How To Travel East Coast Australia On A Budget

How To Travel East Coast Australia On A Budget Image | East Coast Tours Australia

So, you’re dreaming of turquoise waters, lush rainforest canopies and endless beach days, but fear you don’t have the cash? Don’t waste another year pushing Australia’s East Coast further down your bucket list because it’s “too expensive”!

While exploring Australia can be costly, it really doesn’t have to be. And, with these handy tips, you’ll be on the next plane to this diverse, sunshiney paradise! From choosing the best time to visit, avoiding expensive tourist traps, booking a money-saving itinerary and even eating at the right places, you can do Australia for under $70 a day!

From Melbourne to Sydney to Noosa to Airlie Beach, chase your travel dreams and make your Instagram reels a reality… without the huge price tag! Simply follow these travel tips and tricks and do Australia like an Aussie!

Please note all prices are in AUD and are averages, and are correct at the date of update. We always recommend doing your own budget up before travelling!

Tip 1 - Choose Cheaper Dates

When is the cheapest time to travel East Coast Australia?

The cheapest time to travel the East Coast is during the “shoulder seasons” which span from late February to mid-June (Autumn/Winter) and July to late September (Spring). Airfares, accommodation, tours and even transport are much cheaper during these periods. You will save money by travelling off-peak and escape the huge hoards of families and travellers that flock to tropical destinations over the Christmas holidays (total perk). Not to fear though, you can still have your hot girl summer during Autumn, Winter and Spring; the water in Australia is famous for being consistently temperate, especially in northern NSW and QLD!

For more info on when to plan your trip, check out our ‘When is the best time to backpack Australia’ article!

Whale season in the Whitsundays

Whale season on the East Coast spans between July and October and is the perfect time to head out on a sailing or diving tour!

Tip 2 - Save With A Bundled Itinerary

Booking an Aussie itinerary in advance saves you a heap of money. Enjoy awesome discounts when you book your tours, transport and accommodation together, as well as the seamless experience of arriving and having your trip planned! Don’t miss out on must-do Aussie experiences like snorkelling, diving, sailing and cuddling koalas - simply do it like a savvy traveller to make it affordable.

So, with the money-conscious backpacker in mind, here are our best-value itinerary recommendations that won’t make you feel like you’re missing out on any iconic destinations or activities.

Two women taking a photo of the beach sunset at the Gold Coast

Best itineraries for backpackers on a budget

3 Week Express Itinerary


  • All accommodation 
  • All transport
  • Meals during tours
  • Two-night, two-day Whitsunday sailing trip 
  • Great Barrier Reef Cruise with introductory scuba dive
  • Three-day, two-night K’gari (Fraser Island) 4WD Camping Tour
  • Time in Cairns, Airlie Beach, Rainbow Beach, Byron Bay, Sydney and Melbourne

The perfect in-betweener for backpackers that don’t have a very long time in Australia, explore the beaches, cities and islands along the whole East Coast! See it all on this fun, inclusive and sun-soaked itinerary that won’t break the bank, and will fill your soul with priceless experiences!

Woman taking photos of the Sydney Harbour Bridge

2 Week Express Itinerary


  • All accommodation 
  • All transport
  • Meals during tours
  • Two-night, two-day Whitsunday sailing trip 
  • Great Barrier Reef Cruise with introductory scuba dive
  • Three-day, two-night K’gari (Fraser Island) 4WD Camping Tour
  • Time in Cairns, Airlie Beach, Rainbow Beach and Brisbane

Designed for the backpacker short on time and money, let the 14-Day Express Itinerary show you the tropical highlights of Australia’s East Coast. From the reef wonders of Cairns to the city lights of Brisbane, don’t skimp on any of the unmissable sights like the Great Barrier Reef, sand highways of K’gari and rolling Whitsunday Islands!

