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I thought my trip to Australia was going to be the trip of a lifetime. I mean, it looks like a paradise! I’m pretty sure everybody in the UK has daydreamed about living in Australia at some point.
The thing is though, I made a lot of mistakes on my trip.
SO. MANY MISTAKES.
And as someone whose trip planning often borders on the obsessive, I have no freaking idea what was going through my mind as I “planned” this trip (air quotes because, as you’ll soon find out, not much actual planning went into this trip at all). Normally, I can recite 200 years’ worth of a country’s history and almost know my way around their public transport networks before I even land.
Well, maybe a slight exaggeration, but you know what I mean.
But Australia? When I landed in Australia I was absolutely clueless. Having barely planned anything, I was well and truly going to wing it.
I could blame my lack of preparation on my crippling levels of work stress leading up to the trip. I could blame it on the fact that my anxiety over the 25 hours of flying was kind of blotting out the entire trip for me. I could even blame it on pure laziness.
But at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. Mistakes were made.
There’s no point in me keeping the mistakes I made on my first trip to Australia to myself, though! Here’s a list of all everything I did wrong on my 2 week trip to Australia. I made these mistakes so you don’t have to, and learnt loads of useful tips for backpacking in Australia along the way!
I didn’t budget properly
Ah, here we are again. This is the part where I remind you all that I’m
a massive cheapskate very budget-minded when I travel, and that, yet again, I regret being so stingy frugal on my trip.
Here’s the cold hard truth. You don’t need a lot of money to travel in Australia. You can get by on the bare minimum, just like you can in any other part of the world. But nobody wants to travel halfway across the world to sit in their hostel eating super noodles every night and only going to see free attractions! So, to make the most of your time in Australia? You need a good amount of money.
Let’s preface this by saying that my trip to Australia was just two weeks. Yup, I flew 25 hours from London, spent 2 weeks on the East Coast of Australia, then flew the 25 hours back. I couldn’t take any longer off from work, and I didn’t want to put Australia off until retirement when I would finally have “enough time” to visit. So I just went for it!
But I should’ve budgeted my trip better, and allowed myself splurge on things that would be worth it.
$400 tour of Fraser Island? Nah.
Snorkelling at the Great Barrier Reef? Absolutely not.
A trip to Uluru? I’m not made of money!
If you’re travelling in Australia for like, a year, you have all the time in the world to eat super noodles in your hostel and still tick off all of Australia’s bucket list attractions, and I’m very jealous of you. But if you’re visiting Australia for just two weeks (or, like one absolute madman I met there, 8 days) you gotta splash the cash to make your trip worth it!
The lovely irony is that I realised about one week in that my cheapskate mentality was ruining my trip. l ended up changing my plans (and therefore losing money on pre-booked hostels) to go on that expensive Fraser Island tour after all.
Guess what, though? That tour of Fraser Island was hands down THE BEST THING I DID IN AUSTRALIA!
If you’re heading all that way, make the most of it! I promise you won’t regret it. This is one of my most important tips for backpacking in Australia – don’t be afraid to splurge on those once in a lifetime activities. Delay the trip a few extra months so you can afford some of those bucket list experiences. Budget your trip realistically. Do you want to make that huge long journey just to do mediocre stuff? NO!
I travelled solo
A controversial one here.
I see Australia featured on sooo many lists of “best countries for solo travellers” but I’m going to unfortunately disagree. I’ve travelled solo in 7 countries, and it was 100% the hardest for me in Australia.
I don’t think I’m necessarily right, though. If you’re going to Australia for a year I’m sure solo travel there is a blast, and infinitely better than going with people you know. Australia is full of long-term travellers and it seems really easy to build a community.
Going to Australia for just two weeks, though?
When I’m only travelling for two weeks, I’ve made sure to go away with enough money to go out for dinner, drinks, brunch and so on. I want to have a good time. I have the money to have a good time (well – within reason!), and I want to meet like-minded travellers to do this with. If you’re travelling long-term, like the vast majority of the backpackers I met in Australia were, every penny counts. On my entire trip I think I only managed to find people who wanted to go out for dinner or drinks THREE nights out of the 14 I spent in Australia.
