so I guess he will be able to tell me how much he thinks I will need before I arrive but just want to know in advance really so I can get saving! Thanks :)

  • TravellingWeasels

    We stayed in Australia for nine months, we found it ridiculously expensive too, but by being careful (planning ahead, packed lunches etc) we found we managed to survive for such a long time. House sitting was definitely our most important money saver. We didn’t buy water that often either, we found that there were water fountains so often we could just carry a water bottle around and fill it up.

  • Michael Savage

    it takes a rude person to know one

  • Michael Savage

    so why are you still here? not English are you?

  • Amy

    That’s true. Except for Japan, where the customer service is usually amazing, but no one does tips.

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