So I’m in Australia on exchange. Awesome right? Absolutely, I’m experiencing the Sydney life, a dream I’ve had since I was a young child. I think it has to do with Australia being so far away from Ottawa, Canada where I’ve always lived, it’s just always seemed like the biggest adventure one could have. I have always wanted to make it to Australia and here I am, I’ve made it. Except I almost didn’t. Because just four days before I was due to take off on my first on-my-own, adult adventure, my student loan office informed me that they weren’t actually giving me what they initially said they were going to give me in financial aid. And so I nearly didn’t get on the plane on February 14th. All of a sudden I wasn’t sure how I was going to pay for my residence, see Australia and New Zealand and possibly get to Asia.
But I got on the plane and came to Sydney regardless, ready to just count every single penny and do as many things as I could on a budget. Settling into residence was difficult as well, the value you would get in Canada for the same amount of money is not what you get here. My room is quite small and shabby and it’s still ridiculously expensive. Thankfully meals are included otherwise I would just be constantly internally screaming.
(Full disclaimer: my parents are super cool people and are sending me funds to make my bi-weekly residence payments! Bless moms and dads everywhere.)
One of the first questions I had upon arrival was how I was going to get around. Not knowing how much I was going to get to travel outside of Sydney I knew that I was definitely going to see everything Sydney had to offer. So I got a reloadable bus and train pass which saves me quite a bit of money since it only costs me about three or four dollars for the 45 minute train ride into Central Business District (CBD), a.k.a. central Sydney. I’ve now been into the CBD five times and I can successfully find my way to Darling Harbour where the wildlife sanctuary and aquarium are located and where Sydney Harbour boat cruises depart from. So it’s an important place to know how to get to. I’ve also scoped out the best and cheapest coffee places to quench that coffee or tea craving everyone gets.
I also looked into student travelling companies so that I could meet people my age, travel with them, and get the most bang for my buck. I looked into local Sydney companies with some simple Google searches and found some amazing deals that will (if everything goes to plan) have me seeing the Great Barrier Reef in Cairns, seeing a koala sanctuary in Brisbane and touring the Whitsunday Islands for under $700 Australian dollars. This price includes accommodation, most meals and all activities, such as snorkeling, swimming with dolphins, zoo visits, a trip through the rainforest, a boat cruise and some complimentary drinks on said cruise. I found these amazing mini-adventures through Student Uni Travels, they have a website and a centre in the CBD and have booklets they hand out based on an individual’s interests.
Now while that amazing price exclude flights, don’t panic! Along with student travel companies there are also some great student flight companies as well as flight companies that just scan for cheap flights. The one I’ve been using to find my great deals on flights is Sky Scanner which searches through (usually) over 40 partner websites to find the cheapest flights. I can get to these places and back for roughly $100 per trip, which is really not too bad when you think about it.
It was also through absolutely amazing student travel companies that I was able to book a 10 day trip to Thailand! I’ll be going on this trip during my two-week study break mid-semester, from April 18th to 26th. On this trip I’ll be taught how to cook an authentic Thai meal, spend a day with elephants, go on a tuk-tuk tour of major temples, meditate and pray, experience a Thailand full moon party on the beach, have a traditional Thai massage as well as sleep in a floating bungalow and take a boat cruise around several islands.
I’ll be getting to visit three major cities, Bangkok, Khao Sok, and Koh Phangan before I come back to school. All of this I’m experiencing for a mere $900, which is roughly $100 a day. Checking out those same cheap flight sites I’ve found return flights for $430 and honestly I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited about anything in my life. This trip is done through Intro Travel and they have similar travels for all sorts of global destinations. Couple this trip with cheap flights from Sky Scanner and you’ll be saving enough money that you’ll be able to actually bring souvenirs back!
So what’s the point of me telling you all about my amazing travels throughout Australia and Thailand? Am I just trying to make you jealous? Ye- I mean no, definitely not. My point is, this trip started out a little rocky and I was really unsure of my financial situation going in. But with some quick research online, talking to local Australians and just a little bit of intense planning sessions, I have planned an absolutely amazing couple of months for myself for not too much money. So my point is yes! You can travel, and see so many amazing things while living well and exploring all on a budget!
Also quick note, the background picture for this article is one I took! Not to toot my own horn, but I think it’s a great photo.