Before travelling to Australia, we often heard fellow travelers warning us about the cost of living: no less than 150 AU$ (around 100€) a day, for two people!
Thankfully, this amount is more flexible than we expected to be, so here’s our story.
Here we will take an in depth look at both the similarities and differences in our budget for Australia and New Zealand. So Kiwi or Koala ?
Planing 2 trips at once may be time consuming, but is very valuable in the end, since you save around 50% of your flight costs.
As suggested in our Budget for Indias & south east Asia article, you might want to consider planning your flights on sites such as Skyscanner, and make good use of the various stops to visit some places you normally wouldn’t consider.
A perfect example was our stop in Dubaï. 24 hours are more than enough to sleep, eat local, visit a bit, and start fresh for a new flight.
We reached Australia after a 6 months trip in South East Asia, visiting 9 countries, for a total of 1036€ spent in plane ticket. Not too bad.
If we had more time, we may even have "boat pooled", saving even more on the longer trips whilst taking a few more lessons on ocean navigation.
The maximum amount of cash you can bring to Australia is 10 000AU$/familly (or 6700€) and 10 000 NZD (around 6000€) to New Zealand. It may sound counter intuitive to bring that much cash, but it has the non negligible advantage of avoiding change fees.
It is also advised to check if your bank belongs to a network (for example Global Alliance), to avoid cash withdrawal charges and benefit from interesting exchange rates.
Even if your credit card isn’t Gold, Premier, Elite or Infinity (and beyond), you can still ask for a 1500€ ceiling withdrawal for the duration of your trip.
In any case, telling the duration and exact dates of your trip to your bank is advised, to avoid getting your card blocked due to potential fishy activity on your account abroad.
A tourist Visa costs around 100€ for 3 months (for us Frenchies anyway) and is renewable for the same amount of both time and money. The working holiday visa costs about 360€, for a full year, and renewable for another, available for adults below 31 years old. This one isn’t worth it unless you plan to stay 6 months+, obviously.
Unsurprisingly, the biggest culprit, it’ll make you spend from 15 to 35€/night/person, for a single bed in dormitories easily counting 4 to 12 beds per room. The atmosphere, quite fun, can get a bit too festive (for our taste at least). Another hindrance (again, for us), was the overpopulation of French travellers, bringing things along, we have never missed. Such as football fanaticism and the slang surrounding it. We even met some French backpackers who had been travelling for 3 months without meddling with the locals once, except for shopping.
Let’s not forget the complete lack of intimacy for couples who sometimes felt the darkness was enough of an excuse to forget everyone else in the room...and make your bunk bed shake.
Nevertheless, our 10 first days in Australia had us spend 86€/day in these "backpackries" (as we got to call them after a while), counting 30€/night for two people, which frankly wasn’t even that expensive. Considering we had access to a fully equipped kitchen, we soon opted to shop for our groceries and cook ourselves.
Backpacker hostels are often costly for no good reason (at least for us), and could probably cut down a lot on unnecessary comfort, like flat screens with 5.1 surround sound, the latest gaming consoles, swimming pool, evening shows...while still making you pay for a bad Wi-fi.
For the record, it is possible to rent the bed for a week at interesting rates. Or you can offer to work for your stay, but that often turns into abuse: 7 days a week, sometimes it’s 2 hours spread completely across the day, or in the middle of the day, preventing you from leaving for the day. This may be nice for people waiting to find a proper job, but not for us.
We always made the choice to remain in the same place for a few days or weeks (when possible), allowing us to both enjoy the company of the locals a bit more and save money.
We got to the point where we planned to couchsurf each time we reached a new place, and use it as a gateway to find a better place to stay, usually a shared house.
Couchsurfing is free on principle, and has the added benefit of meeting locals as soon as possible, forcing you to get your bearings quickly, looking for transportation, groceries, Wi-fi spots, etc.
Couchsurfing in Australia is very popular, due to a high concentration of mostly broke (working-holiday) backpackers, so the hosts are drowning under emails and messages. Knowing that makes all the difference, so you can really plan in advance, showing interest not only in the accommodations but the hosts themselves. it goes a long way.
