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Backpackers Guide to Travelling Australia in a Campervan


 couple in car overlooking oceanImage Source: thl Content Hub

Australia is hands-down one of the most popular travel destinations in the world and an absolute bucket list destination for any backpacker. But in recent years, we are seeing a trend of backpackers ditching their hostel rooms for van travel - and it’s not hard to see why.

While backpacking offers the perfect combination of freedom and low-cost travel, Australia’s vast landscape means it can be limiting and costly. Many of the best things to do in Australia are out of easy reach from city centres.

Renting a travel van can be a great alternative way to explore Australia and these far off places while sticking to a budget. With your own kitchen on board, you can have easy access to leftovers and full cupboards, so you don’t have to worry about wasting food moving from hostel to hostel. Travelling with your bed also means you can take advantage of free camping and low-cost campground options - keeping you close to the action without the premium. Best of all, with your own space and luggage storage with you at all times, it is by far a much more comfortable way to travel.

Why using a campervan for backpacking travel is a good idea 

While it may seem more expensive on the front end to rent a van to travel Australia, this travel style may actually save you money. Backpacking usually involves backpacker lodges, but it is not necessarily the most cost-effective option at $35-60 AUD per night for a shared room. Accommodation costs aside, there are plenty of reasons why you may want to take advantage of a campervan for your next backpacking trip:

  • Make the most of your time - No waiting on the side of a road for a pickup
  • Don’t have to rely on public transport - Take your own route as you explore Australia
  • Vehicle and accommodation in one - No need to pay for shared hostel rooms
  • Save money on food - You have your own facilities on board the campervan to cook meals
  • Save money on coffee and drinks - Can make your own drinks and coffees with the on board and campsite facilities
  • No need for laundramats - Can do your own laundry on the go
  • You’ll be able to stay with your companions - No need for split rooms
  • Travel in comfort - Warm, dry, quiet, listen to your own music, stop when you want
  • Bring all your favourite belongings, and keep them safe on board - No need to leave them behind in a hostel or be caught out in the Australia weather
  • Stay closer to your attractions - No need to backtrack to try to find somewhere to stay in larger towns or cities

The list of reasons could go on and on!

How much money do you need for backpacking Australia?

Young people exploring Australian AttractionImage Source: thl content hub

Although this will vary depending on your itinerary, certain considerations could affect your backpacking budget.

Campervan hire 

At Mighty, we are big believers in making adventure possible for everyone, no matter their budget. We have a variety of campers ranging in price and facilities for different needs. Our best value 2-berth Highball campers are smaller vehicles with simple cooking facilities targeted to travellers who want to spend most of their time outdoors. On the other end of the spectrum, our more inclusive 6-berth Big Six camper comes with a shower and toilet on board and provides a spacious option for families and larger groups.

When budgeting for hire costs, it's important to consider that this covers what you would spend on hostel or motel costs - but with the added bonus of having your own space. This is especially true if you're travelling in a group and sharing the cost. It may even work out cheaper by the time you crunch the numbers on transport, fuel, and accommodation. It's also good to keep in mind that prices will vary at different times of the year, especially in peak seasons, so check out if there are any seasonal deals running. That way, you can get the best value on your road trip.

Petrol 

Australia has a big landscape with plenty to explore, so it’s important to make sure you add petrol to your budget. Mighty campers each have a fuel tank size ranging between 70-75 litres, and the cost to fill them will vary depending on your location. Expect to pay more in more rural/remote towns and touristy destinations.

If you’re looking for ways to save on petrol, consider creating an itinerary and sticking to it. Driving in the wrong direction and having to backtrack is a sure way to overspend on petrol. Using apps like FuelMap to compare fuel prices around Australia and the thl Roadtrip itinerary planner to map your route are great ways to ensure you don’t get caught out.

Food and drink 

Shopping supermarketImage Source: thl content hub

Meals in Australia tend to be around $25 for a meal per person - maybe $15 if you can find a good deal. That's over $45-$75 per day, not including any road trip snacks. Having an on board kitchen means you can take advantage of shopping in local supermarkets, having a place to store good quality affordable snacks and to cook great meals wherever you go. This can work out much cheaper and overall can be a much more enjoyable way to travel.

