Australia is an incredibly diverse and vast country, with very unique landscapes in every area of the country. Australia has the most beaches in the world, with a coastline stretching almost 50,000 kilometres and more than 10,000 beaches. This makes it the perfect country to chase a never ending summer, and experience a road trip of a lifetime. Being so large, it could take years to travel the country, but you absolutely have to start somewhere, even by doing it one state at a time. Australia is composed of 6 states and 2 territories, all with very different landscapes and weather patterns.
How to Travel Australia
There are so many ways to travel Australia, depending on who you are, who you’re with, where you want to go, what budget you have, how long for and how comfortable you want to be. All these factors can make a huge difference when it comes to choosing how to travel Australia, so in this blog, we will be going into detail about:
- How long to travel for
- How to travel for an extended amount of time
- How much money you might need
- How to make money on the road
- Jobs that are available on the road
- How to make the most of your trip
How long to travel for?
Australia is the sixth largest country in the world, so the longer you have the better. Ideally, to see but also enjoy most places in Australia it would take around 2 years. Each state has 50-200+* different things to see, so no wonder it takes so long! In 12 months, you could do a whole lap of Australia, but you would only be able to spend 1-3 nights in each spot. If you fall in love with a place and stay for a week longer, you are sacrificing time spent somewhere else. If planning on travelling Australia long term, its best to not have any time restricting commitments.
If you only have weeks or months, pick one state, and do that first. Enjoy everything that state has to offer, without feeling rushed to move on to the next spot. If you haven’t done your home state yet, that’s the perfect place to start. There are so many underrated places in Australia that could be in your backyard. If you want to explore a new state, commit and go for it. For example, if you have 4 weeks off work and you’re from South Australia and want to explore western Australia, spend 3 days driving there so you have 24 days to slow down and explore. If you only have a week or two to explore, another option is flying to your destination and renting a campervan. This can be expensive, but works well for some people.
When to Travel Australia:
Weather: Depending on where you’re going, follow the weather. If doing a lap of Australia, ideally travel through the south during summertime and north during winter. The bottom half of Australia has thousands of stunning beaches, so it’s best to enjoy them when the weather is warm. The Australian summer goes from December-February, and winter is June-August. Winter is the best time to explore the Northern Territory, and top of WA/QLD. These parts of Australia only have two seasons. Wet and Dry. Winter time is the Dry season, and summertime is the wet season. The dry season is the best time to travel these areas because it hardly ever rains, and all the roads and national parks are open. It’s also less humid, which makes it easier to sleep in a vehicle. However, the wet season is amazing to witness with all the rain, just preferably not on a road trip.
Holidays: If you can only travel Australia during the holidays, prepare to be surrounded by a lot of people. This isn’t a bad thing, but if you’re someone who likes enjoying places to yourself, avoid the holiday season. Typically, Australian school holidays run from (Give or take a week depending on the state/year) :
- 10th April -26th of April
- 4th July -19th of July
- 26th September – 11th October
- 12th December – 26th January
Important websites, Apps, and Books you may need
- Wiki Camps App (an absolute must)
- Google Maps App – utilise the feature where you can save/star places you want to visit, so you never miss them
- Physical Map of Australia – Great to draw all over and circle/Map out places you want to go
- Hema Maps App- not essential but once downloaded it works when you have no service
- Fuel App- Lets you know what service stations have the cheapest fuel
How to travel for an extended amount of time
If you’re planning on travelling Australia for a while, these next few paragraphs will explain everything you need to know in regard to planning, preparation, and finance.
How much money you might need
This varies extremely, depending on the type of travel you will be doing, who you’re with, what you eat, if you plan on working on the road, and how well you are at budgeting. This does not include the vehicle and fit-out costs.
Weekly costs on the road:
- Eating out
- Accommodation- some areas more expensive than others
- Car service and repairs
- Item purchases- fishing gear, clothing, breakages, gas refill
- Bills- phone, Spotify, mortgage, rego, car
Fuel: Fuel prices vary all around Australia. In big towns, it could be $1.50, and in the Desert $2.10. It’s essential to know how many kilometres you can get with your tank. Our troop carrier has 2x 70L tanks, and one tank gets us around 450km. To fill one tank, its usually $110. If you’re travelling Australia slowly, you won’t be using as much petrol each week compared to travelling faster on a schedule. Some weeks we only fill one tank, others we fill it 3-4 times if travelling to remote areas or across the country. It’s great to carry jerry cans so you can fill them up at a cheaper petrol station.
