A backpacker’s survival guide to getting the most out of an Australia road trip, without breaking the bank.
Embarking on a great Australian road trip is on the bucket list of millions around the globe. Australia is huge, like totally enormous – which means you could roadtrip your way around for years and still be left with things to see.
There are plenty of roadtrip styles, some travellers prefer to take it slow and stop as often as they can, while others move quickly between towns and cities to take in as many sights as possible. Some backpackers prefer to take the road less travelled, while others prefer to hit up the backpacker hotspots.
But there’s one thing most backpackers and travellers have in common, and that’s the goal of keeping the trip affordable and a set budget they are trying to stick to.
To help you plan a budget friendly Australian camping road trip we’ve put together this helpful guide full of handy hints and top tips for how to travel and camp in Australia in an affordable way.
Here’s what you’ll find in the guide
- How to set a budget
- How to keep costs down while driving
- Where to stay
- Budget camping meals
- Things to do that won’t break the bank
How to set a travel budget
The key to travelling within a budget is break it down day by day. Australia is an expensive country in comparison to other places such as South America or South East Asia, however, with some preparation and research it doesn’t need to cost a fortune.=
To create a realistic budget you need to get an idea of what you are actually going to spend. There are two ways you can go about doing this.
Option 1: Work out how much you think will spend overall and divide it by the length of time you are travelling. For example:
You’ve saved up $4000 to travel in Australia and you plan to spend 6 weeks here. The daily budget you’d have to spend is $100 a day. If you don’t feel like this is enough then you either need to save some more money before you book your flight, or you need to reduce the time you’re going to spend travelling.
Option 2: Another way to work out your budget is to do some research and make a list of everything you’d probably need to spend money on in a day such as campervan rental, food, laundry or your mobile phone credit. Add some extra onto that for nights out and day trips and a little extra again in case you need it in an emergency.
Multiply the daily amount by the number of days you are going to be in Australia for e.g. $120 x 40 = $4,800.
We’ve put together some guides on how much things cost, based on our experience of living in Australia.
Here are some questions to ask yourself to check if you’re being realistic with what you might need:
- What are your spending habits like right now? If you’re prone to financial blow outs then you may want to try and add extra contingency money to your budget.
- Do you have certain things you cannot live without? If you know there are certain luxuries you won’t be able to give up then factor them in now.
- How much can you actually afford to spend? There’s no point setting a budget that you can’t even afford in the first place. How much are you really willing to spend?
- How much money do you need to come home to afterwards?
Consider downloading a free money tracking app to help you keep a rough record of what you’re spending while your away.
If you do over spend while you’re away – no worries, you are on holiday after all! But, consider cutting back on some things for a few days to get back on track. For example, if you’re camping there are lots of free campsites you can stop at or make food at the campsite instead of eating out.
Driving around Australia on a budget
One of the best things about camping in a tent or campervan is that you don’t need to spend a lot of money to have a good time. Here are some top tips that will help you to camp on a budget.
How to keep the cost of driving your campervan or car down
As a starting point you might want to consider sharing your car or campervan with a couple of friends, being able to split costs such as rental fees, campsites and road tolls can really make a difference to your daily spending.
When you’re road tripping around Australia it’s easy for cost of fuel to really add up. Also remember that the price will vary from state to state and region to region.
- The easiest way to save money on fuel is to take it at a steady pace – afterall what’s the rush! Slow it down!
- Removing any excess weight from your campervan or car can also really help to decrease the cash you have to spend on fuel getting from A to B.
- Camping in remote locations is great, but also try to pick out some more central places to camp where you can easily walk to the beach or shops, meaning you don’t always have to rely on your campervan on car to get around.
- Aussie summers are HOT and the temptation to sit in the campervan or car with the aircon blasting is going to be strong! But if you can, try to hold back from having it on all the time when you’re driving around as it will drain your fuel.
- According to MotorMouth, Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the cheapest days to top up on fuel. Avoid buying it on the weekends, especially if a public holiday.
- If you stock up on food at Coles or Woolworths always check the bottom of your receipt. They often have fuel discount coupons which can help you save around 4 – 8 cents per litre.
To hire or buy a campervan or car?
If you plan on being in Australia for a while then you might want to consider buying a used campervan or station wagon, this will give you the opportunity to get some of your money back as you can sell it on to other backpackers when you leave. There’s lots to see and do in Australia, so having a home on wheels is a smart and economical option if you’re looking to cover a lot of ground while you’re here.
Our cheap vans with the famous bed & kitchen are the perfect choice for those who want the comforts of a campervan around Australia. We offer cheap vans between $4000 – $8000 and will include guaranteed buyback, roadside assistance, two week total warranty, 5000 KM engine & gearbox warranty, full mechanical service.
Where to stay
Find free campsites
One of the best things about camping in Australia is the number of free campsites available. These can normally be found in National Parks. A night here and there is perfect to help reduce costs. The most popular campsites will have basic amenities – power, toilets, and water.
When you rent a campervan with Travellers Autobarn you get access to thousands of free and low-cost camping grounds in Australia. Each of our campervans and station wagons comes with a FREE Campsite Directory that covers the whole of Australia – this is the ultimate guide for the budget traveller. Another great benefit to booking with Travellers Autobarn, we offers 10% discount on dedicated campgrounds around Australia, speak to our friendly team to find out more.
