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Tuesday 21st May 2024

The money mistakes I made while backpacking in Australia

Sophie King reflects on the mistakes she made while backpacking in Australia

Girl backpacking in Australia


Backpacking in Australia is by no means an expensive experience. As a backpacker, finding the balance of ‘doing it all’ while also trying to be sensible with money can be tricky.

I’ve been living in Sydney since December now and I’ve been reminiscing about my East Coast trip which was honestly one of the best experiences of my life. Where you’re travelling to can also make a huge difference to your budget.

I moved to Australia in October last year and up until Christmas I was travelling a bit of the West Coast before going down the East Coast. 

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Backpacking in Australia

After a wonderful time travelling through a bit of Western Australia and then all the way down the East Coast, I had to quickly find myself a job and get back on the earning train.

As someone with a plan to travel again, I went through all my spending over the last couple of months, to figure out if I could have budgeted better or made wiser money choices.

Find out more about Sophie’s trip of a lifetime to Australia

Split the food

Backpacking in Australia can be expensive. Your first weekly food shop will probably shock you. I once spent $7 (£3.50) on three bananas.

As a solo traveller I was buying my food for myself only. Things like salad bags or other perishable items would often go off before I’d had the chance to finish them. This often meant I was wasting food I had paid for. 

Friends or couples I met along the way who had travelled together were splitting their food shop and were mostly able to finish the food without it going off. It wasn’t until I got to Sydney (my final destination), that I made friends with someone and we decided to cook together. 

So if you can, buddy up as I reckon you’ll save a lot more money by splitting the cost and getting through your food before having to do another shop.

Plan your meals

If you’re able to buddy up or not, one thing I found contributed to moneysaving when backpacking the East Coast was planning my meals. 

Work out when you might be eating out, or when you’ve got a trip booked and therefore meals might be planned for you. For example trips to the Whitsundays or K’Gari Island can be up to three days and your meals are provided.

So if you’ve got food in the fridge ready to be eaten, make sure your plan ahead so you’re not having to throw it away.

Another thing to watch out for is if you’re using the Greyhound Bus to travel, you’ll probably be doing a few overnight trips in between destinations.

If you’ve got things that need to be kept cool, make sure you’ve finished them before you board – Australia is hot and things do not last!

Don’t convert back to pounds

In comparison to backpacking South East Asia or South America, Australia is very expensive, or it at least feels expensive.

One thing I was doing to justify some of my spending was converting the cost back into pounds as it ‘felt’ cheaper that way. It wasn’t wise, and I reckon I spent money on things I really didn’t need to because I was of the belief that it wasn’t ‘that bad’.

For example, a pint of beer might be about $12, but converting it into GBP would only be £6 – a steal!? Not really Sophie. I knew it wasn’t technically cheaper than UK costs, but yet I found myself using it as an excuse. 

If you are a convertor, use it to work out that something IS expensive, rather than isn’t.

For example, while I miss our beloved Cadbury’s chocolate, Australian supermarkets would often have them going for around $15. Would you therefore spend £7 on a chocolate bar back home? Hopefully not. 

Say yes to everything

While some of my choices were certainly wasteful when it comes to money, I did find myself saying no to things which I now regret. If you’ve made the decision to go backpacking, try not to hold yourself back because you’re worried about funds. 

Of course, don’t spend beyond your means, but do that experience, book that event, say yes to a few drinks. There are a few times I look back and regret saying no to because I was worried about money.

If you’re going somewhere you may as well do or see as much as you can while you’re there. 

Be present

While this isn’t necessarily money-related, I found myself often looking ahead for what was coming next when I was travelling down the East Coast. 

At times, this meant that I was not present for the things I was experiencing there and then. I didn’t always fully immerse myself in these wonderful experiences I was having (and paying for!).

So when you go travelling, make sure to take everything in.

Photo Credits: Pexels

Sophie King

Sophie is a freelance consumer journalist who has worked for major brands including The Sun and MoneySavingExpert (MSE). She’s covered all things consumer finance, benefits, energy bills, refund rights and regulation. During her time at MSE she managed to get the Department for Work and Pensions to stop sending envelopes out to vulnerable people with info on the back telling them to switch energy provider - at a time when no one should have been switching.

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