How to travel cheap in Sydney

Right now in this current economic climate, Australia is one of the most expensive places in the world to travel for a budget backpacker. It is the only country it seems in the western world to have avoided the worst effects of the economic downturn (due in most part to it’s ties to Asia and the mining boom in the North West of the country.) What this basically means however is that the exchange rate is not what it used to be for us travellers coming from Europe or North America, and we therefore need to budget accordingly. For instance, when I first went to Australia back in May 2006 I was getting 2.4 Australian Dollars for every British Pound. These days I’d be lucky if I got 1.5 AUD for every GBP. Despite this drastic decline in how much we get for our money on the exchange rate however, Australia is still the most popular destination for backpackers in the world. This is a testament to how incredible this country really is, and I therefore thought it would be useful to share some of my top tips on how to travel cheaply in Australia’s capital city, and most popular destination, Sydney.

Drink Goon

Part of the backpacker experience is about partying. No matter how many sights, attractions, and local culture you see or experience, a lot of what makes being a backpacker such a fun experience is drinking with your hostel buddies. It’s one of the best ways to meet new people and make friends while you are travelling. Australia can be an expensive place to go out drinking, so if you are really on a budget and need to save money then your best bet is to go to the local liquor store, supermarket etc and buy a box of Goon! For those of you not familiar with what goon is, it’s basically a bag of cheap wine contained within a box. Usually one box of Goon will contain around 4 liters of wine, and cost approximately $10 (AUD), although it will depend on what brand you buy and from which shop. Personally, I find the “Fruity Lexia” flavour the best in terms of flavour, although it must be pointed out that anyone who drinks goon is not drinking it for the taste! However, when you consider one schooner of beer (around 2/3 of a pint) in Sydney would cost you around $4 – $5 AUD, then goon bags become a much more affordable way to drink than buying anything while you are out.

Pub Grub

Everybody knows that eating in is much cheaper in most places than eating out will ever be. This is very much the case in both Sydney and the rest of Australia. However, it is still very possible to eat out in Australia on a budget if you go looking for the right places. For instance, when I was living on George Street (the main street) in Sydney, there was a pub right across the road from my hostel which offered a steak dinner with chips (fries), and a drink included for only $5 AUD. It wasn’t a small portion either. There are many pubs and bars that offer these types of deals in Sydney because there are certain types of food that they have there which they can offer much cheaper than you can get somewhere like the UK. Steak is a prime example of this because in Australia they have much more room to farm and herd cattle than they would on a small, compact island such as the UK. This therefore means they can produce much more, and therefore give you cheaper prices as it is all locally grown too, i.e. they don’t need to pay to import it. You will also find Sydney restaurants which are expensive, but if you just take a walk around some of the main streets you will find plenty of places that offer more budget style offers.

Travel off-peak

Although the weather is not as good in Sydney during the Southern Hemisphere’s winter months, it does provide an opportunity to explore places the city, and stay in hostels for cheaper than you would during the peak November to March period. For instance, right now, one night in a 8 bed mixed dorm would cost you around $13 – $16 AUD. In the peak months however, you’d be looking to pay around $15 – $20 AUD. If you book last minute it could be even more. Also, the weather is not that bad in Sydney during winter. It’s maybe not shorts and t-shirt weather, but it is usually sunny most days, and you can get away with jeans and a t-shirt, or maybe a jumper (sweatshirt). I never had to wear a jacket the entire time I was there in winter, but I suppose it’s just what you are used to. Scotland is much colder than Australia so maybe it’s a bit different for me! 🙂

You should also consider couch surfing in Sydney if you really want to save money. Apart from the flight there, accommodation is going to be the biggest bite out of your travel fund. There are many hosts signed up to the service in Sydney, so why not take advantage of that and save yourself some money. Plus, you may also see another side to the city other than just the tourist areas.

– Sydney is one of those cities that really does live up to expectations. Rarely do I get to a place which just blows me away, that was more than what I thought it could be. One walk down to Circular Quay however, and despite it being filled with tourist I was still completely in awe. Sydney will forever be my favourite city in the world, and I hope that if you visit that you find these tips useful.

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