Looking for important travel information while backpacking in Australia? Here you will find information on working in Australia, entry visas, Australia hostels, and much more.
Table of Contents
- Facts About Australia
- Things to do in Australia
- Entry Visa Requirements for Australia
- Working holidays and volunteer projects in Australia
- Australia Hostels
Why go Backpacking in Australia?
Australia is an incredibly cosmopolitan country whose sheer size offers the backpacker years worth of travel. Furthermore, the Australian population is remarkably progressive, friendly and laid back, these factors coupled with breathtaking scenery and fascinating indigenous wildlife, has seen the number of backpackers travelling to Australia rising every year.
Climate in Australia
When deciding the best time to visit Australia, the weather certainly plays a large role. Australia lies in the southern hemisphere so the seasons are the opposite of those in Europe or America. While the countries in the northern hemisphere are having their winter Australia is having its summer.
Furthermore, Australia has two distinct climatic zones depending on location. The tropical zone in the north only experiences two distinct seasons, the summer which is wet and the winter which is dry, throughout the year this region experiences very warm temperatures.
The temperate zone lies in the south, below the tropic of cancer and experiences four distinct seasons with warm days and mild nights in the summer and spring and cooler but still sunny days in the winter. The only snowfall you are likely to see in Australia is confined to the mountains in the south-east.
Things to do in Australia
Sydney has much to offer to visitors, a sprawling metropolis where travellers can spend weeks just exploring.
The Rocks is one of the most visited areas of the city being the site where both Sydney and the country of Australia were founded. It is easily the oldest area of Sydney and is found at the foot of the world-famous Sydney Harbour Bridge. In this area, you can find an excellent selection of cosmopolitan cafes and restaurants in buildings that have been preserved from the colonial era. Attractions in this district of the city include the Museum of Contemporary Art and Cadman Cottage which is the oldest building in Sydney and was originally built as a barracks in 1816.
Close by right on the water is the world-famous Sydney Opera House, this building’s distinctive geometry has lead to it being lauded as one of the wonders of the modern world. After visiting The Rocks, the opera house and Sydney Harbour Bridge there is still plenty more sites to see including the zoo, the Royal Botanic Gardens and the 19th century Fort Denison.
Then, of course, there is always Bondi beach which is one of the most famous beaches in the country and offers all of the sunning, surfing and swimming you would expect from an Australian beach.
One of the most famous sites in the country is, of course, Ayers Rock or Uluru which is an icon of Australia’s aborigine heritage. This enormous 3.6 km long outcrop reaches 348m high and looks particularly impressive against the surrounding flat country.
The rock is sacred to the Angangu Aborigines and is subsequently surrounded by caves that sport ancient examples of aboriginal rock art. It is no longer possible to climb Ayers rock, since the aborigines who have now been granted ownership of the land prefer visitors not to climb this sacred site.
Great Barrier Reef
Another prime tourist attraction is one of Australia’s great national treasures and takes the form of the Great Barrier Reef. The fantastic coral reef extends most of the way along the Queensland coast and is located about 50km off the coast.
The southern stretch has a whole myriad of islands which provide resorts facilities or camping grounds close to the reefs. Those looking for a little bit of adventure in their trip shouldn’t pass up the chance to go scuba diving around the reefs. Although this is quite expensive it is definitely an experience of a lifetime and we advise anyone who gets the chance to seize it.
Unique Activities in Australia
Since popular places in Australia can get crowded during tourist season, it is wise to reserve tickets and activities ahead of time. GetYourGuide sells entrance tickets to museums and landmarks at face value so you can avoid the lines and save that precious time for more exploring.
Viator is another popular travel website that helps you book things to do in Australia. They work directly with local tour operators in Australia, so you won’t have to scour the internet or roam around town trying to find the best deal.
If you know your schedule ahead of time, a great insider tip is to buy tickets for major tourist attractions ahead of time. Tiqets has entrance tickets and skip-the-line passes for major attractions in Sydney, Gold Coast, and other hotspots, which can be a worthwhile cost during peak tourist season.