Moments to cherish with Danielle in Sydney :
Shared houses can be found on Gumtree. You have to understand that since salaries are a weekly iteration in Australia, so are house rentals
These saved us a solid 9€/night (so from 30€ to 21€/night, for the 2 people in the back already sleeping.)
This can really help you lower the overall bill whilst enhancing your quality of living by a good bit. In 10 days, we went from 86€/day to 61€.
Moreover, having room mates makes it easier to share the daily chores, trade services or skills, and get tips for the place.
Another interesting point, shared house very often have Wi-fi.
Self-managed communities can also be an option, such as digger street in Cairns, offering rooms for personal investment in the community if you are a good fit for them (meeting and visiting the community is of course expected beforehand).
Very nice atmosphere overall, with access to wwoofing and vegan meals + Wi-fi !
The second culprit for the cost of living for backpackers in Australia is partying. Alcohol (29% + 10% for the GST) and cigarettes (increased by 25% since 2010 and by 12% a year for 4 years afterwards) are heavily taxed. Now add an alcohol ban in all public places to the mix, forcing you to spend in pubs, you guessed it, party rapidly becomes a very expensive affair.
We opted for a more modest and (somewhat) sober strategy, trying kombucha and a few brewed ginger beers. Ginger beer is non alcoholic beverage, cheaper when bought as a 4-packs rather than a big bottle.
We hit the road for over 5000km between August and November 2015
Inter cities distances are way more important than those we are used to in Europe. Australia is a huge country, and any ride will take hours or even days. You can of course choose to fly, but let’s not get farcical here.
Carpooling seemed only logical then, sharing the cost of gas with car-owning backpackers, enjoying the road trip to the fullest! It’s easy enough to find carpool buddies if you know where to look.
Backapackries are a good start. You may also want to try Facebook groups such as OZ Backpackers.
Camper van, travelling with accommodation
The camper-vans are part of the local spirit. It’s not that uncommon to see tourists, along with the locals, to taste the joy of driving around in one of these.
Local companies handle the rental of said vehicles, but this option looked expensive yet efficient.
Enjoying the comfort can still be achieved at a lower cost with the relocating option: the rentals let you to take one of their vans from one city to another, allowing the client to keep on travelling in the direction of his choice at affordable rates.
Some rentals end up with too few vehicles, so they offer you even a cheaper alternative: 1$ rental (you handle the gas costs) as long as you bring the van to them.
...there are a few things to keep in mind:
Hours of return and address of the place.
Always fill up the gas tank, unless you want to pay for it. Oh and the missing gas is charged 5 times the price.
Be ready to either give a 1000$ bail (by credit card) or pay a 30 to 90$ insurance.
Don’t forget to pay (on-line) any toll within 5 days, unless you find fines fine!
These formalities aside, you usually have a tight window to bring the vehicle from point A to point B (For example, Brisbane -> Sydney [900km] in 48 hours).
You save money for 2 nights plus the cost of the trip!
The Wikicamps app is a nice addition to these, a quick and easy way to find free camping sites, Wi-fi hotspots, toilets and showers.
Now that you have cut a lot on the accommodation prices, you can put that money back where it belong: your plate! So here are a few tips to eat cheap, and more importantly, good food.
Easiest, if you possess the skills for it, is to just cook yourself.
Try a few restaurants for inspiration maybe, by cooking is where it’s at. We quickly invested in a 5 litres (extra virgin first cold pressed) olive oil bottle for 1.79$/l. Same thing for flour. You can find a lot of spices in the common supermarkets who don’t need more publicity than the one they usually shove down our throat.
Our favourite experiment spot was the market. There were lots of various tropical vegetables as well as some of the more common western ones, often coming from local organic farms, fresh herbs, and sometimes even sour-dough bread
In Cairns, we found a local cheese-monger, working on products such as mozzarella di buffala and 100% sheep milk haloumi. When you spend 3 weeks at a time in the same town, and visit the local market 2 times a week, you tend to bond with the shopkeepers, who often gives us free food, or lower their prices a bit.
