The Australian Dollar And What It Means For Travel

The Australian Dollar And What It Means For Travel

I was born way back in the early eighties when one Australian dollar got you a huge bag of chips from the local fish and chip shop, you could buy bags of lollies from the corner shop for as little as fifty cents and fuel didn’t cost you an arm and a leg.

How times have changed for my beloved Australia and for the traveller looking to come and explore this land of wide open spaces. Being an adult I realise you’ve got to factor in things like “recessions” and “inflation” and all sorts of other big words that have an impact on ones economy but still… $5-$6 these days for the same bag of fried potato that once cost me $1, you’ve got to be having a laugh right?

It’s not all bad news for the modern-day traveller, that is unless you’re not from Australia. With such a booming and recession free economy Australians are perhaps the best positioned to set off and see the world. Just 10 years ago the good old Australian dollar would have got you 60 US Cents and just 38 pence to the pound. Quite simply Australia was the playground for many around the world to come and holiday.

Fast forward to today and its very much the reverse with the dollar buying 104 US Cents and a much friendlier 68 pence to the pound. The days of Brits coming to Australia and getting $3 dollars for just 1 pound are long over and it is now the aussies who reap the benefit as we flock to the UK and US in search of travel and even a bargain.

You just have to read this recent BBC News article which highlights the fact we are richer than ever or the latest report on the most expensive cities to live where Sydney ranks 3rd and Melbourne comes in equal 4th with Oslo in Norway, even Switzerland is ranked way down at 7th on the list.

If you’ve followed my blog here for any length of time you’d know I’ve been off and lived the expat life in London. I’ve travelled around Europe and to the US to see the world and experience what its like outside of my Australian bubble. During the planning stages of my trips I feared I’d never have enough money to live abroad and backpack around Europe. I researched, asked questions and saved my heart out to fund the trip.

The funny thing is now that I’ve returned home for a little while I’m realising that the most expensive trip I’ve ever made was the one back home. To help break things down for everyone take the below chart of average costs (converted to Australian Dollars) of everyday items your typical traveller might buy across the UK, US and Australia.

United Kingdom United States Australia
Bottle of Coke $1.75 $1.75 $3.50
Bottle of Water $1.45 $1.75 $2.75
Beer $3.70 (473ml) $4.50 (375ml – 473ml) $5.00 (285ml)
Subway Footlong Sandwich $7.30 $6.50 9.00
Mars Bar $0.88 $1.05 $1.90

*Note: Prices are crowdsourced via social media and averaged out, some margin for error naturally exists.

On average you’re going to pay anywhere from 10% to %50 more for the items in Australia than what you’d normally pay back home. However if you happen to be an aussie setting off travelling with your Australian dollars everything just got 10% to 50% cheaper for you. Now not everything is going to be cheaper/expensive but there is a trend here which means travellers looking to arrive or leave Australia need to be conscious of as they plan ahead.

While Australians have the good end of the deal with our strong currency, travellers heading towards our shores can take note of these travel tips to try and make their money last longer.

  • Summer means high season so arrive early in spring and beat the high season prices and airline ticket costs
  • If here on a working holiday visa be sure to find work, once your earning the dollar things are far less painful
  • I love the big cities just like you do but go explore our country towns, they are cheaper and more likely to have work
  • And lastly bring twice as much money as you think you need

Have you travelled Australia recently, I’d love to hear how you found it and what you did to make your money last.


32 Responses to The Australian Dollar And What It Means For Travel

  1. JIMMY DAU February 25, 2013 at 10:10 AM #

    I’ve considered seeing more of my backyard but when I compare the cost of domestic travel vs an overseas I’ve generally gone for the latter. Deep down I just think ‘I’ll get around to it when I’m old’

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD February 25, 2013 at 10:16 AM #

      Jimmy seeing Australia is the exact problem I’m facing at the moment now that I’m home for awhile. Sure I have access to a vehicle by way of my parents but add in the cost of fuel, accommodation and food and things quickly make a nice weekend away very expensive. For the same money I could travel quite a long way in Asia or even Europe these day. Its easy to see why aussies are looking to explore more now than ever.

  2. GARY ARNDT February 25, 2013 at 11:26 AM #

    The US prices seem a bit high on your list, but overall, Australia is a very expensive place to travel to right now.

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD February 25, 2013 at 11:35 AM #

      Hi Gary, I tried to average out the prices for the US from my recent trip, searching places like walmart online and asking via social media. It was never going to be an exact science as I’ve the least knowledge of the US compared to the rest. But I’m hopefully they are within tolerance levels.

