Cost Of Living In Australia: Detailed Guide For 2020

For those wondering about the cost of living in Australia, I’m here to answer all your questions from my own personal experience!

When I came to Australia 1.5 years ago, I realized something incredible. 

Living in Australia is affordable!

Australia is known for being such an expensive country.

When I arrived, I had mentally braced myself for the high prices. But the cost of living in Australia was much cheaper than I had imagined. 

So with this article, I’m going to outline exactly what it costs to live in Australia. 

I’ve now lived in a few different apartments in and around Sydney. I’ve also worked a few different jobs and even done my 3 months of farm work in regional Australia. 

My experiences here are varied enough that I think I have a good understanding of how to afford living in Australia as a foreigner

Am I writing this article to try and convince my friends and family from the USA to move over here with me? Maybe. 

Regardless, Australia’s working holiday visa program makes it super easy for foreigners to live and work in this beautiful country.

Even if it’s just for one year, living in Australia is amazing and I highly recommend it to other adventurous people in their 20s. 

Check out my “Ultimate Guide to the Australia Working Holiday Visa” for more detailed information on that topic!

Before I get into what life in Australia costs, I’ll briefly discuss wages and taxes here as they affect the cost of living in Australia.

Everything will be in Australian Dollars. Right now, 1 AUD = 0.69 USD.

Wages and Taxes in Australia

Of course if you want to afford living in Australia, you’ll have to work.

Luckily, there is plenty of work available here in many industries. 

Wages in Australia

The minimum wage in Australia is $19.49 per hour. So for a 38-hour work week, you’ll make $740.80 before tax. 

The average wage for a hospitality worker is $23 per hour. 

The average wage for a qualified tradesman in Australia can be as high as $60 per hour. 

You also usually get extra money for working overtime, on weekends, and on holidays. 

Taxes for Foreigners in Australia

If you’re a backpacker on a working holiday visa, you’ll get taxed 15% of each paycheck. 

If you’re a foreign resident, which I am now that I’m no longer on a WHV, you get taxed 32%. That is A LOT. 

But, even though I’m currently taxed at such a high rate, I can still easily afford living in Australia. 

So even if you’re making minimum wage, and you’re taxed as a foreign resident, you can afford to live in Australia

cost of living in australia swimming great ocean road
Even though I’m no longer a backpacker and I’m taxed 32% of my income, living in Australia is still pretty sweet!!!

The Cost of Living in Australia

I’ll break down this article into a few different categories. 

First, I’ll talk about accommodation/rent. This is usually life’s biggest expense. 

Second, I’ll discuss the cost of eating, drinking, transportation, health care, and other activities. 

I hope this guide is helpful!

Cost of Living in Australia: Accommodation and Rent

This was probably the biggest shocker for me when I moved to Australia: Rent can be super cheap! 

Of course, the specifics vary from place to place, and Australia is huge. 

So my personal experiences with affordable rent may differ from someone else’s. 

But I’ve been lucky to live in some amazing spots without having to spend a fortune on rent. 

Note: Australians pay rent WEEKLY, not monthly. 

Cost of Renting an Apartment in Australia

The average cost of renting an apartment in the Sydney area, in my experience, is between $150 and $300 per week

So that is $600 – $1200 per month. (Many of my readers are American, so just to put this into perspective, that’s roughly 400 – 800 USD per month)

Keep in mind, I’ve been sharing a room with my boyfriend, so we are splitting the costs. If you are on a budget and want rent this cheap, find a roommate!

Personally, I’ve lived either on the outskirts of Sydney, or an hour south of Sydney. If you choose to live directly in the center of Sydney, rent will be more expensive. 

The same goes for living in Melbourne or Brisbane, or in any city. Living right in the CBD will be more expensive. 

Here are some specifics about the rent I’ve paid, for anyone interested. 