Getting there right before closing is a good strategy to save money, the prices being often lower to avoid wasting food.
We never had -nor wanted- to cut back on the food, we even bought some wine once or twice. Our overall budget for the food was 7€ per day and per person, counting 2 big meals and snacks + ginger beer.
Of course, being vegan means saving on the meat/fish part, but that can easily be discarded, since we always go after the best products available, meaning additional costs.
We tried a 5$ pizza once or twice at Domino’s or Pizza Hut. But we didn’t feel fully satisfied afterwards, the pizza had a decent taste, but the garnish was really tasteless. Curious, moreover for broccolis!
You may want, of course, to visit the Great Barrier Reef. It’s hard to go below 200$ for this one (around 150€), per person, for a full day at sea, with snorkelling or diving activities included.
There is still a way though, if you really want it, and plan ahead. A few companies look for personnel aboard big ships. They offer the same activities in exchange for working on board.
It looks like you can have a try-out day.
Keep in mind that it will be hard to enjoy the experience to it’s full extent, keeping enough energy for the discovery after working.
Now about the Harbour Bridge, there’s a nifty little trick to know. The marketing team will be delighted to give you a free pass to climb it, if you have a blog, a journal or some form of social media, and commit to advertise the bridge for them. (Keep in mind the tripod is no allowed)
Ok, this is a weird one. Australia’s Internet connection is one of the worst, if not THE worst we came across during our trip, up until Cuba.
Be it in Africa (Ivory Coast, Madagascar, Rodrigues or even Mauritius using fibre), or in India and South-eastern Asia, we got used to have accessible and decent Wi-fi in restaurants or hotels, and still be able to rely on our trusty 3G on smart-phones.
In Australia, Internet is strangely absent from a lot of places. You’re charged for it most of the time and when free, it comes with limited time/data. You are expected to pay 20€/GB with a smile (prepaid plan). The locals pay about 60€/months to get the "unlimited data" plan, capped at 150GB, and that’s only for Internet. If they fancy having a phone and TV on top of that, it’s another story, depending on where they live.
This can, in part, be explained by the sheer size of the country (12 times as big as France), and the relatively low population (23 millions).
A good alternative is to actively look for public libraries displaying free Wi-fi.
Don’t forget to buy at pre-tax prices when buying clothes or electronic hardware. Outlets are perfect for this. On sales clothes you can pay excluding taxes, the dream!
As a tourist, you benefit from a 13% tax refund for a 300$ (or more) purchase in the same shop/mall, as long as you leave with the purchase in your handbag.
A detailed example is worth a thousand explanations.
Refunds happens at the airport, directly on your credit card account, or in cash.
I went to Australia, expecting to work. The working holiday visa is available for young adults (younger than 31), and costs 360€ against a 100€ for a tourist visa. After intense searching, it was a slap in the face and a cold shower at the same time. I never thought I would have to beg for work one day. As it so happens, backpackers are a disposable workforce, to be used and discarded at will. I found nothing in my line of work. I ended up washing dishes in an Indian restaurant, and building a shower out of recycled parts, for a lady, and this of course, illegally.
I was -strongly- advised to lie during my stay, but I never did. Australia sees French backpackers as scoundrels (that’s right we went there!), no need to help that stereotype thrive.
Tip for those of you planning to benefit from the working holiday visa: Westpac bank lets you open an account with free of charges cards for the first year.
Here are a few important statistics to keep in mind:
Bear in mind our Internet bill mostly comes from Delphine’s illustrating job, as well as Tatup’s articles, and of course our little addiction to social media.
After the Aussie adventure, we were willing to have a taste of the Kiwi life. The rates are less scary than we were told. There were a few similarities, but New Zealand is first and foremost a camping paradise. The infrastructures are ideals, the size of the country and the landscapes awe inspiring.
