Travel Hacks

Australia on a Budget: How a 25 Year Old Went Down Under for Less Than $2,500

Samantha Pollock
October 1, 2019

I’m a 25 year from Columbus, Ohio and have been checking off bucket list items over the past few years. This November I decided I would make my way to Sydney on a budget. Here are some tips on how to do it:

Flight Hack

Look at flights from the closest US destination/Use credit card points

  • I’m a Southwest credit card holder so I used points from Columbus, OH- San Diego, CA for a RT free flight.
  • Once I got to San Diego, I booked a roundtrip flight from San Diego, CA-Sydney, NSW, Australia on Hawaiian Airlines for about $900.
  • The cheaper flight resulted in a day layover in Honolulu on the flight to Sydney but it was a great reason to rent a car (around $100 with insurance) and explore Hawaii for a day.

Where to Stay

Make Airbnb/Groupon Hotels your friend

Let’s face it, you aren’t going on vacation to stay in your room, you’re going there to explore the city, so get cheaper housing. Airbnb and Groupon boast a wide range of affordable options.

Pro Tip: Search a Superhost then rent their new listing

I found a superhost in Sydney with great reviews. Since he had a new listing and needed ratings the cost per night was lower for the same great quality of his other listings. SCORE!

For $93 a night I stayed here! The close proximity to Sydney, private rooftop, and parking garage made this a deal.

How to Get Around

Australia is a huge country and if you want to see more than just Sydney a car rental is your best option. For about $159 AUD (total) I rented a car for 4 days.

Pro Tip: Beware of Tolls

While, I do think a car rental is the most efficient way to see the city and surrounding outskirts, there are tolls on most freeways. The rental car had an EZ-Pass which allowed me to drive through all tolls without adding toll fees into account. By the end of the trip I paid $90.

What to See

Make sure to check out all the major landmarks in the Sydney downtown area.

Sydney Opera House: Skip the tour and save your money for drinks during happy hour at any of the waterfront restaurants.

Sydney Harbour Bridge: Splurge and climb the bridge or skimp and walk across the bridge for free.

Sydney Fish Market: One of the largest fish markets in the world is something you won’t want to miss. You can enjoy a local catch for lunch or take in a cooking class with a great Harbour view.

Westfield Sydney: This shopping center boasts 4 floors of local favorites including Myer and David Jones. Also located near the center is the Sydney Tower Eye which gives you a great view of the city for about $40 AUD.

Queen Victoria Building: One of the most beautiful shopping centre’s in the world. Completed in 1898, the Romanesque building occupies an entire city block. Known as the QVB, it was elegantly restored in the 1980s.


Pro Tip: Park the car and ride the bus

Right outside the Airbnb was a bus stop that went into downtown Sydney for around $6 RT AUD. Once in the city everything is within easy walking distance.

Ride the ferry to Cockatoo Island: For $12 RT AUD from the Sydney Harbor you can get a great view of the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge from the water. Cockatoo Island is a a former jail from the 1800’s turned into a preserved landmark.


Blue Mountains: Located about an 1 and a half from Sydney are the beautiful Blue Mountains.

Pro Tip: Check out Scenic World

You’ll get to ride the world’s steepest rail ride and take in all natural beauty the mountains have to offer for around $40 AUD. More info here.

Lighthouses: Australia has an abundance of beautiful lighthouses just a quick drive from Sydney and they’re a great free attraction.



Only spending a day and a half at the beach was one of my biggest regrets. Take some time and spend a day enjoying the crystal blue water around Sydney.

Pro Tip: Go to The Bucket List Bar For Happy Hour at Bondi Beach

With a beach front view this is the perfect place for an afternoon cocktail.


What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Australia? If you said a koala bear then you should definitely make a half day at Featherdale Wildlife Park. For around $30 AUD per person you get to see all the outback species just a short drive outside of Sydney.

Extend Your Trip...

Interested in heading south? Join us on our New Zealand trip!

Samantha Pollock
I’m a 25 year who caught the travel bug after my first trip abroad. I’m working to cross off 20 countries by the time I’m 30. I hope my adventures spark the bug in you!

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