Backpackers Guide To Australia!
Updated: Oct 17
Helpful tips for your adventure: Hot spots, transportation, currency, slang, ... there's a lot to know!
Congrats! You're headed to Aussie Land! Australia is easily one of the most exciting places I've been- there's so much to see and experience! But there's also a lot to learn before you go so I figured I'd put together a comprehensive guide with some of the things I learned during my travels :)
First things first, if you haven't already booked your flight, check out this blog post to make sure you're getting the best possible deal. If you have already booked your flight, make sure you've added your luggage online- it can cost an arm and a leg to get it checked at the airport!
Alright now that the flights are out of the way, let's talk about what happens when you actually get there.
The first thing you need to worry about when you arrive in Australia is:
Cell Service. You can connect to the airport's wifi when you first arrive to send messages to family/friends, but unless you decide to set up an international plan with your existing server, you're going to need a SIM card for data beyond the airport.
There are stands set up all through the airport so all you have to do is walk up, pick a plan, and pay. One of the employees will insert the SIM card into your phone for you (I recommend taping your old one to the back of your phone so you don't lose it!).
I went through a company named Optus because their data rolls over monthly. Telstra and Vodafone are other popular cell providers in Aus and all of them have mobile apps that allow you to recharge your data from your mobile device.
One my favorite things about Australia is their currency. Its beautiful, waterproof, and super convenient. You'll see lots of money exchange kiosks when you get to the airport but don't go for these! They will charge you a fee for the convenience of exchanging your money at airport. Wait and find a kiosk outside of the airport if you can.
Backpacker Tip: If you're on a working holiday and plan to be in Australia for a long period of time, open a bank account! You'll need your passport, visa information, and plane ticket saying when you entered the country so make sure to hold onto these! You'll need an Australian bank account if you're getting a job (for direct deposit) and the ability to e-transfer between Australian accounts makes it so much easier to send people money!
After leaving the airport, you're going to need to find your way to your hotel/hostel:
Ride Share- Uber, Didi, and Ola are the most popular ride share services down under. These are great options for going short distances/sharing a ride with friends.
Public transport - PT is huge in the cities. It's super convenient so I'd definitely use it!! You do have to pay sometimes but it's not too bad. You often need special cards though that you have to recharge before you get on the busses/trains etc and they change between cities so you need a different card in each place you go! (You can usually get one of these at a train station).
Lime Scooters- Popular in cities, lime scooters are a fun, quick way to zip through town. You simply locate a scooter via an app on your phone, ride to your desired location, and leave the scooter wherever you end up. Payment is taken through the app.
Greyhound Buses - This was my favorite mode of transportation during my time in Australia. Greyhound buses are for long distance rides and are a great way to travel if you're a backpacker looking to hop from place to place. They've got wifi, comfortable seats, and luggage storage below the coach.
Tip: Book them more than a day or 2 in advance though because prices jump! You can also buy special passes ahead of time as well and that can save you money if you intend to use the buses often.
RV Relocation - This is one of the coolest transportation opportunities and I had no idea it even existed until I got to Australia. If you and some friends are looking to take a cheap road trip, look up RV or Camper Van Relocation companies. These companies need the vehicle back in a certain location by a specific date and are willing you let you do the driving for them at a very small cost! You do usually have to put down a security deposit on the vehicle. but if it's returned on time in good shape, you'll get that money back. And other than gas, the cost of rental can be as low as $5 a day!
Domestic Flights - I only flew within Australia a couple times while I was there and it was mainly for trips that would take longer than 10 hours by bus. You can often get super cheap domestic flights if you don't have luggage. If you have luggage however, it's typically not included in the flight, so taking the bus might be a cheaper option.
Now its time to explore!! Let's check out the must-sees and hot spots:
Places To Visit
This is where I started my adventure in Australia. I was only here for a couple of nights and stayed at a hostel called Gilligan's. Little did I know, Gilligan's is one of the biggest party hostels in Australia (and not the best place to get a proper rest after 32 hours of travel lol) but it was a good time! There's a club right downstairs, connected to the hostel, and a huge farmers market downstairs as well that's held on the weekends.
"The Lagoon" is the hangout spot in town! It's essentially a huge pool/grassy area to make up for the fact that there isn't a beach nearby.