  3. IAN [EAGEREXISTENCE] February 25, 2013 at 11:36 AM #

    The good news is our Aussie dollar is so strong at the moment that you get a lot of bang-for-your-buck overseas. Another good reason to head off soon Chris?

  4. EMMA February 25, 2013 at 12:46 PM #

    Hey! You are very right! Australia is really expensive. Arrived in Sydney two years ago for year on a working holiday visa. First 6months great, contractor, great money not too bad rent etc… Even tho expensive. But then i stayed on. Permanent employee, higher rent, more bills (private ins etc) it is killing me lol
    Friends keep teasing, u earn better money but what u have to pay as well is nuts. + the travels. I wanna see australia of course so spend a big part of my salary on it too.. What i am trying to say i guess is yes Oz is expensive 🙂

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD February 26, 2013 at 4:03 AM #

      Emma if only the weekly pay would go up a little more to help offset the travel costs huh 🙂

  5. LARISSA February 25, 2013 at 4:44 PM #

    We found the prices high in Australia compared to the US, and used a slightly different price index: the “movie theatre/frozen yogurt shop worker index”. In the US, a movie costs about $8-10, roughly what a college kid working in a frozen yogurt shop makes per hour. In Australia, movies were $18, and the college kid of a friend of ours was making $20/hour at the yogurt shop–and $30 on weekends!

    We did find a good way to manage costs was to rent a flat instead of a hotel or hostel. We found a nice studio in the Paddington section of Sydney for $650/week.

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD February 26, 2013 at 3:56 AM #

      Larissa that’s not a bad index to use either 🙂 Renting a flat and getting out of the usual accommodation types is a great idea especially as a family/couple/group of people.

  6. CAROLINE IN THE CITY February 25, 2013 at 4:52 PM #

    I’m glad to see your opinion on the matter as you’re an Aussie. I’ve written a bunch of posts about how expensive I found Australia and everyone told me, “It’s different when you work here.” Well I worked there and still found $7 for a beer to be crazy!

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD February 26, 2013 at 12:46 AM #

      Caroline I don’t ever remember beer being that expensive when I used to live here. I’d have to be earning somewhere around the 50k a year and up mark to be able to justify shelling out that kind of money for a beer each time. The problem is with the boom in WA a lot of folk are easily making that kind of money so everything is out of whack when compared to the rest of oz. At least that’s how I see it.

  7. KATE February 25, 2013 at 9:15 PM #

    As you know, I set off to the UK (and much of Europe, Oman and a bit of North America) back in March 2012. A good friend of mine scheduled their wedding in August that year, so I came back for a week and a half to attend the bucks weekend and wedding. I was dumbstruck at how expensive everything was when I returned! I decided to get a (decent) bowl of pho (hard to find in Scarborough UK) in Swanston Street whilst back and got a small bowl as I remembered it being cheap. Cheap it may be …compared with other options but it was still almost $10! Then there is the booze…which you’ve highlighted well above. I’m back earning again but it’s still hard and I certainly miss the cheap cheap cheapness of overseas!

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD February 26, 2013 at 12:49 AM #

      Kate it hurts when I compare things with what I’d have paid in Europe. For meals out and so forth I can somewhat deal with the higher cost but its the small items you buy more often that sting the most. Got 2 family pizzas the other week with some chips and paid around $60 bucks…

  8. GEOFF February 25, 2013 at 9:51 PM #

    The prices in Australia are massively off-putting – especially on a backpacker budget, and meant I probably enjoyed my time in Australia far less than the rest of my RTW travels, as even watching every cent I was still spending way more than I did anywhere else

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD February 26, 2013 at 12:52 AM #

      Geoff i’d go as far to say OZ doesn’t do backpacker budgets at all. I looked up hostel prices when writing the post and on average it seems people are paying on average $30 a night. I paid at the most around $35 dollars a night for a hostel in Stockholm with many other places much cheaper. It’s also never a fun trip if your always watching the dollars your spending.

  9. NICOLE @ SUITCASE STORIES February 25, 2013 at 10:28 PM #

    Even as an Aussie, I believe Australian prices are out of control. We are in no hurry to return! Why would we, when traveling the world is cheaper than living in Australia. I don’t know how some families survive to be honest. Its crazy! And its not a great selling point to bring more tourism into the country either.

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD February 26, 2013 at 12:54 AM #

      Nicole I’ve been looking at costs for returning to Australia and can’t get over the price of things. its no wonder people struggle to buy a house these days.

