Going on a road trip in Australia can require a big budget, so it’s important to make sure you have enough savings before thinking about setting off. Depending on your goals and the kind of trip you want to go on, your budget will vary (whether you’re a tourist on holidays or a backpacker on a Working Holiday Visa). In this article, we aim to give you an idea of how much your road trip will cost, as well as some money-saving tips. The prices are indicative only but should help give you an idea of the budget needed.
Table of Contents
What budget should I plan for before going to Australia?
Working Holiday Visa or Tourist Visa costs
Your visa is the key to entering the country. Obtaining it allows you to buy your plane tickets and to take out health and/or travel insurance.
The Working Holiday Visa (WHV) – subclasses 417 & 462 costs $635 per person.
It is valid for up to 12 months after it is granted (so you can choose a departure date up to one year later) and it allows you to travel Australia for 12 months. It is renewable twice under certain conditions.
A Tourist Visa is a better option if you plan to stay in Australia for less than 3 months. Getting a tourist visa is free (subclass 601).
Warning: Make sure you apply for your WHV or Tourist Visa on the Australian government website only.
Total visa cost
For a Working Holiday Visa, the cost is 635 AUD. Tourist visas are free.
Spanning a distance of approximately 14,000 to 18,000 kilometers, the journey from Europe to Australia is a substantial one. For such an extensive flight, the cost for a one-way ticket typically starts at around 800 EUR, while a round-trip fare with a stopover can be expected to be about €1700.
To secure the most economical fare, it’s advisable to book your plane tickets well before your intended departure date. Utilize online comparison services to scan for the best flight deals. Keep in mind that ticket prices can fluctuate based on the departure and arrival cities you choose, as well as the season and day of the week.
Your city of arrival can also influence the price of your plane ticket. For those planning a road trip without the intention to purchase a vehicle, comparing rental car prices is a must. Rates can differ significantly, for instance, when renting a vehicle from Sydney to Cairns as opposed to the reverse route. For potential buyers, pre-trip research on platforms like Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree can reveal where to find the most competitive deals on vehicles.
If your travel plans are flexible and you don’t have a set date for returning, consider opting for an ‘open’ return ticket. These tickets, which are often available through travel agencies, provide the flexibility to choose your return date at a later time, potentially saving you from change fees that airlines might impose. Additionally, some airlines offer ‘flexible’ tickets that allow changes without extra charges, which could be a prudent choice if your itinerary is not set in stone.
Travel/health insurance is a large but necessary expense for travellers. It will cost you around 400€ for one year. It covers your costs in the event of an accident, hospitalisation, repatriation or in the event of civil liability. Remember to read the terms and conditions carefully before signing the contract.
If you are leaving for less than 90 days, short-stay insurance is a better option. Budget around 100€ or $160 for a month’s coverage.
If you are travelling around the world, it’s strongly recommended to get insurance tailored to this kind of trip. Budget between €50 and €75 per month for decent round-the-world coverage (Chapka, AVI, GobyAVA, Europ Assistance, APRIL, etc.). Cancellation insurance can also be useful, especially if you are travelling with your family. This type of contract guarantees reimbursement of cancellation costs for any sudden, unforeseeable event beyond your control.
Among others, World Nomads policies provide different levels of coverage for all key areas while you are travelling. To get a quote, just enter your details below:
Note: World Nomads provides travel insurance for travelers in over 100 countries. As an affiliate, we receive a fee when you get a quote from World Nomads using this link. We do not represent World Nomads. This is information only and not a recommendation to buy travel insurance.
Total insurance cost
The cost of one month of WHV insurance is around $80 (or €55) for people under 30. For those over 30, expect to pay around $155 (80€). For travel insurance (less than 90 days), budget around €30 to €55 per month.
Road Trip Budget Australia: Expenses to plan for
Travelling via public transport
Taking the bus (long distances)
Doing all or part of your road trip in Australia by bus or coach is very possible! Many options are available to you, depending on the route you want to take.