Three women around a tree on K'gari

4 Week Explorer Itinerary


  • All accommodation 
  • All transport
  • Two-night, two-day Whitsunday sailing trip 
  • Great Barrier Reef Cruise with introductory scuba dive
  • Three-day, two-night K’gari (Fraser Island) 4WD Camping Tour
  • Half-day surf lesson in Byron Bay
  • Byron Bay dolphin kayak half-day tour
  • Return Ferry from Magnetic Island-Townsville
  • Atherton Tablelands waterfall day tour

This tour is our best ‘per day’ value package, taking you to iconic marvels and hidden gems during over a month of Aussie travel! With an extensive selection of awesome tours, from surfing to kayaking and island sailing to reef diving, you’ll see Australia from all angles at unbeatable value!

Girls in a waterfall pool in Cairns

8 Day-Guided Koala Tour

  • Sydney To Brisbane
  • $236 per day, $1895 in total
  • Perfect for: the social traveller looking to make friends and learn on a guided tour


  • All accommodation 
  • All transport
  • Guided experience the whole way with local guide
  • Hunter Valley wine tour
  • Port Stephens guided tour
  • Koala experience
  • Indigenous cultural experience
  • Morning yoga class in Byron Bay

Our guided group tours are a really unique experience and an awesome choice for solo travellers or those who want to make friends along the way! Your fun, knowledgeable tour guide will show you hidden gems as you venture through magical cities, regions and beachside towns. Costing more per day due to their intimate and inclusive nature, have an unbeatable time on the East Coast with a guided group tour!

A group of women on a rock in the Whitsundays

Tip 3 - Fun & Free

Australia’s East Coast is home to some of the most pristine and exquisite natural wonders in the world, all just waiting to be discovered. And the even better news? These beaches, forests, campsites, waterfalls, reefs and surf spots are 100% free! 

Best free things to do on East Coast Australia

  • Embrace your inner beach bum 
    Pack your sunscreen, towel, a good book and relax by one of Australia’s many world-class beaches in Noosa, Byron Bay, Yamba, Crescent Head and Gold Coast (to name a few)!

Two women sunbaking on Bondi Beach

Two people with surfers looking out at the surf

  • Escape to the Aussie bush and hike
    With some of the most biodiverse National Park, lace up those boots and immerse yourself in nature - try camping for an extra cheap experience!

A group of people hiking in Cairns

Josephine Falls people relaxing

  • Go for an off-shore dive
    Rather than spending your dosh on a boat or tour, find some cool off-shore dive spots to snorkel and rub shoulders with reef life!

Man in sparkling blue waters

  • Spot street art in the cities
    Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney and Byron Bay have awesome street artists and colourful scenes. Make a treasure hunt out of these sweet scapes and explore Aussie cities!

Rainbow Street Art Wall in Melbourne

Tip 4 - Choose Your Transport Wisely

One of the biggest sinkers, when it comes to budgeting in Australia, is transport. Flying domestically and renting a car can sap your funds dry, despite being the most convenient option. The most cost-efficient options for travelling around Australia are by coaches such as Greyhound busses or a campervan.

Travelling by bus in Australia

Undeniably the cheapest and most popular amongst backpackers in Australia is the Greyhound Whimit Pass. We have oodles of information on travelling Australia by coach, which you can check out in our bus guide

All of our express, explorer and ultimate itineraries include all bus transport, so rest assured we’ll get you from A to B seamlessly! 

Hiring a campervan in Australia

While at first hiring a campervan may seem more expensive than any other option (the average campervan for 2 people costs about $100 per day), it is actually a super cheap way to combine your transport and accommodation. And, if you’re travelling as a couple, or even a group of 4, splitting this daily hire fee is very affordable. Make sure to factor in the cost of fuel, and you’re sweet. All hire vans will have a basic kitchen set up too, so you can do campfire spaghetti for less than $2 a serve!

Still unsure if van life is for you? Check out our local guide to travelling Australia by campervan, as well as our favourite free campsites along the East Coast so you can keep on saving those dollars along the way.

