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Friday, February 26, 2016

Australia trip planning on budget- FAQs answered!

I have been asked by many on the recent Australia trip- mainly as to how I managed it cheap. While I attribute most of it to cheap AirAsia ticket, this post shares some details as to how you can plan an Australia trip on budget.

1. How is Australia like? Which city did you like?
Australia is nice. It is a lot similar to Singapore in terms of city management, cost of various goods (both currencies are also almost similar). You can manage with English everywhere and public transportation is pretty good. But yes, Australia is much bigger, diverse. I visited Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra. Melbourne managed to create great impression about the country in first look. It is more spacious, a bit cheaper and has a relaxed approach. Sydney on the other hand is more crowded and feels like rush lane. The capital territory Canberra seem to have a laid back approach- slow and steady. (I only spent few hours there on a Sunday morning, I could be wrong)

My visit was too short to pass a judgment, so I will refrain from saying which is best.
Tram tracks in Melbourne
2. How to get cheaper Air Fare to Australia?- Try Tiger Air and Air Asia
Flight tickets constitute major part of your expense and hence getting it cheap can save lots of bucks. As of now, if you search for flight tickets to Australia on websites like MMT and cleartrip, the cheapest economy seat option on a full service airline will cost about 50k INR, even if you select a date 1 year from now. For some reason, these sites are not likely to show Air Asia and Tiger Air options. So go to these two airline websites and try your luck. If you are very flexible with the dates and if you can search thoroughly, you might be able to find a deal 30-40% cheaper than full service airlines. My Chennai-Melbourne AirAsia ticket cost me 32k, including 20 Kg baggage, insurance and credit card fees. Many a times I could find cheap fare one way but return was expensive. Getting cheap fares both way is a tricky business. But it was booked 9 months ago and I took a big risk- if something were to come-up and I can’t travel, I risked losing big money. Yes, budget airlines charge everything extra- water, food, baggage and so on, but end of the day, they can take you to your destination far cheaper (25-35%) than full service airlines.  Also Tiger/AirAsia won’t operate from every city in India- see what best works out for you-flying another airline to Kuala Lumpur /Singapore to connect to Air Asia/Tiger or taking a train/flight to nearby city in India from there these airlines operate. Though I expected some deviation in plans, I was happy to experience Air Asia and tiger air operate their flights exactly on time as per the schedule committed 9 months earlier.

Bottom-line- Keep an eye for big sale/flash sale, search a lot till you find best deal. Anything around 30-35k is a great deal (after factoring some baggage and credit card fees). Related- Air Asia benchmark prices

3. Where did you stay in Australia? How much would decent accommodation cost?

I was lucky in this aspect- my friends invited me to stay with them, so I didn’t have to spend on accommodation. But otherwise factor about 60 AUD (INR 3000) per day for a decent stay. You can use booking.com – look for options that offer free cancellation till a certain date, check reviews on Tripadvisor.

4. How much did your Australia trip cost you?
Mine was one week trip covering Chennai-Melbourne-Canberra-Sydney-Melbourne and back to Chennai. Below is a breakup of cost I incurred
  • AirAsia flight ticket-MAA-MEL return, including 20kg baggage and insurance- INR 32000 (booked 9 month ago)
  • Melbourne-Sydney by bus-Greyhound Austraia- about INR 6000
  • Sydney-Melbourne by flight-tiger air Australia- about INR 5000
  • Visa expense- INR 8300
  • Stay expense- Nil (stayed with friends)
  • Other expense (food, attraction entry fee, local commute etc): Approx INR 19000+
Total: 70000+ approx (9 months interest on early ticket not factored, similarly visa is valid for one year, so if I make another trip, then it can be apportioned. To give you a comparison, 9 night/10 days Australia trip costs about 1.5 lakhs on Makemytrip (Note that it includes hotel stay but no site seeing and other expenses. Factor another 20-25% for expenditures not covered in the package)

5. How long should our Australia trip be?
Main cities in Australia like Melbourne, Sydney etc need a week at least to explore fully, but I could only spend about 2-3 days each. Gold Coast, Brisbane, Coff’s Harbor are other main cities. You might get cheap tickets to Perth but there isn't much to explore around Perth. If time and money is not a factor, you can plan a 3 to 4 week vacation in Australia, arriving in Say Melbourne, then Canberra then Sydney, then up north to Gold Coast and Brisbane from where you can return home.  Also you can’t fly direct to Australia from India- usually a stopover in Malaysia or Singapore will be involved. So you can plan such that you get some extra time in these countries and explore them too on the way. 
Balloons in Canberra
6. Local Travel- should we book package? Taxi?
Use public transportation- download related apps like PTV- you can easily manage with public transport in most cases Only for out of city trips, book with an operator/agency.

