Written by Alice McLeod on 09 / 11 / 2023
Gap Year Advice
We all know someone who’s either been on a gap year to Australia or would like to. Even here at Leap HQ we’d jump at the opportunity to backpack around Australia, but is it really all it’s cracked up to be? Has it earnt its reputation as a gap year paradise, or should you be looking at other options instead? We’ll give you some of the pros and cons of backpacking in Australia so you can make your own judgement about whether or not it’s the best fit for you.
Culturally Australia is very similar to the UK; if anything, it’s like the cooler, laid back younger brother. You won’t have to learn a new language in order to get by (although prepare for some Aussie slang that you might not have heard before), the currency is easy to get your head around, and on the whole cultural values are similar to what you're used to back home. If you haven’t done much travelling before then it’s a great “soft-landing” to start off in and build your confidence before pushing yourself a little further out of your comfort zone.
Australia is a well-trodden gap year route, and thus has all the infrastructure needed for backpackers. You’ll find hostels galore, and easy ways to travel up and down the country. It’s easy to find tours, such as those to the Whitsundays or Uluru, and often the best place to find information on these is in your hostel. Hostels aimed at gappers will have tour operators that they recommend or partner with, but also ask your fellow travellers for their recommendations too and do your own research online before committing to anything. You can read our 3-4 Australia itinerary here.
The biggest drawback of Australia is the cost. Expect the average cost of a night in a hostel to set you back around £25 (compared to around £6 in some South East Asia countries), and eating and drinking out is also pricey. There is also the cost of getting there. Australia is about as far from the UK as you can get, and a return flight is well over £1,000. Whilst there are ways to save money here and there, your money won’t get you as far as it would in other parts of the world (read our top five places to backpack on a budget here)
Australia is as vast as it is beautiful. There are so many bucket list places to see, from the Great Barrier Reef to Sydney Opera House, and you really can’t go all that way without ticking them off. Oz not only offers a range of terrains and scenery, but is a gateway to other countries like New Zealand and South East Asia. We’d highly recommend visiting at least one SE Asian country to provide a contrasting experience to Australia, whether that’s flying home via Vietnam, or spending a few months slow travelling through Asia - read our 3 month Asia itinerary here.
Your location may also mean that you feel more isolated from friends and family back home than you would if you were in a similar time zone to the UK. You're guaranteed to meet loads of new people and make tonnes of friends whilst you're out there, esecially if you stay in hostels, but don’t discount how jarring it can be to be on completely opposite time zones to everyone back home; just know that the first few days might be rough as you deal with jetlag and finding your feet in a new country, but you’ll be settled and thriving before you know it.
One of Australia’s biggest draws is the opportunity to apply for a working holiday visa and earn some cash to fund your travels. This does require some prior planning though. You need to apply for your working holiday visa before you enter Australia, it lasts you 12 months, and it will cost you AUD635 (roughly £330). There is some good news though, from July 2024 you’ll no longer have to do a period of ‘specified subclass 417 work’ in order to apply for a second working holiday visa – great news if you end up stay in Australia longer than you anticipated (and who would blame you?). You’ll also need to set up an Australian bank account and get a Tax File Number before you can get a job, but there’s lots of companies that can help with things like that if you don’t fancy doing it alone. Getting a job in Australia can be a great way to meet new people, fully immerse yourself in the Aussie lifestyle, and earn some money. Win-win.
So there you have it, a few things to keep in mind if you're planning on adding Australia onto your gap year travel plans. There are both pros and cons, just as there are with any country. Here at Leap HQ we think it’s a fantastic place to go as a gapper, with so many beautiful places to see and a laid-back lifestyle you're sure to fall in love with. It also links nicely with so many other parts of the world, and is a great country to kick off your gap year. If you have a serious phobia of spiders it might not be the place for you though...
How long does it take to get to Australia? Be ready to sacrifice an entire 24 hour travel day to get to Australia. You don't have to do the whole thing in one go though, consider splitting up your journey by spending a few days in somewhere like Singapore to help beat jetlag and stop the journey feeling so daunting.
How long should you spend in Australia on your gap year? Unless you're planning on getting a working holiday visa and getting a job out there, we recommend planning at least a month in this huge country. There truly is so much to see, but most people end up either going up or down the East Coast and it would be a shame to rush it! Take your time, go with the flow, and prepare for a life-changing experience.
How much should you budget for a gap year in Australia? This depends on whether you're planning on staying in hostel dorms or expensive hotels, how you plan on getting around the country, and what big-ticket items you want to do. As a rough guide, expect to spend at least £1,500 a month.
How easy is it to get paid work in Australia? Restaurants and bars are always looking for extra staff, as are farms. The work might be hard (especially if you're doing labour on a farm in rural Australia!) but the pay is often good, and in some places food and board is also included.
on 09 / 11 / 2023