The locals themselves enjoying camping maybe more than us tourists do. It’s not uncommon for pensioners to live in big converted coaches. This alone convinced us to by a converted van to live in, driving across Middle-Earth. (Yes, we know you were expecting that one.)
So without further ado, let’s delve right into the wonderful world of money savings by investing in a van.
The tourist visa lasts for 3 months and is free for Europeans. As it so happens, 3 months is the perfect duration to visit the country properly.
Yes, this time it maybe be worth considering, since it’s 3 times cheaper than its Australian counterpart, but still more expensive than the tourist visa!
Once we decided to take the converted camper-van route, arriving very early ahead of the main holiday season was key, to be able to sell the van once high season hits. (From early November to end of January 2016)
A few things to know here. New Zealand is really 2 islands. It’s important to know you if you plan to visit both (of course you will) for the added cost of transportation, moreover if you have a vehicle.
There are 2 companies handling the crossing, Blue Bridge being the cheaper one. Book in advance to avoid cancellation insurance costs and maybe benefit from potential discounts.
It’s really up to you, but we chose to cross 2 times. First because it allowed us to save on flight costs, arriving in Auckland from Australia, and flying to Mexico, from Auckland again. Second, and to make the most out of it, we travelled along both coasts, enjoying radically different landscapes. And last, and maybe not least, a van sells better in Auckland, despite Wellington being the capital.
Similar to their Aussie counterparts, the BBHcard nevertheless gives you discount on several hostels across both islands.
Wi-fi is everywhere in New Zealand (the beacons of Gondor are efficient), and the choice in accomodation is quite good, so picking family houses is a good way to save money.
We only spent a night, waiting for our van to get repaired.
I can’t stress this one enough in New Zealand. The locals love their country and they are always ready to help tourists and newcomers.
We met quite a few campers travelling across the country on bike. Bike by day, tent by night. It’s both healthy (no they don’t send eagles to save you when it’s too steep), and cheap. Win/win!
Obviously the biggest saving comes from your transportation, but camping isn’t that expensive (0 to 15$ a night in the D.O.C), and there are also several free camping site all around.
Exemple of a shelter lent by Andy, 3 minutes after we met him:
New Zealand inhabitants are (from our experience) kind and trusty folks, always happy to help you, be it for asking directions or unexpectedly invite you to stay the night.
It’s worth noting these most welcome invitation happened more often in the southern of the Northern island, and you guessed it, in the northern part of the Southern island.
Of course, we were always decent, kind, and polite. As a matter of fact, we love our fellow human beings, and we’re always willing to meet, share and discover. We end up talking and talking and talking so much, we had no other choice than accept to stay overnight.
Remember the 1$ rental deal in Australia? Well, New Zealand has that too! I have to admit though, it’s far from ideal there. Running after rentals all around the place didn’t strike us as the best way to enjoy our stay. Carpooling is one of the options of course...but to truly feel free (or relatively at least), to be able to come and go as you please, sleep wherever you want, you guessed it: buy your very own camper-van.
A perfect fit for New Zealand, the camper-van is just a van with living quarters (a small bed and a small kitchen).
We wanted ours enhanced and lengthened, with a small kitchen inside, in case of bad weather or swarms of sand-flies (stinging flies without a shred of decency. Rude!)
We equipped it with a wide solar panel to enjoy 220 volts and a fridge.
The table was convertible into a bedspring and so the "living room" into a bedroom.
On top of that, we added a shower, the water being heated with our gas stove.
All these little enhancements made the resell value quite interesting, so much in fact that we didn’t lose any money in the process.
Ownership transfer is as simple as walking into the nearby post office (always situated next to a Kiwi bank). This document is the Registration, and comes with an obligation of tax payment ever 3 or 6 months (Around 70$), again, in your local post office.
As a foreigner, you will be delivered a document based on your passport informations, giving you access to a local license, free of charge, you guessed it, in any post office.
Just to be safe, buy a vehicle up to date on the Warranty of Fitness. It costs between 40 to 70$ depending on the garage and lasts for 6 months.
