Byron bay australia backpacker east coast guide

Yeewwwww…. ‘Straya!

Backpacking in Australia and ultimately doing my working holiday visa in Australia is still one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

In fact it basically started my long term travels and got me where I am today.

And I get emails everyday from people looking to do the same (which is why I put together my Ultimate Guide To Working & Travelling In Australia!) but there are definitely some key things I wish I’d known before travelling in Oz.

Some are pretty obvious in hindsight, some have been learnt from personal experience, but all will help you land in Australia a bit more prepared for life down under…


10 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Backpacking In Australia

byron bay australia rain backpacker hammock

Yup, it can rain in Australia too!

It DOES Get Cold

Despite what you might think, Australia does have a winter and yes it DOES get cold. Admittedly we’re not talking about the whole of Oz here when it comes to wrapping up in jumpers and jeans, but if you find yourself in Melbourne, Adelaide or even Sydney in July/August time you might well be needing some extras layers and a heater!


It Also Gets REALLY Hot

On the flip side of that you can get super caught out with how freaking hot Australia can get. January in Melbourne and it’s not uncommon to have the temperature hit low-mid 40 degrees.

You might be thinking “yaaaaaaay for the sun” but seriously that’s melting style hot and you won’t be leaving anywhere with A/C.

And with that in mind, also make sure you’re slapping on the suncream regularly, even when it’s overcast. Aussie sun is dangerous!


backpacker budget cash australia month travel gap year

Make sure you have enough dollar!

Backpacking In Australia Is Pretty Pricey

If you’re busy bouncing around the globe, chances are that you’ll be passing through South East Asia on the way to Australia, where life is cheap and you can happily coast by on $20 a day.

Well you’re in for a big wake up call in Australia!

Gone are the days where the Aussie dollar had an awesome exchange rate (at one point it was $3AUD to £1GBP!) so you’ll need to make sure you’ve got the travel funds to cover you.

I did a full breakdown of how much to budget for a month in Australia – and all in you’re going to need about $109AUD/£68GBP a day if you’re looking to do Sydney to Cairns in a month with all the major trips, tours and accommodation included – which EXCLUDES booze!


ultimate backpackers guide to byron bay australia east coast nimbin surfing

Don’t underestimate thesis of Oz!

It’s REALLY Big!

Australia is a HUGE country, so don’t go underestimating the distances between places and the travel times. The amount of people that email me about doing Sydney > Cairns in a week is crazy.

The main East Coast route is over 2,400km – so realistically you’re going to need a MINIMUM of 2 weeks to cover that and even then you’ll be rushing it quite a bit.

So do your research, download my Ultimate Australia Guide, check out my 4 week Australia itinerary or my East Coast Australia mini guide and make sure you’re prepared.

Or let me help you out with my East Coast Australia Planner!


It’s Not Quite As Dangerous As You Think

Yes we all know Australia is home to a million deadly snakes and spiders and that the ocean is full of sharks and that babies get eaten by dingos or you might get mauled by a dropbear.

But seriously, Oz isn’t as dangerous as you might think.

I’ve spent some serious time living and travelling all around Australia and I’ve seen 2 red back spiders, 4 snakes and 2 sharks (apart from the ones I’ve seen scuba diving!)

…and I’m still alive and unhurt.

In fact you’re more likely to injure yourself whilst drunk or get hideous sunburn – so like all things in life, be aware and be sensible and you’ll reduce the risk!


yamba yha surf east coast australia backpacker travel australia budget

..and none of these guys are Aussie!

You’ll Meet More Backpackers Than Locals

If I was to do a rough count, I’d say I probably know about 20-30 true Aussies.

Most of them I actually met travelling OUTSIDE Australia!

The backpacker bubble in Oz means that you’ll probably end up meeting WAY more backpackers than locals in Oz – and most of those are going to be German!

Sure if you do some rural work out in the sticks you might meet some more Aussies, but don’t expect to nab that Aussie husband or wife that easily!


goon sack australia backpacker

Love it or hate it, you’ll drink goon!

Goon Hangovers SUCK

Goon is cheap Aussie boxed wine and it tastes pretty gross. But when 4 litres of the stuff is about  a quarter of the price of a slab of beers, you’ll soon learn to love it for the sake of your travel budget!

And it’s one thing having to deal with drinking goon, but goon hangovers are the worst – so be prepared for some crazy dreams, days laying around in bed and stock yourself up with Berroca to help bring you back to life!


