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Australia Has Killed the Budget Traveler in Me

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Originally, I started writing a post about choosing accommodation in Waikiki and how the moral of the story is to look at the prices of accommodation relative to the area you are in. And, Waikiki is an area of expensive taste… well, expensive cost of living (I am told the 2nd highest in the US now after surpassing San Francisco)… so you really have to keep that in mind when wanting a quality hotel.

queen kapiolani hotel

The price of a decent budget hotel in your neck of the woods might be the bottom of the barrel in Waikiki. In other words: Be prepared to splurge a bit on your accommodation budget when in Hawaii so you’re comfortable.

But, then I realized when writing that post that there was a bigger picture post I could be creating. I mean, because a post that talks just about my accommodation (the Queen Kapiolani Hotel to be specific), even when talking about Penthouse suites with wrap-around balconies and sweeping views of the beach, is a bit on the… boring side. Seriously.

Instead, let’s talk about how living in Australia has killed the budget traveler in me.

Yes, it is one thing to evaluate prices for accommodation and travel in general relative to the area you are traveling in, but it is another to evaluate those in relation to the cost of living at home.

Now, the problem here is that I used to be a hardcore budget traveler, especially when I used to evaluate those prices to the cost of living back in Illinois — where food, travel, and the like is quite reasonable.

However, now I live in Australia — the land of expensive things (even bottled water) and my whole perception of what is budget has been shaken around in a box and tossed out on its head.

A $10 acai bowl? An $8 beer? A $100 tour?

They all seem quite reasonable to me now, and I wouldn’t bat and eye in many cases as they are simply close to what we would pay for things here in Sydney.

This is also why those $3 pitchers of beer back in Peoria were mind-blowing for Pat and I. How? HOW is that possible?!

And, yes, we’ll have 5 more of those.

Tour costs, dinner costs, going out costs – where I used to play back in my head how much I could mentally afford to spend, I now tend to roll with it. An extra taxi ride here or there… not a big deal.

It’s all relative now to the cost of living life in Australia, and that, my friends, might be the death of uber-budget-traveling Brooke. Even though I still hate getting ripped off in the cheap countries, and I will tighten the belt when staying under a certain amount is absolutely necessary, I will say that I no longer feel *sticker shock* quite the same.

And that is a big part of what I discovered when traveling in Hawaii. Even though I knew the prices were higher than what you would get in most parts of the US, I simply shrugged my shoulders and told myself that this is the price you pay to live/travel in a placed called Paradise. Geesh… I’ve totally lost my hardcore budget travel edge.

Anyone out there with a similar story to share? Anyone with changed perceptions of budget travel after living in an expensive city for a period of time?

**I was put up in the Queen Kapiolani Hotel free of charge by Hawaii Tourism.

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28 Responses to Australia Has Killed the Budget Traveler in Me

  1. chinamatt February 18, 2013 at 11:16 pm #

    I’ve tried budgeting for trips, and I’ve been good about keeping costs fairly low (though I always splurge for at least one really good meal). In Iceland I knew I’d break the bank–I set a target and tried to keep to that budget in an expensive country. Unfortunately, since I didn’t meet anyone to share a car or hotel room, I went over my budget. I was surprised that not really following my budget turned out alright–I was still close. Definitely wasn’t a budget traveler’s budget though.

    • Brooke February 25, 2013 at 2:02 am #

      Yep, it’s all relative to the place you’re traveling in. What’s the use of going to Paris if you aren’t going to eat tons of cheese and see the Eiffel Tower, right?

  2. George February 18, 2013 at 11:19 pm #

    I totally agree I think it is hard to plan things as well in regards to your income. In Germany I was on 800€ a month. I would happily sleep in airports, or come back at 1am just to save £10, now I frequently pay much more for flights etc to go at times that suit me. I guess I know have more money than time.

    • Brooke February 25, 2013 at 2:01 am #

      Oooh another good point…. the value of time! That’s a big one. I used to budget things off like crazy no matter how much time it took, but now I’m like… “oh I can spend 20 more bucks and not have to sleep in the airport or have a 6 hour layover?… ok!”

