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For years Australia has become one of the top destinations for backpackers. From golden beaches to tropical rain forests to bustling hipster coffee shops, Australia has it all. With so many places to see, it can become overwhelming deciding where to start. In this guide I am going to go over all the steps you need to take before and during your travels to make sure you have a memorable experience during your trip down under. In this backpacking Australia guide, we will go into all the steps you should take before taking the journey. If you are interested in learning more about backpacking around Australia, feel free to check out our Australia section dedicated to working/travelling around Oz.
Type of Visas
When coming to Australia you will need to apply for a visa. Depending on how long you want to stay in Australia or if you are looking to work, the visa you need will vary. If you are looking to stay for less than three months at a time and not work, you will need to apply for a 651 eVisitor Visa. This visa allows you to stay in the country for up to 3 months at a time and lasts 12 months.
However, if you wish to stay longer and also possibly work during your trip, you will need to apply for either a Working Holiday Visa (417) or a Work And Holiday Visa (462) depending on what country you are from. For more information on which visa you should apply for, I recommend you use the Visa Finder on the Australian government website.
Getting To Australia
Once you’ve sorted out your visa, the next step would be to book your flights. When it comes to booking flights, I always use and recommend Skyscanner. With Skyscanner, you can compare flight prices and make sure you get the best deal on your flight to Oz. On their website, you can sort by month instead of picking a specific date to get an idea of the average flight prices in each month. So once you have picked the airport you wish to arrive at, you can then go ahead and book your flight!
What City Should I start In?
There isn’t really a wrong answer to this question since each city in Australia has plenty to offer. However, it would depend on what you are looking to do when you first arrive. Are you looking to travel or work first? If you are looking to work first, then I would recommend starting in one of the major cities in Australia: Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Darwin, Adelaide or Perth. Before arriving in Oz, you can take a look at Seek.com.au to see how many job postings there are for each city so you can get an idea of the job market there. Seek is one of the biggest websites in Australia for job posts.
When I first arrived in Australia I stayed in Perth for a month and wasn’t able to find work that wasn’t a Charity Brand Ambassador Job (avoid at all costs). After the month passed by I decided to fly to Sydney and try find work there. Once in Sydney I was able to find a job and get hired within 2 1/2 weeks. But just remember experiences will always differ from person to person though. If you are look travel when you first arrive, just remember that the most popular sights and big cities to see in Australia are on the east coast so you may want to pick a city on the east coast when factoring in your time, budget and travel route.
What To Pack (Suitcase or Backpack)?
When it comes to deciding how much luggage you should bring, packing less is better than packing too much. Just remember that you can always buy what you need when you arrive. A few t-shirts, shorts, pants, a towel, two pairs of runners and a hoodie should be enough. I would also advise against packing work clothes. When you arrive, you never know what type of work you end up getting. If you end up getting a job in construction the office attire you packed is just a waste of space. There are plenty of cheap clothes shops like H&M and Target (and charity shops)!
Also, if you are wondering whether to bring a suitcase or a backpack, I would pick a backpack. While travelling, carrying too much luggage can become a hassle. Everything you need during your travels should fit into one big backpack, all the other things you need like sun cream and shower gel should just be purchased when you arrive.
Once You Arrive
Once you arrive in Australia, you will need to sort out a few things, especially if you are looking to start working:
- Accommodation (covered in the next section) – I advise booking your first few nights before arrival
- A tax file number – Everyone who wants to work in Australia must apply for a TFN (Tax File Number). You can apply for one for free once you have arrived. It is important to apply as soon as possible because if you don’t have one when first working you will end up paying higher tax. You can apply for one here – https://www.ato.gov.au/Individuals/Tax-file-number/Apply-for-a-TFN/
- A Sim Card – Make sure your phone isn’t locked to a carrier. If so, you will either need to have it unlocked or get a new phone when you arrive. It is very important to have an Australian phone number especially when applying for jobs. The biggest phone providers in Australia are Optus, Telstra & Vodafone. Make sure to compare each provider when you decide to purchase a sim as plans change constantly. I went with Optus since at the time I was in Australia they had a special offer where you could purchase an Optus Sport add-on for $5 per month with any top up plan. This allowed me to watch unlimited Premier League Football for a fraction of the regular price back in Ireland!