Groceries: Usually people spend the same amount as they did at home, so work out what that figure is. If you want to budget, a freezer is great to have in your fit out so you can buy food on sale and store it. Our budget for the two of us is $200 a week
Eating out: This is something you definitely need to budget in. It’s great to allow yourself some money each week to go out for coffee, buy an ice-cream, get a cold drink, or go out for a meal without stressing. Think about how many times you would like to do this each week and add it to your budget. Ours is around $40-100 a week each.
Alcohol: Drinking can be pricey! Drink prices also vary around Australia, particularly in rural areas. In the NT, and north QLD, cask wine is prohibited, and they also have rules against how much alcohol you can buy. If you enjoy a drink every so often, work out how much it may be a week. Ours depended on the weather and if we were with friends, around $20-60 a week.
Accommodation: Free camping is the best way to save money on the road. Accommodation can be very expensive, and prices vary depending on where you are. Caravan parks are usually around $22-36 a night for unpowered. We only book a caravan park if free camping is strictly prohibited, or if we need a day of washing and using their facilities. The Wikicamp app is the best for finding free camps in the area. National Parks also charge for campsites usually, ranging from $6-11 a night each. If you’re staying for 10+ nights it can really add up for two people. Read our other blogs on each state to see what areas are more expensive than others. (Top 40 Spots in the NT)
Car Service and Repairs: You never know when something may go wrong with your vehicle. Consider how reliable your vehicle is and if you’re going off road a lot. Also, how much your service maybe every few months. We spent $1000 in Darwin and another $1200 in Exmouth. So around $2200 in 6 months. But this will change dramatically for everyone.
Activities: You’re travelling Australia so you may as well tick some things off your bucket list! If you have a few activities planned like helicopter rides, boat cruises, ferry rides, hiring bikes, kayaks or tinnies, add these to your budget. I recommend not including these in your weekly budget, and instead, have an ‘activities’ bank account for special occasions. For example, in Western Australia we paid for the Rottnest ferry, bike hire x2, Kayak hire x2, sea lion tour, wine tour, and if the weather behaved we would have taken a helicopter over lake argyle or shark bay.
Item Purchases: Every week you’re most likely going to be purchasing something you didn’t plan on buying. Breakages, fishing gear, clothing, and upgrades are just a few examples. It’s also great to buy a gift for yourself or a loved one every so often.
Bills: Sort out all your monthly bills before you start your trip. These may include phone bills, subscriptions like Spotify or Netflix, car rego, mortgage etc. Work out the total and what the cost is each week.
What we spend - I have taken 5 random weeks (In the NT) and worked out an average of what we would spend in a week. This would vary depending on where in Australia we are.
Eating out: $60
Car service and repairs: $180 (had one $900 service so divided it by 5 weeks)
Item purchases- fishing gear, clothing, breakages, gas refill: $50
Bills- Phone, Spotify, mortgage, rego etc: $130
Total: $1000 a week average. Would be $820 if we didn’t have a car service.
So if you're planning a 4 month trip, it may cost $850 a week for you. So $850 x 16 weeks = $13,600. So this is what you should save to happily road trip for 4 months without working. However, if you budget well you could stretch this for 6 months.
How to budget
Weekly budgets are the best, but before you decide on it, look ahead into the month, and see what weeks might be more expensive so you can prepare. For example, if you’re venturing into the centre of Australia, your costs will be a lot higher than if free camping for a week at the next spot.
Firstly, make sure you have a few separate bank accounts. One can be where all your savings sit, another for fun activities or bills, and one for everyday spending. Withdraw your weekly budget from your savings account, for example $500, into your everyday spending’s account. Now that’s all you can use that week, and any leftovers, you can save for a nice treat. You could also create a bills account, and have enough money sitting in there to cover your monthly bills. You will also need to carry cash to pay for some campsites, so make sure you always have at least $50 cash handy.