How to Get Cheap Flights to Australia
In order to find the best flights to Australia we recommend using a few well-known flight comparison search engines. These websites offer powerful search options, like entering flexible dates and airports in order to find the cheapest flight to Australia.
Our go-to flight search engine is Skyscanner, which we love for its extremely flexible search options. Our favourite way to get travel inspiration is their “Everywhere” feature. Simply enter “Everywhere” as a destination, and it will then list all available flights from your departure city in order of price. This also works when entering the entire country of Australia as your destination. Skyscanner will search all possible airports in the country in order to find the cheapest option.
Kiwi is another new favourite flight search engine among savvy travelers. Kiwi works by combining flights from different carriers in order to get the best deal. Also, if there is a better ground or ferry option for the route you’re searching, Kiwi will include that in the search results. On average, we have found the cheapest flights to Australia with them compared to the other websites out there.
How to Travel Around Australia on a Budget
Australia is so big that the most accepted form of inter-city travel is by air. There is a number of domestic airlines operating in Australia, the main ones being Qantas and Virgin Australia. We recommend using a few different flight comparison search engines.
Train travel in Australia
Although air travel is the normal method of long-distance travel, Rail Australia runs a very modern rail service which could save you a bit of money. The main service of interest to travellers is the coast-to-coast twice-weekly “Indian Pacific” although there are several more frequent and shorter services available.
Bus travel in Australia
The major bus operator in Australia is Greyhound, which runs a range of inter-city routes in very comfortable and well-equipped buses. Although this is the cheapest way to travel, be warned that the distances are huge so you could be in for some long journeys.
There is a range of passes available, travellers using the Aussie Explorer pass choose a set route and then have a certain time period to complete the route with as many stops as you want. If you require more flexible travel then the Aussie Kilometre Pass allows you to buy a set distance which you can use on any routes in any way you see fit.
Car rental in Australia
If you are travelling to Australia, and you want to have a bit more freedom than a coach or plane, then you may want to consider renting a car. If you decide you want to rent a car in Australia, you can use DiscoverCars to compare offers from the major car rental agencies in the region.
If you do decide to drive, then make sure that you are prepared. Australia is a huge country, and it is possible to drive for hours before you see another person. You need to make sure that when you break down in Australia, you are able to get back on your way again as soon as possible.
Group Trips in Australia
Though part of the fun of backpacking Australia is exploring on your own, there are situations, especially when venturing off the tourist trail, when it does make sense to go with a guide or a small group.
The most popular option for social travel in Australia is Contiki tours. Contiki trips offer more than just transportation, they are organized social group travel for travelers aged 18-35. Whether you’re traveling by yourself or going with a group of friends, Contiki tours are perfect for people looking to have a blast, meet new friends, and form lifelong memories. They offer tours that travel primarily in Australia or longer tours that cover other nearby places.
G Adventures is another great option for organized travel, but with a smaller group. It’s a great choice for anyone backpacking Australia alone who would like to meet up with like-minded travellers. It’s also a practical option for exploring places where you need an experienced guide, like a long hiking adventure or visiting a place well off the beaten path. You can choose from different styles of small group tours like active, wellness, hiking trips, 18-30somethings, and more. Their most popular trips in Australia are their 16-day Australia North to South tour and their 12-day Queensland Sand, Sailing & Dreamtime tour.
Health and Safety in Australia
Medical and dental care in Australia is widely available and doctors are trained to a very high standard. The overall quality of health provision very good. There is a reciprocal health agreement with the UK which allows free treatment for British Citizen in an emergency. Non-emergency treatment will be expected to be paid for so it is still worth taking out travel insurance before you leave for Australia. Even for short trips, our go-to travel insurance provider is World Nomads, which is also recommended by Lonely Planet, HostelWorld, and other major travel companies.