- A Bank Account – You will need to have an Aussie bank account before you start working. The big four banks in Australia are CommBank, Anz, Westpac & Nab. Make sure to check out the promo offers that they have at the time you start backpacking in Australia. When I arrived, ANZ had a current account and savings account with no fees but make sure to check first.
The easiest job to get while in Oz (especially if you don’t have a lot of work experience) would be in customer service. This could range from retail to over the phone or to web chat/email. These roles are typically very easy find and there are always plenty looking for work. Also, as previously mentioned, the best website to look for work in Australia would definitely be Seek.com.au. Also, if you are looking for more information on working in Australia, feel free to check out our guides on Working In Australia.
Getting Work When Backpacking Australia
The experience of getting work in Australia will obviously vary a lot from person to person. However, it’s important to know that the idea of getting a dream holiday job while backpacking Australia is unlikely for the majority of people. When applying for jobs, it’s going to be the same as applying for work in most other countries. It is also very important to note your visa restrictions. For working holiday visa’s, you can only work for a single employer for 6 months. Employers know this so unless you work in a position that is in high demand with possibility for sponsorship, don’t bother applying for a permanent job.
Where To Stay
Before arriving, I recommend you book accommodation for your first few nights in Australia. In most major cities in Australia, accommodation isn’t cheap. So if you want to make your money last while backpacking Australia or trying to find work, hostels are your best option. There are plenty of nice hostels all across Australia once you know where to find them. When booking hostel accommodation, the only website I ever use is Hostelworld.com. Hostel World is the biggest booking site for hostels and typically has the best prices for booking. The best feature of the website is the ability to see the hostels rating and customer experience.
The next thing to plan for your trip will be deciding how you are going to get around the country. The main options are:
- Rent A Camper Van/Car – If you are over 21 with a license (and enough money saved up), one of the best ways to get around Australia would be to either rent a camper van or buy a second hand one with the intention of selling it before you leave. This option would give you the most freedom to travel and stay anywhere you’d like.
- Rent A Car Relocation– A great option for someone on a budget is to join one of the relocation websites where you can find cars or camper vans that companies need to be relocated by a certain date, these are typically very cheap or sometimes free! The only downside is that you may not have a lot of time in certain places but if you need to get somewhere quickly this can be the perfect option.
- Get A Travel Pass – Now if you are on a cheaper budget or just don’t have a license, the best option would be to purchase a bus travel pass. The one I used and recommend would be the Greyhound Whimit Travel Pass. This pass gives you unlimited journeys on any greyhound bus for the time the pass is valid. In mm experience, the greyhound buses are great. Every long haul bus has a toilet, USB charging ports, AC & reclining seats. Also, most of the drivers are very friendly and are willing to help with any questions you might have.
The Cost Of Backpacking Australia
The monthly costs of living in Australia will vary greatly depending on whether you decide to work or travel. Here is an example of the costs of a month in Australia while travelling:
- Breakfast – $9
- Lunch – $9
- Dinner -$12
- Accommodation (1 Night Average) – $30
- Average Daily Cost $60 – Average Monthly Cost $1800
The average day while travelling Oz will cost you around $60 ($1800 per month) without even factoring in the cost of partying, travelling and booking trips which can easily double your expenses! This is why it is very important to bring enough money with you. Many people underestimate the costs and end up having to cut their travels short. It is also why I recommend working first then exploring later. While working, you can save up plenty of money for travelling so long as you budget. Here is an average month’s expenses while working.
- Shared Accommodation (Typically Includes All Bills) – $800 Per Month
- Groceries (One Person) – $300-400 Per Month
- Transport (Public) – $150-200 Per Month
- Phone Bill – $30 Per Month
- Gym Membership – $60 Per Month
- Average Daily Cost $47 – Average Monthly Cost $1415
When working I highly advise you to eat out as little as possible if you want to save. A decent meal can easily set you back $30 when eating out compared to $4 or less to make the same thing at home.
Just remember that you are travelling through Austrlia to have a good time so while it’s important to stick to your budget while travelling, it’s OK to spend a little extra to make your trip more enjoyable. Try to save as much as you can before you arrive so you can spend less time budgeting and more time enjoying your adventure!
P.s: If you would like more information on backpacking Australia, make sure to check out our other blog posts.