Australia is expensive, and it is in Australian cities where you are likely to spend more money than anywhere else in the country. Getting around and staying in major cities like Sydney and Melbourne can quickly drain your budget if you are not well prepared and know what you are doing.
While the accommodation cost in Australian cities probably sets the length of stay, transportation to the town and its surroundings make up for the second largest travel expenses.
With years of travel experience in Australia, I have learnt many tricks to save hundreds of dollars on all my trips and know how to travel in Australia smartly without sacrificing comfort and quality.
In one of my previous blog posts, I gave you my best advice about planning your trip to Australia as a solo traveller.
This blog post will dive deeper and show you how to save money when exploring Australian cities on a budget.
How to save money on Accommodation in Australian Cities
When visiting the biggest cities in Australia, the essential way of saving money is on getting an accommodation deal. As a solo traveller, you may want to opt for private stays or hostels to cut down on costs. But if you travel with a companion or family, hotels in any Australian city CBD can be surprisingly cheaper than other types of accommodation.
Hotels do have specials and often run discounts on room rates. So you can save from 20%-40%. With a bit of proper research, you can end up getting a hotel bargain, for 120-140 dollars per night, right in the heart of the city.
But how do you strike such a hotel deal? Browsing and checking out hotel comparison sites help a lot. I use a few hotel comparison sites.
What you first need to know about hotel price comparison
Hotel prices in Australian cities are generally 30-40% higher on weekends, so you can plan your visit during week-days to save money. But to tell you the truth, not all hotels apply a surcharge over weekends. If you carefully check and compare hotel prices on weekdays vs weekends, you will see that some offer the same prices on all days. You need to browse, compare and monitor consistently if you want to strike a good hotel deal.
How to compare hotel prices
As part of my hotel research, I searched through Hotelscombined and then from there, I went deeper into Booking.com and more hotel sites.
From my search for Melbourne hotels and serviced apartments in the city over a weekend and weekdays, I noticed a few prices deals with discounted rates that were not available from the booking.com site. Again more serviced apartments were available on Hoteltravel but shown as sold out on booking.com.
The price difference was 70 dollars a night. So if you are interested in booking in one hotel, it’s worth checking the rates on different platforms and maybe on the hotel name site too, as the price may differ greatly.
Tips for choosing hotels in Australian Cities
To recap, these are my best tips for choosing hotels in Australian cities:
- Choose a hotel centrally located—the more central, the better. By doing so, you can easily walk to all the main attractions and explore the city CBD on foot. Location is no. 1 priority that makes a hotel interesting, next to room comfort and amenities.
- Free internet and wi-fi in the hotel room is a perk. Considering the ridiculously high internet connection rates in Australia, getting free wi-fi in hotels is a huge benefit. Not all hotels include free wi-fi, though, so do your research.
- Restaurant with a good breakfast This is an additional benefit that you can choose to add to your package. The idea of not having to leave the hotel early in the morning to have breakfast will add extra comfort and quality to your stay.
- Watch out for discounted hotel rooms. While it may be difficult to strike a 40% discount on the hotel room price, a 20% discount can be relatively easy to get. On an average hotel, price means 50 dollars per night. Paying 150 dollars instead of 200 dollars a night makes a huge difference. And the savings can go to a nice restaurant meal.
Other types of accommodation in Australian cities
If you prefer staying with a local, stay with Airbnb, it will be the perfect fit. However, Airbnb may not be the cheapest solution though; in fact, an Airbnb stay in all major Australian cities will be around 120-150 dollars per night. Secondly, it will be challenging to find a room centrally located. So Airbnb rooms may turn out to be as expensive as a hotel room.
How to save money on getting around in Australian Cities
Public Transport in Australian Cities is expensive. There are, however, many ways to save money on city public transport. All public transport networks in cities are extended to the city suburbia to reach many places of interests in the city surroundings by bus or metropolitan train.
I now show you how to make the most of public transportation in Australia.
