Accommodation, by far, is the largest expense you’ll have to budget for when traveling around Australia. A hostel, let alone a hotel, can cost up to $70 a night and if you’re lucky, you might get a room with only seven people.
If you’re not someone who wants to be piled into a room full of soul-searching twenty-something-year-olds that would prefer to have their alcohol on an I.V drip then a hostel is probably not the option for you.
There’s so much of Australia’s nature to see, the Yarra Valley in Victoria, the Kimberleys over in Western Australia, the Daintree Forest up in Queensland – the list does go on.
I’ve put together a list of FREE and cheap places you can stay that will not only save you money (duh) but also let you see so much more of Australia’s fun side, that you probably wouldn’t otherwise get to see.
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This is a great free option, with house sitting you can stay at a person’s house for free, you care for their home and animals (if they have them).
Some of these places can be way out in the sticks, with beautiful mountain or beachside views. Sometimes they’re in country regions, but if you’re a traveler, it’s a great way to see these parts of Australia that you wouldn’t otherwise have a chance to see – for free. You can see all the different websites to find house sits in Australia here but just make sure the site you pick covers you for insurance.
Other times you can be in the heart of Sydney’s CBD, staying at a luxurious apartment complex, with access to an apartment gym, sauna, and pool. All you have to do is organize your ride there and feed your pet, or in some cases, water their plants!
Camping and Caravan Parks
Australia is best known for its outback camping experiences. There’s nothing better than pulling up at a caravan park near the Snowy River in Victoria and putting your feet up for a couple of days to enjoy the mountain views. Some free apps to find caravan parks are Campermate, which also includes hikes and a bunch of other cool features for all of Australia, NSW National Parks, Mad Paws, and Hipcamp.
Caravan parks will cost around $60 a night and the owners and rangers tend to leave you alone. If you’re camping, campsites are always free. All you need is your tent, but if you don’t have one and you’re just getting around in a normal car, book a cabin!
The great thing about Australia is most of the park and beach facilities are free. You can shower for free at the beach, or cook up a BBQ for free at the park. It’s illegal to live in your car at the beach or park though, so don’t be surprised if you’ve ‘accidentally’ stayed the night and a copper has come knocking on your caravan door to tell you to move along.
A homestay is good if you’re an international student and don’t mind sharing a home with a family while you study. It’s the best way to learn the language of the country you’re in and understand its cultural quirks!
The homestays are only ever an hour away from your university and the hosts have usually been doing it for a long time, so they know what they’re doing, and would have been vetted by an agency first so you’re normally in safe hands.
Generally, you can find these through your university or a specific agency, but homestays aren’t cheap. With meals, you’d still be looking at roughly $350 a week (the price varies greatly) and if you’re under eighteen you need your parents to sign everything off.
If you’ve got the cash and want a cozy and cushy experience, a homestay is a secure and safe option while you study.
A free and very social option is CouchSurfing. CouchSurfing is an online community where members offer up their spare rooms, air mattress, or couches to other travelers for short-term stays for free.
Generally, you won’t stay at one of these places for more than three to four days at a time. The site wasn’t designed for that, so if you’re going to take this option but be aware that it’s for very short-term stays only, and asking for a longer stay from your host might be seen as an odd request!
The idea is to promote cultural exchange and to bridge connections for travelers. The site has meet-up options as well.
In any case, always do a bit of research and look at the reviews. It’s free so it doesn’t hurt to vet the host’s address on Google to make sure it’s where it says it is and make sure the photos are real, and that the house obviously looks decent and clean, but otherwise, it’s a pretty safe and reputable community.
WWOOF Australia is an organic farming exchange that connects travelers and backpackers with farmers or employers who offer free accommodation in exchange for four-six hours of work a day and you can work from two days to three months. The hosts are pretty reputable on wwoof.com.au and www.helpX.net.
Be an Au Pair/Demi Pair
An au pair is a full-time nanny, and demi pair is a part-time nanny. As an au pair, you get free accommodation plus an allowance. This requires experience in babysitting or a Working With Children’s Check.
Your work schedule is based on the host’s schedule so you might have to be up at 7 am to get the kids ready for school, make lunches and dinner, do the laundry, or help the kids with their homework – but this varies from family to family.
The host should give you your private room and plenty of free time. If you have a driver’s license it’s only helpful. There are plenty of au pair websites and every agency will screen you first before pairing you with a family to make sure you’re a good fit.
Friends and Family Networks
There have been way too many times on my travels when I’ve fretted about a place to stay only to have remembered about a friend of a friend who lives close to where I’m traveling.
Ask your Mum and Dad or Uncle about any contacts they have before getting on the plane and send this person a message letting them know you’re coming. You’ll be surprised to know how hospitable some people are.
I’ve always done this and have saved so much on accommodation. I leave them a $50 donation, cook them dinner, or buy them a gift before I leave. While you stay with them, offer to walk the dog, or mind the kids. After all, showing gratitude and being courteous is only the right thing to do and it keeps that family connection healthy!
Now, let’s not rule hostels out completely. Sometimes, that’s all we’ve got access to, and some places offer free BBQs on a Thursday.
The further they are out of the city, the cheaper they get and if you’re looking for a social couple of days or a week, or you want to be in the city with free wifi, hostels can be the place to meet people, get your bearings and plan your next sojourn. Who knows, you might end up joining some new friends on their trip to the Blue Mountains!
A shared room, which can have anywhere between two to fifteen beds, can be as low as $30-$40 depending on the season, but generally, if you want a private room, they’re about $60 – $100 a night.
Nomads, Space Hotel, Selina, and The Ritz are just some of the fun hostels worth staying at in Melbourne.
I am Britt I have been house sitting and pet sitting for the past 7 years. I have cared for 25 dogs, 35 cats 1 turtle, and 1 rabbit over 80+ houses in 15 countries.
The opportunity to experience different homes, cultures, and communities has been nothing short of extraordinary.
Through house sitting platforms like Aussie House Sitters, and Trusted House Sitters, I’ve connected with homeowners seeking reliable sitters. This unique way of living has not only allowed me to save money on accommodation but also offered a plethora of cultural exchange opportunities.
Being a member of these platforms has not only broadened my horizons but also opened doors to short and long-term house-sitting jobs. I’ve found joy in providing excellent pet care and ensuring the home is well maintained.
I get many questions about how to get start as a house sitters, so if you have any questions please reach out! I want everyone to enjoy this incredible lifestyle as well!
You can read more about about Jay and me here!
Or connect with me on Facebook or in our house sitting community on Facebook