Backpacking along the East Coast of Australia can be…Well – In a nutshell, a party for young and first time backpackers! – It can be a goon-filled binge up or down the coast.
This isn’t your usual type of guide to budget backpacking Australia’s east coast. This overview doesn’t contain must see things to do and see, how to plan your itinerary, what to pack or a dollar by dollar account on what to spend, or what your budget should be.
However, in this post we do cover and provide you some useful tips, and advice, things to be wary of while backpacking Australia’s east coast, and practical information for everyday life while backpacking Australia’s east coast.
Note: I spent just over 2 years living and backpacking Australia’s east coast from 2010 – Jan 2013. I understand things will have changed since I was there but the things I cover in the post will mostly still be relevant to your trip.
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Australia’s East coast is the most popular and heavily backpacked coast in the country and contains most of what Australia is famous for. It’s a well-trodden, potentially booze filled beaten path. It’s home to cities like Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, rural towns, and stunning beach towns.
The east coast is crammed with:
- Stunning beaches
- Exotic animals, Incredible islands
- World wonders,
- Fraiser Island
- The Whitsunday,
- The great barrier reef
- Even rain-forests
- Amazing wildlife and nature
- Head inland to explore some heavy bushlands – but don’t stray too far
Oh, and there will be a lot of goon available all the way up the coast! It’s fair to say however you chose to do it, backpacking Australia will be an adventure.
As a backpacker in Australia, you’re just as likely to go on an all-day booze cruise as well as visiting attractions and doing excursions; seeing and doing things can easily become secondary to partying the day and night away. In fact, you’re likely to find a lot of young backpacker tours to incorporate booze into their tours and trips to entice you.
Don’t be surprised to be able to select from a number of party boats for a trip around the Whitsundays, or booze out to the great barrier reef, go on secluded island for a castaway trip and sit around a campfire with a bag of goon.
Of course not everything is booze filled and you can see, do and experience plenty while backpacking Australia’s east coast without being encouraged to get wasted. There are plenty of non-boozy options for you. Just be aware, a lot of Australia’s well beaten path is geared for young party hungry backpackers, and Aussies love a good schooner or 10. (I am talking from experience.) – Either way,
Budget backpacking Australia’s east coast
In this country overview we are going to dive into and cover things you will need to know for everyday backpacking life:
- Basic information for backpacking Australia
- Visa options for backpacking Australia
- Practical tips
- Things to be wary about
- Budgeting information for backpacking Australia
- Local and national transport information
- Accommodation options
- My personal experience of backpacking Australia
- Interactive map of Australia’s east coast
Basic information for backpacking Australia
Visa options for backpacking Australia
Australia is very backpacker friendly, in fact a lot of the east coast is geared up for backpackers and obtaining visas is quite easy for most nations around the world. They offer a range of visa types for both short and long term travel.
You’ll find a lot of companies on the internet offering services to process your visa for you and while this might seem worthwhile they will charge extra and some are known to be scams.
You can easily apply for your choice of visa online through the official channel Australia.gov.au which requires you to fill out the visa form yourself but will not overcharge you. However if that’s not a concerns like I mentioned there are numerous agencies and visa bureau online you can search.
Typical visa types:
- E-Visitor – Tourist visa, lets you stay up to a period of 3 months but you cannot work with this visa.
- Working holiday Visa subclass 417 –Available for people between 18 -30, initial 1-year stay and you are able to work with this visa – Most popular for people backpacking Australia
- Work and holiday subclass 462 same as above but for nationalities not available for working holiday visas
A few practical tips for budget backpacking Australia's east coast
- Learning local Aussie lingo will help you understand the locals. (Especially if they are bogans)
- It actually gets cold in winter (Who knew!) so pack accordingly to what time of year you are going.
- In Melbourne, you are likely to experience 4 seasons in a day sometimes.
- There are some amazing beaches, famous ones like Bondi are very commercialized and not necessarily the best.
- Hostels regularly hold nights out, in most cases, there’s always a free drink and its great way to meet other travelers.
- The famous Kings Cross in Sydney is not as notorious as it once was.
- There are plenty of camper-van rental and backpacker travel agents to organize trips up the east coast.
- Check hostel boards to see if anybody else is heading in the same direction as you.
- Try not to miss places like Fraiser Island and the Whitsundays.
- Doing a 4×4 off-roading trip on Fraiser Island will be an experience you won’t forget.
- You can also just buy a hop on and hop off bus ticket and travel independently.
- DO NOT ASK FOR A FOSTERS IN A BAR – Aussies hate it.
- As well as the famous places there are plenty of hidden gems throughout the east coast.
- Make sure if you book a skydive, you’re not going diving the next day. (I had to double check that)
- If your hostel has long-termers staying there, don’t be afraid to talk to them, just don’t ask them where they’ve been or where they’re going straight away – Long-termers hate that.
- Cooking for yourself or with others in the hostel is much cheaper than eating out.
- Shop around for the best prices and the trip that suits you best if doing the great barrier reef.
- Aussies can be quite blunt and their lingo can take some getting used to. Don’t take it personally and they like to say ‘cunt’ in every other sentence, don’t be offended if you’re called a ‘sick cunt’, ‘shit cunt’ or just ‘cunt’.
