Managing Australia trip with under AUD 35-40 per day (Stay & Food)

So far, during my international trips, I used to rely heavily on Indian restaurants, at least for one meals per day. That would typically cost me an equivalent of INR 600-2000 per meal depending on how expensive a country is, what I order and how much it costs. Without much alternatives, food spend was becoming a significant spend during my trip. Couple of good meals and decent hostel stay would typically cost close to USD 50+ per day. However, during my recent Australia visit, I could spend even less, thanks to kitchen facility in hostels and availability of essentials like rice.

Cooking food for myself wasn't on my original plan- partly because I wasn't sure if hostels will have proper kitchen and partly because it is boring to cook for one person. On my day 01, I visited Taj Palace Indian restaurant in Gold Coast for dinner and ordered a simple item- But I was told "you should order for minimum 15 AUD to eat here"- This rule tempted me to explore the alternatives. There was a Patel's Indian Grocery store right next door and my hostel had a kitchen, so I could quickly draft Plan B to feed myself, that would change my spending pattern during the trip and save me lots of money.
If you are to visit an Indian restaurant for lunch/dinner in Australia, below is what things typically cost
  • Veg Biriyani: 17-18 AUD
  • Coconut Rice/Veg Pulao rice etc: AUD 6-8 (but often require you to order a curry/side dish for 15 AUD+
  • Raitha/Pickle etc: 2-3 AUD (small cup/few spoonful)
  • Eat all you can buffet lunch/dinner at select restaurants- about 15 AUD
Couple of additional items like a drink or side dish etc will ensure your food bill will cross 25-30 AUD.

For 7 days trip, spending 20-25 AUD per meal implies 25 AUD per meal * 2 meals per day * 7 days= 350 AUD or close to INR 18000. Tiny drops add up and 18k is lots of money (My Australia return ticket was 20700- if I can save 18k on food, I can travel to a whole new country with that money).
Availability of community kitchens in the hostels where I stayed was a big savior. I could cut down on my food expense significantly.

Below is what I did
Searched for Indian grocery stores, like one shown above, where I could buy following items
  • 1 Kg Basmati rice- about 5.5 AUD
  • MTR Ready to eat items- about 2.5 AUD each, 2 of them are enough for a full stomach meals
  • Priya Pickle- One 300 gms bottle- 3 AUD, was enough for entire week (Restaurants serve one table spoon quantity/very small quantity of pickle for 2.5 AUD)
  • Curd (Yogurt)- depending on brand/size or quantity/flavor etc- about 2.9-4 AUD per cup
  • Cole supermarket had Maggie veg masala noodles- I didn’t buy it because they only had super big family pack.

Almost everything is available in Indian stores in Australia, pani puri included. Just use google maps to search for Indian groceries store near to you. Pricing is reasonable- about 2 to 3x what it costs in India but still fair compared to what you've to pay at Restaurants for a meal and given that these goods had to be transported half way across the world to reach stores in Australia. If you can carry your own stuff from India then you can save even more.

I didn't find Ghee in small quantity- carry with you if you need.

Many more items were available like heat n eat Chapatis, Samosas and so on. Non-vegetarians will have lot more options.
Of course, if I could carry them from India it would have been even cheaper- but I had 7 kg cabin bag limit and wasn’t 100% sure of availability of kitchen facilities, so didn’t carry much.

All my hostel kitchens had well equipped kitchens- no pressure cooker but all other items- stove, utensils, water kettle, utensils were available for free use. I didn't find a pressure cooker but could cook rice with water on a normal vessel with constant monitoring. Some essential consumables like salt, sauce, coffee/tea powder etc are also offered for free. Thus I could cook my own food at super cheap prices- Cooked rice, had it with MTR Sambar or with Curd & pickle. Ate MTR Ready to eat Lemon Rice and Tamarind Rice and so on. It took some effort, but was highly rewarding to have nice stomach full food. Over 7 days, I think I have spent about 40-50 Australian dollars buying stuff for my lunch/dinner- that is just about 6-7 dollars per day or 85% cheaper than going to a restaurant.
Most hostels in Gold Coast/Brisbane area cost about 25 AUD per night and usually breakfast is included. Assume 10 dollars of spend to buy stuff needed to cook your food and you can manage a day within 35 Australian dollars. With some buffer- say for slightly expensive hostel or some miscellaneous expenses, it is possible to manage Australia tour for under 40 AUD per day for Stay and food. That is about INR 2000 or less. It will be even cheaper if you bring some stuff from India or do the trip in a group or manage to find cheaper hostels.

Note that above expenditures do not include discretionary spending on snacks, drinks etc. I would have spent a few more dollars on coconut water, chips etc.

If you're looking to manage in extreme budget like above, ensure the following
  • Book a hostel (or AirBnB) that has kitchen facilities
  • Carry key stuff that you may need and not easily available- pickle, ghee etc
  • Locate and buy other essential stuff, cook your own food.
  • Be sure to comply with all hostel rules- such as labeling your food, cleaning the utensils after usage and so on. Please don't violate these rules and create a bad name. If caught on CCTV you may be slapped with a penalty as well.
Of course cooking for self means some extra effort and time. But even at restaurants you've to wait several minutes. Self-cooking works in Australia and New Zealand as most hostels have kitchen facilities. Hostels in many other countries may not have kitchen facility- you need to check before booking/planning your trip.

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