  3. Elle-Rose Williams February 19, 2013 at 12:05 am #

    Totally agree with this! We’ve been budgetting for a RTW trip (we set off in 4 weeks) and we begin in Australia. Because of that, I’ve almost automatically overestimated the price of everywhere else accidentally afterwards too – because my head is assuming everywhere else is the same as Oz. I’ve forgotten that not everywhere is super expensive. I think when we get to Thailand I’m going to be like “Everything is SO CHEAP!!” I can’t wait! x

    • Brooke February 25, 2013 at 1:59 am #

      Thailand will be SO MUCH FUN after expensive Australia! I mean, Oz is heaps of fun, too! But when we have gone to Bangkok (albeit for a short stopover), it was like quick — eat that, buy this, jump here, splurge here, no worries! 🙂

  4. Kristin of Be My Travel Muse February 19, 2013 at 5:16 am #

    I just moved to Melbourne after backpacking around Southeast Asia for the past 4 months. I thought my hometown, Los Angeles, was expensive. BOY was I wrong. I still have sticker shock from $4 bottles of water and $3 avocados. Since when did WATER become worth $4? Craziness!

    • Brooke February 25, 2013 at 1:58 am #

      Avocados are so expensive here! It’s a shame… I love me some good Mexican food (as I’m sure you do too!).

  5. IsabellesTravel February 20, 2013 at 4:17 am #

    I remember visiting Australia 10 years ago and it was such an affordable destination, besides from the flight into the country maybe. But the living (accommodation, food) were cheap in comparison with Europe. But now, SO expensive. I agree with the water bottles…what is in those to charge that much?

    • Brooke February 25, 2013 at 1:56 am #

      Water bottles and soda — both shock me in their prices. What a mark-up! But I don’t think my bf ever wants to leave Oz… Just have to deal with it I guess!

  6. Toni February 20, 2013 at 5:45 pm #

    haha Please don’t tell me this 7 months before I’m about to move to Australia for 2 years! And to Sydney of all places! I need to keep SOME money in my back account 😀 I’ve therefore decided not to listen to you and will continue in ignorant bliss 😉

    • Brooke February 20, 2013 at 6:44 pm #

      Good luck, Toni! hehe the money goes easy — you’ll learn ways to work around the cost I’m sure, like investing in goon.

  7. Lauren February 20, 2013 at 8:27 pm #

    Oh, how I feel you on this! Part of it is being in Sydney for several years, and the other is probably getting a bit older. It’s cool to be cheap and scroungy when you’re in your younger 20s. But after a couple years of this, you don’t really want to live on such a tight budget anymore. You want some nice things and the ability to go out and eat and drink, esp. after you’ve been in the workforce for several years.I have changed a lot since I originally came here. We’d never go out if I stuck to my old tight-wad ways.

    • Brooke February 25, 2013 at 1:55 am #

      I definitely thought about adding in the getting older bit to this post. I can see that contributing. I also wonder if it has something to do with the fact that I find myself able to work while on the road — I never quite feel like I’m at a loss for making money if I need to. Living in Sydney is definitely the driving force though… like when you drop $10 on a beer and just go “meh” and shrug your shoulders. Wow — not sure I ever would have done that while living back home!

  8. Beverley | Pack Your Passport February 25, 2013 at 2:24 am #

    LOVE this post Brooke! I am so sick of hearing backpackers moaning about how expensive Australia is. When I first got there in 2010 I did think it was more expensive than living in England where I’m from but when I started working I realised that it’s relative – the wages reflect the cost of living well in Australia.

    I lived in Oz for 2 years and in that time totally got used to paying $7 for a beer and didn’t begrudge it at all!

    Now I live in New Zealand which is equally as expensive but the wages also reflect it. I was never a “proper” budget traveller in the first place (although I do love a bargain, obviously!) but sometimes I think doing absolutely everything on a budget isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, especially when it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity or something you really want to do.

    • Brooke February 25, 2013 at 2:53 am #

      Oh hun, I still complain about the cost of Australia all the time. I’ve gotten used to the cost of living, but I still get angry about it, too. While the wages and whatnot are higher, I still don’t think it covers the cost of living… like now it’s ok, but in the future? A house, a dog, and kids?! Can’t even imagine.

      That said, I do think it silly for people to come to Australia on an uber-tight travel budget… because you have to see the cool stuff here! 🙂

  9. Sofia February 28, 2013 at 2:21 am #

    Being brought up in Sweden, I’m pretty used to high prices as a lot of things tend to cost much more in Scandinavia than elsewhere.