How Stunning The West Coast Is

Everyone goes on about the East Coast trail – it’s the most popular part of Australia to backpack and yes it is totally worth it.

What many people overlook though is the West Coast of Australia.

Sure it’s a bit more difficult and expensive to travel, but it’s absolutely stunning and spots like Ningaloo, Exmouth and Monkey Mia are places you’ll never forget visiting for all the right reasons.

So if you have the time and money make sure you go check it out


explore tropical north queensland australia cairns mission beach

So many epic bucket list items!

That There’s SO Much To Do

One of the other reasons I highly recommend at least 4 weeks on the East Coast of Australia (along with the fact that it’s a long way to travel) is the fact there are just so many things to see and do – and trying to pick the best places to visit in Australia is a difficult task!

From learning to surf in Byron Bay, climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge, road tripping the Great Ocean Road, to doing a 4×4 tour around Fraser Island, sailing the Whitsunday Islands or snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef – you can easily fill a month with incredible experiences.

And that’s without bringing the rest off the country into the mix too!

How about shark cage diving in Port Lincoln? Maybe swimming with whale sharks in Exmouth? Or how about camping in the Red Centre and watching the sunrise over Uluru?


…That I’d Fall In Love With It

The biggest thing that I wish I’d known though, is how much of a lasting impression Australia would make on me and that no matter where in the world I’m travelling, a little piece of me is always longing to get back.

So if you have the chance to do a working holiday visa, or extend to do your second year, make sure you take advantage of all the time you can spend in Oz, it’s a pretty magical place.


Have been backpacking in Australia?

Anything you wish you’d known before heading down under?

Share them in the comments!

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12 Responses

  1. Derek

    Great post! Being from Canada I always have a chuckle when overly excited Euro’s and Brits think that travelling from Toronto to Vancouver is just a short jot away.

    It’s the exact same for Australia except probably worse because of how hot the interior gets! (That scene from the Inbetweeners 2 Movie always gets me.

    • Chris

      hahaha yeah I bet the distances over there are pretty similar hey!?
      that movie had australia (and certainly Byron) down to a tee!hahaha!

  2. Evan Kristine

    Wow! Thanks for the tips! Indeed so much to do in Australia like learning to surf in Byron Bay, road tripping the Great Ocean Road, sailing the Whitsunday Islands or snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef. Yes it is pricey but really worth a visit. Thanks again for sharing this great post!

  3. Sam

    Good article, very well informed, except that I think your calculations on the every day living cost is abit off… I personally, with weekly rent and food, spend about $30 a day… and the cost of my hostel is average

    • Chris

      Hey Sam – my daily budget is based on a month long Sydney > Cairns trip with all the main trips and tours included. Obviously if you stay for longer those cost get more spread out :)

    • Chris

      Stoked you like the article! With the daily living cost that’s based on a 4 weeks Sydney > Cairns trip which would include accom, transport, food and all the major tours – if you spent longer travelling (or a year work visa) that daily average would drop down a lot

  4. Terry Wilson

    Hey Chris,

    I read one more post of yours about the mistakes people make while planning a trip to Australia and I loved it. I went through this one as well and this is also worth appreciating.

    As you said about meeting some backpackers more than the localities I am looking forward to make some new friends in my next trip to Australia. This time I’m planning to visit some places around the coast of Queensland which I could not because of lack of time.

    • Chris

      Glad you enjoyed the posts Terry! And at least you’ve given yourself a good excuse to head back to Oz!hahah

  5. Jon Ferraro

    Hello Chris,

    Thanks for sharing it, I’m planning for the vacation for the past 3 months and your post gave me the information I needed.


  6. Phil

    Hey Chris,

    nice article. And yeah, I have to agree with you that you should definitely GO WEST.

    The typical backpacker itinerary is something like Melbourne to Cairns or the other way round and maybe through the red centre to see Uluru. Which is all great, no doubt. But… you should not miss out on the west coast and quite a few backpackers do.

    The west coast is great and you can spend all year round there and enjoy the sun. Whether down south in Esperance, Albany or Denmark, the south west in Margaret River or Dunsborough (definitely recommend that part) during summer or if you want to head up north to Broome for winter. WA is simply great.

    And can only agree on all the other things mentioned. Not as dangerous as people think, you meet tons of backpackers and yeah, you are spot on.

    Nice read and keep going. Cheers mate :-)


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