Austinmer: $260 per week for one room (Matt and I paid 130 each)

  • 3 bedrooms, 4 other flatmates, Matt and I shared a room
  • Gorgeous apartment with ocean views
  • 1 hour south of Sydney in a relatively quiet neighborhood

Wollongong: $190 per week (Matt and I paid 95 each)

  • 2 bedroom apartment, 1 other flatmate, Matt and I shared a room
  • 10 minutes walk to the beach
  • Just over 1 hour south of Sydney in a small city

Cronulla: $350 per week (Matt and I pay 175 each)

  • 1 bedroom apartment, super tiny old building
  • 1 minute walk to the beach
  • In Sydney, but in a southern suburb so it’s still pretty quiet
cronulla sydney beach
This beautiful beach is right next to my apartment in Cronulla and I’m only paying $175 per week!

Cost of Renting a Room in a House in Australia

Matt and I also rented a room in a house for a month or two on the South Coast of NSW. 

We were able to rent a bedroom in a cozy house near the beach for $300 per week (150 each).

This cost is pretty standard. Lots of people in Australia also have little granny flats that they rent out for a similar price.

Cost of Staying in a Hostel in Australia

If you’re coming to Australia as a solo traveler and you’re unsure of your future plans, you may choose to stay in a hostel instead of finding an apartment or a house. 

Hostels are great for meeting lots of new people, so this is an ideal place to start if you don’t know anyone in Australia.

The cost of hostels here is a bit higher than most countries. 

In Sydney, the average price of a dorm room is around $30 per night. So that’s $210 per week.

Cities like Brisbane, Perth, or Melbourne are a little cheaper. Here, the average cost of a dorm room is $20 – $25 per night

Resources for Finding Accommodation in Australia

Whether you’re looking for an apartment, a spare room, or a hostel, here are some of the best websites for finding a place to live in Australia.

Flatmates

Flatmates.com.au is an amazing website for finding people to live with. 

Here is where you’ll find cheap spare rooms for rent

Generally speaking, sharing the cost of living with roommates or flatmates will make your rent cheaper. 

So if you’re on a tight budget, I definitely recommend checking Flatmates!

This is also the best place to look for short-term accommodation. You can find a room to live in for a few weeks or months without having to sign a lease.

Rent.com.au

If you’re looking to rent an apartment and sign a lease, this is one of the best websites to check.

Rent.com.au shows all the available apartments, flats, and houses around Australia. 

Most places on here require a minimum 6-month lease. So it’s not ideal for short-term accommodation. 

Also, each apartment is listed through a real estate company

So to apply, you have to fill out a lengthy application and communicate directly with the real estate. 

But if you’re looking for a good, secure place to live in Australia, this is the way to go. 

Real Estate

Realestate.com.au is pretty much the same as Rent.com.au. 

It’s just another website option for finding apartments for rent in Australia. 

Hostelworld

If you’re looking for hostels in Australia, or anywhere else in the world, this is the best website to use. 

Hostelworld.com allows you to find the most affordable hostels in any part of Australia. 

You can also read reviews from other travelers to find the best, top-rated places to stay!

Worldpackers or Workaway

If you want the cheapest accommodation in Australia, consider doing a work exchange.

You can work in exchange for free accommodation. This is a great way to meet locals and save lots of money. 

Check out my “Ultimate Guide to Work Exchanges” for more details on how that works. 

Facebook Groups

The last resource I’ll list for finding accommodation in Australia is Facebook. 

There are lots of Facebook groups for backpackers in Australia. Sometimes people post if they’re looking for roommates or if they’re renting a room. 

Some popular groups include Australia Backpackers 2020, Backpackers Australia, and more. Just do a quick search on Facebook and you’ll find tons!

In addition to the backpacker groups, check university Facebook groups for the city you want to live in. 

Students are always looking for roommates, so that’s a handy way to find a room for rent. 

Wollongong harbor cost of living in australia
I found my apartment in Wollongong through Flatmates.com.au. Such a good website for finding cheap places to rent!

Cost of Living in Australia: Food

Food is another thing that I expected to be more expensive in Australia. 

Obviously, eating out is more costly than cooking at home

If you dine out on special occasions instead of every day, the cost of living in Australia is much cheaper.

