Embarking on a Working Holiday in Australia is an exciting adventure, but it’s crucial to plan your budget wisely. Whether you’re dreaming of surfing on Bondi Beach, exploring the Outback, or café-hopping in Melbourne, understanding your financial needs is key. This guide covers everything you need to know about budgeting for your Australian work and travel experience.
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How much money do I need before going: Initial costs
The first question we ask ourselves is generally “How much money do I need to bring with me to Australia?”. However, before even asking this question, one must ask oneself “How much money will I need before I leave?”. Here is an estimate of the costs involved in preparing a Working Holiday Visa (WHV), to help you plan for your departure.
A passport is required to apply for a Working Holiday Visa. To get a passport for the first time or renew an existing one, you should apply several months in advance of your departure. Passport fees vary from country to country – in the UK it costs £82.50 to apply online and £93 for a paper application. In Ireland it costs €75 online.
If you already have one, make sure it’s valid for at least the duration of your stay in Australia. We recommend a validity of several months after the end of your visa if you plan to travel more after your WHV.
The Working Holiday Visa costs $635. It is important to get your visa before buying your plane ticket or taking out travel insurance. This is your ticket to working and living in Australia for up to a year, with the possibility of extension.
Warning: Make sure you complete your visa application on the official Government website and not any other website!
WHV travel insurance
For those who are planning to spend a year or more in Australia on a Working Holiday Visa, we recommend getting WHV travel insurance. It is a large but essential expense that will cover your costs in the event of infectious disease, accident, hospitalisation, repatriation, sports accidents (depending on your policy), or in the event of civil liability, loss or theft of luggage.
Essential for your peace of mind, travel insurance can cost between AUD 300 and AUD 800 for a year, depending on coverage.
There are many specialist travel insurance agencies. Some of the most popular with WHV travellers in Australia include GoWalkabout, Chapka Assurances, SafetyWing or World Nomads.
Australia is on the other side of the world, and getting there is expensive. Your plane ticket is therefore going to be your biggest expense before your departure, especially since the pandemic. Prices vary between €1,200 and €1,900 for a round trip (depending on the time of year) and a minimum of €630 (with 2 or 3 stopovers) for a one-way trip. In saying that, this rate is really the cheapest you can find on a flight comparison tool. Prices go up very quickly to around 800€/900€. Plane tickets are still very expensive at the moment, so the best thing is to do is to book your flights as early as possible! Try to avoid high season (July/August and December/January). Prices also vary depending on your departure city and your arrival city in Australia (Sydney, Brisbane, Cairns, etc.).
Only buy your plane tickets once your visa has been validated. Otherwise, you run the risk of losing a substantial amount of money if you do not obtain your visa on time.
Funds requested by the Australian government
As part of your WHV application, the Australian government requests proof that you have at least $5000/person or about £3000 in your bank account. This might seem like a lot of money, but bear in mind that the cost of living in Australia is quite high. If you plan to buy a campervan, for example, that will be a big chunk of your budget. If you plan to settle in a city, budget at least $1500/month (accommodation + food). So give yourself a comfortable budget that will allow you to support yourself if it takes a while for you to get a job.
BUDGET TOTAL PRE-DEPARTURE
Flight ticket: £730
TOTAL: £4599 (£1506+ £3073 savings)
Note that wages are quite high in Australia, so you if you are careful with your money, you should be able to make some decent savings to bring home with you or spend on more travel!
Expenses once in Australia
The currency in Australia is the Australian dollar. The rate varies constantly but on average £1 = $1.91 (rate December 2023).
In Australia, everything is paid by the week! Wages and rents are paid every 7 days, or every 15 days maximum.
The cost of living is quite high, but salaries are higher than in the UK. Your main expenses will be divided between housing, food, transport and tourist activities. Of course, they will not be the same depending on your lifestyle: settling in a city or going on a road trip.
A different budget depending on whether you are in a city or on the road
You will need a higher budget if you live in the city, mainly because of rent. You can reduce this expense as much as possible by living outside the city centre or sharing accommodation with several people. However, make sure you are close to public transport.
On a road trip, you obviously won’t have to pay rent because your vehicle will be your home. However, the more you travel, the more you will spend on fuel. Beyond that, food costs will depend on your habits and the budget you want to devote to it!
Budget to plan for a road trip in Australia
If you are going on a road trip, the more savings you have, the better! This is especially important if you don’t plan to work during your trip. Even if you do plan to work, you may not be able to find a job as quickly as you hoped.
Your road trip budget will depend on several factors:
- Buying or renting a vehicle
- Vehicle-related expenses: gas, insurance, maintenance, equipment
- Daily expenses: food, activities, extras.