- Be prepared for long journeys nothing is close to each other in Australia.
- Cooking for yourself will save a lot of money, eating out is expensive and will burn a hole in your budget.
A few things to be wary of when budget backpacking Australia's east coast
- Getting stuck in one place because you fall in love with it is a real possibility (months can disappear)
- If you are English, be prepared to be called a Pommy by every Australian you meet.
- Backpacking Australia is expensive, so be prepared for your initial money to drain. If you are planning on doing a working holiday, work is readily available as long as you’re willing to find it.
- Australia has some of the worlds deadliest animals including poisonous spiders venomous snakes, sharks, crocodiles, and jellyfish. Be careful on land or in water.
- Bull sharks swim in Sydney Harbor.
- Dingo’s run free on Fraiser Island, however, if you are there during mating season you are not likely to encounter one.
- Like all countries, there are some areas you should be careful of or stay away from.
- Pay attention to signs on beaches in regards to going in the water; the signs are there for a reason. (Water Current and swell warnings, shark warnings, crocodile warnings etc.)
- Australia has some of the highest UV levels in the world, you can get sunburnt in 20 mins without protection during the summer months.
- Be aware of how much your drinking on boat cruises (Seen a few people fall off boats or think it would be funny to go for a swim.
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Things to know when budgeting for backpacking Australia's east coast
There’s no way around it, backpacking Australia’s east coast is expensive compared to other countries but not impossible and there are ways to get around it. However, be prepared you can and most likely will spend a lot of money on alcohol.
If you’re planning on backpacking Australia just for a few months on a tourist visa you will need a much larger budget than if you were to go South East Asia or South America. Traveling the East Coast for just a few months you will want to and see as much as you can so you’ll be spending a lot more.
However, if you’re on working holiday visa there is a silver lining, you can work while you travel and when you’re earning Australian wages which are high, the costs seem a lot more relative and easier to manage. A lot of people just like I did, Will find a base, work full time and save money for a trip up or down the coast.
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Transport options for backpacking Australia's east coast
If you’ve never experienced it before, you will have to get used to traveling long distances from one place to another. Although intercity traveling is quicker, there will be some journeys that can take 8, 9 hours or even longer.
However, although there will be long trips, transport and getting around Australia is fairly simple. There are a number of public transport options, or you can easily hire or even buy your own vehicle. With Australia geared for backpackers, you can travel as a solo backpacker and not feel alone at any point. You can travel in groups with one of the many backpacker tours, you can car/van share or take nationalised coaches like the Greyhound bus.
It’s quite common to find car/van buddies in Australia too.
- Check out notice boards in hostels,
- Local cafes,
- Facebook groups
- Lampposts and you’re most likely to find requests for buddies.
There may be a driver or group of backpackers heading in your direction and you just have to share the fuel costs and provide some good company. You may even make some new friends while you’re at it.
- Buses – Public bus, runs regular within cities.
- Metro – reliable and cheap.
- Taxi- Very expensive option.
- Bicycle – You can rent bicycles at many points in most cities and towns
Accommodation options while backpacking Australia's east coast
With the popularity of budget backpacking constantly growing there are plenty of options for budget accommodation for your backpacking trip. Hostels remain popular with backpackers because of the social aspect, while sleeping in campervans are just as popular because you get to see a lot more and sleep under the stars. Whatever your choice there will be something for you.
- Hostels – Range from small quiet, party, to large hotel like franchises. (short-term or long-term)
- House/apartment shares – It’s common for groups of backpackers to rent homes to call their own on short-term leases.
- Traveler houses – A cross between hostels and houses, purely full of fellow backpackers.
- Couchsurfing – Very popular in Australia.
- Airbnb – Rent a room for some privacy.
- Camping/Camper-van sites – Pitch up a tent on a secluded beach, in national parks or designated camping areas.
- Volunteering – Exchange work for accommodation.
My overview and experience of backpacking Australia's east coast
Australia was where it all began for me, it was my first ever backpacking trip and the first time I ever traveled solo. I spent just over two years there on a working holiday visa. It was initially one year but having completed my rural work I was able to spend a second year there.
There is something very common that happens to young first time backpackers in Australia, and it happened to me; I got stuck there. Not just for a few weeks but I ended up being sucked into the backpacker bubble, ran out of money very quickly and ended up spending the first 8 months of my trip in Sydney. I did learn from that for my future trips but It’s very easy to happen.
In the two years, I made bad decisions, messed up, but I loved every minute and wouldn’t change a think. I spent there living, backpacking, partying and working. I had an amazing time, met incredible people, involved in some of the best parties and saw and did so many amazing things.
Interactive map of my route backpacking Australia's east coast
For first time backpackers, once you actually get on the road, It’s very easy. Australia is a hotbed for backpackers and traveling up the east coast couldn’t be made any easier, everything is laid out for us, It’s like the east coast holds your hand guiding you through it. It’s basically backpacking pre-school.
If you’re looking to backpack up Australia’s east coast but not sure of the route to take, this map below shows my route, places I stopped, and will hopefully give you an idea of the best route for yourself
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