For long journeys and a certain level of comfort (air conditioning, comfortable seats, toilets, etc.), choose coaches like those from the Premier Motor Service or Greyhound companies. In some cases, you can benefit from a lower rate if you book in advance (Early Bird). Here are some examples of journeys and their cost for a one-way trip for one person:
|Premier Motor Service||Greyhound|
|Melbourne - Canberra|
|Agnes Water - Byron Bay|
|$98||$269 (with stopovers)|
|Sydney - Melbourne|
|Sydney - Brisbane|
|Coober Pedy - Adelaide|
|Sydney - Cairns|
*Prices as posted on the websites of Premier Motor Service and Greyhound on the 30/10/2023.
Taking the bus (short distances)
To travel short distances (for example to reach your coach), use public buses. You’ll find them in all the states of Australia and they have a pretty good network. Most companies offer an electronic card which will allow you to pay less for your journeys. As an indication, we estimate an average price of $0.20 per kilometre across all states.
Australia’s rail network is nowhere near as good as its road network and will only be suitable for certain routes. However, the train is generally faster than the bus and the price is very similar. In major cities, in particular, you can use the same public transport card to take the bus, tram or train. Here you can check out the train map.
Finally, if you want to have a unique experience, you can also try taking the major Australian train lines. Some trains cross the country and are renowned worldwide. This includes the Ghan (Adelaide – Alice Springs – Katherine – Darwin), starting at $1500 for a journey. For the Indian Pacific (Sydney – Broken Hill – Adelaide – Kalgoorlie – Perth), expect to pay $2400.
The cost of a campervan rental in Australia varies depending on various criteria.
The time of year: It is way more expensive in summer than in winter. It is the same with school holidays and public holidays.
The length of your stay: It goes without saying that the longer your trip, the more you’ll have to pay overall. Remember to book in advance to save money.
The route: If you are arriving or departing from a small town, fares may be higher. Also, if you do not return the vehicle to the same place of departure, an additional tax may be added (one way fee).
Insurance: The average cost is $30/day. But be aware that if you rent a van for more than a month and a half, you will only pay for the insurance for the first 50 days.
Indications of the average price of renting a “classic” van for 2 people:
- For a basic converted vehicle model: approx. $80 per day
- For a basic fitted van model: approx. $115 per day
- For a motorhome-equipped model: approx. $200 per day
This rate includes unlimited mileage and 24-hour assistance under conditions.
Total costs if you rent a campervan
Budget on average $150 per day
For example, a total of $4,500 for a month’s road trip. Don’t forget to include the cost of fuel when you are planning your budget.
You can read more in our article: Cheap campervan rentals in Australia – How to get a good deal or use the Motorhome Republic comparison tool below to find the best deals:
Buying a vehicle
Buying a vehicle is a good idea if you plan to stay longer than 3 months.
Prices vary according to the model, the brand, supply and demand, the time of year but also the city of arrival. In low season (between April and October) prices are lower because there are more offers than requests. In high season (between October and April), prices are higher because there are many requests and fewer offers.
- For a converted car/station wagon, count $4,000.
- For a fitted van, budget between $7,000 and $10,000.
- For a converted 4×4, count between $8,000 and $10,000.
Read more: Choosing and buying a vehicle
Maintenance costs depend on the type of vehicle, how old it is, its daily maintenance and the number of kilometres driven.
To keep your vehicle in good shape, it needs regular maintenance. For example, the oil should be changed every 5,000 to 10,000 km.
Certain parts of your vehicle must be replaced regularly. When they need to be changed depends on the vehicle model and the number of kilometres driven. Check the recommendations of the car’s manufacturer.