Melbourne – How to save money on getting around the city
Melbourne is the best city to live in in Australia and has a fantastic free-trams system that covers the entire CBD. This was introduced in 2015 and made it easy for travellers to get around at zero cost! Furthermore, for only 5 dollars a day, you can hop-on-and-off a bus that takes you to 20 places of interest in Melbourne’s inner area.
Another option to help you save money on your visit is the MyKi card. With this card, you can travel for 8 dollars cap a day on all metropolitan trains within the city and its surroundings. I once went from Melbourne Eastern suburbia to north Melbourne in Thomastown for 8 dollars.
The MyKi card is not for free, though, and it costs 10 dollars. The cheapest is to use the shuttle bus from/to Tullamarine (25km from the city) for 20 dollars for the airport transfer.
My best saving tip for Melbourne: Make good use of the free CBD trams and get a Myki card if you plan to travel a lot in Melbourne’s surroundings.
How to save money on getting around Sydney
Sydney is the most visited city in Australia by international travellers and the most expensive in my experience. The quickest way to travel from the airport to the city is by train for 17 dollars, in less than 10 minutes takes you to Sydney Central Station. The cheapest way is the 400 bus service to the city this takes you to Bondi Junction.
The shuttle bus for 22 dollars takes you to your accommodation, but you may have to wait a long time before getting one, and it takes at least an hour to get to your destination. A taxi drive will cost you around 50-60 dollars, and I would consider it if you can share the ride with 1-2 people.
Get the Opal Card for free. The Opal Sydney card is free and entitles you to many discounts on all public transportation and significant savings on Sundays with only 2.5 caps to use on all public transport, including ferries.
My best saving tip for Sydney: If you travel to Sydney on a Monday and leave within the following Sunday, you only pay a one-way airport ticket and save 17 dollars! – Found out about it on my last visit to Sydney in June.
For more Australian cities like Perth, the cheapest way to travel to and from airports into the city is to use the bus from the domestic airport with 3.5 dollars (smart rider card) or 4.90 dollars without a card. Get the Perth smart rider card to save up to 25% on Perth’s public transport and surroundings.
Saving on Food and eating out in Australian cities
When I stay a few days in Australian cities, I prefer not to cook my food. Not because I don’t like to cook, but because it’s not worth the hassle of buying food and cooking it. Secondly, city supermarkets have a limited range of products and are more expensive than grocery chains outside the CBD.
If you think you can eat with 10 dollars in China-Town or at any food street markets, why cook food? Food halls are my favourite as the quality of food is higher. You can have a good meal for 10-25 dollars. Food Halls are the best options for Sydney too, which is notorious for being exaggeratedly expensive on food.
My tips for Sydney: I recommend the World Square Food Hall (halfway on George Street) and the Australian Square Food Hall close to Circular Quay. More info about eating out in Sydney.
My tips for Melbourne: My favourite is the Southbank Food Hall and Melbourne South Markets or eating in the Melbourne Lanes like Degraves Lane.
More info on where to eat in Melbourne.
WiFi and Internet in Australian Cities
Internet and Phone connection is costly in Australia. You will not find anything below 30 dollars prepaid plan for phone and dongle. I use the Telstra Dongle for better coverage.
And beware, 30 dollars internet comes with 3 GB which means you will be probably run out after 3-4 days surfing on the internet. So the best places for free wi-fi in Australian cities are the great old MacDonald’s stores and Apple Stores. But these can be used only for a temporary and short internet connection.
If you need to use the internet for longer, then go to a city public library, where you get a free internet connection as wi-fi, with extended opening times. From morning to evening on six days, you can use the internet for free and have your peace.
Internet and free WiFi in Melbourne: The State Library in Melbourne and Federation Square are the best places for free wi-fi.
Internet and free WiFi in Perth: the Perth city library close to the Train Station is the right place. In Perth CBD, there is a free wi-fi connection but not working fine.
Internet and free WiFi in Adelaide: the university library in North Terrace is a great place. In Adelaide CBD, there is free wi-fi, and it is working pretty good.
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first published in 2018, last updated in Jan 2021