Sitting in a plane going to Bali, Indonesia from Australia I find myself reflecting on my time in Auz. Usually, I have some enlightened memory that the country has left upon me, but in this case the first thing that pops into my mind is – Australia is expensive! Don’t get me wrong, I loved my time down under and I have many stories that I get to take with me, but unless you are willing to spend thousands of dollars on a vehicle (usually the popular campervan), and/or have at least two people in your party, and/or the ability to obtain a work-study visa, then you are not going to be able to stretch your money very long. The truth sucks, I know!!
The way I see things is this: If you plan to have a strict itinerary then you MAY be able to obtain some reasonable priced plane tickets. Personally, though, if you are planning on visiting Australia then you really are missing out on everything it has to offer by flying over it rather than driving through it. But if you are insistent on flying then plan on spending a few hundred dollars on a ticket to get to where you are going. Oh, and if you want to fly to Uluru then plan on tickets in the three hundreds – and that is on the low end. Perhaps you are thinking of taking the Greyhound bus? Well then get ready to pay even more in some cases.
Renting a car is another good idea. I actually had a reservation for one that was going to be for three weeks. The price was pretty great! It was only about a hundred dollars a week for an economy car that would sit four adults easily. Sadly, I had to cancel it when I realized the gas to run the thing was going to cost me over a thousand dollars. Now if I had been traveling with a couple of other people that would have been absolutely doable. Or if I would have had more luck finding people on Gumtree.com with a similar travel route wanting to ride with me and split the fuel costs then the plan would have been great! But that wasn’t the case. And sure, a thousand dollars for a three week trip around Australia may not sound like too much in retrospect, but when you need to get yourself around the world, or at least to a few other countries, you can’t be spending a huge chunk of it on gas traveling through Australia. I feel that if you want to truly visit and travel Australia you need to make that an exclusive trip. And if you have money left over then, hey, go visit another country.
Now I know the above sounds negative, but that is not my intent. I am just trying to paint a realistic picture on some of the unavoidable cost of backpacking in Australia by yourself. So with that being said, let me share a few cost cutting things when it comes to a mode of transportation around the country.
Coseats.com: This website allows travelers to connect with other travelers and find/offer lifts to other parts of the country. It is pretty easy and straight forward. You just pick your dates and your travel needs and then find those with the similar itinerary. Also found on the website is a link to relocation vehicles. This concept is pretty straightforward. Essentially, campervan rentals are very large in Australia; however, quite often the rental is only one way and not roundtrip so the camper is left thousands of miles from its original pickup location. So to save money and not have to pay an employee time to travel to the campervan, the company will allow you to rent the campervan for AU$1.00 a day (sometimes AU$5.00) and give you gas reimbursement. The reimbursement can range from AU$50 to AU$350. The catch is you are limited to the amount of mileage you can drive as well as restricted to a time frame. They do allow for an extra 250km outside of the actual mileage it would take to drive straight there, so small detours to see some sites it doable. Another thing to factor in is you are charged AU$250.00 for the reservation. Don’t panic, you get the money back! This charge is just to make sure you don’t bail on the reservation. Also, there is a AU$1000.00 bond that is required when you pick up the vehicle. This bond is also returned to you if you bring the vehicle back in one piece. However, if you scratch or dent the vehicle you will not get that AU$1000 dollars back. Essentially it is your liability insurance deductible. They do offer a discounted bond of AU$250 for only AU$20 a day. So if you have the campervan for four days then you will pay AU$80. This way if you hit a kangaroo you will only be out AU$250 instead of AU$1000. However, this insurance does not cover glass so you will have the option of buying windshield coverage for and additional AU$7 a day. I am guessing that by now you are thinking that this all doesn’t sound like a great deal and expensive and you wouldn’t be wrong…kind of. It is a lot of money to have up front – reservation fee; bond fee; glass coverage; and gas (you get reimbursed when you show the gas receipts) – but if planned right you can actually get to your next location for free. Let me tell you how. But keep in mind that it can take up to two weeks for all your reimbursements to show up on your credit card.
If you are able to score a relocation vehicle that reimburses you AU$250 for gas AND can carry, say, four people you can easily have your gas cost covered. If you charge a fair price (coseats does the math for you) you can have your gas and the extra insurance you bought paid for. Or, in the end, you can get to where you have to go for under a hundred dollars!
I will share what I did: I rented a location campervan for a buck a day and had AU$250 of my gas reimbursed. I was traveling from Brisbane to Cairns. I found someone who was going in the direction I was going and charged the fair price of AU$70 (she was going Airlie Beach). In the end I got from Brisbane to Cairns for AU$60 – and that was because I bought into the additional bond and glass coverage. If I would have known I was able to take a third person I could have arrived to Cairns for free. There are free places to camp/sleep all over Australia so I didn’t have to pay for any night accommodation. I had four days to get the campervan to Cairns and I did it in two. This gave me time to explore Airlie Beach and Cairns. I could have done more but I did not research the Cairns area well enough before I arrived there. I was really focused on just getting some diving in. So you see, it really is an effective way to get from point A to point B for minimum dollars. Heck, you can even make new friendships and find traveling buddies to share more travels with you beyond your relocation drop-off destination.
Imoova.com – This website is what you could call the main hub for relocation vehicles. It has relocation deals that are found on Coseats.com with several additional relocation deals. Included are cars that need to be relocated as well as well as campervans. The only negative to some of these deals is not all of them offer gas reimbursement. What is really neat is if you do not see an offer that fits your needs you are able to put yourself down onto a waiting list. This way when a relocation vehicle going in the same direction as you is available you will be contacted about it. I have not rented through them so I am unsure what their customer service is like. But if I had to guess, I would not think of them being any different than the customer service I received from Coseats; which was good service.
Gumtree.com – This is what you could call the Australian version of Americas Craigslist. Here you able to search and post for rides and lifts. It is kind of an essential site for backpackers who have vehicles to offer lifts or for those who need lifts. I posted for both. When I had my car reservation I was offering rides. I should have been more patient. Because I didn’t receive any replies for my post I panicked and cancelled my reservation. Forty-eight hours later I received a good amount of replies and my trip would have worked out just fine. But it was to late to do anything about it. So the moral of the story is to try and post more than two days before you intend to leave and also be patient.
The above three sites are what helped me get around Australia for minimal monies. I understand they are not the only way, but I do know they were added assets for my trip. I didn’t even know about Gumtree until a short time before my arrival into Australia. Hopefully you will find these sites and tools as helpful as I did. So you see, my negative-Nancy rant wasn’t what it seemed to be. Australia may be expensive, but there are ways to cut the costs.