7. Did you see Kangaroos?
Of course Yes- how can one return from Australia without meeting the national animal? Saw them in the Taronga Zoo. But not in the way you would have seen in television- merrily jumping around in a vast open field. Zoos in Australia are much better than ones in India but are not as good as the Zoos I had seen in Europe (Berlin and Copenhagen). Kangaroos I saw in Australia were sleeping/lazing around in a small confined area, just like you see any caged animal to be.  The Kangaroos I saw in Copenhagen Zoo were more lively. Same goes for Koalas- most of the time they are lazy and sleepy most of them time. Almost all Zoos sell additional ticket (for about 20-25 AUD) if you would like to get yourself photographed with Koalas- but again, there will be restriction like no touching, no holding etc. You will be allowed to walk in their enclosure and a photo will be clicked such that you and Koala will be in same frame. (This was the case in two zoos I checked- situation could be different elsewhere)- So keep your expectations right. What you see in commercials is to make you visit Australia, ground reality may not be as enticing. There was a private farm in the the outskirts of Melbourne which I wanted to visit but couldn’t.

8.What about Australia VISA?
Please check this detailed post for Australia tourist visa for Indians. It costs about 8000 Rs+ and about 2 weeks. Usually will be issued for 1 year. At Kuala Lumpur airport before boarding staff inspected my passport with special lens…You may also wish to take Malaysia/Singapore visa if you wish to go out into town to make use of your transit time (Another Rs 3000-3500 approx)

9. Will you visit Australia again?
Yes, I will.

10. Can we rent a car in Australia and drive?
You can drive in Australia with your Indian driving license. I first thought I will try it out, but later decided not to. You can rent from agencies like AVIS. But please note that most Avis offices have specific opening hours (only airport is sort of open 24x7). Also parking is pretty expensive, traffic is often bad, any violation will result in expensive penalty, so public transport will be better and cheaper option most of the cases, you can try rentals for your out of city drives- will work out cheaper if you have a group.

11. What about food? Easy to find Indian food? Did you try local food?
As explained in this post, I am not much of a foodie and am comfortable if I can find some Indian, vegetarian food. As I stayed with friends who were kind enough to feed me as well, food wasn’t a problem. There are enough Indian restaurants (in Sydney Harris Park area is full of Indian eateries). Lots of 7-11 shops sell donuts, fruits, chips and water. Subway, MacD and other outlets serve their standard offerings. So finding basic food will not be a problem at all. Even tender coconut is available- either in processed form or even in its original form- but not very easy to find one.
Sydney skyline
12. Anything else we should keep in mind while visiting Australia?
  • Many museums, attractions, shops etc close by 4PM or 5PM. So check timing of the attractions you are planning to visit.
  • For various cost saving tips, check this post
  • Be careful what food stuff you pack- Most home-made food items, if inspected, might get confiscated
  • While we know Australia by main cities, local people identify it by states- One won't identify himself/herself as "I am from Sydney" instead he/she would say "I am from New South Wales". Similarly Melbourne is in Victoria state, Brisbane is Queensland- each state manages its own public transportation system (Opal Card of Sydney won't work in Melbourne and vice versa), promotes tourism on its own and so on.
  • Travel card (like Opal, Myki) etc are city specific. Won't work in next city you are heading.
13. What is the time difference between India and Australia?
5.5 hours (10 PM in Australia will be 4.30 PM in India)

14. How much cash did you take?
I took with me some 800 AUD (1 AUD is about 50 Rs). I spent some 350+ AUD overall during my one week stay. (wherever possible I had pre-booked travel etc. Additional spend was on entry fee, food, local commute etc. I didn't take any forex card- cash payment was simpler.

15. There was some news on attack on Indians- is it true?
True but those are really isolated incidents. Nothing generic and shouldn't discourage you from visiting Australia.

Hope this helps. Any other questions, ask in comments, will try to answer.

Read more posts on Australia here

8 comments :

SandeepaChetan said...

Thank you! These are very useful tips. Love the fact that you didn't spend more than 350 AUD.

Swati & Sam said...

Awesome tips ...I have bookmarked this page :)

Arun Prasadh said...

Very useful info. Thanks.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

@Sandeep- thanks. I had done most booking online from India itself. 350+ AUD is only for entry fee, food and local expenses.

@Swati and Arun- Thanks

Leena Walawalkar said...

Australia being a hot destination, this for sure is a helpful post!

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Thanks Leena

ವಿ.ರಾ.ಹೆ. said...

But, Australia means only 'cities'? ;)

Shrinidhi Hande said...

No. Each city has lots of places worth visiting nearby- like blue mountain from Sydney, Great Ocean road from Melbourne etc. You can keep main city as a base and do day trip to these nearby places.

Of course, if you can spend longer time - say do a roadtrip etc great. Australia is a large country.