One thing everyone will tell you about Australia is that it is expensive and they aren’t kidding, it really is one of the priciest places I’ve travelled to and it was killing my bank account. It took a few weeks, but after a lot of practice, I found ways to eat out almost every day in Australia on a budget. Everywhere we went we would ask people what we needed to do in those places and almost 100% of the time their suggestions involved eating out. There are so many amazing restaurants in Australia so eating out seemed to become a necessary evil if we wanted to get the full experience.
If you’re like us and hopping from place to place, it can be a huge hassle to buy groceries and spend the time cooking food but eating out will hurt your bank account so what’s the happy medium? Happy hours and daily food specials! Searching for these can be a daunting task so lucky for you, I spent a lot of time researching cheap eats in Australia and today I’m sharing some of these tips with you.
Google is your friend.
This is probably the most obvious tip but after hours searching Google for the best places to eat on a budget in Australia, I wanted to save you the time and share a few amazing websites that I found. Time Out, Broadsheet and The Urban List will become your go-to resources while travelling around Australia. They have different sites for almost every major city in Australia and they share everything from cheap eats under $10 to daily happy hours based on neighbourhood. You can easily search the websites for whatever food you’re feeling and I guarantee you can find a restaurant with some sort of cheap deal. We indulged in a lot of taco Tuesdays and parma Sundays thanks to my searches. These websites aren’t just great for food, you can also find a lot of amazing activities and events here too. Another great resource is Pinterest. Search for cheap places to eat and start reading all of the travel blogs for tips and suggestions in each city you’re travelling to.
Plan your meals ahead of time.
Make a list of all of the daily specials and happy hours you’ve found and plan your days around those restaurants. It sounds silly but it will be worth it and you’ll save so much money while indulging in some delicious food. After searching through all of my Google results, I made a list of must-try places and then we made sure to visit those places only on days that had deals that appealed to us. This is the only way we were able to afford to eat out as much as we did while backpacking around Australia. It took some work to plan out but we had some really amazing meals and in the end, it was well worth the hours spent researching.
Celebrate all of the happy hours.
During our time in Australia, we met quite a few locals who mentioned how much they enjoyed a good happy hour. There are happy hours in Canada but they are not nearly as big as in Australia. Drinks in Australia are very expensive so if you want to have a drink or two, join the party and start celebrating happy hours. I found that almost every restaurant had their own version of happy hour and a lot of them included food specials too. While in Australia, I spent the majority of my time in Melbourne and some of my favourite places for happy hours were Fitzroy Social, Bimbo Deluxe ($4 pizzas!) and Naked for Satan. All three are in the Fitzroy / Collingwood neighbourhood and walking distance to some really great bars and shops.
Make friends with the locals.
Like I mentioned already, Australians seem to love a good happy hour so talk to the locals you meet and I bet you will find some really amazing hidden gems. Not every restaurant is on social media or even has a website, so make friends and ask for suggestions. Whether they offer happy hours or are just great cheap eats, this is one of the best ways to find places to eat in Australia. Who knows their way around a place better than the locals? Another way to find some awesome places is by taking the free walking tours offered in many Australian cities. A lot of the times these tours will end at a pub where you can talk to the people you meet and exchange travel stories and tips. These tours are run by locals or guides who have lived in the city for a long time so they will definitely have some local tips for you. You’ll meet new people, experience some fun places and get to know the cities from a locals perspective.
Get on social media.
Search for places you want to try and follow them on social media. I always go to social media to see what the food looks like and the vibe of the restaurants before we go out to eat. I like to know what I have to look forward to when checking out a new restaurant or cafe. Through my searches, I noticed a lot of places would have random specials (and even some freebies) posted on their Instagram and Facebook pages that weren’t posted on their websites or menus. Some of my favourites were when a new gelato place was opening and offering free scoops or when they were giving away free cups of coffee in one of the Melbourne laneways. My social media addiction came in handy and we were able to try some snacks for free a few times.
Play your travel blogger card.
If you have a travel blog or an active Instagram account, reach out to some of the restaurants you want to try and see if you can work out some sort of partnership. A lot of places will work with travel bloggers or influencers in exchange for coverage. Some things you can offer in exchange for a free meal are blog posts, Instagram stories, photos, YouTube videos or social media shoutouts. It may require a bit of work but it will be fun and who doesn’t love eating for free?
Eating out in Australia doesn’t always have to break the bank. If you’re crafty and flexible, you can easily eat out on a budget almost every day while travelling around Australia. Travelling is about exploring new places and immersing yourself in the culture and more often than not that really does involve food. I know that picking up groceries at the grocery store and cooking at home seems like a much more affordable route, but we were moving around so much that we were wasting a lot of the food we bought. Throwing away food is like throwing away money and it’s not fun. If you’re like me and love to eat, you’re likely planning a trip around various places to eat so I hope these tips help you indulge in great meals without emptying your bank account.