The best ways to save money on the road in Australia

When deciding how to travel Australia so many factors came into the discussion, with cost and saving money being up there with the most important

Road tripping vs flying. Campsites vs hostels. With no prior experience, we did guess our way through this process a little bit. We decided road tripping would enable us to see far more of what we wanted to see at our own pace than flying and public transport. We also decided that buying a vehicle would be cheaper than renting for the amount of time we wanted to spend in Australia and the distance we wanted to cover. Even though the costs associated with owning a vehicle and the petrol costs, we decided it wouldn’t be too much more expensive than planes, trains, buses and hostels.

Turns out road tripping is still very expensive and quickly stretched our budget far quicker than planned. So getting good at saving money here and there was necessary quite early on. Here are some things we found to have saved us money along the way.

Fuel

Fuel comparison apps. There are fuel comparison apps for countries all over the world, and whilst at the time, seeing a difference of 2cents per litre in petrol stations may not seem like a worthwhile amount, over approx. 10,000km (6200 miles-ish) distance covered in about 8 weeks, this will make a difference. We use Fuel Map Australia and I couldn’t recommend it enough. As well as showing us all the petrol stations in Australia and telling us the price of each, you can also log your fuelling up habits. Me being me (Dan, definitely not Gab) I love this sort of stuff, so I’ve gladly logged all of our fuel stops. The app then works out all the economy averages of your vehicle and your totals (which when it comes to seeing how much you’ve spent on fuel maybe isn’t a good feature…).

When we landed in Perth and bought Stripe (the van), I checked the app and the fuel price graph for Perth. I learnt from this that Perth has a weekly fuel cycle with Tuesday’s price being the most expensive ($1.53 average 14/08/18) then steadily getting cheaper until Monday’s price being the cheapest ($1.35 average 20/08/18).

Another good fuel saving tip is to look out for the discounts on the bottom of supermarket dockets (receipts). If you spend over $30 in Coles or Woolworths (possibly other places) you receive a 4cents off voucher. Some offer 8c off a litre for buying specific items but we didn’t really do this as we rarely needed what you had to buy!

Combining these 2 things in Perth could see a saving of 22c a litre! That’s around $11 saving to fill up Stripe. We filled up 6 times in Perth and tried to use these two tips as much as possible, so just in one month we could have saved $66! It’s hard to say our exact savings over our whole road trip but you can imagine from these estimates that it was probably quite a lot.

Camping

I would say the one of the main reasons for deciding to road trip Australia, as well as being able to see everything we wanted to with freedom, was the prospect of the so called ‘free camps’ and the money this would save. When travelling as a couple and not really wanting to sleep in a 10 bed mixed dorm room, hostels are expensive. On average $50-60 a night expensive. Free camping instead would mean around a $1600 a month saving on accommodation! Sounds good to us.

However, realistically we found this wasn’t really the case. Although we didn’t quite save $1600, we probably weren’t a huge amount off.

To try and find these so called free camps, we again relied on our smartphones and downloaded apps ‘CamperMate‘ and ‘WikiCamps Australia‘. Whilst I preferred CamperMate, Gabs swung towards WikiCamps but we can both recommend a combination of apps. CamperMate has a huge database of campsites, public toilets (very handy), things to do, public showers, groceries, water and a lot more handy things. Both these apps are community based so rely on people giving information and reviews and we found this to be pretty reliable information.

The Free Camps we found were generally fine for one night, but unless you had a big rig caravan with your own toilet and shower, they weren’t the best places to stay for more than the one night. Generally a free camp was a big lay by off a highway with Australian drop loos (as appealing as they sound). So in our sweaty little tin, we rarely stayed at these. Instead used the filter settings on our apps to show us only campgrounds with at least flush toilets and sometimes showers too.

The prices of these varied on location but we always stuck to pretty much the cheapest with good reviews. The ones nearer the big cities (or ones with showers) would be anywhere from $20-40 a night and campgrounds out in the sticks being more in the region of $15-30 a night. So whereas these definitely weren’t free, they were still a fair bit cheaper than hostels and a combination of these with the occasional free camp thrown in, we saved a good amount of money. We stayed in some pretty cool places too…

Food and drinks

Everyone had told us how expensive Australia is prior to coming out here, but to be honest, you can do it cheaply. Some food is quite expensive, but as a whole, not as much as prices in London. The main killer we find is alcohol prices. So if you really want to save, cut back on the booze. If you aren’t as keen on this idea, we have found a few ways to save in this area.

Where there is Aldi, use Aldi. Where there isn’t, Woolworths comes up trumps. Arriving in Perth, Aldi was everywhere and we were loving it. Once you move up the coast though, Aldi stops, IGA starts. IGA we have found to be the most expensive supermarket, so when you do come across a Coles or Woolworths again, stock up!

As you can tell from this post so far, we love an app, and one we have recently discovered is simply called ‘Half Price’. As the name suggests, this shows all products that are currently on half price in Woolworths and Coles. Quite handy if you need the items they have advertised.

The main way we have managed to save on food since being over here is shopping on the day in the week. We have found that shopping week days you will find a lot more highly reduced items that are near to there best before date. We will regularly eat meat the same day for better than half price which can massively help with the food bills.

With alcohol, Aldi is again the cheapest and best (in our opinion). However, if you’re in an area without, look out for offers and vouchers on the bottom/back of dockets (like with the fuel). You will often find good deals on here, just look out for the expiry of the voucher. Or, if in doubt, there’s always goon wine!

We hope this has helped you save the pennies and prolong your travels. Any other tips, please share in the comments!

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3 Comments

  1. ty stacey
    August 13, 2019 / 3:58 pm

    Thank you very much Dan. You are a legend. I like your style of putting things down and the simple facts which are rarely covered by other travellers’ articles. Keep up your writing. I’d buy your stuff.

    • restlesspair
      Author
      March 17, 2019 / 7:13 pm

      Thanks for the comment. Glad you liked it! 🙂

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