The British Backpacker's Guide to Australia

The British Backpacker's Guide to Australia Image | East Coast Tours Australia

Ready to make the journey halfway across the world to the land down under? Be sure to pack your anti-crocodile spray, shark repellent wetsuits and 10kg of bug spray to protect yourself from the giant spiders… Only kidding. You definitely DO NOT need anything like that. Despite the stereotype that Australia is home to scary and dangerous wildlife, the country is very safe.

A trip from the United Kingdom to Australia is on most people’s bucket lists. But there is so much to think about before making the journey south. Luckily we have everything sorted for you. From visas to what to pack to how much money you’ll need, we have every tip and trick in the book for your Aussie adventure! Here is the British backpackers guide to Australia. 

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What visa do I need to visit Australia?

A girl sitting on a river bank looking over a cityIf you’re planning to backpack around Australia there are several types of visa that might suit you. If you intend on staying in Australia for under 3 months, being British you are eligible for an eVisitor visa which is valid for 3 months at a time within a 12-month period. If you want to stay longer than 3 months it might be worth applying for a Working Holiday Visa which could grant you up to 12 months in Australia. 

If you are planning to go down the Working Holiday in Australia route, there is good news for British travellers! As of 1st July 2024, you no longer have to complete your 88 days of rural farm work obligations if you were planning to stay in Australia after one or two years in the country. Another perk is that the age bracket under the 417 Visa has been lifted from ages 18 - 30 to 18 - 35. So if you’re bordering 30 but still have that travel itch (like me), you can still apply for the youth visas. For further information, visit our working holidays information page

How much money will I need?

A hand taking cash out of an ATMHow much money you will need in Australia depends on how long you want to stay in the country for. Your biggest expenses will be on your flights, tours and any fun activities you’re dying to try (like skydiving or scenic flights). On average, a backpacker in Australia spends between $60 - $130 AUD a day (£30 - £70*). If you’re backpacking, there are ways to do it cheaply. Parts of Australia can be expensive but we have tips on how to travel Australia on a budget

Avoid travelling during peak season as EVERYTHING is more expensive. Travel during off-peak season, that’s when flights and accommodation are at their cheapest. Hostels can vary between $30 - $60 (£15 - £30) per night depending on where you are. Hotels are more expensive and can be up to $200 (£100) a night so we would recommend hostels over hotels. You can get by spending $20 - $50 (£10 - £25) a day for food if you shop at supermarkets over going to cafes and restaurants. Your last main expense is transport but you’d only need $10 - $20 (£5 - £10) a day for bus passes, city trains, or fuel. 

*The currency conversion rate is current as of February 2024.

Do I need travel insurance in Australia? 

Hands on laptops typingTravel insurance is essential if you’re making the trip down under. You’ll need to organise your own travel insurance before you arrive. Travelling can be unpredictable especially when it comes to losing luggage, theft, or medical emergencies. When deciding what insurance policy you want to choose, thoroughly read your options to ensure you have the ultimate coverage in case of a crisis (we don’t want a repeat of the pandemic which threw everyone’s travel plans out the window).

What should I pack for my trip to Australia?

A heap of different travel items including hairbrush, sunglasses and backpackAustralia is a diverse country with many different climates happening all at once. In the north of Queensland in places like the Whitsundays and Cairns you will find the tropics which are hot and humid for most of the year. And further south in places like Sydney and Melbourne you will come across cooler weather (which you would already have the wardrobe for). This can prove to be tricky when deciding what to pack for your Aussie adventure 

  • Firstly, you will need to pack the essentials… passport, phone, driver’s licence, travel money card, travel adapters, and some Australian dollars for emergency situations (if your card doesn’t work).
  • Secondly, you will need appropriate clothing. Pack at least four days worth of comfy clothes, a ‘nice’ outfit, two sets of swimwear, a jumper, a hat, tights or pants (trousers), sandals or thongs (again, another Aussie term meaning ‘flip flops’) and enclosed shoes.
  • Thirdly, you will need a few toiletries (like any medications, hairbrush, and toothbrush) but keep in mind that you can buy most toiletry items when you arrive.
  • Lastly, don’t forget your chargers, adapters, headphones and cameras!

When is the best time to backpack Australia?

A girl with red hair lying on the grass feeding a kangarooAustralia is worth backpacking any time of the year. However, spring is often considered the best time to backpack Australia. In Australia the seasons are in reverse. Spring falls between September to November, which is perfect as this is when the UK starts to get cold, so why not chase the warm weather?! Daily spring temperatures vary depending on where you are in Australia. In the north in places such as Cairns and the Whitsundays, spring temperatures average around 26 degrees Celsius. Brisbane sits at around a balmy 24 degrees, Sydney at 22 degrees, and Melbourne at 20 degrees Celsius. 