The main expenses are:
- Garage inspection: approximately $200
- Labour: approximately $70 – $90 an hour
- Oil change: between $120 and $200
- Cleaning in a washing station: $25
Total: approximately $465
- Clutch kit: minimum $800
- Suspension: approximately $500
- Timing belt: $300 – $700 (depending on vehicle)
- Belt straps: $50 – $80
- Brakes 70 – $100
- Oil filter: $50 – $100
- New tire : about $120
- Wiper blades: $10 – $30
Total : approximately $2,100
- Engine oil bottle (5L): $60
- Windshield washer product (1L): $20
- Coolant (1L): $20
Costs in total for vehicle maintenance
For a month long road trip in Australia, give yourself a budget of around $200.
(This estimate only takes into account consumable servicing products and the main wearing parts in your car.)
Several factors influence the price of fuel: the area where you’re buying it, the brand of the gas station, the time of year… In general, prices vary between $1.80 and $2 per litre.
On average for the different types of fuel, the prices (as of October 2023 – source fuelprice.io) are:
- Unleaded 91: $1.87
- Premium Unleaded 95: $1,75
- Diesel: $2.01
Total fuel costs
For a month long road trip in Australia, plan a budget of $600.
Campsite fees are charged per vehicle and not per person. This allows camping expenses to be shared between the driver and the passengers. The standard price for a campsite is about $40. This covers the various facilities available at a campsite (showers, toilets, barbecues, etc.). Free campsites are also available, though they are less frequent and not always close to tourist areas. You may wish to switch between paid and free campsites. You can budget approximately one night out of four for a paid campsite.
Total camping costs
For a month-long road trip, the camping budget is about $250 (1 night every 4 days).
Like almost everything, hostels are more expensive in big cities. The price of a room will vary according to the number of beds in it. The fewer there are, the higher the price. If you have a smaller budget, opt for mixed rooms and dormitories with 4 to 10 beds. Private rooms offer similar prices to an entry-level hotel. On average, the price of a night in a hostel is $40.
Total costs for a hostel
For a month-long road trip the cost for hostels is around $1200 (30 nights).
Housing prices for an Airbnb are similar to those in Europe. The price depends on the location and the quality of the accommodation you wish to book. The price decreases if you book for a longer period. Rooms are limited to two people. It is therefore possible to divide the costs by two. For one night, a low-cost Airbnb is around $80.
Total costs for Airbnb
For a month-long road trip, plan on around $2000.
This is the most expensive accommodation option. Prices depend on the quality of the hotel and its facilities (swimming pool, spa, restaurant, etc.). For a room, prices vary between $80 and $100 per night. These prices may also vary depending on the season and the tourist influx.
Total costs for hotels
For a month-long road trip, plan on around $2000.
“House sitting” is an increasingly popular practice in Australia. It allows travelers to stay for free in a home while the owners are away. In exchange, the housesitters take care of the usual household chores, and sometimes pets. It’s an excellent way to significantly reduce accommodation costs during a stay in Australia. With growing demand, it is relatively easy to find housesitting opportunities, especially if you are flexible with dates and locations.
Several options are available to you regarding your meals. You have a choice between shopping and cooking your meals or eating out in a restaurant. The most common scenario is to alternate between meals cooked by you and a few restaurant visits. For a backpacker, the frequency of meals in a restaurant is around two per week. A week of meals will cost around $120. A meal in a restaurant will cost around $30.
Total costs for food
For a month long road trip in Australia, plan a budget of around $600.
Tours & Activities
On the East coast
The richness of the east coast, its beaches and its towns makes it possible to carry out many activities on the coast.
Ideas for free and independent activities: Visiting national parks, visiting towns, swimming. For a few dollars you can buy or rent equipment to do more exciting water activities: surfing, snorkeling, paddleboarding, kayaking, sailing…
Ideas for paid and supervised activities: Surfing lessons, supervised scuba diving, sea excursions…Tour operators will allow you to visit areas that are difficult to access, to take boat cruises or helicopter flights. You are guided in your excursion and all the equipment is provided to you so that you can fully enjoy your trip. Whatever the type of excursion, the prices are well over $500 for a weekend.