Alternatively if you want to do some prep before your trip check out WikiCamps. This is a great app that has a user-generated database of caravan parks and campsites with user reviews on the features.
Budget friendly campsites and holiday parks
Australia has thousands of great campsites to choose from, however if you’re looking to stick to a budget then you need to be savvy about the ones you pick to park up at.
The cost to camp in a campervan or tent will depend on whether you choose a powered or unpowered site, how many people there are travelling in your group, the season and location. As a rough guide prices start from $35 a night to $60 per pitch.
Eating on a budget while camping
When it comes to eating on the road people often think that that quality and budget have to be on opposite ends of the spectrum. But there’s something about cooking and eating in the great outdoors that makes everything taste… well, better! Plus cooking on a campfire or BBQ is fun.
It can be a challenge to get cheap food while travelling around Australia, but with some careful planning and research on the best places to go it’s totally possible to eat really well while you’re out on the road. Eating while you’re travelling around doesn’t have to mean fast food, sandwiches, chocolate and crisps.
Coles and Woolworths are our competing supermarkets whose love for price wars can really benefit you. In general new discounts and special offers are released every week on a Wednesday, so keep your eyes out an bag a bargain.
Stock up on basic essentials such as rice, pasta, potatoes, veggies and fruits. Sauces and spices can also go a long way to jazzing up a simple meal.
In smaller regional towns you are more likely to come across an IGA or a Foodworks. IGA often has great special offers and they also support local produce suppliers so check them out when you’re stocking up.
Get Inspired With Our Campervan Cooking Videos
Looking for top tips and recipe ideas? Check out the Travellers Autobarn YouTube channel for step by step budget cooking videos like how to make fresh banana bread, pancakes and pizza.
How to make pancakes in a campervan
How to make pizza in a campervan
How to make banana bread in a campervan
(Search for: Travellers Autobarn on YouTube)
Want some more inspiration? Here are some top ideas on eight budget friendly meals to cook in your campervan.
- Fried eggs with Spinach, Mushroom & Cherry Tomato Fry-Up. Saute some onion and garlic in a pan before adding chopped mushrooms and cherry tomatoes. Add in the spinach and let it wilt before cracking in a couple of eggs. When the eggs are done take it off the heat and serve with crusty bread.
- Caprese salad. If you’ve been driving all day and feel like something lighter that requires no cooking then why not serve up a caprese salad. This simple salad is just fresh, ripe tomatoes and mozzarella. Drizzle with some olive oil, salt and pepper. Yum! Eat with olives and fresh bread.
- Classic Aussie sausage sizzle. Pick up some sausages, bread, onions and sauce. You can either cook these on a gas stove or a public bbq.
- Mac and Cheese. Super simple, super tasty and super cheap. You can either buy a box of the ready made stuff or cook some pasta stir in a simple homemade cheese sauce made from butter, flour, milk and cheese.
- Simple chilli. You can make chilli from as little as five ingredients – Garlic, tinned tomato, beef, kidney beans and chilli powder. Serve with rice, bread or tortilla chips.
- Veggie burritos. Simply pick up some tortilla wraps, canned corn, canned beans, red pepper, a jar of salsa, avo and cheese and you’re good to go!
- Pancakes. Easy to make and very easy to eat. All you need is eggs, flour, milk and a pinch of salt. Make these savoury or sweet – your choice!
- Campfire nachos. Who doesn’t love nachos, especially after a long day of swimming or surfing at the beach? Grab some corn chips, refried beans, cheese, salsa, sour cream and jalapenos and get cooking.
Eating out on a budget
Just because you’re camping doesn’t mean you can’t treat yourself – you are on holiday after all. When it comes to eating out it’s often a case of knowing what to look for. When it comes to eating out, there are plenty of options available to backpackers on a budget who are looking for a top-notch meal that won’t break the bank.
- If you want a meal out then why not opt for lunch instead – most places do great deals with the same food you’d get at dinner but half the price.
- Look out for RSL’s, Memorial Clubs, Bowling Clubs and Surf Clubs – Almost every town in Australia will have at least one of these clubs that have relatively cheap food, drink and daily specials.
- Check out local deal websites such as Groupon, Scoopin and Cudo. They have great dinner and lunchtime deals that often have a drink included. Whether you feel like dining in a luxurious restaurant or binging at a buffet’s, last-minute discounts can all be found on such sites.
- Head to the nearest China / Thai / Koreatown. If you’re a fan of Asian food then you’re in luck as Australia is home to great asian food. Cities like Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney are full of great authentic, budget friendly Asian restaurants and many of these restaurants offer the option of bringing your own wine with corkage of $1-$2.
Things to do when camping on a budget
This one is simple. Australia is a naturally beautiful country with so many free things to see and do, from kilometers of famous beaches, to coastal walks, national parks, or city markets…
This country will get you in shape quickly and you won’t even notice it because it’s so easy to get caught up in the mesmerizing Australian landscape.
If you are trying to figure out how to travel on a budget we have tons of top tips to help you. We want you to see Australia in style and on a budget, speak to the team at Travellers Autobarn for more information and to book your campervan today.
If you want to read more of our exciting Guides by Travellers Autobarn, come and see what we’re talking about!