“That’s it, we are going to Australia”
Most of the travel trips in my life have been decided in a split second. And our decision to go on a backpacking trip to Australia was no exception. It was a boring afternoon in office and the three of us- Mohit (that’s me!), Abhimanyu, Mudit were killing time in office game room – playing FIFA. Going on all guys’ backpacking trip had been on our mind for sometime but things were not falling into place. As is always the case, one of us declared, “That’s it, we are going to Australia”. Between three of us, we had visited places in major continents – Asia, Africa, North America, Europe. Hence, idea of traveling down under sunburned continent of the world excited all of us. Shirking off our boredom, we finalized all our trip details within 30 minutes!
Planning budget trip
The biggest expense in any trip is the airfare (especially for young Indian guys like us). We solved this problem by figuring out airlines flying to Australia not just from Bangalore (where we live) but any part of India. Air Asia is an economy carrier in the Asia Pacific region and guess what – it flies to Australia from Kochi! Instead of booking from Bangalore, we booked tickets from Kochi to Melbourne and back to Kochi from Gold Coast (near Brisbane) for ~INR 38000 per person. Picking different entry and exit point is key as Australia is a HUGE nation and you don’t want to waste a lot of time coming back to the same city just to catch your return flight.
Australian tourist visa is fairly straightforward but application fees are on a higher side (~8500 INR including VFS fees ). We planned our 8 days itinerary in Australia with 3 days in Melbourne and 2 days in Gold Coast, we included 3 days in Sydney. We booked youth hostels in Melbourne and Sydney that were conveniently located right in the middle of the city and a service apartment in Gold coast right next to the beach. Our average expense was limited to 1500 INR per person per night. We booked our tickets for domestic travel between cities with Jet Star airlines (~INR 3k per person per flight, cheaper than bus!). We were all set for our adventure down under!!!
Wrong start! ☹
Just as we were waiting to board our flight, we heard the dreaded announcement: the flight was delayed by ~12 hours!! It was heartbreaking as that meant a whole day less in Melbourne. Anyway, The airline arranged hotel and dinner for us and we reached Melbourne early morning, almost a day late.
We spent our first day in Melbourne strolling around the city. We rode the City Centre tram which is free for tourists and has guides onboard to provide information about the city. In fact, we highly recommend everyone to take tram ride for its antique carriages and great opportunity to mingle with other tourists and locals. Melbourne is a beautiful city full of parks and architecture. The people of Melbourne also love their sports. The city is home to the Rod Laver arena which hosts the Australian Open (one of the four Tennis grand slams) and the biggest cricket stadium in the world, the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). Although there were no tours of MCG planned that day due to a rugby match, we convinced the guard our love for cricket and managed to get inside!
The next day we went on the famous Great Ocean Drive. It is a 243 km stretch of winding highway alongside the Ocean. Trivia: it is the world’s largest war memorial dedicated to soldiers killed during World War I. We rented a car for 24 hrs with a Airport drop point to save on the airport transfer ($70-80). During the drive, which is also on the register of Australian National Heritage List, we passed by amazing natural sites including Apollo Bay and the 12 Apostles.
The endless coastline, breathtaking views of the Ocean adorned with small and beautiful towns makes this trip is a must do while in Australia.
Our flight to the next destination – Sydney was from Avalon airport on the outskirts of Melbourne. We dropped the rental car there and took the short 1.15 hr flight to Sydney. The first sighting of the city was at the Airport- the runway was in the middle of the sea! It resonates with the overall mood of the city- edgy and majestic! Our hostel was very close to the Sydney harbor and we immediately made our way to it. We spent next couple of days strolling around the iconic Sydney Opera house, Royal Botanical Gardens and Harbor Bridge, visiting museums around the area in the day ,and dining and visiting casinos at the famous Darling Harbor in the night. The Darling harbor is home to some of the most famous attractions of the city, including the hemisphere’s largest IMAX and Madame Tussauds. The Hard Rock Cafe on the harbor houses one of the most iconic music memorabilia collection (Budget Traveler Tip: visit early to take advantage of the Happy hours!)
All of us are huge cricket fans- so visiting the Sydney cricket ground (SCG) was always on the agenda for us. We went to SCG on the final day of our Sydney leg. The tour is relatively expensive (~$40), but totally worth it! The members of Indian Cricket team have left enough impressions inside the dressing room to make you feel at home. Later in the day, we visited the world famous Bondi beach. The beach is in one of the most upscale areas of the city, lined with million-dollar beach homes. The Ocean walk which starts from Bondi takes you across multiple beaches, and if you are extremely lucky, you might also spot a whale or two (we waited more than an hour but couldn’t ☹ )
Our final and most leisurely destination of the trip was Gold Coast which is on the southern end of Brisbane. JetStar was our preferred mode of travel again. We rented a 2BHK apartment on the beach at a reasonable rate (~$90 per night). There are hotel options as well but apartment rental is cheaper and you can get really good deals closer to the beach itself. Gold Coast is known for its long and sandy beaches. We spent our final two days on the beach- listening to locals playing country music, enjoying the sun and taking a dip in the cool ocean. There is a lot one can do at Gold Coast – surfing, hiking, bird-watching. 2 days was less but we made most of it!
That was Australia for us! A perfect guys’ trip. It can be expensive but if you plan it well (like us), it can be the best budget trip of your lifetime!!
Pro-tips for budget travellers:
- Plan and book early: One can save a bomb on hostels and internal travel by doing so
- Supermarkets vs Restaurants: Food in general is expensive in Australia (even in comparison with US) and shopping for food and drinks at supermarkets can be very cheap compared to restaurants
- Transport: Public transport is very expensive in Australia (Public transport pass in Sydney for one day is ~$40 per person)- get a hostel at a good location
- Car rental: Carry your driving international license and plan your car rentals from Airport – it saves money and time!
- Connectivity: You can buy pre-pard SIM with unlimited local calls and data for 2$ per day.
Our total trip cost split was 100K INR : 38K- Airline tickets, 9K- Visa, 6K- Domestic flights, 10K- Accommodation, 5k- Car rental, 10k- Food, ~20k- Miscellaneous (Venue tickets, airport transfers, intra city travel etc.)