Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Looking after your pennies: Seven budgeting tips for Australia

Its pretty obvious that as a western country with a strong currency, travelling Australia isn't cheap. I've met so many people (including myself ) that start to run out of funds in a matter of weeks. Believe me, stressing over money can really put a dampener on things.
Here I've put together seven tips on how to stretch your pennies and make the most of what you're spending. Sure there are some things you really can't afford to skimp on (blog article to come soon) but this is a list I wished I'd known before getting here.

1) Research your entitlement to a Medicare card.  Coming from a land where health care is free to all, forking out $60 odd AU dollars for a GP appointment has been a bit of a culture shock. Unlucky enough to need an ambulance called out and you could be looking at a bill of $300.  There's no question that skipping health cover would be a really stupid idea, but how you go about it is the  crunch point.  Insurance companies are excellent at making claims difficult to put through and refusing to pay you back!
For citizens of countries like the UK and Sweden, citizens are able to obtain a Medicare card.  This will allow you free (or reimbursed) doctors appointments and subsidised costs. So check whether you could have one.
Note: Medicare does not include dentistry costs, so make sure your insurance covers this (my $135 dollar trip to the dentist taught me this).

2) With accommodation, the Internet is your friend.  Even with an Internet site taking its commission, booking accommodation via a third party is cheaper than calling up the hostel.  Sites like hostel world can give great deals.  Sometimes questioning the price of a bed won't get you far, however if its off peak and there is more than one hostel in town, don't be afraid to barter.  This can even work with Campsites.
If camping its also worth researching free sites on the net and don't be shy to quiz tourist information centres.
Remember, if staying in an area for a while, ask the hostels about work for accommodation.

3)  DIY tours. A great thing about Australia is there are a lot of free resources and activities at your disposal.  In the cities, visit the tourist information centres, make your own walking tour, make note of the free museums, parks and transport.  major cities like Perth and Melbourne have free shuttle buses (Perth) and trams (Melbourne)in their centres.  All it takes is a few google searches
Out in the country, again use tourist information centres to find out walking trails and beauty spots you don't have to pay for.

4) Get your own wheels and share the ride - Buying or renting, not only does having your own vehicle give your more freedom, it also works out pretty cheap. Choose the right one and it can double up as your accommodation. The more people sharing the journey, also means split fuel costs. If you find you've got a spare seat, why not put a few adverts in a few hostels.  maybe your the one looking to hitch a ride. If so, check the notice boards.

5) Get a job you bum!!!  This is a popular 'budgeting' technique, i.e you can't so you need to find cash - sharpish.  Luckily due to its mining exports, Australia is one of the few countries where jobs are still in demand.  Find the right job and not only will you make a little money, you'll experience something totally different. Outback work may have its challenges, but the pay can be good and the culture very Australian. However, if your visa won't allow you to work but you wish to prolong your travel, organisations like workaway and woofing maybe for you.  volunteers can find a host of small companies and families looking for help. In exchange for food and board, volunteers work a few hours a day.

6) Staying connected.  a lot of my budgeting techniques have included researching on the net, so its only proper on tip should centre on staying connected.  Its may only be a few dollars at a time but Internet cafe bills can add up after a while. Therefore, finding free wifi facilities always makes me smile. Generic chains like MacDonald's and the coffee club have got me through some tough times, as public libraries. The more populous the area, the more likely cafe with have wifi.  Also some transport systems, like Sydney ferries, have wifi aboard.

7) Yummy food doesn't always cost a bomb - I know fighting with a dozen other travellers for space in a hostel kitchen isn't glamorous, but it will save you money.  However, when you want to splash out on a meal, pick up local tourist guides in hostels and information centres. You'll usually find discount coupons and deals on the back pages.

Or...you could wear an orange jumpsuit like the fellow above and make your millions on Circular Quay!

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