It may not be as difficult as you think. We've put together 25 ways to help you save money on every aspect of your trip to Australia, including info on cheap eats, discount cards, fun freebies and more.
1. Do your homework. One of the biggest expenses of any Australia trip is the airfare to get there. As you hunt for bargains, don't forget about V Australia, which began service between the U.S. and Australia in 2009 and in a recent search beat all other roundtrip Los Angeles/Sydney prices. Get started with our Sydney travel deals.
2. Time your visit. Airfare is typically most expensive between December and February, which is summer in Australia and the most popular time to visit places like Sydney and Melbourne. You'll likely find lower fares during the shoulder seasons: spring and fall.
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3. Consider an air pass. Qantas offers a seasonal Walkabout AirPass that includes roundtrip airfare to Australia as well as three domestic flights within the country. Prices are based on season and how far you plan to fly within Australia. For more options (including passes that are also valid in New Zealand and the South Pacific), see our story on Air Passes.
4. Keep your focus. Australia is enormous -- nearly the size of the continental U.S. You wouldn't try to see the entire U.S. in two weeks, so don't attempt to do it in Australia either. If you have limited time for your trip, fix your sights on one or two regions and explore them thoroughly -- you'll have a more relaxing experience, and save both time and money on transportation.
5. Consider a cruise. The recent economic slump has led to discounts within the cruise industry -- and if you're looking to see a variety of destinations without having to unpack more than once, a cruise is a cost-efficient and convenient option. A few examples: We found a 13-night Princess Cruises cruise in November from $1,299 per person and a 14-night Holland America cruise in November from $1,399 per person. These rates include accommodations, meals, entertainment and transportation from each port to the next. P&O Cruises Australia is another affordable cruise line to consider.
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6. Look for freebies. Australia has a wealth of museums and attractions that don't charge admission fees -- like Sydney's Museum of Contemporary Art and Brisbane's City Botanic Gardens.
7. Buy a discount card. You can purchase a SmartVisit Card for popular tourist destinations like Sydney, Melbourne and Tasmania. The cards include free entry to many area attractions, as well as special offers and discounts, for a single price. These cards may save you money if you're doing a lot of sightseeing in a short period of time.
8. Lock in your rate. The exchange rate has worsened for Americans over the past year. The USD was once significantly stronger than the AUD but as of this writing is now worth only $0.98 AUD (see XE.com for the latest rates), and it's not clear where rates will go in the future. The best way to control costs and stick to your budget is to prepay for your hotels, airfare and tour packages in advance -- preferably in U.S. dollars -- so that last-minute currency fluctuations don't send your budget ballooning.
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9. Skip the exchange counter. You'll get the best exchange rates by using your credit card or withdrawing money from an ATM; that's because you'll be exchanging money at interbank rates, which tend to be 2 to 5 percent better than the rates exchange bureaus charge. ATM's can be found just about everywhere in Australia except the most remote towns and villages, and credit cards are accepted at many stores and restaurants. But beware of fees -- most banks will charge you to withdraw money at a foreign ATM or make a purchase in a foreign currency. One exception is Capital One, which doesn't charge its American cardholders a fee for foreign purchases. For more information, see The Best Way to Carry Money Overseas.
10. Negotiate a better deal. Haggling is always in style at Australia's open-air markets -- you can negotiate great deals at places like Paddington Markets, the Rocks Market and the Bondi Beach Market, all in Sydney.
11. Get a refund. If you purchase $300 AUD or more in goods from a single retailer, you are eligible for a refund of the goods and services tax (GST) that you paid on those items. You must get an original tax invoice from the store where you made the purchase and present it when you depart Australia. For more information, visit Customs.gov.au.