I’ll get into the details about how much things cost, and how to find the most affordable food in Australia.

Groceries

Grocery shopping in Australia can be super cheap if you know where to shop and what to buy. 

Australia has a few major chain food stores where most people shop.

Each one of these often has deals and discounts where you can get select foods for super cheap. 

After living here for a while and shopping countless times at every store, I’ll describe each one and list the best deals!

ALDI

This budget grocery store is in many countries. In Australia, it is definitely the cheapest place to buy food

I try to do most of my shopping at ALDI, as they almost always have the cheapest stuff. 

A jar of peanut butter is $3.99, a kilogram of hummus is $4.99, beans and chickpeas are 85 cents per can. (When converted to USD, these prices are even cheaper!)

ALDI always has weekly deals where certain fruits and vegetables are insanely cheap. 

Woolworths

Known as Woolies to the Aussies, this is probably the most popular food store. 

Woolies also has weekly deals and discounts on random food items. Just look for the bright yellow tags that show marked-down prices.

I have a Woolworths rewards card that I swipe every time I shop here, and sometimes I get discounts because of that. 

IGA

This is one of the more expensive grocery stores in Australia. 

BUT, they randomly have deals that make certain foods super cheap. I love to check here and only buy the stuff that’s on sale because otherwise, it is pricy. 

IGA often has sweet potatoes, kale, and chocolate bars on sale for less than half of the price of Woolworths. 

Coles

Similarly priced to IGA, I rarely shop here because it’s the most expensive food shop. 

Farmer’s Markets

Local farmer’s markets are scattered all around Australia. 

When I lived in Wollongong, there was an amazing Friday morning market that I loved to shop at. 

The produce at markets is usually organic, so it’s more expensive than ALDI or Woolworths but it’s higher quality. 

The most important lesson about grocery shopping in Australia:

Moral of the story: constantly shop at different places to find the best deals. 

You can buy food for quite cheap if you’re always on the lookout for discounts! 

Usually, I spend about $60 per week on groceries. If I feel like treating myself more, I’ll spend around $75 or $100. 

cost of living in australia food Vegemite
Save money in Australia by eating most of your meals at home.

Dining Out

There are some incredible restaurants in Australia. But dining out often will definitely put a dent in your wallet. 

When people travel to Australia for holidays, they tend to eat out more. So I think this contributes to the stereotype that Australia is super expensive. 

But if you’re living in Australia long-term, eating out only a few times a month will make the cost of living in Australia more affordable. 

Here is an idea of what food may cost in cafes and restaurants in Australia:

  • Bacon and egg roll: $10
  • Avocado toast: $15
  • Full breakfast: $20
  • Pizza for one person: $20
  • Thai curry: $12 at lunch or $15-20 at dinner
  • Burger: $10 at lunch or $20 at dinner
  • Takeaway sandwich or wrap $10-$15
  • Seafood, steak, or another nice dinner at a nice-ish restaurant: $25-$35

Notice that some things are cheaper at lunchtime. Lots of local restaurants in Australia have lunch specials where certain meals are cheaper!

Also, tipping is not required in Australia. You can tip if you want to, but it doesn’t have to be much and it isn’t expected. 

Cost of Living in Australia: Drinks

Drinking in Australia is expensive, especially compared to other countries. 

Similar to food, buying drinks from the liquor store is much more affordable than drinking out in bars and restaurants. 

Hard liquor is super expensive! I recommend sticking to beer and wine if you want to live in Australia affordably. 

But the most popular drink in Australia is coffee.

Most Aussies I know will happily buy a coffee every day. Luckily it’s not too expensive, and the coffee is really good here.

I’ll now list the standard price of drinks in Australia. 

Alcohol

  • Bottle of wine from a liquor store: $8 – $12 for a cheap one, $15 – $30 for a nicer one
  • Glass of wine in a bar or restaurant $8 – $10
  • 6 pack of beer from a liquor store: $25
  • Bottle or tap beer from a bar or restaurant $7 – $10
  • Bottle of hard alcohol from a liquor store: $50
  • Mixed drink in a bar or restaurant: $12
  • Cocktail in a bar or restaurant: $18

Coffee

A standard, medium cup of coffee like a long black (Americano), latte, cappuccino, etc. always costs between $4 and $5. 

