$1,170 under budget eh! Well from this infographic, it may seem like we really don’t know how to budget very well, but in fact, we were just really lucky.
We had the opportunity to work on a farm for half of our time in Australia and then be invited to stay with locals who we met through the experience for another few days. Out of the 10 days in the country, we only had to fend for ourselves for 3 days and 2 nights in Melbourne.
How we arrived at our budget
At the time of budgeting our trip, we thought we were going to be renting a car and driving through the Great Ocean Road from Melbourne and making our way to Perth (~2,200 miles). We used blogs and sources like Lonely Planet to help us arrive at our expected budget of $200 USD per day. Which in retrospect, would have been aggressive, but doable. Luckily, my amazing wife, was able to get in touch with an alpaca farm outside of Melbourne and set up a few days of alpaca farm work. This farm stay was not only one of the highlights of our trip, but also a huge budget saver as we exchanged some hard work and funny stories for beautiful accommodations, the most amazing home cooking, and the company of really genuine people who felt like family.
Where we spent our money
Most of these costs were incurred during our 4-5 days spent staying in and exploring Melbourne. We spent some money for train tickets to get to and from the farm, but we didn’t really have any costs while working on the farm.
If we take out the farm stay and only looked at the days we spent exploring the city, we were spending about $195 USD per day. This included lots of visits to coffee shops for some of the best coffee in the world, eating at some really amazing restaurants, and doing things like attending a comedy festival and Australian Rules Football (footy) game.
Budget Savers and Budget Killers
Since we spent the majority of our time working on a farm, we didn’t have many opportunities to discover a lot of budget savers and killers, but here are some that we thought would be helpful.
- Farming and House Sitting – Similar to New Zealand, Australia is expensive, and accommodations and food will take up the lion’s share of your budget. If you can arrange a farm stay or a house sit for at least part of your stay in the country, your budget will thank you and you will likely thank yourself as it will often allow you to have a more ‘local’ and rewarding experience. Check out TrustedHouseSitters.com and WWOOFing Australia for upcoming opportunities.
- Don’t take a taxi from the airport – This one may seem like an obvious one for any seasoned traveler, but we were surprised at the lack of access to the city from the airport in Melbourne. Your options are to either take a public bus which services the suburbs (not the city center), take a taxi, or take the Skybus. If you do your homework and know where you are going you can probably plan to take a city bus to a suburb and then walk to the nearest metro stop to take you into the city. The second best option for your budget is the Skybus. We went with this one and it cost us $18 AUD each to go from the airport to the city center, one-way. You can save a few bucks if you book a round-trip ticket.
- Walk or use the free tram – Melbourne, while a main international city, is really walkable. It was described to us as a “large village.” And you can really walk, bike, or tram anywhere you need to go within the city center. The city also offers a free circle tram that does a loop around the city.
- Find free events and activities – There is a ton of stuff going on in Melbourne so checkout what you can do and see for free. We really enjoyed visiting the Australian Center for the Moving Image (ACMI) and the Hellenic Museum. Check out Time Out Melbourne for upcoming events in the city. They also have articles focused on experiencing Melbourne on a budget. For example, here are their on the cheap museum suggestions.
- MyKi Cards – The MyKi, a card used to pay for public transit in the city, is a point of strong disappointment for pretty much every person in Melbourne. Despite being a visitor, you have to purchase a MyKi card regardless of how long you are staying in the city. The card is $6 AUD, and each person has to carry one. If you lose it or even just forget it at home, you have to purchase another one. We spoke to some people who said that they purchased over 6 of the cards because they’ve arrived at the station and realized that they forgot their card at home. If you are traveling to Melbourne in the future, there may be hope as there are ongoing talks about a public transport overhaul in Melbourne.
- Choosing your gastronomic pleasures wisely – Melbourne is going to make your stomach very happy, but it can cost you. Melbourne has some of the best coffee in the world and the food scene here is truly amazing. While the sticker price for dining out in Melbourne seems steep, we thought the food and coffee was on the whole, a very good value for what you got. But do your research before committing to a coffee shop or restaurant. One example where we got burned was going into a coffee shop to grab a mid-afternoon coffee, a juice shake, and a muffin. $30 later we were leaving flabbergasted that we spent almost as much on our lunch, which included: coffees, a grilled salmon entree, and a fusion Chinese BBQ pork dish, all of which was outrageously good. To avoid this, you can use online resources such as Yelp, UrbanSpoon, TimeOut, but maybe the most helpful is just asking locals. Melburnians love their food and coffee and everyone seems to have a favorite place.
*As always with our budget posts the dollar amounts are stated for 2 people unless otherwise noted.