- Rent a surfboard: $25 for 2 hours – $45 for 4 hours
- Diving supervised: $250
- Skydiving: $300
- 1 to 3-days trip to Fraser Island: between $200 – $500
- Whitsundays Islands boat trip: $200
- 1-hour scenic flight over the Whitsundays Islands: $300
- Day snorkelling or diving in the Great Barrier Reef: around $250
On the West coast
The West Coast is a wilderness area, activities mainly consist of visiting national parks, discovering local wildlife and beaches.
The organised tours mostly focus on sea life: whale watching boat trips, diving with whale sharks or Manta rays, snorkeling, etc. The biggest expenses are therefore related to fuel and food.
- Whale watching tour: from $80
- 1 day Wave Rock tour: $200
In the North of Australia
The Northern Territory is especially interesting because of its two national parks: Litchfield (free entry) and Kakadu (paid entry). Hiking, picnicking and swimming are the main activities, to be done alone or accompanied by a guide.
- Entrance to Kakadu National Park: $25 per person from November to May, $40 from June to October
- Guided tour of Litchfield National Park: between $150 and $200.
In the Centre of Australia
In the centre of Australia, the main activities to do are hikes around Uluru and Kata Tjuta. You can explore this region on your own but there are also many excursions offered by tour operators.
- Parachute jump over Uluru: between $400 and $630
- Helicopter flight over Uluru for 20 minutes: from $180.
Going out & activities in town
In the city, the main activities you will be doing are most likely visiting parks and museums, shopping and going out to bars and nightclubs. Going out and museums will make up the bulk of the budget. In some cities like Sydney, Adelaide, Cairns and Brisbane you can go for a swim or do water sports. There is no need to budget for sports.
- 1 cocktail in a night club: $16
- 1 schooner in a bar: $10
- Entrance to a museum: between $10 and $30 (most of them are free)
- The entrance to a zoo: around $40
Total costs for activities
For a month-long road trip, budget around $600 for tours and activities.
Evaluate your road trip budget
It is important to note that a road trip budget in Australia will depend on the number of kilometres travelled and the duration of your trip. If you are travelling for a year, you will probably spend some days driving 400 km, and others without driving anywhere. If you are on vacation for just a few days or weeks, you will probably travel more kilometres over a short period.
Finally, depending on the number of people you are travelling with, the tourist activities that you want to carry out (trips to the Great Barrier Reef, scuba diving, skydiving etc) your budget will also have to be readjusted.
Facebook survey: weekly road trip budget
We did a survey of a backpacker’s weekly road trip budget in Australia. This survey was conducted with a sample of 92 people.
The majority of respondents spend an average of $300 to $400 per week. About 20 people managed to spend less than $300 a week. Conversely, around twenty people spend more than $600 per week. The high average is therefore between $300 and $600 and the low average between $300 and $400.
The average budget varies according to many criteria. It is therefore important to adjust it according to your route, your interests, mode of travel etc.
The average estimate for a road trip per month
The average estimate for a one-month road trip. In order to give an “average”, we have based the rates below in the following graph:
- Profile: backpacker couple
- Vehicle: basic campervan for 2 people
- Type of travel: year-long trip
- Total Budget: approximately $2000
Travel budget for an organised tour
If you are worried about organising a road trip, rest assured: you can book an organised tour and avoid the stress. Some cover a large part of the country and others focus on one or more routes. Some of them are guided, in English.
National tours across Australia typically last between 10 days and 1 month and may or may not include flights. Their price excluding international flights can vary from £1500 to £5000. Budget between £3000 and £10,000 for tours which include your international flight.
Here are some examples of popular tours:
- National tour around the most iconic places in Australia: Sydney, Uluru, Kings Canyon, Glen Helen, Alice Springs, Darwin, Kakadu National Park, Katherine, Darwin, Cairns (with international flight), count about 20 days as well as a budget of around €3,000 to €4,000 per person.