So if you drink coffee every day, you’ll spend about $30 on coffee per week. 

coffee cafe Melbourne Australia
A cup of coffee in Australia is usually $4.50. Most locals drink 1 or 2 coffees a day!

Cost of Living in Australia: Transportation

Transportation in Australia is also quite affordable, depending on how you use it. 

If you buy a car and drive everywhere all the time, you’ll spend a lot on car insurance and petrol. 

If you can walk or bike most of the time, you’ll save lots of money. 

For traveling long distances, cheap domestic flights are the easiest way to get around.

Here is a brief breakdown of transportation and how it affects the cost of living in Australia.

Flights

Buying an international flight to Australia will probably be the most expensive thing you buy during your time here. 

From the USA, flights to Australia can be anywhere from $700 to $2000

Within Australia, one-way domestic flights range from $50 to $150 between popular cities. 

The most popular budget domestic airlines are Jet Star, Tiger Air, Scoot, and Virgin Australia. 

Check out my detailed article: How To Find The Cheapest Flights Abroad!

Trains

Within cities, trains are the easiest way to get around. 

A one-way train journey around a city usually costs between $2 and $5 depending on how far you go. 

Most cities have a transport cap, meaning your fare will never increase above a certain amount. 

For example, in Sydney your train fare caps at $16.10 each day. So no matter how many times you ride the train, you’ll never spend more than that in one day. 

On Sundays in Sydney, the cap is $2.80!

Visit the official state transport website to check the exact fares. Since I live in NSW, the Transport for NSW website is super helpful. 

travel Sydney Australia working holiday
On Sundays, you can enjoy unlimited train journeys all over Sydney for just $2.80!

Buses

Public buses within a city cost roughly the same if not a bit less than the trains. 

I just find the trains to be much faster and more convenient so I rarely take the public bus. 

You can take coach buses for long journeys around the country. However, they are still quite expensive and you’ll spend hours on the road. 

For example, a bus from Sydney to Melbourne or Canberra costs around $90 and takes around 10 – 15 hours. 

So I always recommend just catching a cheap domestic flight instead of wasting a whole day on an expensive bus ride!

Cars

I never bought a car in Australia, but according to others I’ve asked, a cheap car can be found for $2,000.

An affordable, standard car can cost between $5,000 and $10,000. An actual nice car can cost $20,000 or more.

There are lots of websites for finding cars in Australia. One of the most popular is Carsales.com.au.

Petrol costs usually around $1.50 per liter, according to my boyfriend. Those who are interested can convert that to USA terms because I have no idea.

Parking can be expensive in cities. I recommend checking this website for a more detailed list of driving and car costs in Australia!

You can also rent a car for road trips, which is a great way to see Australia! A quick Google Search will show you all the local car rental websites.

Bicycles

This is my favorite way to get around. If you live in a coastal area, there are often bike paths along the beach so you can cycle around the area. 

I’ve now bought two different bicycles in Australia, both second-hand for $50

Gumtree is the best website in Australia for finding cheap, used bikes and other things. 

bicycle australia
This used, $50 bicycle from Gumtree was one of the best purchases I made when I first moved to Australia!

Other Living Costs in Australia: Health, Fitness, and Fun Activities

While living in Australia, the majority of your money will go towards the necessities. 

So after paying for rent, food, and transportation, here are some of the other things you may spend your money on. 

Medical Costs

Australians have free universal healthcare. Genius. But as a foreigner, healthcare is still affordable. 

A walk-in doctor’s visit with no health insurance costs around $30 – $40.

Medications are also affordable. For example, 10 days of antibiotics or 4 months worth of birth control both cost me around $20 each. 

A hospital visit costs around $100 – $150. Still way cheaper than the USA!

Fitness 

Australia has lots of fitness studios and gyms. Some are cheap, some are expensive. 