Buying a vehicle
Depending on the length of your road trip, you will have to decide whether to buy or not a vehicle. For a short trip (e.g. 1 month), it is more cost-effective to rent a vehicle than to invest in one. As a general rule, here is a price range to guide you:
- An unequipped car costs a minimum of $3,500. There are few to be found at this price – current prices start around $4000.
- An equipped van costs between $8,000 and $15,000, depending on the type of vehicle.
On top of that you have to pay a registration fee (rego) and insurance (third party). If you are staying for more than six months in Australia, it is worth buying a vehicle as you can sell it at the end of your trip and recoup your investment. Even if you only use the vehicle for a month’s road trip here and a month’s road trip there, it may still be cheaper than renting (depending on the period).
We have a road trip budget calculator to estimate your costs better. Calculate your expenses according to your route and needs here.
Campervan or motorhome rental in Australia
For your motorhome or campervan rental use an online price comparison tool. Motorhome Republic, for example, often offers good discounts and works with all vehicle suppliers in Australia. This will allow you to compare different types of vehicles and filter the results according to your needs.
Expenses on the road
Your road trip budget will depend on several factors such as the number of kilometres you travel a month and the places you are visiting. Keep in mind, gasoline will be more expensive in remote areas. Your food expenses will also determine your budget, as will the level of comfort you want. Be aware that it is possible to spend very little money when you are on a road trip by sleeping in your vehicle, eating inexpensive foods (rice, noodles, canned goods).
- Fuel: Approximately $180/week (based on 100km/day, with consumption at 10L/100km and an average gas price of $1.80/litre (average May to December 2023).
- Food: Approximately $125/week
- Camping: $40 per night – every fourth night.
- Activities: On average 1 one-day activity per month and per person.
Work related expenses
You will need to get your Tax File Number (TFN) to work in Australia. It is Free to apply.
Opening a bank account in Australia won’t cost you anything.
Work Gear: Depending on your job, you may need to invest in specific clothing or equipment, such as work boots, protective gears, etc.
Emergency Fund: Always have an emergency fund of at least AUD 1,000-2,000 for unexpected expenses or emergencies.
Budget to plan for living in an Australian city
Whether you arrive in Sydney, Perth, Brisbane or Melbourne, your expenses will be quite high during your first few weeks. Be aware that depending on where you are, the cost of living can vary greatly. In general, life in big cities will be more expensive than in small Australian cities, towns or rural areas. This is because rent is more expensive, and you’re more likely to spend more on outings to restaurants, bars etc. Food and gas, on the other hand, are cheaper in big cities.
On arrival or for a short stay, hostels are a practical and economical solution (from AUD $30 per night). Note that it is often more advantageous to book a full week to get discounts (-10% or 1 night free!). The prices vary a lot depending on the time of year and the location of your hostel. Booking.com is one of the most popular sites for booking hostels in Australia.
Are you planning to stay in the same city for a long time? Shared accommodation is a good option. Prices vary depending on the city, location, number of housemates, and of course the condition of the accommodation.
In central Sydney, you can expect to pay around $300 per week. In smaller cities, it is possible to find accommodation for about $180 a week.
Food and Groceries
If you live in a hostel: Benefits are often included in the room rate: breakfast included, free drinks, rice, pasta and condiments available for free etc.
If you live in town or in your van: On average, budget around AUD 80-150 per week for groceries. Eating out will cost more, so cooking your meals can save money. Choose seasonal fruits and vegetables. Meat is affordable, but products such as cheese and bread are more expensive.
To buy alcohol, budget on average $20 for a pack of 6 beers, $10 for a bottle of wine (low-end), and $50 to $70 for strong alcohol (vodka, rum, etc.).
Transport is quite expensive in big cities. Most major cities offer a cheaper rate if you use a transport card instead of an individual ticket (such as the Opal Card in Sydney). These cards will allow you to use the entire public transport network across the city (bus, train, tram, ferry, etc.). You can top it up online according to your needs. It will always be better value to purchase a weekly pass or a top-up card than single tickets.
Work related expenses
- Tax File Number (TFN): Free to apply, but essential for any job in Australia.
- Bank Account: No cost for opening, but necessary for receiving your salary.
- Work Gear: Depending on your job, you may need to invest in specific clothing or equipment, such as work boots or a suit for office work.
AVERAGE BUDGET PER PERSON PER WEEK IN A CITY
– Accommodation: around $250
– Food: variable according to your habits and type of food – budget around $80
– Transport: this depends on where you live and if you plan to use public transport regularly. Budget around $35/week.
