Whether it’s for a month or a year, if you’re planning to go backpacking in Australia you’re probably wondering where to begin; We were exactly the same!
As we fast approach the 6-week mark prior to us hopping on that one-way flight, 3-year mark of full time travel (Yep, I’m finally getting around to updating this post!) It’s safe to say we have this planning malarkey down to a T.
Grab a glass of wine and let’s help you start planning your next big adventure!
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Backpacking in Australia – Planning Your Trip
WHEN are you going?
The first and most obvious place to start is decided when you want to leave for Australia – this was the hardest part for us.
We spent almost 3 years umming and ahhing about whether to take the leap and move to Australia, but when we finally did, we gave ourselves 10 months to plan it – That was 10 months to sell everything and save enough money to take with us, by the way.
Weather played a huge part in exactly when we would leave for Australia because they’re running on opposite seasons to what we’re used to!
June to August = Winter
September to November = Spring
December to February = Summer
March to May = Winter
Even now I can’t get used to this.
So when you’re looking into WHEN you want to go, take this into account.
We knew we didn’t want to arrive in the middle of their summer, the weather difference would have been too much of a jump so instead, we opted to arrive in July. Which turned out to be perfect.
Sure, it was supposed to be their winter BUT as you might know, England isn’t famed for its glorious summers so it was a pretty nice match for us and gave us time to acclimatise as the months started warming up.
Note; If you’re flying to Western or Northern Australia – it’s pretty warm all year round. It’s just the amount of rain that varies. Especially in North Queensland.
WHERE are you going first?
Australia is HUGE and is split into 6 States. All of which have varying temperatures and things to do/see. For this section, I’m going to assume you’re doing a Working Holiday Visa, like us, so you have longer to fit everything in.
If you’re only there for a week or two, I highly suggest starting in Sydney and road tripping from there.
So it’s time to decide what is important for you to have when you first get there.
Are you wanting to see Whale Sharks migrating? Then head to the West Coast April-July.
Wanting to try some local wines; head to Victoria or South Australia.
Do your research on what exactly it is you want to do while you’re in Australia, or at least get yourself a vague idea. We chose to Fly into Melbourne as we knew this would be the starting point for our East Coast Road Trip. We also found out it’s pretty easy to buy a car in Melbourne in Winter as most backpackers are leaving!
So you know when you’re going, and you know where you’ll start backpacking in Australia. You now need to start looking at flights.
I will write a more detailed post about this as there is so much to consider. We tracked our flights for weeks (obsessively so) before actually buying them.
Once they started to rise we didn’t dare leave it any longer; So my top tip – which many would disagree with I’m sure – would be to buy the tickets as soon as you find ones at a price you like.
We made the mistake of saying ‘ooh – good price … but it might be cheaper next week’, and you know what… it wasn’t, some had risen and some had even sold out.
No matter how many hacks we tried, and how many times we deleted our cookies and search history (2020 EDIT – these tricks are now outdated, be sure to check out our full guide on how to find cheap flights).
So if you know where you’re flying from/to, book as soon as you find the perfect flights – they won’t be there forever!
Ok, so there are a lot of visa options for Australia but the most common one for backpackers is the Working Holiday Visa. (subclass 417 for UK/EU passport holders, 462 for non-EU passports – providing you’re between 18 and 30 years old)
Let’s face it, very few of us can actually afford to be backpacking in Australia for longer than 2 weeks; without actually having an income or a mass of savings.
I’m going to assume (again) that you’re going to Australia on a Working Holiday Visa. Here’s everything you’ll need to know to get one;
There are agencies that offer to do your application for you ‘with guaranteed acceptance’ but we promise you, it’s so easy to do yourself through the official .gov website that there really is no need to pay a company and risk getting scammed.
Make sure you have everything at hand ready, don’t be intimidated by the list of questions, answer honestly, and you’ll be fine.
The current price of a visa is £
285 £245 (updated April 2020) and it’s important to know this is a non-refundable fee – even if your visa is refused.
Once you’ve submitted your application, then begins the joy of waiting for the decision to be made. I was lucky enough to get mine back in 5 minutes! Dec, however, had to wait a week, it’s just pot luck on how long it’s processed but try not to panic and enjoy planning the next steps to planning your trip!!
Once you have the acceptance email, print it off. They can – and sometimes do – ask for it at the borders. You will also need the equivalent of AUD$2,500 per person in your account. Again, they can – and do – ask for proof of this at the border.
You have 12 months from the date of acceptance to enter the country and activate your visa. As soon as you enter the country, your visa starts and you have a total 12 months to work and travel in Australia.
If you need/want longer, you can apply for a second Working Holiday Visa(depending on your nationality). We have more information on how to extend your visa here.
Backpacking in Australia – Planning Your Trip
Some like to wing it and see what they can get once they reach their destination, some like to have every night booked in advance for the first month so they have one less thing to worry about – it really depends on how you like to travel.
Do you want to be tied down to having to be in a certain place by a certain time? Do you want to have the panic/excitement that you might not have anywhere to sleep?
We toed the line and booked just our first week’s accommodation in the heart of Melbourne. From here we extended it and by week 3, we had bought our first campervan!