- For a road trip up the East Coast from Sydney to Cairns with international flight and vehicle rental, count about 20 days and 1,400€ to 2,000€ per person.
- For a road trip on the west coast from Perth to Exmouth with international flight and vehicle rental, count around 20 days and €1,800 to €2,500 per person.
How to save money on a road trip?
Saving on fuel
For those travelling a lot, fuel is probably going to be your biggest expense. Even if the cost is usually lower than in Europe for example, fuel price varies a lot in Australia. Big cities such as Sydney are where you will find the best value. As soon as you start going into the outback, prices increase a lot. They can even double in some isolated areas.
To save money, always keep an eye on the fuel prices at service stations you’re passing or stopping at, even if you’re not out of gas. If you find a service station that’s cheaper than the others, you can fill up your tank even if it’s only half empty, or use an extra cannister to stock up for when you need it.
Get a Woolworth or a Coles shopping card, because their affiliated stations offer 4cents/L discount when you shop at their supermarket. These discounts are usually valid for a month, and you will save $2 to $4 per refuel!
Saving on food
Food is a huge part of your budget. To avoid spending too much, shop in big supermarkets such as Aldi (the cheapest), Coles or Woolworths. Avoid corner shops when you can as they are much more expensive.
Go for the supermarket brands when shopping, as they are often cheaper than other brands and still good quality.
Try to shop in big cities; prices are much higher in smaller towns. Look for discounts, offers, etc. and keep your receipts to take advantage of other discounts (alcohol, fuel, etc.).
In cities, you will also find markets where fruits and veggies will be cheaper than in supermarkets. If you go right before closing time, you might even benefit from huge discounts.
Finally, to make some cheap meals go for:
- Pasta (500g/$1)
- Tuna (100g/$0,8)
- Sliced bread (1 packet/$1.50)
- Noodles (x5/$1.50)
Basics are cheap! Try to find ideas to renew your meals without spending too much.
Saving on equipment
Shops such as Kmart, Target, Super Cheap Auto and BigW sell equipment for very cheap. You will find everything you need to go camping or equip your car.
You can also buy second hand via websites such as Gumtree, one of the most popular second-hand websites. Check on Marketplace on Facebook as well. These are a great way to get ready for a road trip while benefiting from extremely good deals.
Savings on daily life & personal hygiene
On a road trip, comfort can be lacking and it can be tempting to spend every night on a campsite, where you have access to facilities like showers, toilets, WiFi etc. Although campsite fees are often pretty low (about $30), it can quickly add up. If you like a bit of adventure, we advise you to look for free campsites. Free spots to spend the night listed on apps like WikiCamps and CamperMates.
Along your road trip route, it will be relatively easy to find free amenities: beach showers, public toilets, WiFi, etc. Visitors Centres in towns and cities will be able to provide you with information.
Another tip is to wash your laundry by hand! Equip yourself with a bucket of water and detergent, and a rope to tie between two trees to dry your clothes. You can also go to the laundromat every now and then, it’s not too expensive.
Saving on extras
When you need to renew your wardrobe, buy some kitchenware or new books you should try second-hand shops. Vinnies, the Salvation Army, Red Cross, etc. offer amazing deals! T-shirts are usually under $5, shoes around $5 and pants around $8 to $10. Sometimes there is even still a tag on the items! Camping equipment, board games, work clothes and more are also available at unbeatable prices!
These second-hand shops can be found in every town in Australia, even the smallest ones where the prices are the cheapest.
Near their homes, locals sometimes leave mattresses, camping gear or other equipment that they want to get rid of for free. Watch out for garage sales!
More advice for a road trip in Australia:
- Road Trip Routes – Itinerary ideas
- Road trip Australia: Guide
- Road trip Australia: Tips for everyday life
- Road trip Australia: Choosing and buying a vehicle
- Road Trip Australia: Where to camp?
Updated on 10/11/23