How to make money on the road
If you have saved up enough money to start your trip, eventually you may need to find a job down the track if you’re travelling for a while. I recommend having a minimum of 3 months’ worth of savings before you need to settle and work for a bit. So if you and your partner save $10,000 between you both, that might last you 3 months before you need to find a job on the road. Finding a job is easy if you don’t care what type of work it is. Also, don’t be scared as there are thousands of jobs available in Australia, and it’s the perfect opportunity to meet new people and fully experience a place. If you have a trade or experience in a certain field of work, find a job relating to that. Usually, you will only need to work for a month or two, before you can continue travelling. This is just enough time to top up your funds, however only if you’re working hard and not spending your savings while working. The best way to make money is finding a job that is short term, has a high number of hours each week, good money per hour, somewhere you don’t need to pay for accommodation (can sleep free in your camper), and ideally somewhere you won’t be tempted to spend all your money. Also, while you're planning and saving for your big Australia road trip, you could use this strategy of finding seasonal jobs to save faster, so you can start your trip sooner. For example if you live in South Australia, you could work for Viterra for 6 weeks (grain sorting company- can save $1000 a week), and then do the vintage season for 3 months afterwards (Harvesting wine grapes- 12 hour days, earn over $1000 a week)
Jobs that are available on the road
Your best bet for short term work is to find jobs that are seasonal. Some touristy towns may need more staff during the ‘peak season’, and farmers need staff when their crop is ready during harvest season. Also, random jobs may pop up that only go for a week or two, like working at the show, festivals, or small events. To find work in a certain area, look on gumtree jobs, work promoting websites (like Seek or finder), the local newspaper, or asking around town. Towns usually have a Facebook page they post jobs in, or you can post in the group asking if there’s work around. There are also websites that promote farm work, and include information on what farm/seasonal jobs are available in each state and when. Other common jobs include working on Cattle stations, for seasonal retreats/accommodation (for example, resorts in NT/north WA only open during the dry season, so that’s when the short term work will be available), Hospitality, and seasonal touristy activities (working on boats).
Examples of how our fellow Roadtrip mates afforded to travel:
- One couple worked a seasonal job for 6 weeks, at a lodge in the Bungle Bungles in WA. They found the job by posting a nice photo of them both in the local Facebook page, explaining who they were, and if there were any jobs available.
- Our other friends saved enough money to last them 7 months on the road. They then worked at a tomato farm for 6 weeks to top up the funds and continue travelling.
- Jake and I earn money on the road by selling products on our online store. We created the store a year before we started our trip. We set everything up, created our products, and put all our systems in place so that we could do most of it on the road. My mum packs and sends all the orders off, and we do everything else online and on our laptops/phones. This can be hard work, but we love it.
Read these Q&A’s we did with other Vanlifers for more info:
Other than finding a physical job every few months, consider if you can work online, or if your current job can be moved online or on the road? If you’re creative or artsy, there are plenty of ways to work online in this day and age. If you’re planning on travelling Australia and think you could work online, set a plan in place months before leaving, and research as much as you possibly can. Google and YouTube are extremely resourceful when it comes to learning about the online world and what’s out there today. This is exactly what Jake and I did when we planned on travelling Australia. We also love photography, so occasionally we get paid to promote a product or place that resonates with us. Bear in mind this can be extremely hard work if you’re wanting to make a proper income from content creating, and jobs may only come around once a month, so can be unreliable. Also, by working online you may find it harder to fully immerse yourself into travelling because you may have work to do, and it can be hard when out of service. That’s why it’s not for all people, especially if you like to switch off for a few months, then work hard for a couple of months.
How to make the most of your trip
Before you begin your journey, small or large, plan out all the special activities you want to do. For example, if you wish to fly over the great barrier reef in a helicopter, make sure you put money aside for this special moment. Even if you just plan on going out for a meal once a week in a new café, include this in your budget. These big or small pleasures can make your trip a whole lot better!
Hands down, the best thing about living on the road is the people you meet. It’s so easy to meet new people while travelling, and you will instantly have a million things to talk about because you’re both on the same journey. Get out of your comfort zone and make lifelong friends, you won’t regret it.
If you don’t mind missing out on national parks, get yourself a fluffy friend. Dogs seriously make life so much better, and will keep you entertained all day. They also make it easier to meet people, because everyone will be so interested in your dog!
Having a comfortable set up is another key to making your trip memorable. If you’re uncomfortable and frustrated the whole time, you won’t have much fun. If you’re only travelling for a very short period of time, it doesn’t matter so much. But if you’re on the road for a while, plan out the best vehicle set up that will make life easier. There are so many options, so we might write another blog post about that soon. For now, Instagram and youtube is the best way to discover different vehicle options. Find one that you like the most, and research!! There are Facebook pages for each different kind of vehicle (for example, 'Troop Carriers of Australia' and '#vanlife' ) and huge communities where you can ask questions and get a lot of helpful answers. Follow all the Vanlife pages on Instagram, and you will get plenty of ideas for your fit-out.