There are no vaccinations recommended for travel to Australia, the tap water is safe to drink and the food is considered safe. Only normal everyday precautions need to be observed.
Entry Visa Requirements for Australia
All visitors to Australia require a passport valid for the duration of their stay. Members of the EU and US nationals are eligible for a special electronic visa called an ETA valid for a stay of up to 3 months. These ETAs are machine-readable and invisible to the human eye, they can be obtained from airlines, travel agents or in some cases online at www.eta.immi.gov.au. Visitors countries not eligible for ETAs or those wishing to stay longer than 3 months will have to apply for an ordinary visa which is available from your local Australian High Commission.
Visa requirements for Australia can vary widely depending on your country of origin and can change over time. To avoid any unpleasant surprises, be sure to check the latest visa requirements while you’re still planning your trip.
Working holidays and volunteer projects in Australia
Pursuing a working holiday in Australia may require you to have a work permit. Luckily, Australia has a revolutionary program called the Working Holiday visa, which is an incredibly popular choice for young backpackers who are interested in doing a gap year or working abroad.
The visa grants a one-year stay to young people between 18 to 30 years old (and citizens of Canada, France and Ireland who are 18 to 35 years old) to live and work in Australia for up to one year. The Australia immigration website has more details about how to apply for this program.
Become an Au Pair in Australia
Perhaps one of the best options for working holidays in Australia is to become an au pair. As an au pair in Australia, you’ll be placed with a host family and will typically help with child care and household work such as cleaning.
It’s best to work with a reputable program to find your Australia au pair placement. This will help ensure a clear contract between the host family and the au pair regarding expected working hours and spending money.
According to aupair.com, au pairs in Australia work for about 25-30 hours a week and can expect to earn at least 800-100 AU$ per month. The website is a great resource for au pair information and can help place you with a great host family.
For some other helpful agencies check out Au Pair International or the similar agency Au Pair World, both of which have great placements in Australia.
Working Holidays in Australia at a bar, restaurant, or hostel
Another area to explore working holidays in Australia is to apply at the local bar, restaurants, or hostels. Although most of these jobs will pay minimum wage, they will still require that you have official permission to work in Australia as a foreigner.
Australia has one of the highest minimum wage rates in the world, with workers earning $12.14 per hour, and the tipping culture can mean you’ll be making much more during your working holiday in Australia.
Hostel jobs in Australia can be a great way to get to know fellow travelers or to take a short break while on the road to earn some spending money. Hosteljobs.com offers lots of different jobs at hostels in Australia from reception, to maintenance, to tour guides and event managers. You can try to apply for the jobs before backpacking in Australia, or you can also pick up work while already on the road. To get a hostel job in Australia, simply asking if they have any vacancy, showing your work ethic and enthusiasm.
Farm Jobs in Australia
The wine industry is huge in Australia and is always in need of seasonal farm workers to help pick grapes, oranges, bananas, and more. Fruitpickingjobs.com.au offers a database of farm jobs in Australia which offer pay. The farm jobs in Australia are normally seasonal, following the annual grape harvest.
If you’re less interested in earning wages and more interested in gaining valuable life experience, WWOOF is a voluntary organisation placing volunteers on organic farm jobs in Australia and throughout the world. Workers are provided with board and accommodation and must pay an annual membership of €10 to WWOOF, see their website for more details.
Volunteering in Australia
Volunteer travel is a great way to explore Australia on a budget while also giving back. Typically, you’ll work on the project a set number of hours per week in exchange for free accommodation, and sometimes other perks such as free food, free bike rentals, and more.
If volunteer work in Australia sounds like something you want to do, it’s best to do it via a reputable agency. An agency will help screen volunteer programs and hosts in Australia to make sure you have support every step of the way.
Volunteer work in Australia can be organized through the WorldPackers agency, and you can use promo code BACKPACKING10 to save $10 on your membership. WorldPackers can connect you with volunteering opportunities in Australia with NGOs, hostels and homestays, agricultural or wildlife experiences, and more.
