Though the people speak English and enjoy a culture similar to our own, Australia largely remains a wild and strange place to most Americans. Perhaps it is the distance of the country from popular travel destinations, or perhaps it is the outlandish appearance of the continent’s wildlife; down under just seems like an unreal place — and its equally unreal prices previously turned all sorts of travelers away.
However, this year, the costs of visiting Australia are lower than ever, which means you can tick another continent off your list without breaking your vacation budget. If you want to find out how to go Down Under on the cheap, read on.
Australia is expensive, and most seasoned travelers know it. However, there are rather good reasons why Down Under has prices on high.
The biggest cost is undoubtedly airfare, which makes sense considering the vast distances between Australia and the rest of “the West.” Because the continent is truly halfway around the world, the shortest flight possible from the U.S. is 15 hours — if you are flying from the East Coast, you should expect a travel time closer to 23 hours. All that fuel is exceedingly pricy. However, during the traveling off-season in the northern hemisphere’s cool-weather months, airlines who continue to fly to Australia want to fill their empty seats, and they drop their ticket prices dramatically.
Additionally, Australia is expensive even for the people who live there — in fact, it has long held the title of the world’s most expensive place to live. Economists suggest that the continent’s relative isolation has lowered competition and driven up prices, making everyday commodities like a pint of beer or a pack of cigarettes exorbitant in comparison to other developed nations. Fortunately, the Australian Dollar and the U.S. Dollar have had a tumultuous relationship. Throughout the global recession, since 2008, $1 U.S. could be exchanged for less than $1 Australian, which means American travelers’ money didn’t go nearly as far. Today, with the recovering economy, $1 U.S. can buy more than $1.38 Australian; such a favorable exchange rate helps keep travelers’ costs low.
Of course, the momentary drop in prices by no means makes Australia cheap, which means shoestring travelers should employ other smart travel strategies to keep their costs low.
One of the most common financial tips from money-savvy world travelers is to find and use rewards credit cards. There are a bevy of travel-related rewards cards that help travelers afford airfare, hotels, rental cars, and even activities and attractions. Some rewards cards have higher interest rates, so be sure to do your research to find one that suits your regular lifestyle best.
Additionally, travelers who are willing to compromise on luxury can save even more. The cheapest restaurant meals in Oz cost around $15 — and that includes basic pub food and no-frills seating. By purchasing food from grocery stores and making meals from your hotel room, you will spend about $70 per week on food, which is significant savings. Choosing to walk and take public transportation, especially the bus, will also cut costs. Then, you’ll have more resources to devote to doing what you actually aimed to: seeing Australia.
You may never guarantee a free trip to Australia, but you certainly can ensure that you spend as little as possible. In fact, some of the most exciting activities and attractions in Oz aren’t especially high-priced. Here are some suggestions to add to your Australia itinerary to fill your days with fun and not financial fuss.