Backpacking in Australia: A Simple Guide

What is backpacking?

Well, I’m only taking a really wild guess here, but I assume backpacking gets its name from the notion that you carry everything you need to survive your lengthy tour, in a bag, on your back.

BackpackerA backpack.

Backpacking in Australia is hugely popular, probably because the weather is fantastic, the beaches are stunning and there’s plenty to see and do.

Top attractions include:

  • The Great Barrier Reef
  • Airlie Beach
  • Uluru and Alice Springs
  • Byron Bay
  • Hervey Bay
  • Fraser Island
  • The Great Ocean Road

And then, of course, there are all the major cities; every one is worth a visit.

So who is backpacking for?

Young people, by and large. In fact Australia has a special visa called a Working Holiday Visa or WHV, which is available to those who…

  • Are aged 18 to 30.
  • Are not accompanied by any children.
  • Have never had a WHV before.
  • Are of good health and character.
  • Do have some savings, I think $5,000 AU minimum.
  • Hold a valid passport from any one of a list of countries, which includes the UK, USA, Canada and Ireland to mention just the English speaking nations. For a full list, see my post WHV.

There may be some other rules and regulations, but that’s the gist of it and good enough for this brief guide.

And the beauty of the WHV is that you are entitled to work while you’re here, so you can top up your holiday spending money as you go.

Do your research into that first though; work isn’t easy to get for everyone. Most jobs you’ll want to do will require some experience, or maybe even qualifications, before you can do them.

Currently, a WHV cost $270 and you can apply online.

Well, that’s how it usually is with backpacking, but there are exceptions. For example…

Backpacking in Australia is not for everyone.

Backpacking is mainly for students and younger visitors. But supposing you’ve lived in Australia all of your life? Supposing you’ve seen it all? Now let’s suppose you’re retired and have been for some time. Actually, you’re 95 years old, not 25!

You are not going to want to go backpacking in Australia, are you? But you sure can go backpacking everywhere else!

Meet Keith Wright.

Keith began travelling 10 years ago when he lost his wife and so far he’s been to 23 countries and 109 cities. Now he is about to begin a two-month trip around Europe. And he is going to stay in all the cheap hostels and backpackers haunts to keep the costs down.

How inspiring is this….

Visa Assessment Service
{ 12 comments… add one }
  • mark slade November 18, 2015, 9:59 am |

    I’m currently in adelaide
    Want to buy a van…and travel around Oz
    What’s the legal requirements
    I got a friend lives here who address I’m using…
    I’m UK driver full clean licence…l passed car driving and full motorcycle tests…30yrs or more

    • BobinOz November 27, 2015, 8:11 pm |

      There are, unfortunately, different laws in different states I think. So it might depend where you are thinking of driving. May I suggest you contact each state department responsible for transport, for example here in Queensland they call themselves Main Roads or something, and ask.

      I believe you can drive on your full clean UK licence for a while, but I’m not sure exactly how long. Do check it out to cover yourself. Good luck, Bob

  • Patrick December 10, 2012, 9:09 pm |

    As I’m currently looking, I can say the the average nightly rate for Perth (all within a few kms from downtown) is $30. But there’s a free alternative: Couch surfing. You can stay with other travelling inclined people for a few days at a time and, as a return of the favor, host others coming around your place…
    Some of the members of that website have impressive travel under the belt!

    • BobinOz December 11, 2012, 5:03 pm |

      Couch surfing looks good, there doesn’t seem to be a shortage of people offering their couches either. But I think half the fun of backpacking is meeting other backpackers staying at the same backpacking place as you. Still a good alternative though and you’d probably still get to me plenty of interesting people.

      Maybe I’ll sell my house and go couch surfing 🙂

  • valerie May 30, 2012, 8:29 pm |


    In a couple of weeks I’m also going ‘backpacking’ through Australia, but I would like to have some australian dollars on me before I arrive there. Do you know where, I live in Belgium, I can changes euros for dollars?


    • BobinOz May 30, 2012, 9:21 pm |

      Yes you can change euros to Australian dollars, you’ll probably need to phone up your bank or travel agency and book them.

      If you clear the way first, you’ll probably be able to use your credit card or debit card to withdraw cash from our ATMs or just pay for stuff.

      Enjoy your backpacking!

  • John May 30, 2012, 5:18 am |

    Hi, the rooms won’t be ‘luxurious’ at the backpackers, they’ll be totally basic (if you’re lucky!), but yes you’re right dorm beds are much cheaper, but, a lot of younger people travel in couples, they don’t necessarily want to sleep in dorms, and there are problems with privacy theft noise and nutters.

    Backpackers are not always the best option if you have a little more money than absolute ‘doing it on a shoestring money’, I found in many countries backpackers are always priced just under the prices of guesthouses. Guesthouses are generally cleaner with less noise, but if people want to party, and meet other people who want to party, it’s the backpackers every time.

    I’m not too sure about Bulgaria for backpacking, backpacking is supposed to be a holiday too y’know ; )

    • BobinOz May 30, 2012, 9:19 pm |

      I think that’s the fun of backpacking, sharing a room with loads of others and meeting people. Kids don’t mind slumming it. I looked online and found shared rooms for as little as $13.50 a night.

      As for Bulgaria, sorry, my mistake. I found the article, it was Bolivia! Bulgaria is cheap though 🙂

  • John May 29, 2012, 4:40 am |

    I”m surprised there is still a back packing scene in Australia, (and maybe if there were figures available, we’d see it isn’t what it used to be) because of the relatively expensive cost of backpacking Australia as compared to, well almost anywhere. I backpacked, or traveled (I’ll say traveled, because we didn’t rough it very often, and by that I mean staying in dorms in backpacker hostels) for nearly a year with my wife from leaving the UK 2009 to arrive here to live in Brisbane 2010. One of the first things I noticed getting off the train in Brisbane is that backpackers in the West end charge $80 a night. That amount of money alone will last three days accommodation and food in many countries people like to backpack, If you want to drink in bars in Brisbane or anywhere in else here, which most young people will, it could turn into a very short world trip. The only way to do it nowadays on the ‘average’ young persons’ budget is to work and travel Australia.

    • BobinOz May 29, 2012, 6:10 pm |

      Nothing is what it used to be 🙂

      Yes, there is still a backpacking scene here, but I do agree Australia is probably one of the more expensive countries in which to enjoy your year out.

      I remember reading an article a while back, I’m sure it said the best country to go backpacking for value is Bulgaria. I think that’s why most backpackers come here on a Working Holiday Visa, that means they can work while they’re here.

      Anyway, I think the $80 per night figure that you have seen is for a quite luxurious “backpackers” room. Most of the kids do a room share thing, I think you can get those for about $15-$20 a night.

      • Rajeev February 9, 2016, 12:50 pm |

        Thanks Bob.That was a really fabulous way of explaining backpacking.
        Is backpacking the best option of accomodation for a family from India?

        • BobinOz February 9, 2016, 8:44 pm |

          I wouldn’t have thought so, backpacking is more for the 18 to 30 crowd, I’m not even sure you would be able to get in with young children or that you would even want to.

          I think you will need a different plan.

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