Not sure what to cook? There are plenty of budget-friendly campervan recipes to choose from.

Tolls and parking 

Travelling between iconic Australian attractions, you may encounter toll bridges. As these can cost between $4 - $9AUD, it's usually worth taking a detour to avoid them. The thl Roadtrip app is a great tool to help plan your route to avoid tolls where possible.

Parking is also another thing you don’t usually have to worry about as a backpacker - so it’s good to be mindful of this when planning your trip. Try parking a little further away from touristy hotspots and walking to your destination to save on parking.

Entertainment 

Travelling in a camper usually means being in more remote locations and smaller towns - so there is not always much to do in the form of entertainment. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy yourself. Take advantage of your house on wheels by:

  • Picking your own music
  • Create your own bar
  • Unwind in camping chairs under the stars
  • Have a BBQ

The sky is the limit!

Save the money you may have spent on entertainment for other camper-friendly activities such as national parks, museums, activities and attractions. Here is a general idea of the price of Australian attractions you can expect to pay:

  • National parks pass - 1 year for $100-200AUD depending on the state.
  • Museum entry - usually free and pay for exhibitions.
  • Zoo entry - around $50AUD.

Camping fees 

Camper parked up at Holiday Park Image Source: thl content hub

While travelling in a campervan, there are plenty of camping options to choose from, all while staying safe, clean, comfortable, and near the action. Some of the most popular options include:

  • Holiday park powered camping sites
  • National park campgrounds
  • Roadhouses
  • Free camping sites

Holiday parks can cost between $25 and $90 per night depending on location and time of year. Averaging around $35 per night, these are a great place to make use of the campsite facilities such as the campground kitchen and laundry - all with the added privacy of being able to sleep in your own space.

National parks, roadhouses and free camping spots are a great option for camping a little more cost-effectively. National parks are a great chance to get out in nature, and stay close to natural attractions, while roadhouses are a great option for a safe place to sleep in outback areas.

It’s good to ensure you plan a mix of powered camping sites at holiday parks/caravan parks and other unpowered lower-cost options. This will give you the chance to charge up so you can keep your fridge going and your camera batteries charged.

Where do most backpackers go in Australia? 

While city centres such as Melbourne, Sydney, Perth and Brisbane are usually a big drawcard for backpackers - they can get expensive quickly. Having a van to travel gives you the opportunity to get out of these tourist hot spots and into the diverse landscape Australia has to offer, including:

Spend your trip immersed in the endless summers and lush forests of the tropical north

  • Venture into the remote towns of the Red Centre
  • Spend your day's beach hopping the coastline, exploring small coastal and hinterland towns
  • All of these can add to an experience-rich, budget-friendly camper adventure

Where should I start backpacking in Australia?

Australian City - Sydney Harbour BridgeImage Source: thl content hub

If you want to take advantage of a campervan during your backpacking trip to Australia, it’s a good idea to begin your trip in a city centre that has a Mighty campervan branch location. Starting in a city centre also means you can pick up all your camper supplies at supermarkets before heading to remote locations. Arrival locations will depend on other factors such as:

  • Your road trip route
  • How long you are going for
  • What season you are travelling

It’s definitely worth planning your trip around the Australian weather and seasons in each location so you aren’t stuck in floods or extreme temperatures.

Is Australia safe for backpackers? 

Australia is a very safe country to visit. It has a stable political system and low crime rates - but you should observe the same precautions you would while travelling to any new place. Travelling in a camper is much safer than hitchhiking - especially on outback roads where reception is limited and towns are far apart. Having a campervan with an air conditioner at night also means that you are safe from the elements such as extreme heat.

Head out backpacking in a van to see more remote and wild places in AU

 Outback road with CampervanImage Source: thl content hub

If you’re looking for more travel inspiration and ways to budget for your trip, you can read more on our blog. But if you’re ready to rent a van to see the remote and wild places in Australia, check out all our latest deals and book your Mighty camper today.

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