There are thousands of reasons why people travel Australia. Whether its just for a break, to see our amazing country, or to have the adventure of a lifetime it’s something very few people regret doing. Unfortunately, everything costs money and this is the primary limitation from stopping more people travelling this great country. So, what does it cost, and how can you keep the budget down?
The price of travelling Australia varies hugely depending on lots of different variables. How fast you travel, what you travel in, where you stay, your day to day habits and the list goes on and on. It can range from luxury house hopping through to the backpackers in their bunky old vans and 4WD’s, and there’s no right or wrong way to do it (unless you are breaking the law, or being a tosser!).
In this post though, we look at the major costs, and what you should expect to spent to travel Australia. We are assuming you are travelling by car, or 4WD. Of course, you can hop on a cruise, plane or train but we aren’t covering this today.
The ironic thing is that sometimes travelling around Australia in one block is actually cheaper than doing lots of shorter trips. For example, back in 2015 over 5 weeks, we did 9000km from Perth to the Kimberley and back and at the same time a mate left Perth to do a lap of the country.
We arrived back in Perth 5 weeks later having done far more kilometres than him, and he was on the other side of the country having seen a lot more than us. Of course, we’d also spent a lot more than him!
What’s the major expenses of travelling Australia?
There are 3 major expenses when travelling Australia:
There is no avoiding the cost of fuel. It is expensive to drive a car or 4WD around Australia. Fuel is usually the biggest cost of travelling Australia. There are a lot of things you can do to reduce your fuel cost, and some of them make a massive difference, but the most common way is to slow your travel down. In the end, it still costs the same amount, but its spread over a much longer time frame. Instead of doing 500 + kilometres a day, a lot of people are happy to do 50 – 200, or even less.
The bigger your vehicle, and the more weight you are carrying (or towing) the more fuel you will use. A small, economical car will do around 5 – 7L/100km. A big V8 petrol 4WD towing a heavy caravan is going to do closer to 26L/100km, and that equates to around $10,000 in fuel vs $2300! There are some things you can do to improve your 4WD’s fuel economy, but at the end of the day they are a heavy unit in the shape of an aerodynamic brick, so don’t expect too much!
I can’t give you an average, as there are too many variables, but it will be somewhere between 7 and 30L/100km. For most turbo diesel 4WD’s towing a 1.5T + trailer economy will be around 12 – 20L/100km. We’ll cover some other ways to reduce your fuel costs below. If you don’t know what economy you are getting, have a read of this; How to work your 4WD’s fuel economy out.
The next major expense is accommodation, and this is often as much as fuel (or even more!). Some people hop from apartment to airbnb to hotel and so on, whilst others pull up at a caravan park each night. Going further, Australia has a lot of free or low cost camping options which dramatically reduce your expenses.
I have seen caravan parks charging $200 a night for a family, and I’ve seen some charging $15. Prices vary hugely depending on the location, facilities and greed! If you are self sufficient, your options for saving money go up 10 fold.
You have to eat. There’s no escaping this. For most people, food costs increase a reasonable amount, especially if you are travelling in remote areas. If you are hopping from one major centre to the next you can travel with a similar food bill if you are careful, but most people end up spending more on extras and different food!
We seem to always buy more snacks than we would at home, and then there’s those amazing bakeries that just pop up everywhere! Alcohol consumption usually increases too, and planning meals becomes a bit different to when you are at home.
How can you reduce the costs?
There are hundreds of hacks to reduce the cost of travelling around Australia. Some you might like, and others you’ll absolutely hate. It entirely depends on what you are prepared to do, and how frugally you can live.
Free/low cost camp
If there is one thing you can do to dramatically chop the costs of travelling Australia, its to free or low cost camp as much as possible. There are families who are travelling Australia and spending under $100 a week in camping fees. That is absolutely amazing, and will save you a bucket load of cash. Stay at Caravan Parks every night though, and your costs are going to astronomically increase. If you average $45 a night for a Caravan park, that’s over $16,000 a year in accommodation costs alone!
Now, free camping isn’t for everyone, and there are plenty of people who aren’t setup to stay away from 240V power and running water. The good news is, its not difficult to set yourself up to free camp, and you can do it with all the comforts in the world if your budget allows. Seriously; you can run ovens, air conditioners, hot water systems and more with a high end off grid system.
If you want to be a bit more frugal with your setup, you can be comfortable without spending too much money too.
Limit your vehicle and trailer size/weight
There’s no beating physics. The more weight, and the bigger your setup is the more you will pay in fuel costs. Those towing giant off road caravans around the country use a LOT of fuel, and there’s not much you can do about it.
The smaller and lighter your trailer and tow vehicle is the less fuel you’ll use, the more spots you can access and the easier it is to sit at a faster speed without watching your fuel gauge drop like a rock.
Long Range Tank
Australia is a big place. It’s huge. Whilst you can get fuel fairly regularly (except some areas!) its not always a good price, and this is especially the case in some of the smaller towns. A long range tank allows you to fill up in the bigger cities at a cheap fuel price, and bypass the smaller towns that sell fuel for an extremely high cost. Now, please don’t take this the wrong way; I’m all for supporting small towns, so do as you wish!
Sit at 90 – 100km/h
There’s a reason a lot of travellers don’t sit at the maximum speed of 110km/h. If you are towing, in most states 100km/h is the maximum anyway, but the difference in fuel consumption between 90 to 100km/h is huge, and even more from 100 to 110km/h. In both cases, you’ll save 1 – 2 litres/100km by sitting at the slower speed. Next time you get stuck behind a caravan doing 90km/h you’ll know why; they are trying to save money on fuel (and the car works less hard!)
Reduce eating out
Bakeries should be banned. No, not really, but eating out increases your expenditure hugely. We’ve had paid a fortune for some meals in remote locations, and those donuts and sausage rolls add up real fast if you are travelling long term.
Limit the touristy attractions
Some people love the tours and paid activities when going around Australia, and others avoid them all together. If you are conscious of what you want to do, and you limit the paid activities you’ll save a bucket load of money. Some tours and activities cost a huge amount of money, so save for the ones you really want to do and leave the rest. You’ll never run out of things to see and do on a lap of Australia.
Catch some food
If you are good with a fishing rod, or into spearfishing, its not hard to get your own seafood. We usually eat a heap of fish and crays when travelling around Australia. Of course, don’t rely on it as there’s a reason its called fishing, and not catching!
Our costs for travelling Australia
We’ve done 3 significant trips and recorded the expenses on all of them, which you can see below:
105 cents a kilometer in 80 series 3 weeks up north but two vehicles, so really only 53c a kilometer per vehicle
82 cents a kilometre in the 80 series Kimberley trip
73 cents a kilometre in the Dmax 3 month trip
So, what does it actually cost then?
No doubt you would have heard the $1 per kilometre rule average, and more often than not this is on the money. If you do a lap of Australia (lets say 30,000km), you can expect to pay around $30,000 for the whole trip. Of course, this is not a concrete number and there are lots of things you can do to make it less (or more!).
Ultimately, it costs what you make it cost. If you are frugal and tight, you might get it down to around $500 a week. The normal sort of budget is around $800 – $1400 a week for a family doing the usual lap, with it going up or down a lot depending on you!