If you were wanting to backpack Australia during summer to escape the UK winter, your best bet would be to start in the south, where daily temperatures average between 25 to 28 degrees Celsius. We recommend you start somewhere like Melbourne or Sydney and slowly make your way up the coast to reach Cairns towards the end of summer when the heat and humidity has lowered (Cairns can reach highs of 35 degrees). 

It’s also worth noting that between July and October, humpback whales migrate north, in search of warmer waters. So, if you’re a cetacean enthusiast, you might want to travel between those months to see humpbacks breaching and playing along Australia’s East Coast. 

Where in Australia should I go? 

A group of friends in swimwear with their arms in the air80% of Australia’s population resides on the East Coast, so we would encourage you to start there. This is where you will find the major cities like Sydney, Cairns, Brisbane and Melbourne, which all have international airports. From there, you can head north or south, depending on what you want to see.  

Cairns, the Whitsundays and K'gari

If you’re chasing waterfalls then definitely visit Cairns, home of the Atherton Tablelands and Daintree Rainforest. Cairns, along with the Whitsundays are both gateways to the world-famous Great Barrier Reef where you can scuba dive or snorkel amongst a kaleidoscope of tropical marine life. The Whitsundays is also home to the picturesque Whitehaven Beach, and over 70 islands which you can visit on day or overnight tours. If the idea of an island appeals, then K’gari (off Noosa) or Magnetic Island (off Townsville) is where you should go! 

Byron Bay, Noosa and the Gold Coast

Byron Bay, Noosa and the Gold Coast are the hotspots to visit if you’re after the classic Australian beach scene. Byron is located 160 kilometres south of Brisbane and is home to charming boutiques, trendy cafes and surf beaches. Noosa is 160 kilometres north of Brisbane and is renowned for its beachy, laid-back setting. The Gold Coast is a vibrant city jam-packed with activities. By day, you can laze on the Goldy’s golden beaches or visit the thrilling theme parks, and by night you can hit up the nightlife scene with an endless amount of bars, restaurants and nightclubs. 

West Aus, Northern Territory, South Aus

The rest of Australia is far less populated, and towns are quite far apart. Western Australia is home to popular places such as Perth, Exmouth, the Ningaloo Reef, and Rottnest Island. The Northern Territory is home to Darwin and the famous rock, Uluru. And South Australia is where you’ll find Adelaide, the Barossa Valley Wineries, and Lake Eyre (Australia’s largest lake).

Accommodation in Australia

A girl sitting on the steps of a hut surrounded by treesIf you’re visiting the must-see towns on the East Coast of Australia, we know exactly where you should stay that is wallet-friendly. If you’re staying in Cairns we recommend Gilligans Hostel, Bounce Hostel or the NRMA Cairns Holiday Park. In Sydney the YHA or Wake Up! Hostels Sydney are cheap, or the Wake Up! Bondi Beach is ideal if you want to be close to the iconic beach. And in Brisbane, the Bunk, YHA or Summerhouse hostels are all in great locations, and they are cheap!  

For more information on Accommodation in Australia, check out our Where To Stay article. 

Best guided tours in Australia

A group of people standing in front of a busYes, you can do a tour in Australia. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by where to start your Aussie adventure, we have a plethora of tours and guided itineraries you can follow. There are day or overnight tours in and around Sydney, Brisbane, Cairns, the Whitsundays, K’gari (Fraser Island) and more! In terms of guided tours, we have a 10 Day Intro Sydney to Brisbane tour, an 8 Day Melbourne tour, a 6 Week Sydney to Cairns tour, and plenty more. You check out all the guided tours on our itinerary page

Our tours only focus on the East Coast of Australia. If you are interested in exploring the rest of the country, our team of travel experts are happy to help and answer any questions you have!

How can I get around when I am in Australia?

A girl in a van smiling out the windowAs you’ve gathered by now, Australia is a ginormous country, in fact it is 32 times bigger than the United Kingdom! Unlike the UK, we don’t have trains connecting every main town in the country. What we do have are plenty of buses, flights and campervans for hire, so you can still see it all. If you don’t want to hire or buy a car, we highly recommend a bus pass. You can opt for direct passes or hop-on, hop-off style passes. If you’d rather save on time, then a flight is your best option. You can find cheap domestic flights between the major hubs if you know where to look

If you want to explore at your own pace, a campervan is the way to go. Not only does it give you freedom, it also means you can save on accommodation. The initial cost of renting or buying a van might scare you, but in the long run, you’re far better off money-wise. For a breakdown on how to travel the East Coast of Australia, visit our in-depth article.

