Select route, departure date and booking tickets
You have decided to go to Australia and have your visa situation under control. Good! Your next step is now to plan your trip, choose your route to Australia, make price comparisons between different ticket options and finally buy a ticket.
You can save thousands of dollars on flights if you are willing to be flexible with your route (i.e. where your stopover is), your departure date and which company you want to fly with. You might find a very good priced ticket by comparing offers from different airlines and on different dates. For example, if you fly from Europe or Scandinavia and want to have a stopover in Asia, you will find that tickets via some cities are cheaper than others due to flight taxes (for example, Singapore is a relatively inexpensive stopover between Europe and Australia).
When you experiment with different departure dates, a ticket can be several hundred Australian dollars cheaper if you are willing to go on a Monday instead of a Saturday. Prices reflect supply and demand and can vary greatly only in the space of a few days. However, beware not to become “penny wise, pound foolish”. If a specific ticket is, let’s say a hundred dollars cheaper, but you end up having to sleep on the floor on an airport in China or are forced to pay for accommodation on the layover because you have a 10-hour transfer in Beijing, the initial saving is hardly worth the effort or it might even end up costing more due to added expenses.
Buying a flight ticket
Using a comparison site such as Momondo (momondo.com.au) or Wotif (wotif.com/flights) is a common way to find different tickets and travel companies, and from there on buy the ticket that you think suits you best.
Booking accommodation (hotel or hostel)
Once you have booked your flight ticket, your next step is to book your accommodation, I recommend doing this for at least your first nights after arriving. When you arrive, you will be tired and probably feel like you just spent a long night at the pub, and it will be nice to already have a room with a shower and a bed waiting for you. Even if you are a budget traveller, it may be well spent money to stay at a real hotel for the first few nights, giving you a full night’s sleep so you can adapt to the local time zone at your own pace (in hostels you often share dormitory with others who will unintentionally wake you up when they get up).
Although the sites for hotels and hostels differ slightly, they work in much the same way. You compare the hotels and hostels on the internet and when you have found a place to stay, you book it using your credit card. Do not forget to write down your booking number and preferably print a copy of the reservation so that you can easily identify yourself once you arrive at the hotel. It may also be a good idea to write down the address and maybe print (or download) a map (for example, from Google Maps (google.com/maps)) to easily find your accommodation when you arrive at your destination.
There are several different comparison sites to find accommodation, and one of the more popular and flexible one is Hotels Combined (hotelscombined.com) which help you make price comparisons to find the best price for a particular hotel or hostel. Other good options are Wotif (wotif.com/hotels) and for Hostels Hostelworld (hostelworld.com).
It costs more to stay in hotels than in hostels, but for the extra money you pay, you get higher standard and a luxury that backpackers in hostels only are dreaming of. Although most backpackers spend most nights at hostels, it may be worthwhile to book a cheap hotel the first few nights in Australia when you are jet lagged or might feel bad after a long trip, so that you get your own room and do not have to be woken up by people you share the dormitory with.
As with airline tickets, most hotel bookings are now sold via the internet, either through the hotel’s own websites, or via travel agencies and price comparison sites. Most hotels divide their rooms into groups and sell them for different prices via different sales channels (by selling unsold rooms through any discount site, the hotel avoids showing price reductions on their own website). If you are lucky, you can find simple hotel rooms in prices not far from the Hostel’s offers.
An alternative to a hotel room is to rent a room or an apartment directly from a private person via the site Airbnb (airbnb.com.au). At Airbnb, individuals can rent out their own apartment or guest rooms, and such accommodation can often be a good alternative to hostels or hotels.
Booking hostels in Australia
Hostels are often the cheapest accommodation if you only stay for a few nights in one place. For long-term visitors/residents, it will be cheaper to rent a small apartment or a room in a collective with students or other travellers. In a hostel, you usually get a bunk bed in a dorm holding 4-12 beds in total, and you find shared showers and toilets down the hallway. Many also have single- and family rooms with their own toilet, but these cost more of course. The fewer beds in the dormitory, the higher the price is. There are often dorms only for women, or dorms with both men and women mixed.
Hostels are more than just somewhere to sleep and wash your clothes at. At a hostel, you meet other travellers and there are usually social activities for those who live there for a longer time. Better hostels have bulletin boards with tips on travel, job vacancies and destinations to visit. You can find other travellers to car-pool with (maybe in exchange of you paying some petrol money) buddies to do activities with (wine tasting, jungle-trekking, diving certificate) and helpful staff who can answer questions about most things. Hostels differ from hotels in regards of socializing with other staying travellers; Hostels are built on the principle of helping people to meet, and that it is a collective accommodation. If you do not like sleeping in a dormitory or answering a thousand questions about where you come from, how long you have travelled around and where your next destination is, perhaps a hotel is more of your thing. (Of course, you can stay at the hostel and keep to yourself as well.)
Hostels in Australia are well developed and are located all over the country. Since competition between them is fierce, the standard is often quite high (although not at the same standard as of a hotel).
