Planning Your Trip to the East Coast of Australia

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Sunset over the ocean

Planning a huge travelling adventure can feel like a really daunting task before you get started. It always feels like there's so much to consider - where to go, how to fit everything into your budget, how long you should spend in each place and how to get from A to B. It can feel unbelievably overwhelming when you realise how much there is to consider. The good news is that the East Coast of Australia is one of the easiest trips to plan, making it the perfect route for your first travelling adventure. A lot of people who travel the East Coast end up doing very similar routes to each other, as you're all either working your way up the coast or down. This means you'll never be short of people to travel with and advice on the next place. I learnt a few tips and tricks while I was navigating the East Coast on how best to plan your trip.

The Whitsundays

Dividing your time and where to stop

The East Coast of Australia is pretty huge and it can be tough to figure out where you want to stop along the way. The good news is that most people travelling up the coast tend to do the same route, so there'll always be another person who you can discuss itineraries with if you're stumped on where to go next. Before you go, I would definitely recommend making a list of the towns and cities which you don't want to miss on your way up, but be prepared for this route to change along the way.

If you're unsure on where you should be spending your time, it's worth chatting to a travel agent either in the UK or when you arrive in Australia about where to stop. Many hostels in Australia have their own travel desks who can give you advise on this sort of thing, and also help you to book on to any tours which you want to take. They'll also be able to help with booking your transport and hostels if you need them to. As well as these travel desks, it's worth keeping an eye out for stores such as Peter Pans, Backpackers World Travel or Happy Travels while walking through the towns/cities in Australia, as these places can all also help you plan your trip, and they usually have free wifi too!

Another thing to consider is how long you want to stay in each place. It's important to have a rough idea of where you want to go, just to make sure that you don't run out of time before you reach your final destination. There's nothing worse than staying in one place for too long and then having to rush the rest of your stops! This is another thing which you can discuss with travel agents. One piece of advise I would give is to not let them talk you into booking your entire trip with them straight away. I found it best to just book things a week or so in advance, as this meant I had much more freedom while travelling. The only things you'll need to book further in advance will be the bigger trips such as Fraser Island or The Whitsundays, which often get booked up faster.

fairy rockpools in the whitsundays

Planning your budget

It's difficult to know how much money you'll need to take with you when you go travelling, but what I quickly learnt is that it's always good to take more than you're expecting than you'll need, as it can be easy to run into hidden costs along the way which you weren't anticipating before. The best way to plan out a budget for your East Coast trip is to write down a list of all of the places you want to visit and the 'bucket list' things which you'd like to do while you're out there (like skydiving or scuba diving) and also figure out how long you'd like to spend travelling up the coast. You'll also need to consider things like hostel costs (usually around £15-25 a night in Australia), transport and food.

I made so many silly mistakes along the course of my trip which led me to losing money, and it sucks, but it can very easily happen when you're travelling and planning such a huge trip out. Plans can change quickly along your route and you may end up spending more money than you were expecting to on last minute changes. It's a good idea to have a little extra in your budget for incidents such as this, just so you're prepared and can continue to travel comfortably.

swimming pool at Bondi Beach

Picking your accommodation

There are so many different options to consider when you're deciding where to stay whilst travelling up the East Coast. Depending on what you feel most comfortable with, hotels and Airbnb's may offer you more privacy along the way, but they'll cost you much more than hostels or couch surfing would. It's also much harder to meet other travellers if you're staying in a hotel, as the majority of people on the east coast do opt for the cheaper option of staying in hostels.

I decided that I was going to stay in hostels the whole way up the coast, and it is a bit of a daunting experience when you first consider it! It feels like there's something so unnatural about sleeping in a room full of strangers, but the truth is, it's really not as weird or difficult to get used to as it seems. Most hostels offer a variety of different sorts of rooms, so you can opt to sleep in the type that makes you feel most comfortable. You can often choose from sharing a 4 bed room, right up to a 10 bed in some hostels. Usually, the more people in the room, the cheaper it is, so do make sure you consider this while planning your budget!

Many hostels also offer single sex rooms, as well as the usual mixed dorms. I stayed in both single sex dorms and mixed dorms on my way up the coast, and I often found the mixed ones more fun. It's definitely personal preference, but I'd recommend trying a different type of room in each hostel you stay in, just so you can experience the atmosphere! One thing to remember is that most hostels have very helpful reception desks, so if you do find yourself in a room which you really don't feel comfortable in, it's so easy to get moved into a different one straight away.

When it comes to booking hostels, there are a few different apps which I used to make this process easier. Unlike hotels, you can leave booking your hostels until pretty last minute. I booked most of mine on the day, or the day before - doing it this way instead of booking consecutive hostels far in advance meant that I was free to do whatever I wanted on my trip without having to stick to any timeframes. If you get to one place on the coast, fall in love with it and decide that you want to stay there for an extra week, there's nothing stopping you from doing so! I did travel the East Coast in the off season, so if you're travelling in the height of Australian summer when there are more travellers about, it may be worth considering whether you need to book things slightly further in advance to avoid places selling out.

My favourite app for checking out which hostels seemed the best in the next place I'd be stopping was Hostelworld. This one gives you ratings on all of the best hostels in the area, as well as a list of the facilities they offer and reviews from other travellers. and Hotel Tonight also have apps which offer similar services, however I did find that these were tailored more towards hotels than hostels. The best tip I can offer though, is to find the hostel which you want to stay in via one of these apps, but then book your stay directly through that hostels website. They often offer cheaper rates, as you're not having to pay the middle man too!

Sunset over the beach in Sydney

Getting from A to B

There are two main ways that people opt to travel the East Coast of Australia - by bus or by car. Some people who I met along the way did fly between locations, but this is probably most cost effective if you're only planning to stop at a few locations along the way. If you want to make your way up (or down) the entire coast with multiple short stops, buses or cars are the way to go.

When I think of the perfect travelling experience, hiring a campervan and hitting the road seems like the most exciting way to do it. You have no timeframes to stick to and no limit on how long you can stop in a place. It also offers you somewhere to sleep if money is tight and you don't feel like forking out for hostels all the time. However, there are a couple of things to consider before hiring a car or van to take you up the east coast. Firstly, it's not something which I would recommend to solo travellers. The distance between the towns and cities on the East Coast of Australia can sometimes be up to a 13 hour drive, which would be incredibly lonely and tiring to try navigating alone. It's also worth considering how much money you would be saving when driving the coast, as fuel costs and overnight parking costs would be two things to add to your budget.

Myself, and most of the other solo travellers who I met in hostels along the way, decided to make our way up the coast via bus. There are two major bus services which operate across Australia, both of them offering packages for travellers - these are Greyhound and Premier. I opted to travel with Greyhound, who sell a hop on hop off pass which allows you to get on and off buses as many times as you like between two destinations (I travelled between Sydney and Cairns, travelled for about 50 hours over the course of 2 months, and hopped on and off around 15 buses). For me, this was the most affordable way to travel. I booked most of my buses through the greyhound website a day or two before I was due to move onto the next place, making my trip feel really flexible. Another bonus of the Greyhound and Premier buses is that you'll often be hopping on a bus with the same people who you met in your hostels, or even who you met on your last bus. Because most people opt to stay in each place on the coast for the same amount of time, I ended up seeing some other travellers on almost every bus I got on!

So those are just a few tips which may make life a little easier when planning your trip up or down the East Coast of Australia. If you have any other questions you'd like to know the answer to, leave a comment or send me a tweet and I'll pop it in the next post!

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