Before hitting Australia's shores, get some backpacker basics.
From budget accommodation to cheap eats, Australia is a backpacker's paradise. You can lie on the sand one day and dive with sharks the next. Whether you're licking up lavender ice cream in Tasmania or road tripping through the Red Centre, your backpacking journey is sure to be unforgettable. Check out these essentials to make the most 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. Hostels not only provide affordable rooms but also often host social activities like barbecues and outdoor bars. Sydney Harbour YHA even boasts a rooftop terrace with incredible views of the Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House.
With Australia’s clear skies and wide-open spaces, camping is one type of accommodation that’s as affordable as it is beautiful. Pitch a tent in our national parks or camping grounds for a night under the starts.
Some country pubs offer accommodation above the bar, with rooms ranging from rustic to romantic. Motels often provide great value, while renting on home sharing apps like Airbnb can be ideal for larger groups.
You can also deepen your Aussie experience with a stay on a farm or outback station. Often in regional areas, farms are ideal for getting to know Australia’s lesser-known locations, exploring natural landscapes, and meeting 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 the Department of Home Affairs website.
Australia is a vast country with landscapes ranging from rugged and mountainous to cool and coastal – but don’t worry, there are many easy ways to get around. If you want to travel large distances in a short amount of time, book a flight with one of Australia’s domestic airlines, like Jetstar and Tigerair, 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. You might find yourself weaving through ancient gorges or cruising alongside grazing kangaroos.
Public coaches, such as Greyhound, 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, like the Myki card in Melbourne and the Opal card in Sydney, 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-hand side of the car. In cities and towns the speed limit is between 50 kilometres and 60 kilometres per hour (about 30 to 40 miles per hour), and on country roads and highways, the maximum speed is usually 110 kilometres per hour (68 miles per hour).
In most states and territories (the exception is the Northern Territory) visitors can drive on an overseas license as long as it is current. You should always research the laws for each state before driving with an overseas license. An international visitor may also 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. Motorcyclists and cyclists in Australia must wear helmets.
For your safety, drink-driving laws apply, and drivers and passengers must wear seatbelts. 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.
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 allow you to move around a city without the restrictions of an organised tour. Some companies even provide discounts for student and hostel travellers.
If the open road is calling your name, it's possible to explore Australia's sights on your own. Embark on a Great Ocean Road trip to see icons like the 12 Apostles or explore the ancient landscapes of central Australia via the Red Centre Way.
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. You’ll find a range of affordable – yet delectable – dishes at cheap eats venues across the country. Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Darwin, Adelaide, and Canberra all offer up burgers, curries, seafood and pho at great prices.
We also take our coffee very seriously, so don’t forget to pop into a café for quality espresso.
Whether you prefer buzzing beer gardens, cosy wine bars, private clubs or pumping nightclubs, 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 known for its theme parks and endless beaches, but it's now also a hot spot for craft beer, great food and exciting nightlife.
Internet & mobile phone access
Australia is well-connected, and you won't have trouble using internet and Wi-Fi in major cities. 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. In addition to cities, Australia also boasts more remote places that have less connectivity. 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, so always plan ahead and tell someone where you will be staying.
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 drive the majestic Great Ocean Road in Victoria. Adrenaline-chasers will love activities like white water rafting through Tasmania’s World Heritage wilderness or jet boating through the Horizontal Falls in Western Australia.
Want to come face to face with Australia’s wildlife? Take part in utterly unique – and heart-pumping – wildlife encounters. You can cage dive with great white sharks or go swimming with sea lions in South Australia. With plenty of zoos, aquariums and animal experiences, Australian wildlife is sure to be a part of your adventure Down Under.
Whether you get the chance to encounter wildlife in a zoo, wildlife park or in their natural habitat, it's important to treat all animals with care and respect. Many zoos and wildlife parks offer close encounter experiences that will allow you to pat, feed or cuddle certain animals. You should never touch or feed animals outside of this type of experience.