Some hostels focus on working-holiday travellers and serve as a kind of employment agency for farmers in the surrounding area. These are not as fun to stay at as the “party-hostels”, instead their main purpose is to provide a simple home for those who want to work as a fruit picker (which might give you the hours of region work you need to apply for a second WH-visa).
To book a hostel, you can search at Hostelworld (hostelworld.com), Wotif (wotif.com/hotels), or in Hotels Combined (hotelscombined.com). On the last two sites, first filter out all search results that are not a Hostel.
Arranging accommodation for a longer stay at one location
If you plan to stay at one specific location for a long time, you might want to get a room or an apartment. Due to high housing costs, it is common to live collectively or share accommodation with others.
Most apartments available to rent in Australia are owned by private individuals who rent it out through a broker or agent. If this is the case, all your contact with the property owner is done via the agent.
In Australia, the housing market sets the price on all rents. You will always find accommodation if you are willing to pay. Unfortunately, you can hardly complain that the rent is unreasonable. It is worth knowing that the advertised rent is in weekly fees. If your landlord wants to move into the apartment, you must accept to be dismissed (if you have not signed a long contract but only rent the apartment month-by-month).
Undoubtedly, the greatest demand for rental apartments is in Sydney and Melbourne. Some suburbs near the city and the beach are particularly popular and one must pay thereafter. If you are willing to commute, you can rent a cheaper room or an apartment on the outskirts of the cities.
You will be asked to pay a deposit (this is called a bond) when you move in (often 2-4 weeks rent in advance), either in cash to the one on the contract or by bank transfer. A private room in an apartment in central Sydney or Melbourne usually costs around $200-$400 a week which usually includes a surcharge that covers the collective’s electricity and gas costs. Sharing a room with someone should be just over half of this ($100-$200 per week).
Make sure you consider your own situation before choosing which area you want to live in. Do you want to stay close to a job in the city? Or do you want to stay near a beach, near nice views or close to good schools for your children?
Living collectively is cheaper, you will quickly get to know new people and get into everyday life routines in your new hometown. You can relatively easily get hold of a room in a collective or a shared room (share room, share accommodation). Use your common sense when choosing which collective you want to move into. Think about whether you can share accommodation with those people and whether you can trust them.
If you are travelling with a friend, the option may be to share the cost of a bedroom that is shared with others.
One of the biggest sites to find someone to stay with or share apartment with is the site Flatmates (flatmates.com.au), and if you are a student, you can also search for student accommodation. To find a standard apartment contract, use one of the sites like Domain (domain.com.au) or Real Estate (realestate.com.au).
Frequently asked questions about travelling to Australia
Question: We are planning a trip to visit relatives in Sydney over Christmas and New Year. Have you experienced that air fares differ greatly over time and if so, in which direction? What I wonder is whether it is most advantageous to book the trip in advance or wait as long as possible?
Answer: Christmas and New Year are peak season for trips to Australia, and even if you book the ticket early on, the prices will be slightly higher than usual. If I myself travelled with a family, I would have tried to book the tickets relatively early (no later than 2 months before departure). Instead of trying to find the date when the airlines may lower their prices for a specific distance, I would have experimented with different departure dates and routes to find the best price. If I started to look for a ticket early, I would have purchased a ticket when the preferred airline would have a frequent flyer campaign offer, to receive extra bonus points when buying something I had intended to buy anyway.
Question: We are a family of two adults and two children (3 and 5 years) planning to go to Australia on a month-long holiday in March-April. We are going to visit Sydney (or nearby), Melbourne and Cairns. What type of accommodation should we look for?
Answer: As a family with young children, I would have booked a hotel or an apartment hotel or rented an apartment or house through Airbnb. I would had avoided hostels. I also would have tried to arrange an accommodation near public transport (Sydney and Melbourne) so that it is relatively easy to get home after a day’s adventure.
Question: I have a cousin living in Melbourne and our family would like to visit him as well as discover other parts of Australia. We have plans to go there next Christmas around 15/12 and be there for about 17 – 20 days and then do 10 days in Thailand before going home. Do you think 17 – 20 days is too short a time to visit Australia? We have a travel fund around $15,000-$18,000 (2 adults & 2 children) to cover the flight, food, accommodation for half of the trip and the stay in Thailand (we live with the cousin for free in Melbourne). Is that enough? What do you think? I think the cousin will drive us around a lot. When are the airline tickets released for a trip to Australia?
Answer: 2-3 weeks sounds like plenty of time to visit Australia. It is bigger than Europe and you will never be able to “do it all”. Instead, choose a few highlights and enjoy your time. In a couple of weeks, you have time for sightseeing in Melbourne and its surrounds, and time to visit Sydney and then maybe some tourist/beach life on the coast or on one of the beaches near Sydney. Your travel fund sounds like a decent budget. I have no family myself so I cannot really advise you in this matter, but if you get cheap tickets and play it smart regarding transport and accommodation on the trip, you should be able to save some money. I think tickets are usually released 12 months in advance.
Question: We are going to Australia over Christmas and we are wondering whether we should book the Australian domestic flight tickets (between Sydney to Hervey Bay) already from home or if we can do it once we are in Australia?