I get it – travel in Australia is expensive, and if you’re wanting to stay there awhile you can’t be splashing the cash! I guess I just expected hostels to have more people actually travelling rather than living there for a couple of months on their working holiday. It was really tricky making friends in hostels, and it was near impossible to find anybody who wanted to go out and explore during the day because they were all working!
I really do feel like unless you’re planning to travel Australia long-term you should go with somebody else. And as a huge fan of solo travel, I doubt you’ll ever hear me say that again!
The truth is, I was lonely in Australia. Especially during the day, when the travellers I had managed to make friends with were at work. Add to that the crazy time-difference back home in the UK, I basically didn’t speak to anybody from 10am until 6pm each day. Not ideal!
I travelled too slowly
I know, I know. Every travel blogger in the world is telling us to slow down, to embrace slow travel, to really get to know a place.
And I don’t want to label myself as special, but I think a trip like mine is the exception to the rule. I made the 10,000-mile journey to Australia knowing full well I only had 2 weeks to see and experience as much as I possibly could of the country because I had no idea when I’d be back.
Slow travel when you have plenty of time? Absolutely. Slow travel when you know you can return anytime? Hell yeah!
Slow travel on what could potentially be a once in a lifetime trip? In my experience? No!
I wish I had crammed my itinerary as jam-packed full as I possibly could, and came back home even more exhausted than I already did. Because I would have experienced way more of Australia than I did.
I built so many beach days into my itinerary. I love the beach. Who doesn’t? But sitting on the beach for the second day in a row (by myself, again) and realising I should’ve moved on to the next destination already had me wanting to kick myself.
Fun fact about me: I find it impossible to relax. I’m probably a nightmare to live with because I have to be DOING SOMETHING at all times. I find relaxing stressful. Three whole days on a beach with nothing but my own thoughts was less than ideal!
I think short trips across long distances are the perfect exception to the slow travel rule – take your itinerary and fill every last second with amazing things to do!
I went back to work the day after I got home
Yeah. This one was a classic self-sabotage.
But it felt like such a waste to use a day off just to sleep off jet-lag and recover from my mammoth journey home (which was around 32 hours door-to-door). I didn’t want to waste a day at home that I could spend in Australia!
But you know what I spent that final day in Australia doing?
Dreading the fact that I’d have to go to work pretty much as soon as I got home, and inevitably after very little sleep. I landed around 5pm, got home around 6, and went to work for 9:30am the morning after.
God, that week at work was unbearable.
I felt sick the entire week. I was exhausted, zoned-out from the jetlag, unmotivated, and probably the least productive I’d ever been. When I told people why I was so tired they thought I was nuts. Who does that to themself?!
I know the temptation is to give yourself as much time as possible at your destination – even if that means sacrificing your sleep, health and sanity. I thought so too. But let my mistake be a lesson – don’t do it! If I had had a day at home to recover from my trip, I’d have returned to work well-rested, would have been able to enjoy my final day in Australia without worrying, and would have had time to reflect on all the amazing experiences I had in Australia before returning to the office!
Instead, I fought to stay awake every day and had absolutely no time to even think about my trip. Fancy working 12 hour days and then spending your evenings tackling the mountain of post-trip laundry? Me either. It was a surefire way to get post-trip depression, and one of the dumbest mistakes I made on my first trip to Australia.
Probably the most important of all my backpacking in Australia tips is to give yourself time to recover from the flight home!
Check out more of my Australia posts!:
• The Coldest Swim of my Life at the Bondi Beach Pool
• Is It Worth Visiting Nimbin, Australia?
• An Amazing Day Trip to Moreton Island from Brisbane!
• 10 Unmissable Things To Do In Bondi, Sydney
I didn’t research enough
Surfers Paradise? Hell yeah, who wouldn’t want to visit a town with such a swoon-worthy name?
Most people, as it turns out.
In my mind, Surfers Paradise = surfing, and good surfing. Right? Right?? That’s reasonable to assume??
Well, if I had spent more than 2 seconds researching this part of my trip rather than just blindly adding two days there to my itinerary, I would’ve realised that, on paper, Surfers Paradise actually sounds like my own personal hell.
First up, it turns out the surf at Surfers Paradise isn’t actually very good. Like at all. Nobody goes to Surfers Paradise to surf.
