Wondering how to save money on accommodation in Australia?
With so many options available it can be somewhat overwhelming to know where to start looking for that perfect deal.
It doesn’t matter if you’re planning a short break on the Gold Coast, setting in Sydney for six months, or backpacking around the country for one year, I will show you how to save money on accommodation in Australia.
After spending many years living, working and travelling around the country, here are my recommended accommodation options for the best deals.
Starting at the least expensive:
While sleeping on someone’s couch for free might not have the same status in some circles as staying in a branded hotel, I’ve been experimenting with it for over four years.
This type of accommodation appeals to those travelling on a limited budget and who don’t mind sharing their lives with a stranger. As guests will typically be sleeping on a couch, a spare room or floor – no money at all is exchanged for the stay. Although, many who use the service prefer to give their host a gift or cook them a meal to say thanks.
Just imagine staying over with an old friend or relative’s place, except you don’t know the host (apart from some prior email/phone communication).
The most popular hospitality exchange service is CouchSurfing.
As above, CouchSurfing is where travellers can contact a host and agree to stay at their residence for a prearranged number of nights.
For example, if I was planning to visit in Perth for four days, I could search the Perth city area and the surrounding suburbs for a suitable host. Once I have finished browsing through hosts profiles and references, there could be a few I like.
At this point as the surfer, I would then send out a couch request, with the details of my trip and dates I want to stay. If this doesn’t conflict with the host’s plans on the given dates, then they can agree to let me CouchSurf.
After hosting myself, plus CouchSurfing around Australia, Japan, Hong Kong, Norway, and Latvia. I can vouch CouchSurfing is not just about cheap accommodation, but more about experiencing how locals live and making new friends.
Although there are no fixed rules or guidelines on who should use the website, CouchSurfing is not suitable for those who are travelling in large groups or have a fixed travel schedule.
With Couchsurfing, you need to have a lot of flexibility and work around the hosts day to day schedule.
If you do plan on trying Couchsurfing, then be sure to check out my tips: A Free Nights Sleep: Getting Started on Couchsurfing and How to Write Decent Couchsurfing Requests.
Recommended for stays 2-4 nights per host.
Working for Accommodation
Working for somewhere to sleep is not what most would think about when taking a typical trip overseas, but for the budget traveller looking how to save money on accommodation in Australia, it’s a worthwhile option.
For many working for a place to sleep will be a surprisingly rewarding task. Even some professional desk jockeys enjoy leaving the office behind and doing something different for a change.
One pet sitting website that’s popular in Australia is Trustedhousesitters.
What do people do with their pets when they go on holiday?
That’s a good question and Trustedhousesitters offers a different approach, allowing travellers seeking budget accommodation to take care of owners pets – all in exchange for free accommodation.
Each host will post an advert on Trustedhousesitters, which state what they’re looking for in a pet sitter. Some will ask the Housesitter to walk the dog 1-2 times a day; others might ask for some house and gardening work too. The tasks required will depend largely on how long the owner will be away on the holiday.
The norm is to look after the pet for a week or two, yet
some adventurous retired couples advertise Housesits for up to 2-3 months.
This type of pet agreement will suit couples and those working remotely, as the majority of houses have Wi-Fi, so the even the most workaholic digital nomads can still get their job done around looking after the pets.
If you’re looking for different style of travel and don’t mind dogs or cats, then I recommend this is something you should try at least once.
Another working website is Wwoofinternational, where backpackers and travellers complete farm work in exchange for accommodation.
Recommended for 7+ days.
So at this point, you might be saying Couchsurfing and Trustedhousesitters are perfect for solo travellers and tech couples in their late 20’s, however, what if you’re travelling as a family with kids?
There’s always good old-fashioned camping.
Camping is a great pastime that allows us to break away from the four walls of safety, to get outdoors and experience Australia.
You probably don’t need me to tell you Australia is a vast country and large amounts of it are still untouched. It’s surprisingly easy to find eye-catching views from camping areas around every one of the seven states.
One of the best thing I enjoy about Australian camping it’s possible to have the beautiful scenery typically found at 5* resort close to your tent for a tiny fraction of a price.
Camping in Australia not just about pitching a tent on some remote cliff face or secluded beach, most of the big cities and urban destinations down under have a campsite nearby or based on the outskirts.
Modern campsites have a range of faculties such as cooking zones, showers, and sometimes even a swimming pool.
The bigger the hat, the smaller the property
– Australian proverb
For those who crave something a little more remote and love adventure, maybe a free campsite would hit the spot?
I found that Australiancampsites.com.au has an extensive list of free Australian campsites that are perfect for the penny pinchers like me.
Free camping grounds are ideal for those seeing how to save money on accommodation in Australia. They offer one of the cheapest accommodation options available.
It’s important to note that you may need to pack a few more utensils as they often won’t have the same cooking and showering faculties of the paid camping sites. Free campsites can be a little more out of the way, and if located in an isolated area, a car, or preferably 4×4 offroad capable vehicle are recommended.
Roughing it like this won’t appeal to everyone but for those who like to get off the beaten track, the rewards are worth it.
For paid campsites, I find that paid bookings are not always necessary (except for public holidays) and it’s entirely feasible just to turn up and pay cash to the manager.
Recommend for stays 1-14 days.
Backpackers & Hostels
Most people instantly associate hostels with backpacking, and of course, Australia is a major backpacking destination for travellers from around the world.
Backpacking (and also flashpacking) are not just about finding cheap accommodation in a far away country; it’s a culture that revolves around people you meet and the travel stories you shared. Not to mention how much goon you can drink!
In hostels, you can meet all sorts of weird and wonderful travellers. Most hostels around the central city will cater for younger backpackers who are looking to experiencing a once in a lifetime journey before heading back to the real world.