    However, the price difference between New Zealand and Australia did surprise me, but I guess at the same time the salaries are higher in Australia. Still interesting though 🙂

  10. Nienke | The Travel Tester March 3, 2013 at 6:11 pm #

    I know, right! Australia is crazy. Just moved back to Holland after 2 years in Sydney and every time we visit the supermarket or a bar, we can’t stop laughing, tears rolling down our eyes. So cheap! Unfortunately, our pay check will be halved as well again, so the fun won’t last too long I’m afraid 🙂

  11. Eloise @ Am I Nearly There Yet? March 28, 2013 at 6:54 pm #

    We’ve come back to England for a brief visit and I’ve given up trying to live on a backpacker budget. It’s no fun depriving yourself of things that cost more than a £1, because that’s most things in the UK! It’s easier and much more enjoyable to let go a bit more. When we move to Sydney in a few months I hope the prices won’t be too much of a shock for us! (We’ll be flying from China!)

  12. Celia May 10, 2013 at 6:16 am #

    Hahahaha, loved this! This is sooo me. I’ve lived in Denmark my whole life and everything here is SO expensive. Everytime I’ve been in the States I’ve been buying everything! Lol. I’m always like “Wooooow, soooo cheap!!!” and I just buy stuff. Duh.
    And Starbucks! Damn. I drink Starbucks all the time when I’m away from home. Here, a latte would set you back aroung 9-10 $…
    Oh well. Can’t wait to go to South America! Thanks for this. It really made me laugh 😀

  13. Melissa Adams May 18, 2013 at 2:33 pm #

    Ok, you’ve convinced me. I’m never going Down Under. Norway was my worst budget crasher to date.

  14. Sam @ Travellingking.com June 27, 2013 at 9:02 am #

    Australia is fairly hard to travel on a budget!
    Bus tickets cost $4.90!!!
    It makes it hard to budget for other countries or get your head around that other countries can do things cheaper (and better!)

  15. Nikki July 18, 2013 at 11:20 pm #

    OMG this is so true. I am originally from Singapore where I was veryyyyy budget conscious (and where everything is amazingly affordable – SGD $3 (approx AUD $2+) for a good plate of chicken rice, whuuuut?) and when I first came to Sydney, I balked at 600ml bottles of Coke that cost AUD $3.60 and the same chicken rice at a Chinatown food court would cost at least AUD $10 – and it wasn’t even as good! Now after having been here for 3 years, however, I find myself “splashing” money around when I go back to Singapore. Paying an extra 50 cents for a drink at the convenience store instead of walking another 10m to the supermarket where it would be cheaper, convincing myself cabs are so much cheaper and to just take them. It’s sad, really!

    • Brooke July 31, 2013 at 10:18 am #

      Funny story, Nikki! Pat and I were just in Singapore (eating delicious chicken rice) and while most things are cheap – rent is kind of crazy in Singapore!! And things like owning a car. Wowser.

  16. Valeri January 20, 2014 at 2:57 am #

    I’ve yet to go back to Los Angeles (home) since moving to Australia a year ago but I know when that time comes the little things I use to think we’re on the pricey side are going to seem so ridiculously cheap. It was a rude awakening living here as opposed to just holidaying here where I knew what I was getting into.

  17. Cindy March 14, 2015 at 7:24 pm #

    The good thing about growing up in Australia is that places like Thailand are so uber-cheap for me! And in Europe, flights are so amazingly cheap! Unfortunately, air travel to/from/within Australia is ridiculously expensive, so that’s a bummer.

  18. Joanne August 8, 2015 at 6:35 pm #

    Yes, Australia is expensive even if like me, you were born and raised here. Being far away from other continents, I usually find that the single most expensive part of my holidays is the flight cost! That being said, the sheer fact that I have travelled so far to get where I’m going has made me adopt the thinking “well I’ll probably never be here again, so yes I’m going to do (insert “expensive” once in a lifetime activity here)”. I always weigh up the cost of getting back to that place (sometimes $2000+) and suddenly that $350 helicopter flight to the Grand Canyon at sunset doesn’t seem so costly after all! Plus the photos I took made great artwork that would have cost serious $$$$ to purchase!

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