Secondly, unbeknownst to me, Surfers Paradise is the party town of Australia – think Australia’s answer to Blackpool, if you’re from the UK, or some spring break resort in Cancun if you’re not. Huge clubs, drinking at all hours, tacky souvenir shops… You get the idea. The perfect location for a girl who hates nightclubs!
Thirdly, Surfers Paradise was just… not paradise. It was dirty. The beach was not great. There weren’t really any tourist attractions.
So why, why why? WHY did I do this to myself?! Me, the girl who typically plans and replans her itinerary 100 times?! Why did I randomly pick some towns in Australia and decide to wing it?!
So many questions, no answers.
As it turns out I actually had a great time in Surfers Paradise, and I definitely made the most of it in my own way (mostly thanks to my awesome hostel!), but it wasn’t exactly an effective use of my limited time in Australia. It was a great example of poor planning.
I underestimated how big Sydney is
Hmm, which neighbourhood should I choose in Sydney?
Ah, let’s go for Bondi! I’ve heard the surfing is great and there are loads of things to do there. I’ll have the beach on my doorstep! Perfect.
Yep. That was pretty much my exact thought process when deciding which neighbourhood to base myself in for my 4 days in Sydney. And I loved Bondi. The only problem was getting into central Sydney from Bondi was a mission. It took almost an hour to get to the Opera House! And don’t even remind me of my trek home from Manly beach. This was all valuable sightseeing time I lost on public transport.
I wish I had done more research (I’m sensing a theme here…) and realised just how big Sydney is. If I would have known, I’d have still definitely stayed in Bondi for a couple of nights, because it was just so darn fun, but I would’ve then moved to a more central hostel to get my tourist on.
My expectations were so damn high
Australia. The promised land. A tropical paradise.
I was a victim of my own expectations. I had some of the best travel experiences of my life in Australia! It’s truly beautiful, I fell in love with its coffee (Australians take their coffee VERY seriously) and I know I’ll return someday to do the bucket list activities I didn’t get around to the first time.
My expectations were so high that there was just no chance Australia could ever live up to them.
I thought just being in Australia was enough. That just wandering around town would be life-changing and getting the Greyhound bus would be incredible and I would come home desperate to quit my job and get a Working Holiday visa.
You see what I mean? How on earth could catching a bus be incredible?
But yeah, I was so convinced that I would want to live there that I was obviously disappointed when I left Australia vowing I would never, ever want to do a Working Holiday Visa (for countless reasons). And the most surprising thing of all was that Australia didn’t feel all that different to the U.K. Sure, it was sunny, and the accents were different but I expected to feel 10,000 miles away from home.
All of my best experiences in Australia happened when I got away from the cities and explored its stunning natural beauty. The cities themselves just felt like they could’ve been any other city. It was getting out into nature that made me truly feel like I was in the Australia of my imagination.
I spent too much time in cities
Like I just mentioned, I discovered that Australia’s nature is out-of-this-world, and its cities felt kind of… meh to me. If I had known this before I made my itinerary it would have ended up completely different!
Reading through my travel guide for Australia, I was like “huh… that’s weird. It looks like there’s pretty much nothing to do in Brisbane?! Surely they must be wrong…”
They were not.
Cities in Australia are fabulous jumping-off points for tours of the amazing nature in Australia, but (in my opinion) they’re not, by themselves, worth travelling 10,000 miles for. This might sound like I’m hating on Australian cities, but I promise I’m not (apart from Brisbane. God it was boring there). Sydney was great. I even quite liked the Gold Coast, in its own way.
The thing is though, I doubt there are many cities in the world which, on their own, are worth travelling 10,000 miles for – with some very rare exceptions.
I’m so glad I got away from the cities and into nature, and wish I had done it more. One of my essential tips for backpacking in Australia is to get out of the cities! If I travelled all that way and just spent my time city-hopping I would have been SO disappointed!
I hope you enjoyed this and learnt a few tips about how to make your backpacking trip to Australia as epic as possible! Despite making 8 pretty big mistakes, I did overall have an amazing time in Australia and can’t wait to return – hopefully without making any mistakes next time!
Did you make any mistakes on your trip to Australia? Do you have any tips for first-time visitors?
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