Useful links to find working holidays and volunteer projects in Australia
- Australia immigration website – information about the Australian Working Holiday Visa for young people age 18-30
- aupair.com, Au Pair International or Au Pair World, all of which have great placements in Australia
- Wwoof.net – an international organization which helps travelers find farm jobs in Australia on all-organic farms
- Idealist – find internships, mini-jobs, and volunteer opportunities in Australia
- Volunteer World – extensive database of information and volunteer placements in Australia
- Fruitpickingjobs.com.au – a database of farm jobs for those interested in seasonal work and fruit picking jobs in Australia
- Hosteljobs.com – search engine for jobs in hostels for those interested in doing a working holiday among fellow travelers in Australia
Australia Hostels & Budget Accommodation
There are literally thousands of hotels and motels in Australia ranging from un-graded cheap motels to 5-star luxury hotels. In major cities, you should be able to find somewhere without an advance booking fairly easily.
Bed and Breakfast or guesthouse style accommodation is very common and is often a lot more affordable than staying in a hotel. Accommodation in this sector ranges from guest houses on farms to rooms above pubs. Obviously the standard varies quite considerably but generally, the accommodation is basic but comfortable.
We have had good experiences finding hostels in Australia on HostelWorld. They have the largest inventory of hostels worldwide, and with over 10 million reviews and ratings from other travellers, you know exactly what to expect.
Another good way to find accommodation in Australia is by checking booking.com. You’ll find hotels, homestays, hostels, and other unique accommodations. They have the most reviews and advanced filtering of any accommodation-booking site, so you’ll be sure to find a great place in your budget. Many of the places on booking.com also offer free cancellation, which takes the pressure off the planning phase of your trip to Australia.
If you are backpacking with another travel companion, we highly recommend booking a rental via VRBO. With a vacation rental in Australia, you’ll have more space, your own kitchen, and you’ll get a better feel for how the locals live. Plus, the cost of a vacation rental can be split among your group, oftentimes making it cheaper than doing individual hotel rooms.
If you’re looking to save even more money while backpacking in Australia, there are plenty of creative ways to get free accommodation in exchange for work. For example, one of our favorite ways to stay in amazing locations for free is by signing up as a petsitter with Trusted Housesitters. The site connects responsible animal lovers with petsitting opportunities in Australia and all over the world. It’s a win-win for both sides – travellers can stay in amazing locations for free, and homeowners can rest easy knowing that someone is watching over their place.
And lastly, CouchSurfing is a great community that connects travellers with local hosts in Australia. You can stay for free with verified hosts, who will usually take some time to show you around the local spots.
Useful Links for Backpacking in Australia
- The Australian Government issues ETA visas to some nationalities online
- Greyhound operates an excellent inter-city bus service and offers a range of travel passes in Australia
- Rail Australia operates the rail network in Australia
- GAdventures – guided small group tours in Australia, great for solo travellers or for those interested in a more adventurous trip which would require a guide
- DiscoverCars – The world’s leading rental car search engine to rent a car in Australia
- Kiwi and Skyscanner – Flight comparison search engines to find the cheapest flights to Australia and within the country
- GetYourGuide and Viator – a collection of local tours and activities in Australia. Also offers Skip the Line tickets for crowded attractions
- Tiqets – Website selling entrance tickets and skip the line tickets for major tourist attractions in Australia
- HostelWorld – #1 hostel search website to find accommodation while backpacking Australia. Thousands of hostels and millions of reviews from fellow travellers
- Booking.com – commonly used booking site for accommodation in Australia. Find hostels, hotels, and other unique accommodations in Australia with advanced filtering and millions of reviews
- World Nomads Travel Insurance – Comprehensive travel insurance for long and short trips when backpacking Australia
There you have it, the ultimate Australia backpacking guide. We hope you have found all the information you need for backpacking around Australia.
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