Australia - A Travellers Paradise
With its sunny weather, beautiful scenery and distinctive culture, hundreds of thousands of backpackers flock to Australian shores every year. Backpacking is a huge industry in Australia, with budget accommodation and tours available Australia-wide.
This makes Australia very accessible to backpackers and the competition in the market benefits backpackers, with improved standards and prices. Whilst it is advisable to have a general idea about what you want to see and where you want to go before you leave for Australia, you will be amazed by the amount of options available to you once you get here, so it's probably best not to pre-book your whole trip from home. Australia is a massive country so allow as much time as you can see this magnificent land!
Visas for Australia
Arrange a visa before you travel. Most travel agents will help you organise a visa when you book your ticket. Australia is very strict with visas so it is imperative that this is in order upon arriving in Australia. If you're planning a short sight-seeing trip you can obtain a tourist visa, but the most popular backpacker visa is the Working Holiday visa which enables people between the ages of 18-30 to travel and work in Australia (with limitations) usually for 12-24 months. Check with your local Australian embassy to see if the Working Holiday Visa for Australia is available in your country.
Money in Australia
Australia is a reasonably affordable country and offers good budget options for backpackers, however it may seem expensive if you're arriving in Australia after travelling in Asia. Have a credit card because most backpacker hostels and tours require a credit card number to secure a booking. Ensure that you have enough money to cover you during your stay, especially to cover you whilst you are looking for work. If you are planning to stay in Australia for a while it is probably worth opening up an Australian bank account and depositing money in that, which will save you money on overseas withdrawal fees. To open a bank account you will need to have an Australian address.
Travel Insurance for Backpackers
It is important to have travel insurance organized for your trip before you leave to go travelling. Travellers from some countries on certain visas may be entitled to some medical care benefits through the Australian public healthcare system, Medicare, but most medical expenses will leave you out of pocket, so make sure you are well covered on your travel insurance.
Getting Around whilst Backpacking in Australia
Australia is such a big country and there is so much to see, that deciding how to get around it is a huge decision. The main transport options are hiring a campervan or car, buying a campervan or car, or buying a bus pass. Purchasing a vehicle obviously gives you the most flexibility as you can go where you want, when you want, for as long as you want. The downside is that you may end up having to spend valuable holiday money on fixing it if anything goes wrong! Australian cars also require 'rego' and insurance which you may also have to pay out for. There are cheap cars for sale aimed at the backpacker market in most backpacker hot spots. Popular cars are stationwagons, which provide good storage, and often travellers will sell them on with camping equipment and other necessary items for your travels. Campervan or car rental is another good alternative, and there are many budget rental companies set up for the backpacker market.
Most companies will allow you to pick up from one spot and drop off at another spot, and they should provide breakdown cover. You are limited by time when you rent a vehicle, and you still have to pay for petrol so it is a more expensive option, but this is a popular option for those who want to experience the open road, but don't want the hassle or risk of buying a car.
Most popular tourist spots do not allow roadside camping so you will have to pay for campsite fees. Bus travel is another cheap and popular way to see this huge country. The main bus companies, Greyhound/McCafferty's and Premier offer either single journey tickets, or hop-on-hop-off bus passes that allow you to travel from one place to another (Sydney to Cairns is a popular route) and jump off at any of the stops on that route. The bus passes can be open-dated, and are often valid for six months to a year, giving you total flexibility. Bus passes are a popular option for those looking to save money as many of the big journeys (Hervey Bay to Airlie Beach for example) can be made overnight, therefore saving on accommodation. Those with limited time and more cash may consider taking domestic flights to get around this huge country, with flight prices fairly reasonable, especially if you book in advance.
Australian Tours for Backpackers
With so much to see in Australia, tours are big business. From day trips to see local sights, to long all-inclusive trips which take in a huge area of the country, there are many options to choose from. Walking down the high street in Byron Bay, you will find backpacker travel shop after backpacker travel shop – all selling similar products. At times it can be a bit overwhelming, but with so much competition, backpackers can get a good deal on their travel. Probably the most popular backpacker tour is the Fraser Island and Whitsundays package. Backpacker travel agencies will usually package together both trips and include some free accommodation along the Sydney to Cairns route. This package can vary immensely in price and consequently quality. Some things to bear in mind when you are comparing packages are the reputation of the Fraser Island tour provider, how many people will be on your Whitsundays boat and what sort of condition the boat is in, also the locations and reputations of the free accommodation provided. Also, make sure you ask travel agent to outline all the 'extras' you will have to pay for on these trips.
Working whilst Backpacking in Australia
Backpackers will generally pick up temporary and casual work when visiting Australia on a Working Holiday Visa. This visa restricts the length of time you can be employed in one particular job. Common types of employment for backpackers include fruit-picking, hospitality, cleaning, office temping in the cities, and laboring. Backpackers are often employed in the backpacker sector – doing promotional work like handing out flyers for backpacker party nights and backpacker tour companies, and working in backpacker hostels.
Some of these jobs are paid and some are for free accommodation. Another good option for backpackers is to join the Wwoofing scheme – WWOOF stands for Willing Workers on Organic Farms, and hosts all over the country provide food and board in exhange for work. This is a great way to experience another side of Australia, away from the main backpacker trail.
Communication and staying in touch when Backpacking Australia
If you are planning to work whilst you are visiting Australia, it is a good idea to purchase a mobile phone when you arrive. Pre-pay mobile phones can be bought from supermarkets, post offices and communications outlets sometimes for as little as $50. To stay in touch with family, there are internet cafes set up in most backpacker hubs, with reasonable rates. In many places, travel companies will offer backpackers free internet time to lure backpackers into their travel shops in the hope they will book some travel or tours! Most hostels will also provide computers for internet access.
Where to Stay when Backpacking in Australia
You will find backpacker hostels all over Australia. Some are pretty basic and others, known as 'flashpackers' have all the mod cons you would expect from a plush hotel such as ensuite bathrooms with hairdryers and towels provided, stylish private rooms with TV's, and electronic key-cards. Most hostels will offer dorm style accommodation which you share with other backpackers, and double room, private accommodation.
Some hostels even have campsites which is a cheaper option if you have your own tent. Backpacker's hostels will usually have shared kitchen facilities, a reception/tour desk to help you with any enquiries about the area, some will have a café or kiosk, and some will also provide bike hire and surfboard hire. Most hostels will provide linen but not towels. An option for backpackers who are staying in one place for any length of time is to rent a house, or a room in a house as this often works out cheaper than staying in a hostel.
When to travel in Australia
Whilst the Australian summer months are the most popular for backpackers, you will often find that you get better deals on accommodation and tour bookings during the quieter shoulder season and winter months. The most popular destinations such as Byron Bay are usually booked solid through the summer months (roughly November to March) so you will have more flexibility travelling in the winter months.
Australia is famous for its sunny weather, but in such a large country, the weather can vary immensely. During the summer months the southern part of the country can experience extremely high temperatures and dry conditions.
As you get further north, humidity sets in, and the top part of the country experiences its rainy season during the summer – with high humidity, tropical thunderstorms and abundant rainfall. Peak season for sightseeing in Tropical North Queensland, and the Northern Territory is during the winter months when conditions are dryer and not so hot and humid.
Top Backpacker Destinations in Australia