Before hitting Australia's shores, get some backpacker basics – from the best budget accommodation and WiFi options to eating like a local and staying up late. Follow our advice to get the most out of your Australian adventure.
When it comes to finding budget accommodation, Australia has plenty of options. There are hostels in every major city and tourist centre, offering single sex and mixed dorms along with some private dorms for couples. If you want to see Australia’s spectacular outdoors, you can pitch a tent in our national parks or camping grounds. Other ideas include motels, country pubs (ranging from rustic to romantic) and holiday apartments (an economical option for big groups).
You can also deepen your Australian experience, make friends and pick up some new skills with a stay on a farm or outback station. This is a great opportunity to experience the Australian bush with other young travellers. If you are visiting Australia on a Working Holiday visa, you may be eligible to extend your visa for another 12 months if you have undertaken 88 days of specified work within regional Australia. This includes plant and animal cultivation, fishing, tree farming and mining. For more information visit border.gov.au
Australia is a vast country – but don’t worry, there are many easy ways to get around. If you want to travel large distances (say, from east to west), book a flight with one of Australia’s domestic airlines, which service all major cities and most regional centres. For those with more time to explore, hire a car or campervan and soak up the scenery on one of our unforgettable road trips. Public coaches, such as Greyhound or Premier, offer flexible, affordable passes and allow you to jump off and on between cities. To travel on the public transport network within capital cities you may need a pre-loaded card, which can be purchased at transport customer service centres and convenience stores.
Obeying the road rules
If you’re gearing up for a road trip, know the rules before you go. Australians drive on the left-hand side of the road, with the steering wheel on the right side of the car. In cities and towns the speed limit is between 50km/h to 60km/h and on country roads and highways, the maximum speed is usually 110km/h. For your safety, drink-driving laws apply, and drivers and passengers must wear seat belts. The maximum blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.05 for holders of a full licence. Anyone holding a learner or probationary licence has a zero alcohol limit. An international visitor may drive in Australia on an international driver’s licence for the same class of vehicle. You should carry both your home licence and international licence when driving. Motor cyclists and cyclists in Australia must wear helmets.
Seeing the sights
In Australia there are countless tour companies catering to young, adventure-seeking travellers, especially in destinations such as Uluru and the Great Barrier Reef. If you have limited time or are travelling alone, small group tours can be a convenient, cost-effective way to see the sights and meet other travellers. Alternatively, you may prefer the hop on-hop off buses, which get you from A to B without the restrictions of an organised tour. Some companies provide discounts for student and hostel travellers.
Eating like a local
Australia is renowned for its fresh, local produce, and there are plenty of ways to enjoy it without breaking the bank. Farmers’ markets are held in all the capital cities, where you can sample everything from lemon myrtle ice cream to artisan cheeses and tropical fruits. Food halls are abundant in our major cities, and they feature all sorts of multicultural dishes. If you’re partial to pulled pork rolls, tacos or steamed buns, you can join the locals for a quick bite from one of our many food trucks. We also take our coffee very seriously – in fact, we’re a little obsessed – so you can expect quality espresso at most cafés.
Whether you prefer buzzing beer gardens, cosy wine bars, private clubs or throbbing nightclubs that rival those in Europe, Australia’s nightlife caters to every taste or whim. In major cities, like Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, your options are boundless, while Perth and Adelaide are renowned for their alternative music scenes and Darwin for its great pubs. In regional cities, like Byron Bay or Cairns, enjoy laid-back venues with quality cocktails and food. The Gold Coast is often dubbed Australia’s party capital; every summer, graduating Australian high school students descend here for ‘Schoolies Week’.
Internet & mobile phone access
You won’t have trouble logging on to the internet in Australia. You’ll find public wireless hotspots in many cafés, restaurants and fast-food chains around the country. Most hotels, hostels, campsites and caravan parks provide internet on site too. There are also internet cafés in cities, large towns and major tourist hubs. In very remote areas you can try to get access at Community Resource Centres (CRCs) or local libraries. Mobile phone access may be a challenge in remote or wilderness areas.
Adventure in Australia
Australia is an adventurer’s playground, and we’ve got plenty of activities to get your heart racing. Abseil in the Blue Mountains, 4WD across South Australia's rugged Flinders Ranges or do the Great Ocean Road in Victoria. Go white water rafting through Tasmania’s World Heritage wilderness or jet boat through the Horizontal Falls in Western Australia. Want to come face to face with Australia’s wildlife? Cage dive with great white sharks or go swimming with sea lions. In Australia, there’s no excuse not to get amongst it and embrace your inner adventurer.
Find out where the backpackers eat, sleep and play with our guide to Australia’s backpacker precincts.