My current gym membership at Anytime Fitness is $15 per week. Last year I paid around $10 per week at Plus Fitness

Those are two of the most affordable gyms, though memberships can get up to $30 or more per week. 

Yoga studios cost around $30 – $60 per week. 

Most yoga studios have intro passes where you pay $30 – $50 for one month of unlimited classes. 

Walk-in classes at yoga, pilates, or other fitness studios are usually around $20. 

Wine Tasting

There are incredible vineyards and wineries all over Australia. 

I’ve done wine tastings in Queensland, Victoria, and New South Wales. 

If you just drive to a winery, it only costs about $5 – $10 for a quick tasting of multiple wines. 

wine tasting melbourne
Wine tasting is a super fun and affordable thing to do with friends while living in Australia!

Surfing

As one of the most beloved sports and pastimes of Australians, surfing is a huge part of the culture here. 

Unfortunately, surfing is one of the most expensive sports there is

Buying your own board and its accessories like fins and a leg rope, and buying your own wetsuit can easily cost between $500 and $1,000

Look on Gumtree and Facebook Marketplace for used equipment that is more affordable. 

You can also rent boards and wetsuits for around $20 – $30 per hour. But if you’ll be surfing often, buying your own second-hand stuff will be cheaper.

National Parks

Most national parks in Australia are free!

So you can go hiking, camping, and exploring for barely any money. 

There are only two exceptions:

Kakadu National Park, the biggest national park in the country, costs $40

Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, home to the famous Uluru, costs $25

Day Tours

If you don’t have a car while living in Australia, you may want to book a few day tours. 

Most organized day trips in Australia cost anywhere from $50 to $300. 

Here are some examples of the best day tours to do in Australia and what they cost:

great barrier reef trip cost of living in australia
Booking a day tour to the Great Barrier Reef is 100% worth it!!

Conclusions About the Cost of Living in Australia

So what’s the takeaway from all of this information? (Sorry, I know it’s a lot of info. I wanted to be thorough!)

The cost of living in Australia is cheaper than most people think!

Visiting Australia as a tourist is expensive. 

When you eat out, drink cocktails, and do lots of day tours, you’re going to spend a lot more than you would traveling in most other countries. 

BUT living here is very affordable. 

You can find pretty cheap rent for decent, beachfront apartments. And there are plenty of resources for finding cheap hostels, work exchanges, and roommates to cut the costs of accommodation. 

You can buy most of your food from budget grocery stores and feed yourself cheaply. 

And if you’re just making minimum wage, which is around $20 an hour, you can easily afford living in Australia and have extra savings. 

So here is what my average week looks like financially:

Expenses

  • Rent: $175
  • Food: $75
  • Gym membership: $15
  • Transportation, or other fun activities: $35
  • Total: $300

Income

  • Around $800 per week, but $600 per week after taxes

So I spend half of my paycheck on the essentials each week. The rest either goes into savings or is spent on fun stuff!

I hope I’ve convinced some of you to move to Australia! Even if it’s just for a year, it is a gorgeous country and it’s more affordable than people think.

☼ ☼ ☼

For more travel inspiration for Australia, check out these articles:

10 Amazing Things To Do In Tropical North Queensland

6 Beautiful Places in New South Wales

East Coast Australia Road Trip Guide (Noose to Sydney)

Great Ocean Road Travel Guide

Grand Pacific Drive: Best Things To Do From Sydney to Kiama

This post may contain affiliate links. Read more about this in my About Me page!

2 thoughts on “Cost Of Living In Australia: Detailed Guide For 2020

  1. JANE ALWIS

    Great work Gabby, so glad you are enjoying my homeland.
    One thing to remeber when eating out compared to the US is that in Aus. tipping is not essential and if you do it is not the obligitory 18% or above – which actually should be calculated into a comparison btn the two countries.
    ALove hearing of your travels!

    1. Thanks for reading, I’m glad you liked it! Your home country is incredible, as I’m sure you know! I did mention that tipping isn’t required in Australia in the food section, as you’re right, that is a huge cultural difference from the USA. 🙂

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