Why you should travel like a backpacker
There are plenty of good reasons why you should travel like a backpacker (even if you’re not). Backpackers are king when it comes to getting good deals but there is no need to turn into one if you want to take advantage of their clever money saving tricks. Whether you prefer to travel in five star luxury or hit the road in search of adventure, there are plenty of ways to save when you know how to think like a backpacker.
While some hard-partying backpackers insist sleep is overrated they all agree somewhere to lay your head is the biggest drain on a holiday budget. Combining what you drive with where you sleep will save you money. Companies such as Britz hire campervans from around $60 per day. You can even get one for as little as $5 per day if you are able to take advantage of a relocation deal.
While spending the night in a park or on the beach is illegal there is no law against sleeping on a plane plus meals are also covered on some carriers in Australia and overseas. Taking the night flight from the east to the west coast of Australia or vice-versa saves on food and accommodation and also has you arriving at your destination bright and early (albeit more red-eyed than bright-eyed).
The fact hostels are often called ‘youth hostels’ is a misnomer as they’re popular with travellers of all ages. While long blonde hair and a cute Swedish accent may help you pick up members of the opposite sex it is not a requirement for entry. We highly recommend backpacking when you’re an adult.
Hostels are also great for local travellers who value clean simple accommodation at an affordable price. Many hostels offer private rooms with their own facilities and some like the Sydney Harbour YHA are in a fabulous location. Join Youth Hostels Australia and you also get thousands of YHA discounts on things like transport, tours, activities and attractions. Wherever you decide to sleep it is almost always cheaper to stay longer.
Ask if there are discounts for bookings over a week, bonus room nights or free add-ons like complimentary breakfast for longer stays and remember – if you don’t ask, you don’t get. Backpackers are not shy when it comes to bargaining and are good at walking away with a smile when the offer is not good enough. It’s true that cheap accommodation is seldom glamorous but it does provide the perfect incentive to get out and explore.
The money you save can be spent at a bar with great views (and happy hour – another backpacker favourite) or on dining out. Speaking of food, no self-respecting backpacker orders room service breakfast. It is expensive and waiting for cold toast to arrive takes time away from sightseeing. Buy breakfast items from the supermarket or nip out to a local bakery instead.
Backpackers are great at sharing information so don’t forget to ask like minded travellers for recommendations on the best places to eat. Lunch is a great time to enjoy a picnic or treat yourself to some takeaway. Backpackers are more interested in the overall atmosphere than posh surroundings which makes sense as memorable meals tend to revolve around time and place and good company. A simple meal eaten on a beautiful beach often beats fine dining (and always beats two minute noodles).
If you do fancy eating out look for local favourites, especially crowded out-of-the way places that are always packed, as they will likely offer good value and excellent food. Guide books covering Australia are popular with budget conscious visitors from overseas but they’re also a great resource for local travellers. There are specialist guides for foodies, families and everyone in between.
For example, a return taxi trip from Sydney airport to the city is around $100 whereas the train is a third of the price plus you beat the traffic. Half day passes, multi savers and off peak tickets save even more as can taking the bus instead of the plane. With Greyhound you get to see the country (and admittedly far too many roadhouses) for a bargain price.
Backpackers have an uncanny ability to seek out the best our country has to offer: a cold beer at a great Aussie pub, watching the sunset on Cable Beach, swimming at Bondi or just soaking up the atmosphere wherever they happen to be. If travel plans don’t work out they see it as an adventure rather than a disaster and simply come up with another plan. These savvy budget travellers do spend money but they spend it wisely. Why do backpackers always look like they are having so much fun? Because once again they’ve managed to find the best deal in town and cannot wait to enjoy it.