  10. IAN February 26, 2013 at 12:44 AM #


    Unfortunately it is not only Aussie that is expensive! I come from NZ and I was home about 4 months ago (for 10 weeks) after not having been home in 6.5 years, and mate, that place is crazy expensive aswell! The exchange rate is not quite as good for us (NZ – Pound, or vise versa) but what NZ charges for things is criminal. $5 – $6 bucks for a beer, $2.25 (ish) for a litre of petrol when it was about $3 -$3.50 and about $0.95 respectively for the both when I left. That is just a couple of things, not to mention food, clothes, shoes…..ect, etc. When you earn the dollar you spend the dollar, but (NZ for example) the cost of living has increased at more of a rate than the average income!

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD February 26, 2013 at 12:57 AM #

      Ian thanks for adding some thoughts from the NZ side of things. And wow petrol is horrible there, I’m paying around $1.55 back in the country town where I’m from and I thought that was bad. Certainly makes life difficult for all involved.

  11. ADAM @ SITDOWNDISCO February 26, 2013 at 1:20 AM #

    Great post that explains the real reason Australia feels expensive for foreigners. The exchange rate is the only issue here and if you have a job in Australia, you can live like a king. Just like everywhere else in the world, you just need to make wise choices as to where you spend your money — like buying only fruit that is in season, shopping at Asian grocers instead of Coles and woolies and it expecting you can have everything today.

    That said, I don’t work in Australia anymore and I find it difficult to visit nowadays. But with the Aussie cash I still do have, it makes travelling in Asia that much more affordable. Hooray for us! 🙂

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD February 26, 2013 at 3:51 AM #

      Adam that’s pretty much the crux of it isn’t it. If our dollar was worth less then people would be far better off when visiting here. Although if it was worth less I’m not sure if that would be a good thing either as prices might just go up even more to compensate. Then again I’m not one fluent in the economics of our country.

  12. ANTHONY February 26, 2013 at 2:37 AM #

    Since I live here, when I come back from somewhere else, I notice just how expensive the place is! It’s great when you go overseas though!

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD February 26, 2013 at 3:53 AM #

      Anthony that’s what I see as well. Arrived back and first thing was to buy a drink and a chocolate bar after a long flight to find them crazy expensive.

  13. HANNAH @ GETTING STAMPED February 26, 2013 at 2:45 AM #

    Great article! I have heard Australia was more expensive, but didn’t realize how much more things were! We will be spending 2 weeks in Australia about Dec 3-17 of this year. Hopefully we will beat the summer rush and get out before Xmas! We plan on 7-10 days camping around the Whitsundays and then 5ish days in Sydney. Hopefully we can stay on budget! Thanks for the tips again!

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD February 26, 2013 at 3:54 AM #

      Thanks Hannah. You’ll be running right into peak time’s I’d say but camping is going to be your cheapest option by far so your on the right track.

  14. DEB February 26, 2013 at 6:01 AM #

    I agree totally and same problem being back home temporarily. When you dont work its outrageous how expensive it is back here. It’s cheaper to be on the road and once I sort out my visa’s Im out of here again indefinately.

  15. JILL February 26, 2013 at 7:19 AM #

    In Australia right now and good grief, it’s expensive! We are trying to do things as cheaply as possible but it still adds up. We’ve found that outside the big cities things (mainly food and fuel) are actually more expensive! We’re in Adelaide now and everything seems to be just a tiny bit cheaper… which is a nice break.

    My suggestion to other travelers would be to stay away during December and January. Camping sites that were about $30 a night were going for $55-75 a night with minimum stays. Yikes!

  16. SIMON February 26, 2013 at 9:36 AM #

    Interesting read. I just spend a couple of months in New Zealand, and I was surprised by how expensive the country is, sometimes far more expensive than Europe, which is not exactly cheap.

    Indeed, all travelers from Europe, the USA and South America were stoked. The only ones that found New Zealand a good bargain were Australians, due to the strength of the Australian dollar.

    I guess that I won’t be going back to Australia any time soon 🙂

  17. JIMMY DAU February 26, 2013 at 8:09 PM #

    Here’s a good article on the topic

  18. ADVENTURESWITHBEN March 3, 2013 at 4:53 PM #

    I totally agree with you on this one. I overspent my travel budget by a magnitude of $1,000’s. Partly because I was okay with indulging here and there, but partly because food and drink (even when cheap), was still ridiculously expensive.

    I wrote a bit about it on my own site:

    I’d do it again, but man, I’ll have to wait a long time to save enough to do it again!

  19. JOHN March 5, 2013 at 2:12 PM #

    I read somewhere a while back that everyday items such as bread and milk are more expensive in Adelaide than they are in New York City.

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