There are several options for accommodation in Australia, below are links to ones we’ve used and would recommend;
– Air b+b –
This the main app/website we use to book our accommodation. It’s cheap and allows you to stay with the locals! Super handy for gaining some fast local knowledge of your new country!
Here you can book entire apartments, private rooms or even shared accommodation if you wish; Narrow it down to your budget.
These do not always run like a professional business, so don’t expect hotel service. Be prepared for towels to not be provided. Also although some do offer a cleaning service others will request you clean the room before leaving;
All hosts and those being hosted are reviewed publicly on their profile so it’s easy to weed through any possible bad stays.
We’ve not had a bad experience yet! ** note ** If you’re travelling as a couple, or group, we found Air b+b to be cheaper than paying per bed in a hostel – Sign up by following the link and receive money off your first booking, in turn giving us money off our next room too! win win!!
– Trivago –
We use this quite a lot in the UK, but it’s global too. Like any other comparison website, this one allows you to see a list of all the available rooms and pick which one suits you.
We like this one in particular because it seemed to show better deals. This is mainly hotels and hostels so if that’s the route you want to take – this website is worth a look.
Popular with solo backpackers due to their budget-friendly prices, hostels allow you to share a dorm with fellow like-minded people for as little as £20 a night.
This website lets you compare local hostels against each other and book directly with them, no third party needed.
If you’re heading to a destination where there is a festival or event on at the time, it’s advised to book early.
This also isn’t always the cheapest option if you’re travelling with others. Paying per bed soon adds up, and it’s usually always with a shared bathroom.
Like Trusted Housesitters, this Australian site allows you to link up with fellow animal lovers and board at their house for free; in exchange for walking/feeding their animals and looking after their house whilst they’re away (sometimes a bit of basic house maintenance too).
To be a sitter there is a small cost of $65AUD $85 for a year – lookout for the deals. They will occasionally throw in an extra 6 months for free!
The price seems steep at first but remember, this is open to the entire country and allows house owners to contact you directly through your profile, if you get enough sits throughout your time in Australia you will have saved yourself a lot of money.
Like with Air b+b, you are reviewed after each house sit, so it’s easy for potential pet owners to see how trustworthy you are! This really is a great way to see the country from a local’s perspective – as well as skip accommodation fees 😉
– Campervan Rental –
If you want to jump straight into it when you arrive, there are heaps of campervan rentals available in Australia and honestly, road tripping is THE BEST way to see Australia – take that from someone who spent 2 years doing it.
Something to remember, however, is a lot of rentals require you to be a) over 21 and b) not ‘fresh’ into the country – i.e not jet-lagged. So best to leave it at least a few days before hiring one.
If you do decide to hire a campervan at some point on your backpacking in Australia trip. Be sure to check out our road trip itineraries and our friends over on Faramagan for their guide to camping in Australia!
IMPORTANT THINGS FOR WHEN YOU FIRST ARRIVE
CONGRATULATION, you’ve completed your very basic backpacking in Australia planning steps.
All that’s left is to get there and begin enjoying the sights, right?
Well…. not entirely.
There are a few little things that will need to be done first to enable you to make the most of your Working Holiday Visa:
– Phones –
We live in a world now where we can’t live without them, so I’m assuming you’re taking yours with you.
If so – you’re going to need to buy a new SIM card (unless you want to be hit with massive wandering fees)
There are three main companies in Aus, but if you’re wanting the best coverage and plan on going through the outback at some point, it seems Telstra is the better choice. See their plans here.
You can buy a SIM card pretty much anywhere. We chose to wait until we got into the city but there are places inside the airport too if you can’t wait that long.
OH! Be sure to unlock your phone first though!! Call your current service provider to see what you need to do to open your phone ready for other networks!!
– Tax number –
If you plan on working in Aus, you need a TFN (Tax File Number).
Although this isn’t needed as soon as you land it’s probably best to get one before you get carried away with being down under.
Just like with the visas, there are companies that will offer to sort this for you for a fee – don’t do it! They are free to obtain on your own, and the process seems really straightforward. Go to the official website and apply online once you’re in the country!
You will need an address to have your Tax Number sent to, the Air B+B we stayed in were more than happy to let us use their address and I’ve heard Hostels allow it too.
If it hasn’t arrived before you leave, either arrange to collect it from your accommodation or call the number on the official website and they’ll be able to give it to you over the phone.
As of May 2017 you will need your TFN to open a bank account in Australia. Although your insurance number from home will be ok ‘for now’ it’s easier to get your TFN straight away.
– Bank Account –
Once you find a job, you’ll need an account for all your hard-earned cash to go into. It’s also cheaper (depending on your home country bank) to transfer into an Aussie one, instead of using your home card directly.
We chose to use CommonWealth, but there are other banks available. With CW you can open an account easily online 3 months before arrival or wait and open one in branch; all you need is your visa and passport. They now also require a TFN, so make sure you apply for this before you open a bank account. They will accept your home tax number (National Insurance, if you’re British) as a temporary measure but we weren’t able to fully access our account without an Aussie TFN.
I think that just about sums up the very basics of planning your trip to Australia. The most important thing to do is HAVE FUN! Check out our bunch of guides that we have put together while being in the country and let us know how you get on!
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