If you’re new to Australia and don’t know anyone yet, hostels provided information about the area and are a good place to create a base while getting some bearings.
Not into the party or drinking scene and looking for something more laid back?
Try a hostel a little further away from the main strip or city centre, as they don’t tend to attract the party crowd.
When travelling along the Australian east coast on a road trip, I used Hostelbookers.com for booking hostels in Surfers Paradise, Noosa, Bundaberg, Hervey Bay, MacKay, Airlie Beach, Townsville, and Cairns.
If sharing a bunk bed in a room of sweaty backpackers, who may, or have not jumped in the shower recently sounds like a version of hell to you, most hostels also offer private rooms for an extra cost as.
Hostels are perfect for stay 1-14 days.
— Barry (@ToolsofTravel) 12 June 2016
B&Bs, Budget Hotels, Guest Houses and Motels
Mention hotels and many may have the image of wallet busting resort style set ups, or CBD located $500 a night apartments.
When talking about how to save money on accommodation in Australia, it may be a surprise to read that it’s still possible to find a hotel room without getting a call from your bank manager the next day.
There’s a broad range of B&Bs, Budget Hotels, Guest Houses and Motels that offer value for money in most major cities.
Often these will be smaller businesses, sometimes family-run, that don’t have overheads of the big chain hotels. Many will have the luxuries removed, such as no breakfast provided and a shared bathroom.
If finding the best accommodation deal is what you’re after for, removing a few facilities shouldn’t be a big deal.
My number one choice for booking budget hotels for the past few years has been Agoda.com.
Granted, you won’t find places in Australia for the same prices as Asia, but I haven’t come across many budget hotels listed on Agoda in the past five years that other websites have advertised cheaper.
Best of all, if (like me) you’re a member of the Virgin Velocity Flying Club, you get 3 miles per every $1AU spent.
One of my favourite method for getting the best deals with Agoda is to book a room many months advance. Using this method alone, I have secured discounts of 70% and more off the listed price.
For Agoda tips read my post: 5 Tips for Booking a Cheap Agoda Room.
Recommend for stays of 1-14 days.
Short Term Rentals
Short term rental options have been increasing steadily over the past few years and it’s now possible to rent a room or a full apartment for a week or two – all for a reasonable price.
Renting a short-term apartment or room is a practical option to budget down the costs on the trip.
One of the more well-known websites I use is Airbnb.com. Airbnb and many others out there offering a house or apartment to the traveller for the same price as a hotel room.
There can be many advantages when renting an apartment compared to a hotel room, such as the ability to prepare your meals and a larger living area.
For those who prefer to self-cater, the convenience of a kitchen and utensils to prepare a meal can be a significant advantage, especially when staying in once place for more than a few days. When travelling as a couple, small group, or as a family, the costs of eating out three times a day soon adds up.
Some apartments listed have multiple rooms, making them more suited for families and if located in a compound, there can be other facilities to be enjoyed.
In addition to the benefit of a cooker, many include washing machines, ironing boards, and other homily luxuries. It’s important to note that as the places are not hotels, most will require a cash security deposit to cover breakages (refundable when you leave). The amount is typically specified upfront.
Perfect for stays 3 – 30 days.
Long Term Rentals
The housing market in Australia is huge and if you plan on staying longer to work or study, it’s more cost effective to rent something more long term.
Having rented rooms through easyroommate.com before, I can vouch that it’s an effective way how to save money on accommodation in Australia. It also has the advantage of getting to know area quickly through your new roommates.
The type of people who rent out rooms will vary. They could be students, professional couples, or retirees whose children have left home and like the companionship of a fresh new face.
Most won’t want to deal with anything lest than four weeks (although you can always ask) and will prefer three months + to save the hassle of constantly advertising the room.
If sharing isn’t you cup of tea, then try Realestate.com.au.
Realestate.com.au advertises apartments and units that are perfect for extended stays. Long term rentals will typically either involve 6 or 12-month contracts
Normally on behalf of the owner, local estate agents will advertise apartments, units and houses when they become available. Once you contact the property agent through the website, they normally get in touch within 24-48 hours and arrange a property viewing.
However – the best apartments get snapped up fast.
From past experiences, it pays to be quick and only deal with newly listed apartments. I find anything that stands out is taken by the time you get in contact.
Once you find the perfect place, one option to keep the cost down even further is to rent out a spare room to a tenant. You can expect to get anything between $125 -$300 AUD in rent a week for a room – depending on the location, size and facilities.
In some areas, such as popular tourist areas, or near universities, shorter one month to three-month rental options can also be available. Of course, prices will be slightly higher, but you can still benefit from better rates than hotel stays.
Other places I would look for rentals are Gumtree.com.au, local real estate agents and the local paper.
If the apartment is in a high-rise or complex, then you could also try contacting the building manager directly.
Recommended for stays between 1 -12 months.
Stay with friends, family, or co-workers – If you have a good prior relationship, friends, family, or co-workers might offer you a room with discounted rent. The can even have other benefits such as the joint use of bikes, vehicles, boats, and so on. Just remember although you might get along with the person now, living with them can be a different story. If all turns sour, the friendship is never likely to be the same again.
Try a Home Exchange – Home Exchange is where you holiday in someone else’s house while they holiday in yours. It’s more likely to appeal to older couples who own houses, but still is an interesting idea that I would like to try one day.
Finally, do your homework.
Want to find out of that cheap accommodation is worth it?
A few years ago finding a decent hotel would have either meant a recommendation from a relative, friend, or workmate. These days Tripadvisor is the top go-to place for feedback on hostels, B&B’s, and hotels worldwide.
That’s all – I hope you got something from this for your next trip to Australia. If you have any tips on how to save money on accommodation in Australia, make sure you share them below.