Lots of people go to Cairns for the Great Barrier Reef but Cairns is also home to the Daintree Rainforest and therefore is a host to various rainforest/waterfall hikes. I rented a car for the day with some friends and we went to Josephine Falls, Crystal Cascades, etc. I've also heard great things about Port Douglas (which is just north of Cairns) although I didn't get to visit this area myself.
The area between Cairns and Brisbane is rich with must-sees! I personally didn't get to visit all of these places myself but I would recommend trying to go to some of them if you can:
- Airlie Beach
- Mission Beach
- Fraser Island
Easily one of my favorite places in all of Australia. Not home to beaches or crazy views of nature, but I definitely made some of my favorite memories in this city.
Fortitude Valley is a great spot for night life. There's tons of bars, clubs, and restaurants along the strip.
For shopping head to Queen Street. This is the bustling daytime hang-out area. There's great shopping, food, and street performers!! If you want to drive about 20 minutes outside of the city, Eat Street is a lively night life spot as well (you just have to pay a few dollars for entry!).
If you're missing the beach, head to South Bank. Similar to the Lagoon in Cairns, It's a cool pool/"beach" in the middle of the city where you can go swim and lay out in the sand!!
As far as hostels go, Bunk is the best by far (probably my favorite hostel in Australia!).
Pro Tip: If you're heading to Brisbane looking for work, note that job availability is a bit harder to come by (at least in my experience and that of my friends!)
There's great beaches and surf here! It's a cute little built up area that seems to be the perfect mix between beach town and city. I never actually stayed here but I passed through on my way from Byron to Brisbane many times.
I spent 4 months of my visa here, though I found it to be a bit over rated! (not because of the area itself, but because of the "wanna-be hippie vibes" I was picking up on). Most people I've talked to agree, but it's still a cool beach town nonetheless! If you have a car there's dope waterfalls outside of Byron and loads of cool beaches. If not, you can still hang at the beaches in town and do the Lighthouse walk (where you can visit the eastern most part of the Australian mainland!).
The vegan food scene here is popping and there's definitely no shortage of beach vibes! Head over to the Pass if you're looking to catch some waves or watch other surfers.
Nomads hostel here is good for meeting people but it's a bit loud (it's a party hostel). Byron Bay YHA is really nice too it's just a little more expensive! Aquarius hostel offers free dinners which is cool but the hostel itself wasn't my fav.
I was only here for a week but obviously the Opera House is a MUST. It's so cool to see in person! If you really want to get a cool view, take the ferry from Sydney to Manly. It's $7 each way unless you go on a Sunday in which case it's only $2 round trip!
Bondi beach was really nice as well but very crowded. There are some cool coastal walks that wind between beaches along with some majestic botanical gardens, so if you're looking for a scenic stroll, make sure to check those out!
Most importantly, while you're in Sydney, take the train to the Blue Mountains in Katoomba!! These mountains are breathtaking and the park is full of amazing hikes, waterfalls, and picturesque scenery!
The Great Ocean Road was my absolute favorite thing I've done since being in Australia. You will need a car for this if you're located in the city. We rented a car for 5 days and camped out along the way! Bells Beach, Great Ocean Road Chocolatier, Grampians National Park and the Twelve Apostles are all must-sees. We saw also saw TONS of kangaroos and koalas at Tower Hill Nature Reserve making it a highlight of the trip.
Within the city, Flinders Street and Melbourne Central are main hubs where you'll find train stations, shopping centers and restaurants. If you're looking for more of a beach-y area with great views of the sunset, try St. Kilda! And if you're willing to travel a little further out of the city, you can go to Brighton Beach to see the colored bathing boxes!
We jumped around to a few hostels before finding one we liked. We ended up settling at Europa Hostel for a while and this one turned out being our favorite of all the ones we stayed at in the city.
Quick heads up- everything is opposite here! They drive on the opposite side of the road and walk on the opposite side of the sidewalk (or as they call it "footpath"). Not to mention, the steering wheel is on the right and the turn signal/windshield wiper clickers are flipped!
The biggest adjustment for me was learning to look the opposite way when I crossed the road lol.
** One other strange adjustment for me was the use of escalators! If you want to stand still while on the escalator, you stand in a single file line on the left. If you want to walk your way up/down the escalator, you walk in a single file line on the right side! It's very organized and convenient but it wasn't something I was used to coming from the states!
That's about it guys! Let me know if you have any more questions!!
Happy travels friends!:)
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