Answer: It never hurts to book tickets in advance, but I don’t think it is particularly urgent. Hotel rooms around Christmas and New Year will sell out early and I think you should book accommodation for Christmas and New Year as early as you can, but airline tickets do not sell out as fast, you could book those later.
Question: I am just looking for tickets to Australia and are getting a bit nervous about it. I have only travelled within Europe before and really don’t want anything to go wrong. What I wonder is, do I just book a ticket and it will all work out? Might I need some special paperwork in certain countries depending on where the stopover is? Does cancellation cover work? What I really wonder is if there is something that can go wrong because I missed something, or if a ticket and passport is enough.
Answer: Yes, it’s exactly that simple. Bring your passport and ticket and follow the instructions. The only thing that differs in practice between flying to Sydney via e.g. Bangkok or flying to the Canary Islands via Amsterdam is that the flights are much longer. :-)
Question: Are there any towns with connections to a major city that are cheaper to live in? I suspect that Sydney is significantly more expensive than apartments/houses in smaller towns (to rent). Any tips on towns or cities that both have a lot of people and are a little cheaper to live in?
Answer: Yes, there are lots of nice, smaller towns or cities to stay in. If I didn’t have an office job in central Sydney, I would have been interested in living in, for example:
– Gold Coast – Tweed Heads
– Somewhere along the Sunshine Coast north of Brisbane
– Port Macquarie
– Ballarat or Bendigo
Question: We are two people who plan to go to Australia in February. However, we are a bit concerned regarding accommodation. Shall we book accommodation from home, or on site? What do you recommend?
Answer: If I were you, I would book hostels or hotels from home for the first week. Then I would either start looking for an apartment once you are in place if you intend to stay in a place for a longer time, or book everything while travelling around (except for the peak season at Christmas and New Year which I would book in advance).
Question: I am about to book a trip to Australia, and I’m wonder the following; There will be stopovers and I looked at some that were around only 1,5 hours. How will there be time to make it to the next plan on such a short stopover? Do I have to change planes, or am I staying on the same one when the time is this short? Do I have to check-in again? Do I have to get my luggage at the stopover? As you might understand, I have never flown with stopovers before (for example, Stockholm – London – Hong Kong – Brisbane), hence some basic questions.
Answer: If your travel agent sells you a flight ticket with stopovers, you can expect that there is enough time between the flights. You do not have to make a new check-in, but just move between gates at each airport, or get off and on the same plane at the same gate. You do not need to get your luggage if it is checked in all the way to your end destination. In your particular case, I suspect you will have your bag checked in all the way to Brisbane at Arlanda, in London you need to change the terminal/Gate, and in Hong Kong just go off and on the same plane while it is cleaned and re-fuelled for an hour.
Question: Which option is most gentle on the body when flying to Australia from Scandinavia? One or two stopovers? How many hours would you spend on the ground before the next flight?
Answer: I usually land and stay a night or two in Bangkok or Singapore when travelling all the way from Australia to Sweden. I think it is far too hard to fly non-stop when making such a long trip (it would take me at least 24 hours non-stop), but many people think that this is OK. If you fly non-stop then you will still have to stay at least 1-2 hours somewhere on the way while they clean and refuel the plane. When I travel from Sweden to Australia’s east coast, I first fly to Bangkok, and after a night at a hotel in Bangkok I fly to Australia. I usually try to choose flights that fly during the daytime, since I find it so uncomfortable to sleep on the plane. Instead, I try to fly out in the morning, and then spend the night in a real bed.
Question: My husband and I are planning a trip to Australia and found your site. We are experienced travellers and have most of the times planned and booked everything ourselves. We have been in Australia lots of times. Our trip this time: A flight to Perth where we stay for 3 days. Indian Pacific Express to Sydney. Stop for a few days in Sydney. Then 5 days on Hayman Island. Back to Sydney again for a few days. After that, Noosa for 4 days. Back to Sydney, and from there back home. There are lots of pieces that must fit into the puzzle. Hotels, car hire, flights etc. Everything can be booked over internet and phone. But do you advise us to use a Sydney-based travel agent? And then it’s the matter of travel insurance. We pay everything with our Mastercard gold where we have some extra benefits on our travel insurance, and we shall read it thoroughly once more. Are there additional insurances that might be good to have?
Answer: I cannot advise you, but personally I would have done it all myself via an online travel agent like wotif.com (wotif.com.au). I would have made sure to pay everything with a credit card that offers a good travel insurance, and perhaps supplemented the credit card insurance with an extra travel insurance on top of my home insurance.
Question: My partner and I have booked flight tickets with Qatar Airways to Australia. On the ticket are our chosen names: Anna and Anders. The problem is that on our passports we both have another name that precedes our first name, e.g. in my passport it says Maria Anna and then my surname. Do you think there may be any problems boarding the plane or getting into Australia because of this? We have applied for visas, and on those all the names are in the right order.
Answer: If you have used the correct names for your visa application, I don’t think you will have any problem. My “real name” is Carl Anders Liljeqvist and I have several times travelled as “Anders Liljeqvist” without having any problem with the airlines.