Two women in a spaceship campervan by the beach

Tip 5 - Cook Your Own Food

A pretty simple way to save money in Australia is to cook your own meals. Unlike in Asia or Europe, eating out in Australia is relatively expensive (say hello to $25 avocado toast)! Thankfully, our produce is relatively cheap and of good quality, so pick up a few goodies from Coles, Woolworths or local farmers market, and make your own easy dinners. We’re talking vegemite sandwiches and Tim Tams, or whatever other favourite meals you feel like! Trust us, that expensive, long brunch will taste so much better if you’re not feeling guilty about spending your life saving on eating out! 

Check out our quick guide to cheap and easy hostel meals for some inspo!

Two women holding lots of fresh fruit by the beach

Tip 6 - Choose Budget Accommodation

Unfortunately, if you’re travelling Australia (or really anywhere in the world), sharing a room with strangers is always going to be cheaper than getting your own room or apartment. That’s right, we’re talking hostels! If you’re really looking to save money on your trip, staying in hostels will be your saviour. A bed in a shared dorm will cost about $50 a night in cities. Beachside towns or holiday hotspots can often be a bit more expensive in peak seasons (you’re looking at $70+ per night). Travelling Australia and staying in hostels is a great way to make friends, see more and save money. For more ways to make your hostel a home away from home, check out our Aussie hostel hacks

Our itineraries are inclusive of accommodation, booking travellers into the best hostels along the East Coast, as well as boutique accommodation, beachside shacks and eco-stays!

Two women reading in bed at a hostel

Tip 7 - Write Your Budget Out 

2024 Budget breakdown for backpackers in Australia 

If you're worried about money, write down your own budget! Do some research into prices according to where you want to travel… and how stylishly you want to do it! Here’s a rough guide of how much you will spend during your time travelling the East Coast, using average prices at mid-market hostels and restaurants.


  • Campervan - $50 per person (with 2 people, or $100 solo) per day + $15 per day for fuel = $65 pp daily ($400 pp weekly with two people, or $805 pp weekly solo)

  • Bus Pass - 15-day Greyhound Whimit Pass = $24 pp daily ($172 pp weekly)

  • Car rental - $50 per person (with 2 people, or $100 solo), per day + $15 per day for fuel = $65 pp daily ($455 pp weekly)


  • Hostel bed in a shared dorm - $60 pp daily ($420 pp weekly)


  • 3x meals, 1 x coffee and 2 x beers - $100 pp daily ($700 pp weekly)
  • Grocery haul - $7 pp daily ($50 pp weekly)

Sim Card 

  • Unlimited calls and texts, 30GB data plan - $2 pp daily ($14 pp weekly)

So, if you're travelling by campervan with two people, staying in free campsites and eating only grocery store food, you can do the East Coast for about $70 a day! That's just over $500 a week, at the cheapest end of the spectrum. Totally affordable, right?

A solo campervan trip will set you back a bit further, costing roughly $110 a day with grocery store food. A solo trip staying in hostels, using a bus pass and eating grocery store food will cost you about $100 a day too.

Please keep in mind that these estimates don't include eating out or going on tours - however, our inclusive itineraries can help keep those costs down if you want to see the Great Barrier Reef and sail through islands without breaking the bank! 

Check out our guide on “how much money do you need to travel Australia” for more help with your trip budget! 

A couple on the beach in the sun

So, if you just can’t wait to dive into those crystal-clear blue waters and venture through ancient rainforests, start planning your itinerary with one of our local travel agents at no cost! 

Check out our pre-planned itineraries, or do it your way with our DIY itinerary builder tool! Don’t hesitate to get in touch with our travel agents via live chat to answer your East Coast questions! 

All information, advice or pricing provided by East Coast Tours and our affiliates, or through any of our team, is subject to change. East Coast Tours articles and products are provided online for general information purposes only and are intended as guides. Any advice interpreted from information on the website (including but not limited to financial, immigration, employment and tax information) is not specialist advice and does not constitute legal, tax or other professional instruction. East Coast Tours does not guarantee that any information provided is up-to-date or accurate. Please obtain professional advice before actioning any advice, including but not limited to tax, immigration, employment, travel restrictions and finances.

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