If you chose the diesel option, you will need to buy kilometre points, sold by 1k packs.
There is no mandatory insurance, which means if you are responsible for any damage, you have to pay on the spot. This directly translates into a very calm and patient way of driving! It’s frowned upon to lose your patience, you could be seen as mentally unstable.
I suggest you keep track of your car related expenditures (not counting consumables) on a different book, it makes thing smoother when selling.
This paper certifies your vehicle is self contained, meaning it can be autonomous in case of parking for 3 days with 2 people inside. It’s a net capital gain if you want to resell.
(20l water tank with a tap and 2l of drinking water per person, a sink with a 20l tank for waste, a trash can on board, air ventilation, autonomous toilets...) The main goal here is to avoid human pollution in the Shire. This certificate gives you the right to park anywhere as long as it’s not a private property or a wildlife park. This is a very good deal, you save tons on camping costs of the D.O.C(Department of conservation), otherwise the only places where you can park for the night. Between 6 to 15$/person, let’s say the 55$ investment in a self-contained certificate is worth it.
If you’re planning to get it, you fill out an application at the NZMCA.
You get a few perks by doing so: you avoid the cost of certification, benefit from a discount for the ferry crossing, have access to a list of new camping sites with a few free D.O.C amongst them, and finally it has a positive impact with your relationship with the authorities as well as some of the (quite surprised) locals.
For good infos on facilities, Wi-fi, camp-sites in New Zealand, you may check WIKICAMP
Pak’nSave as well as New World supermarkets often offer gas discounts on their receipt. Keep in mind using your credit card may end up costing more on fees than using cash.
Esso has a discount policy, one day a week, usually 10 cent/litre, depending on gas station.
You might consider loyalty (or rewards) cards in Caltex and BP gas stations, giving you a 4 to 10 cents/litre discount. You can save points to spend them later.
In your plate
We followed the pattern we had used in Australia: we bought our 5L olive oil bottle (Extra virgin first cold pressed) and our flour sack.
If you have a sweet tooth, buying treats and (healthy) snacks can be really costly if you fancy quality products. What we did is bake a lot of vegan cookies when invited by the locals, so we could share with them as repayment, and still have enough for 10 days.
One of the many wonders in new Zealand, if you enjoying cooking, is the vast amount of small growers, setting up their stalls on the side of the country roads. The sale of seasonal (sometimes organic) fruits, vegetables, honey, eggs is free (not regulated), based on trust, and frankly cheap.
Your other option is the supermarket (less numerous than in Australia) laden with local products and vegetables, vegetable milk and cereals.
In your glass
New Zealand is a good country for wine, where good bottles can be found for 5 to 10€. Our own preference went to the Pinots Noirs from the Central Otago valley. We sometimes treated ourselves to some Gibbston Valley or Akarua.
The rest of the time, we drank Phoenix, an organic local ginger beer ("beer" because it’s brewed, but has no alcohol)
Ok, time for the bill then? On average, we spent together 14,82€/day for 2 solid meals and a snack. Oh yes, cappuccinos with soy milk, bought in gas stations.
There are so many things to do and to enjoy in the countryside, for free (volcanoes, caves, beaches and hot spring) as well as in the cities (museums, exhibitions, association events) that spending money should be left for the exceptional and amazing, such as bungee jumping and the likes.
After Australia’s catastrophic Internet, finding good and affordable connexion was a breath of fresh air. In short, we paid 15€/GB of data, add 3€ to that and you get 5GB during evenings and weekends (with our Vodafone plan, usually the best connexion available in the country).
One of the selling point for us was the cheap cost of calls to Europe for 2$/h (1€!). If you travel as a couple, or with friend, it’s a good idea to mix up plans, to get the most out of what they have to offer (Some have more data, but worse coverage).
Sadly, pre-tax pricing wasn’t possible in New Zealand, for the most part. It can be done in some shops, but it’s a complicated process -you have to ship the goods directly to the boarding gate of your plane- not really worth it.
Here are the figures to keep in mind: