Preparing a road trip in Australia can require a big budget which means it is necessary to put together enough savings before thinking about leaving. Depending on your objectives and the kind of holidays you are aiming to have, your budget might vary (tourist on holidays or backpacker on a working holiday visa). Our aim is to give you an idea of the cost of your road trip but also some tips to reduce it. The prices chosen are examples but might help you when starting to prepare your road trip.
A Road Trip in Australia
Going on a road trip is the dream of many people. Australia is a huge country and going on a road trip is without a doubt the best way to discover it. Going on an adventure independently with your own vehicle may seem simple. But think again, a badly organised road trip can quickly turn into a nightmare … Australia is a very large country… it is 32 times the size of the UK in terms of area. It is very important that you set a route more or less accurate to determine the length of your road trip, but also for organisational matters. This will allow you to better plan your road trip budget for Australia.
Again, you will need to define the steps of your journey. Remember to check the seasons and the crops if you want to work during your road trip in Australia. Depending on your budget, you will need to define how long you can travel in Australia without working, what time you will need to absolutely find a job on your road trip.
Road Trip Budget Australia – What do you need to calculate?
Travel with Public Transport
Do all or part of your road trip in Australia by bus or coach, it’s 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||-||$67||$83||$98|
|Agnes Water - Byron Bay||93 $||$170||$180||$193|
|Sydney - Melbourne||-||$99||$119||$129|
|Sydney - Brisbane||$98||$111||$169||$211|
|Coober Pedy - Adelaide||-||$181||$181||$186|
|Sydney - Cairns||$309||$446||$512||$565|
*Prices as posted on the websites of Premier Motor Service and Greyhound on the 02/03/2020.
Based on the examples above, the average cost for a trip with Premier is $0.12 per kilometre and that of an Advantage ticket at Greyhound is $0.19 per kilometre.
To travel short distances (for example to reach your coach), use public buses. You’ll find it 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 $0.17 per kilometre across all states.
Costs in total if you travel by bus
If you travel 3000 km, plan a budget of $510.
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 its 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.
Rent a Campervan
The cost of a campervan rental varies depending on various criteria.
Firstly, the season, it is way more expensive in summer than in winter. It is the same with school holidays and public holidays. Prices also vary depending on the duration of your trip and if you are booking in advance or not. Moreover, know that if you drop off your van in a different city from pick up you will be charged a “one way fee”.
Insurance has a decent cost in your rental budget. Add around $25/day to the prices below. (Good to know: when you rent a van for a month and a half you are usually only paying insurance for the first 50 days).
Here is an example of classic campervan rental price for 2 days (without insurance):
- Low season: between $20 and $30 a day
- High season: between $70 and$90 a day
Costs in total if you rent a Campervan
Count on average $75 per day ($50 for the vehicle + $25 for insurance).
Average budget for a month rental: $2250
You can read our article: How to rent a cheap campervan in Australia for more information on the topic.
Buying a vehicle
Buying your own car is interesting if you are willing to travel for more than two or three months. Prices change depending on the season and the type of vehicle. In low season (from April to October), prices are lower because the offer is superior to the demand. On an opposite side, in high season (from October to April) prices are higher because there is much more demand.
For a sedan/wagon fitted out: from $1500 to $3000
For a van fitted out: from $3000 to $6000
For a 4WD fitted out: from $3500 to $7500
For more information: Choosing and buying a vehicle
Maintenance costs depend on the type of vehicle, its age and the number of kilometres driven.
To maintain your vehicle well, there is maintenance that you must do often. For example, the oil should be changed every 5,000 to 10,000 km.
Certain wearing parts must be replaced regularly. The change of these parts depends on the vehicle model and the number of kilometres driven. The recommendations of car manufacturers tell you when to change these parts. For example, the timing belt should be changed approximately every 120,000 km.
Depending on the vehicle, some spare parts may be more difficult to find, which may explain their high cost. If the mechanics of the vehicle are more complicated the part may be less accessible and may require more labour time.
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, plan a budget of around $200.
(this estimate only takes into account consumable servicing products and the main wearing parts)
Several factors influence the price of fuels. Prices are reduced in big cities and higher in less accessible areas. Prices also depend on the petrol station that sells fuel. In general, prices for all fuels vary between $1.45 and $1.7.
On average, for different types of fuels, the prices are :
- 91: $1.45/ l
- 95: $1.6/ l
- 98: $1.7/ l
- Diesel: $1.4/ l
Total costs for petrol
For a month long road trip in Australia, plan a budget of $450.
The entrance to a campsite is paid 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 $30. This price is explained by the various features available at a campsite (showers, toilets, barbecues, etc.). You can also stay at free campsites. Free campsites are more rare and not all are close to tourist areas. You will sometimes switch between paid and free campsites. You can count approximately 1 night out of 4 for a paid campsite.
Total costs for camping
For a month-long road trip, the camping budget is $225.
The prices of hostels vary according to the cities where they are located and the type of room. As prices will be more expensive in more touristy cities like Sydney and Melbourne. The fewer people occupy the room, the more expensive. The cheapest rooms accommodate between 10 and 14 backpackers. Private rooms will be priced similar to an entry-level hotel. Mixed rooms will also be cheaper than rooms only for men or women. The average price for a night in a hostel is $40.
Total costs for a Hostel
For a month-long road trip the cost for hostels is around $900.
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 prices are decreasing if you book for a longer period. Rooms are limited to 2 people. It is, therefore, possible to divide the costs by 2. For one night, a low-cost Airbnb is around $50.
Total costs for Airbnb
For a month-long road trip, plan on around $1200.
It is the most expensive housing solution. Prices depend on the quality of the hotel and its facilities (swimming pool, spa, restaurant, etc.). For a room, prices vary between $60 and $100 per night. These prices may vary depending on the season and the tourist influx.
Total costs for Hotels
For a month-long road trip, plan on around $2000.
Several options are available to you. You have a choice between shopping and cooking your meals or eating 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 2 per week. A week of meals will cost around $100. A meal in a restaurant will cost around $20.
Total costs for Food
For a month long road trip in Australia, plan a budget of around $500.
Tours & Activities
On the East coast
The richness of the East Coast offers many activities. They are mainly concentrated on the coast. These are therefore activities on the beach or at sea. The possible activities are excursions, surfing, snorkelling, diving … To have the pleasure of carrying them out you must either hire equipment, buy it or book a tour or activity.
There are two types of activities: activities that you can do independently and supervised activities. The use of tour operators is especially useful for visiting areas that are difficult to access and if your tour is by boat or helicopter. These agencies will be able to guide you on your excursion and will provide you with all the useful equipment to make the most of it. Whatever the excursion, prices exceed $500 for a weekend.
Certain activities require supervision, such as diving or surfing lessons.
The cheapest or even free activities will be those that you can do independently. Without spending anything you can visit national parks, visit cities or swim. For a few dollars, you can buy or rent equipment to do more exciting nautical activities (surfing, snorkelling, paddle boarding, kayak, sailing…).
- 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 majority of organised tour activities are to explore sea life. There are many excursions to t see whales or to dive with sharks. During a road trip on the West Coast, your main expenses will be dedicated to transport and food.
- Whale watching tour: from $90
- 1 day Wave Rock tour: $185
In the North of Australia
Northern Australia is especially interesting for its many national parks. Your time will be mainly dedicated to this activity. Access to the parks is free except for Kakadu. The hikes in these different parks are done alone but can also be accompanied by a guide.
- Kakadu National Park tour: $25 per person
- Litchfield national park tour: between $130 and $180
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.
- Organised Uluru tour: from $130
- Ayers Rock 20-minute scenic flight: from $120
Going out & activities in town
In the city, your activities will be reduced to visits to parks and museums, shopping and going out to bars and nightclubs. Going out and museums 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
- The entrance to a zoo: around $32
Total costs for activities
For a month-long road trip, count 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 travel all year round, you will probably spend days driving 400 km, and others without moving. If you are on vacation for a few days or weeks, you will probably travel more kilometres over a short period.
Finally, according to the number of people you are travelling with and to share the costs, and according to the tourist activities that you are going to be able to carry out (trips to the Great Barrier Reef, scuba diving, skydiving…) the 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: a year
- Total Budget: $2000 approximately
- Food: We took a basis of $125/week for food
- Fuel: We have counted about 100 km/day, with consumption of 10L/100 km (average fuel consumption of a van), with an average fuel price at $1.5/L.
- Camping: The costs for “camping” is calculated by counting 1 night every 4 days at $30 per night.
- Maintenance: Here we have counted approximately $200, but it relates more to those who purchase a vehicle and will have to pay for the maintenance/ repairs during the year. Those who rent a vehicle will not have to provide for these expenses (except, if you do not take insurance!)
- Activities: This average takes into account the free activities, activities in the cities and the trips with tour operators. We calculated $600 per month.
TOTAL: $2000/ month approximately (without extras and travelling approximately 3000 km!)
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 £1300 to £4500. Count £2700 to £9000 for those tours which include your international flight.
Here are some examples of popular tours:
- For a national tour passing by the most iconic places of Australia (Sydney, Uluru, Kings Canyon, Glen Helen, Alice Springs, Darwin, Kakadu, Katherine, Darwin, Cairns) with international flights, count about 20 days and £2700 to £3500 per person
- For a road trip on the east coast from Sydney to Cairns with international flights and with car rental, allow around 20 days and £2200 to £3000 per person
- A road trip on the West Coast from Perth to Exmouth with international flights and with car rental, allow around 20 days and £2200 to £3200 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 major 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 most interesting prices. As soon as you start going further in the outback, prices are increasing a lot. It can even double in some isolated areas.
To make some savings, keep an eye open on the fuel price at service stations even if you don’t need any. You will find some cheap places; fill up your tank even if it is only half empty! A jerry can also allow you to fill up for cheap!
Get a Woolworth or a Coles shopping card because their affiliated stations often offer 4cents/L discount when you shop at their supermarket. You will just have to give your shopping receipt to the service station and the discount is yours!
Saving on food
Food is a huge part of your budget. To avoid spending too much, shop in big supermarkets such as Coles, Aldi or Woolworth and do not shop in little neighbourhoods shops. They are much more expensive.
You can also decide to go for the supermarket brand, often cheaper and still good quality. Try to shop in big cities; prices are much higher in smaller towns. Look for discounts, quick sales, etc. and keep your receipts to benefit from other discounts (alcohol, fuel, etc.).
In cities, you will also find markets where fruits and veggies will be cheaper than in supermarkets. By going 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)
- Noodles (x5/$1)
Basics are cheap! Try to find ideas to renew your meals without spending too much.
Saving on equipment
Places such as Kmart, Target, Super Cheap Auto or BigW sell equipment for very cheap. You will find anything you need to go camping or to equip your car there.
You can also buy second hand via websites such as Gumtree one of the most popular second-hand website. Check on Marketplace on Facebook as well. A great way to get ready for a road trip while benefiting from extremely good deals.
Savings on daily life & personal hygiene
At the start of a road trip, it is easy to be tempted to spend your nights on a campsite to access all commodities and keep a bit of comfort. However, even if many places offer pretty cheap campsites, it ends up being a fair part of your budget.
To spend as little as possible on showers, it is important to follow some tips. Beach showers are a great way to shower freely. Also, don’t hesitate on going to the visitor centre of each town you visit. The person will be able to indicate you the closest amenities. They are used to dealing with backpackers and will let you know if they are free and if not how much they cost.
You can also lower your costs by staying at free campsites. You will find them on Wikicamps or Camp7.
Finally, if you need to wash your clothes, do it by hand. Find a bucket, a bit of washing powder and a bit of water. Put a rope between two trees and there you go, your washing is done.
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!
Books are around $1 to $2, sometimes even less and they have heaps. These shops are everywhere, even in really small towns and you will be able to find more stuff all along the way. However, they are a bit more expensive in big cities but stay pretty interesting.
Finally, have a look in the street, there are always free things on the side of the road (camping gear, mattress, etc.). Garage sales are also a good idea to find pretty good deals.
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 15/03/2020 – Initially published on 30/01/2017