The Backpacker’s Guide To Travelling Down Under
With its rugged landscapes and crystal clear oceans, Australia is undoubtedly a backpacker’s dream destination. Choosing to backpack through Australia can be the experience of a lifetime – one that is filled to the brim with copious amounts of things to see and do. Learning to surf on some of the finest beaches in the world, exploring the wonders of native Australian wildlife and enjoying some of the best coffee you’ll find in the world are just a few things backpackers can look forward to when you travel to Australia. If you’ve decided to pack your bags and set sail on a once-in-a lifetime adventure down under, this is the article for you.
Without further ado, here is our backpacker’s guide to travelling down under, filled with everything you need to know to make your next whirlwind adventure one you will never forget. Let’s go!
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Australia is a massive continent that is made up of six individual states that are all equally impressive in their own right. With over 10,000 gorgeous beaches, world class cities, hundreds of tropical islands and friendly people a plenty, there truly is no place on Earth quite like it! Many backpackers choose to explore all the different states during their time in Australia, and some of the most popular destinations include Melbourne, Byron Bay, Queensland (there are a variety of Port Douglas deals being offered by a number of airlines), Uluru and Cairns.
For those who are completely new to Australia’s vast landscapes, here is an example of a fantastic 2 week itinerary that is sure to excite any adventurous backpacker.
Length: 2-3 weeks
Suggested Route: Sydney > Canberra > Melbourne > Great Ocean Road > Adelaide
Best Travel Period: Late Spring (October – November) or Early Autumn (March-April)
For the perfect 2 week backpacking adventure, See the best of Australia’s cities on this extraordinary 2 week backpacking adventure. We recommend starting your journey off in Sydney, slowly making your way south towards Melbourne. Don’t forget to stop off at Canberra mid journey – home to the Australian War Memorial, Royal Australian Mint and sweeping nature reserves and surrounding mountain ranges.
Once in Melbourne, be sure to soak up as much local culture as you possibly can. A melting pot of dozens of cultures, Melbourne is famous for its graffiti laced city laneways, excellent coffee, cultural diversity and bayside location.
Departing from Melbourne, you’ll travel along the world renowned Great Ocean Road, 13 Apostles and the Great Otway. We recommend spending at least 2 or 3 days travelling on this road before you make your way to glorious Adelaide, Australia’s most relegated and unknown big city.
Once in Adelaide, don’t forget to visit the world famous Adelaide Central Market – bursting with fresh produce, divine food, amazing coffee, art and souvenirs. Adelaide is truly one of Australia’s biggest hidden gems and is bustling with local artists, incredible beaches and a wide array of world class wine. Once you have soaked the amazing wonders of Adelaide in, grab an inexpensive flight back to Sydney and head home.
One of the first things you’ll want to do when you land in Australia is to purchase a prepaid SIM card. This way you won’t be locked into a contract and the plans are simple, cheap and convenient. There are a multitude of companies you can choose from, some of the most popular being Optus, Telstra and Vodafone. Most telco shops are able to both sell and activate SIM cards provided you have a photo ID. All you have to do when your balance is running low is head to a website for an instant top up or head to a local post office/supermarket.
Renting a car to explore the vast lands of Australia is always a fantastic idea if you’re looking to explore to your maximum potential. There are a wide variety of different car hire companies available, and your best option is to rent a car in a major city starting point. All you need is a valid international driver’s licence and you’re good to go!
The most important thing to remember when driving from state to state is to take your time. Making your way to Melbourne from Sydney may not seem like the longest trek on the map, but do remember that it will take you a good 10 hours on the most direct route. Always factor in rest stops and be sure to bring a ton of snacks and drinks for the ride.
One of the most important things to consider on your drive is to be mindful of local wildlife. It is always recommended that you avoid driving before dawn or after dusk, as it is incredibly difficult to see wildlife at night, let alone react on time. Not only do you not want to kill one of these majestic animals, but you also don’t want to risk your own life – kangaroos are a lot bigger than you may think and can cause significant damage to your car. and can cause some serious damage to your car. While you’re driving around Australia, there is a high chance that you will witness native animals lying dead at the side of the road, so do your best to drive carefully and remain alert at all times.
While a car is the perfect option for long drives, you are most certainly better off using public transport in major city hubs such as Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. Inner CBD areas are often congested, making trams, buses and trains a lot more time efficient on your journey
Every state uses their own public transport card – the Myki card in Melbourne, Opal card in Sydney and the Metrocard in Adelaide. You can top-up these cards with as much money as you want – but avoid making the mistake of putting too much on it because there is no such thing as a transport card refund. For more information on public transport options in various states, click here.
Another incredibly popular means of transport amongst backpackers are backpacker buses. These are buses that allow you to hop on and off at various locations/destinations, and some of the more popular companies that offer this service include Greyhound and Premier. If you are someone who is interested in meeting and travelling with other fellow backpackers from around the globe, travelling by backpacker bus can be a fantastic experience of a lifetime.
Of course, one of the biggest components of your backpacking journey will be where you choose to stay. Your options are highly dependent on your budget, but if you’re looking for the most cost-effective option, hostels are your best friend. There are thousands of hostels all around the country, some of which even include amenities such as swimming pools that allow you to let your hair down, rest and refresh after a long day of adventuring.
Airbnb has recently become an incredibly popular option amongst backpackers as well, and can prove to be even cheaper than some hostels if you are travelling in a group. For more information on the perks of renting an Airbnb during your trip to Australia, be sure to check out this article.
It will come as no surprise that meals and drinks can add up to a ton if you’re exploring different cafes, bistros and restaurants on a daily basis. While we definitely recommend spending some of your time and budget on the amazing restaurants that Australia has to offer, we also encourage you to shop at local supermarkets and bottle shops if you’re looking to save your pennies. You might also want to get some packaged goods that are bottled and jarred for your travel.
Alcohol is rather expensive in Australia, and your best bet for a great deal is to hit up a local bottle shop for your fix (Dan Murphy’s, Thirsty Camel, BWS or Liquorland). Most hostels also come with kitchen amenities, allowing you to cook delicious meals with ingredients that you have purchased at a local farmer’s market or supermarket. There are also a variety of different low-budget restaurants that cater to travellers, some of which include Om Vegetarian in Melbourne, Om Vegan Kitchen in Sydney and Govinda’s Vegetarian in Adelaide.
Top Tip: When you’re on an extreme budget, don’t forget to stop by the hardware store Bunnings Warehouse for their $1 sausage sizzle every Sunday. They’re cheap, taste incredible and are an integral part of Aussie culture!
Last but not least, you’ve probably heard tons of scary stories about what happens in Australia. We’re talking about those giant snakes and spiders that are seemingly everywhere on Instagram and Tik Tok. The good news is there is nothing to worry about – there is no backing to this stereotype and the chances of you finding a giant tarantula in your shoe are pretty slim. While there are many, many deadly animals on the continent of Australia (as there are on every continent), the cities here are just as safe as any other major city in the world. However, when you’re deep in the bush or other more regional areas, using common sense will keep you safe: always follow the instructions of your guide, and never provoke an animal.
Oh, and those terrifying “Drop Bears” you’ve heard of? Well, they simply do not exist! Case closed.
And there you have it – everything you need to know when it comes to planning an unforgettable backpacking trip to Australia. While no one wants to over-think their trip to the land of no worries, these helpful tips and recommendations are sure to help make your trip down-under as laid-back as possible. All the best and safe travels!