Australians are by far the most internationally well-traveled people I have ever come across through my own travels. This is because it’s literally cheaper for them to travel overseas for holiday than in their own country. Studying abroad for a semester in Gold Coast was by far the best four months of my life – I beached daily, went to new places every weekend, and I loved hanging out with the locals. However, all of this fun came at a price, and it was a hefty one – even the Aussies hate this. Here is a list of key methods to get more bang for your buck, and to save money in Australia as a college student.
1) Cheap Activities in Australia
Take a stab at surfing: if you want to live like a local, you must try surfing at least once on your trip to Australia, as it is practically a religion. There are surf schools up and down the east coast ready to help you master the art of surfing and get tips on how to tackle water safety when it comes to rips and huge surf. It can cost between $15-30 AUD for a board depending on how long you’re renting it for. However, if you’re going surfing with one or two other friends, rent one board, and just take turns using it in the water. You’re going to want to take a break on the beach anyways, and this way you can take pictures of your friend attempting to surf! A group of my friends and I did this once and got 2 boards and divided up the money, and taking turns worked perfectly.
Hit the coast, the beaches are free in Australia and there’s lots of free activities on and around the beaches. They’re so beautiful that you can spend tons of time just exploring one beach. There are more than 18,000km (more than 11,000 miles) to discover on the East Coast. Most of the time, there are great hiking trails around the beaches, and you can spend a day just at the beach and hiking in the surrounding area. Just don’t forget to bring snacks and water! In Gold Coast, my friends and I would often take a bus down to Burleigh Heads for the day. Public transport is easy and safe to use, try Tripview for public transport in Sydney. The beach is stunning, and there is a national park right on the coast for a beautiful hike. We went there quite often, as well as Currumbin and Coolangatta. In Byron Bay, the beautiful hike up to the lighthouse, the most easterly point in Australia, is a must-see and you can beach hop along the coast for days. In Sydney, the hiking trail from Bondi Beach to Coogee Beach is also stunning – and free!
Also, take advantage of local activities taking place in the area. Doing a quick online search of what’s taking place that upcoming weekend will be worth it. Check out the local apps for guides on cheap eats and events. Check out sites like Whatson orTimeOut for tips. For example, the Quicksilver and RoxyPro surf competition takes place every year in Gold Coast, featuring some of the best surfers in the world. The competition was free for the public to watch, accompanied by a concert right there on the beach. We would have never known about this if it weren’t checking on local happenings!
2) Renting a Car in Australia
Getting a car for a day or two is a great way to explore sites that are inaccessible through public transportation. Again, this is another investment that you will want to split with a group of friends because the fees and gas money add up. Being strategic about how long you have the car and where you go with it is key. When my friends and I rented a car for 24 hours, we hit a couple national parks that we couldn’t access by bus or train, and this made it worth it. We got the car on a Saturday morning, drove an hour to Mount Tamborine and explored a national park, and then the quaint town for the day. We drove home that night, got a few hours of sleep, then set our alarms for 1AM that morning to drive to Mount Warning in New South Wales, the first place to see the sun rise in all of Australia. After the 4 hour hike up and down the mountain for the sunrise, it was time to return the car and our timing was spot on.
3) Cheap Local Markets in Australia
Gold Coast and other cities around Australia feature amazing local markets, clothing and farmers markets. We would go a couple times each week. We would keep a list of the days and times that each market was held so we always knew where to buy fresh produce. Some of the markets take place only twice a month, some are twice a week. The markets would sometimes have food stands, so we would eat a cheap meal local to that area, and it was also a great way to meet the locals too. Other times, the markets would have inexpensive clothing, a great way to skip the malls and shopping centers and buy something more authentic.
Our favorite market was in Miami, a small town outside of Gold Coast. They had inexpensive and delicious food, drinks, and live music every other week. Such a great place for free entertainment and meeting people.
4) Going Out to Eat in Australia
This absolutely killed me in terms of attempting to save money. Meals at local restaurants can cost around $15-25 AUD for an entrée and drink, and more upscale restaurants can be upwards of $40 AUD. I have a bad habit of eating out quite often, so I had to search for deals – I found this in lunch specials. They’re everywhere! You just have to know the correct time to go. There are usually signs outside of restaurants with days and times of the specials, usually on Sundays. In Broadbeach, a city in Gold Coast, I found a delicious Indian restaurant with a $9.95 deal for lunch one Sunday afternoon. I lived close to the campus that I studied at in a quiet neighborhood, and the surrounding restaurants all had dinner deals as well. One night we went to an Italian restaurant and for $15 AUD we got a glass of wine, an appetizer, and an entrée. Brunch is also very popular in Australia, and there are lots of deals too! Try some of the local pubs for the daily “counter meals” like fresh fish and chips and Sunday special roast of the day. Most have beer gardens where you can eat your meal and take in the view.
5) Australian Nightlife
Spending money on drinks is by far the easiest expense to avoid. Nightlife isn’t cheap in Australia – beer and cocktails can be $8-12 AUD, and sometimes there is a cover charge as well. The drinking age in Australia is 18 and the community is very aware of drunk driving, so some pubs can increase prices to help limit consumption for young people. For girls, drinking can be much cheaper because of Ladies’ Nights found all over the country. For example, on Thursday nights, Club East in Broadbeach has free champagne for girls all night – I’m not making this up, take advantage of the deal! There are a couple other clubs in Surfer’s Paradise and Broadbeach that do ladies’ night deals on Tuesday as well. If nightclubs aren’t your thing, there are always drink specials available at bars and pubs. Waxy’s in Surfer’s Paradise had $3 beers on Sunday nights, Jupiter’s Casino in Broadbeach had $3 you-call-it on Tuesday nights, and Melba’s in Surfer’s Paradise had $3 Corona’s on Thursdays. Just hearing about and finding the deal is the hard part, but once you know where you can save money, those places will be the usual spots for you and your friends!
Start your flight search to Australia now to take advantage of flight discounts for students.
Nicole Darian is a blogger for The CollegeTourist, an online community for study abroad and student travelers, written by college students around the globe.