Tips to save money
Save before coming to Australia
Certain costs cannot be reduced, such as the cost of a passport, or obtaining your visa. It is, however, possible to find cheaper plane tickets with a few tips or to save on your WHV insurance for your trip.
There are a few tricks to getting a better deal on your plane ticket. Try to book 4 to 6 months in advance, and fly during the low season when tickets will be cheaper in the UK and Australia. Use online comparators and get quotes from travel agencies, which can offer special deals for young people on a WHV. Also check the airlines’ websites, as they sometimes offer deals for certain periods of the year.
Travel insurance discounts
There are many different travel insurance companies out there, and the quality of their services, benefits and prices varies a lot. It is important to compare them properly and find the one that best suits your needs. We have carried out a comparison of the various insurers and their services. We also have special discounts with several of the best companies.
Rents are high in Australia, especially in big cities. However, there are some tricks to reduce this expense. If you intend to stay longer than a few days or weeks in one place, go for shared accommodation.
Another way to save money is is through Couchsurfing, where you stay for free with a local (on their sofa or in a guest room) for a short period of time. The idea here is mutual aid, friendship and cultural exchange. Another alternative to conventional accommodation is to volunteer. Helpx or Wwoofing are both good options. You will be housed and fed in exchange for working (usually on a farm) a few hours per day. These networks help offset spending on food and shelter for a while, while living with locals and immersing yourself in Australian culture.
Also check the opportunities of House-sitting in your area. House-sitting offers a unique and cost-effective way for travelers and locals alike to experience life in different parts of the country. This involves staying in a homeowner’s property to take care of it, and often their pets, while they are away. It’s a win-win situation: homeowners enjoy peace of mind knowing their home and pets are cared for, while house-sitters get free accommodation, allowing them to save money and live like a local.
Food & groceries
In supermarkets, prices vary during the day. It is a good idea to do your shopping at the end of the day to benefit from reductions on unsold items. Favour markets for fresh produce, and always look for specials in supermarkets and the “Quick Sale” section. If you are on a road trip, you can also buy fruits and vegetables on the side of the road. It is very common for people to sell their produce from stalls in front of their houses. On these you will see an honesty box, where you pay for what you take from the stand.
How much can you earn in Australia?
The cost of living in Australia is high, but thankfully the salaries are also high!
- Minimum Wage: The national minimum wage in Australia is AUD23.23 per hour, or AUD 882.60 per 38-hour week (before tax). This rate is reviewed annually.
- Casual Workers: Casual workers typically earn a higher hourly rate to compensate for the lack of benefits like sick leave and annual leave. This is often 25% more than the standard wage for the same role.
- Skilled Professionals: Salaries for skilled professionals can vary significantly. For example, IT professionals, engineers, and medical practitioners often earn between AUD 80,000 and AUD 200,000 per year, depending on their specialization and experience.
- Trade Jobs: Skilled tradespeople, such as electricians, plumbers, and construction workers, can earn between AUD 70,000 and AUD 100,000 annually, depending on their experience and the region they work in.
- Hospitality and Retail: Jobs in hospitality and retail generally pay around the minimum wage to AUD 25 per hour, although this can be higher in certain locations or for more experienced workers.
- Agricultural Work: Pay in agricultural work, such as fruit picking, can be based on an hourly rate or piece rates (pay per quantity picked). Hourly rates are typically around the minimum wage.
- Corporate and Managerial Roles: Senior roles in corporate or managerial positions can command salaries well above AUD 100,000 per year, with top executives earning significantly more.
Remember, these figures are indicative and can vary. Additionally, living costs in Australia, particularly in major cities like Sydney and Melbourne, can be high, so it’s important to consider these when evaluating salary offers.
For more on this topic, see our article: Wages and Salaries in Australia
How much can I save by working?
It is true that a lot of expenses come with going to Australia on a WHV visa, but what isn’t talked about as much is the amount of savings that can be made while working in the country. Obviously, there is no exact figure as to the savings a backpacker can expect to make, since it will depend on your lifestyle. You won’t save as much money if you’re a seasoned party animal, if you smoke and drink regularly, or you spend a lot of money on expensive activities and trips. It will also depend on the field you work in, your experience, and the hours you work (nights, bank holidays, etc.)
In any case, as we explained earlier, minimum wage is a pretty decent $23.23 per hour. It is also possible to earn much more! To give you an idea: on average, a backpacker will return to the UK with $10,000 to $20,000 in their bank account. Of course, this is not the case for everyone. Many backpackers are primarily in Australia to party and have a good time – but find that when they do this, expenses add up quickly, between alcohol, cigarettes, nightclub entry etc. Others enjoy their road trip, travel, do plenty of activities… but also work hard to save money.