How can I make friends in Australia?

A group of people sitting on a boat with drinksIt's easy to make friends as a backpacker in Australia! Overall, Australians are friendly people who are always up for a chat. If you’re travelling solo the best thing you can do to make friends in Australia is to stay in hostels. Like most places in the world, hostels are social environments where you meet like-minded travellers. You could also head out on a backpacker tour, join online Facebook groups for backpackers in Australia, or opt for a guided itinerary tour

Is Australia dangerous?

A close up photo of a crocodileIf Australia was dangerous, no one would visit or live here. Hopefully the article’s introduction didn’t scare you off. Although Australia is known for its deadly spiders, snakes, sharks and crocodiles, the likelihood that you will encounter any of these creatures is slim. Australia’s ecosystems are diverse and what animals you might see in Cairns differs from what you’ll find in Melbourne.  

Crocodiles and sharks

Freshwater and saltwater crocodiles are only found in Australia’s north (such as Darwin, Cairns and the Whitsundays) and every creek, river and beach will have warning signs to ensure you stay safe. Sharks in Australia live, you guessed it, in the ocean. If you’re worried about sharks, then we recommend you visit lifeguarded beaches where they will instruct you on where it is safe to swim. 

Snakes and spiders

You may come across harmless spiders during your time in Australia. If you are staying in rural regions, or places that are surrounded by Australian bushland, you might see a huntsman spider. Huntsmans are large, innocuous spiders, who are more afraid of you, than you are of them. If you’re staying in the cities, then you probably won’t see any snakes. Snakes are typically found in sand dunes, the bush, and in trees. As they are ectothermic (cold-blooded animals that depend on external heat sources) they love to sunbathe. 

Is Australia safe?

With regards to whether Australia is a safe country in terms of crime, terrorism, and scamming, the risks are low. It is advised that you follow normal safety and security precautions, as you would in the UK. Cities in Australia, like any city, are busier than most towns and small crimes do occur. However, Sydney and Melbourne are both listed in the top 10 safest cities in the world with Sydney at number 5 and Melbourne at number 10. Whereas London is ranked number 14, making Australia’s cities safer than in the UK! 

Do Australians speak English?

A group of friends jumping off the back of a boat in snorkelling masksIf you’re reading this then you already know the answer - yes, Australians speak English. However, it might be worth familiarising yourself with a few Aussie slang words so that you don’t get stumped if someone asks if you’d like to join them for a “schooey of XXXX Gold and schnitty at the watering-hole this arvo” (that translates to “a pint of beer and chicken schnitzel at the pub this afternoon”). A lot of Australians tend to speak quite fast, which can really throw you when you’re not used to it, so be prepared for that.  

Another note worth mentioning is that the normal British greeting of “you alright?” comes across as “are you okay?!” in Australia as if something is wrong. So don’t be shocked if you greet someone and they look at you confused like “yeah, I’m okay, why do you ask?”. The typical Aussie greeting is simply, “how’s it going?”, meaning “how are you?”. 

Is there anything else I need to know before arriving in Australia?

Two blonde girls standing looking at the Sydney Harbour BridgeCulture shocks in Australia

Although Australians speak the same language as you do in the UK, and is a first world country, there are a few culture shocks you may stumble upon when you arrive.  

  • The seasons are not the same as they are in the UK, summer is much hotter in Australia and the sun has a strong bite to it. And in winter, Australia can still be cold, so don’t be fooled.

  • Not everyone is blonde, tanned and knows how to surf. Australia is a multicultural country and has people from all walks of life.

  • Jaywalking is illegal. You can be fined if you don’t use a pedestrian crossing or traffic lights to cross a road. 

  • Kangaroos aren’t everywhere, despite what the movies depict. You can find kangaroos in the wild but they aren’t hopping through the cities.

  • People don’t use the messaging app, WhatsApp as much as they do in the UK. Aussies will just text you, or use Facebook Messenger. 

  • Drinking on public streets is illegal.

  • Australians like to swear, and sometimes swear words are used as compliments.

  • If you’re in a coastal town, people are likely wearing minimal clothing and are barefoot a lot of the time (especially in supermarkets!).

  • The Australian definition of ‘down the road’ is very different to the British. In Aus, a town that is 200 kilometres away is sometimes referred to as being close. Whereas in the UK, that is basically a day trip. You must remember that Australia is a very large country and towns are heavily spread out.

A group of friends in swimwear at the beachReady to pack those bags and make the long journey to Australia? We are waiting for you!

For further information on what to expect in Australia, don’t hesitate to contact us via our live chat today!

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