Within cities, public transportation is by far the cheapest and most efficient mode of transportation. In Australia’s biggest cities there’s often heavy traffic congestion and taking buses, trains, and/or tram lines to get around the city can save you a lot of time, as well as money. Additionally, since most tourist hot spots can be accessed by it, public transportation is a great way to do day trips within or around major cities. Doing these trips on Sundays would be even better since these are reduced fare days and some places even let you ride for free.
Each state has its own public transport card:
South Australia- Adelaide MetroCard
Western Australia- Transperth
New South Wales- OPAL
Using bus companies like Greyhound and Premier is great for traveling between cities while backpacking Australia. Since routes along the east coast are more popular than ones on the west, getting around by bus is fairly cheap on the east but more expensive on the west coast.
Greyhound generally has more stops than Premier, but Premier does have cheaper rates, but both are very competitively priced with each other. With whoever you decide to book with, make sure to book early to get the best deals.
The amount you spend on these busses really depends on the type of trip you are doing. If you have a defined trip and know exactly where you want to go, you can plan your route and buy the bus tickets accordingly. If you have no set plan and want to stop in multiple places along the way, a pass that lets you hop on and off as many times as you want is your best option. Greyhound and Premier both have many different types of unlimited passes.
Whimit Travel Passes with Greyhound let you travel any route, in any direction for as many days as your time allows. You can get a:
15 Day Whimit Pass for $329 AUD
30 Day Whimit Pass for $399 AUD
60 Day Whimit Pass for $449 AUD
90 Day Whimit Pass for $599 AUD
120 Day Whimit Pass for $699 AUD
365 Day Whimit Pass for $1699 AUD
Premier’s travel passes are different from the Whimit passes, they are offered on set routes as opposed to being able to travel anywhere in Australia. They include:
1 Month, one way Sydney- Cairns or Cairns- Sydney: $230 AUD
3 Month, one way Sydney- Brisbane or Brisbane- Sydney: $103 AUD
3 Month, one way Byron Bay- Airlie or Airlie- Byron Bay: $196 AUD
3 Month, one way Byron Bay- Cairns or Cairns- Byron Bay: $242 AUD
3 Month, one way Sydney- Cairns or Cairns- Sydney: $330 AUD
6 Month, one way Sydney- Eden or Eden- Sydney: $92 AUD
6 Month, one way Brisbane- Cairns or Cairns- Brisbane: $258 AUD
6 Month, one way Byron Bay- Cairns or Cairns- Byron Bay: $278 AUD
6 Month, one way Sydney- Airlie or Airlie- Sydney: $278 AUD
6 Month, one way Airlie- Eden or Eden- Airlie: $309 AUD
6 Month, one way Sydney- Cairns or Cairns- Sydney: $361 AUD
Driving Around Australia
Buying/Hiring A Car
This is probably the most convenient way to travel around Australia. You can rent a car or buy a used one depending on how much you plan on driving.
If you’re someone who’s doing a relatively short trip with only a few destinations to visit, then renting a car is the best way to go. In contrast, if you are someone who will be traveling a lot, more specifically if you plan on driving for a period of 10 weeks or longer then buying a car is the better option. You will also be able to sell the car at the end of your trip.
Car Rental Cost
On average a rental car in Australia costs about $20-35 per day. Prices for rentals will differ according to the season.
Car Purchase Cost
If you go through online marketplaces you can find great deals on used cars. This Facebook group is a great resource for backpackers looking to buy and sell cars in Australia, and there are many more like it. The cars on here range from $2000 Pathfinders to $10,000 Land Rovers and everything in between.
Buying/Hiring A Campervan
Campervans are the most relaxing and comfortable way to backpack Australia. With a campervan you have all the flexibility of a car, but with the additional benefit of saving on expensive accommodations. The big drawback is that campervans are usually expensive to hire/rent and fuel up. Travellers Autobarn or Wicked Campers are two good companies that you can hire a campervan with.
Campervan Hire Cost
Much like with the buy or rent scenario with a car, if you are backpacking for a short period, renting is probably the better option. You can rent a campervan for around $50-75 per day. Prices for rentals will differ according to the season.
Campervan Purchase Cost
Again, just like with cars in Australia, Facebook groups are a great way to buy used campervans as well. Some campers range from $5000-$15000 and everything in between. Make sure to check out the group to find the best one for you.
Roughly if the average cost of a used campervan is $10,000, then it’ll be beneficial for you to outright buy a used campervan, instead of renting, after 22 weeks of use.
Gas in Australia usually hovers around $1.15-$1.30 per litre. The average fuel consumption for a passenger car is about 6-10 litres per 100km. For campers, this number increases to about 12-30 litres per 100kms. So when you are choosing a campervan, make sure it's fuel efficient!
A relocation allows you to rent a vehicle for really cheap and even sometimes for free. Rental companies that have offices in different cities will sometimes require that their vehicles be returned to the original location that they were rented from. So instead of doing it themselves, rental companies will get regular people to do the relocation in exchange for free, or very heavily discounted rental fares.
Usually relocations need to be done within a specified time period, with an additional charge incurred for every extra day you have it.
Imoova is a great relocation company for campervans in Australia.
Whether you’re renting a car/camper or buying one, doing so with a group of friends is the most cost-effective way. Splitting rental/purchase costs and fuel with a group makes driving a car cheaper and it makes traveling around in a campervan more financially feasible for solo travelers.
If you’re a solo traveler, you can find other travelers to meet up and share costs with on GAFFL.
Flying is only very rarely the most economical choice while you are traveling around Australia, but there are scenarios where flying could make the most budgetary sense. For example, in some cases flying from Sydney to Melbourne may actually be cheaper than buying a bus ticket. There may also be times where domestic flights go on sale, namely through airlines like Qantas or Tiger Airways, making flying the cheapest option for you to get to your destination.
With this being said, flying domestically in Australia will rarely save you money, and for backpackers, this is probably the last resort of getting around Australia on the cheap.