Finding accommodation in Australia

3Hostels and “working hostels
Table of contents :
Accommodation options for your first nights in Australia
Hostels and “working hostels
Renting an apartment or a room
Vandwelling, or living in your vehicle
Free room and board with WWOOF, HelpX or WorkAway

Hostels and “working hostels

The typical hostel experience

Hostels are often a cheap and practical option for travellers—they are ubiquitous in Australia and generally very central or ideally located, so you can explore the city easily.

Hostels usually have several rooms packed with bunk beds (“dorms”)—you’ll find 4-bed, 6-bed, 8-bed, 10-bed, 12-bed and even occasionally 16-bed and 20-bed dorms. The more beds, the cheaper the dorm is (… and the noisier it is!). Dorms come in two versions—mixed or same sex. There may be a couple of private rooms with shared bathrooms as well, but you can get a cheap hotel room for the same price.

But, but… what about your stuff? Won’t it get stolen? Generally not, because everyone is in the same boat and the honour system applies. However, if a safe or a locker is available, you may want to use it for your valuables. Tip: bring a lock with you, it’s going to come in handy!

Hostels usually have a shared kitchen—clean up after yourself and label all food you put in the fridge! Make a list of a few easy meals before you leave home—pasta, fried rice, curry, shakshouka, etc.—to save money and eat healthy while travelling.

If you want to meet other solo travellers, experienced backpackers, and fresh-off-the-plane WHV holders, hostels are the place to be (read Julie’s article, “In my hostel”!). You’re likely to get first-hand travel or job-hunting advice and you may even find a mate for your road trip.

Never stayed in a hostel before? No biggie, neither had plenty of backpackers until their first night on the top or bottom bunk! Just go with the flow, follow the rules and ask if you have a hostel etiquette question.

With experience, you’ll learn to recognize the different kinds of hostels—party hostel, giant hostels with hundreds of beds, smaller family-run place with just a few rooms. Hostels are usually listed in travel guides or you can book your bed online on websites like Booking or Hostelworld.

Hostel prices in Australia

It depends on the city, the location, the number of beds, etc. Generally speaking, expect to pay between $20-$30/night. Prices go up in large cities, touristy places, for smaller dorms and in hostels with plenty of amenities.

Hostels may have a slightly cheaper weekly price—expect to pay between $130-$200/week. Ask the hostel directly if a discount is offered for longer stays.

Note that Wi-Fi isn’t always free, although you may get a few complimentary hours or megabytes. Check before booking.

The dark side of hostel life

No, nothing as bad as Hostel, the 2005 horror flick. However, living with dozens of perfect strangers isn’t always easy:

  • It does feel weird to sleep in the same room as a bunch of strangers, especially at first. Some people are very discreet, tidy and respectful, others not so much. Different cultures also see privacy differently—some travellers are okay with getting dressed when others are around while some will lock themselves in the bathroom. Tip: introduce yourself and get to know your dorm mates, so that they won’t feel like complete strangers!
  • You’ll see plenty of “clean up after yourself!” signs in hostels—hopefully everyone cooperates, but the shared kitchen and bathrooms can be a bit of a mess sometimes. Tip: bring flip-flop shoes to wear indoors!
  • The more beds are packed into a room, the noisier it can get. Between that guy who snores loudly, the two girls who are packing at 5 a.m. because they’re catching an early flight and the new friends who barge in drunk at 3 a.m., you can potentially get less sleep than new parents with a baby. Tip: bring earplugs and an eye mask (drunks just love turning on all lights to find the right bed…!).
  • Two scary words—bed bugs. These small, brownish insects about the size of an apple seed come out at night to bite and feed on human blood. Infestations can be a real issue in hostels, where people come and go all the time and may be carrying them without knowing it. This is why hostels generally provide bedsheets and pillow cases and won’t let you use your own sleeping bag. Tip: bring your towel, though, otherwise you will have to rent one!

The three main Australian hostel networks

There are plenty of independently run hostels, but chances are, you’ll spend a few nights or more in hostels affiliated with the following networks:

  • YHA (Youth Hostel Association): With 70 hostels throughout the country, this is Australia’s largest network of budget accommodations. YHA Australia is a membership-based, not for profit association. Joining is easy, you will automatically get a membership when you check in for the first time. Your membership unlocks plenty of discounts, so it’s good to stay at the… ahem, YHA. All YHA hostels have a shared kitchen, self-service washing machines and occasionally, a swimming pool and a travel agency.
  • Nomads World: Affiliated hostels are located in the top East Coast destinations, between Cairns and Melbourne (Cairns, Airlie Beach, Noosa, Brisbane, Byron Bay, Sydney, Melbourne and St Kilda).
  • Base: With 20 affiliated hostels in Australia’s top backpacker destinations (Sydney, Melbourne, Airlie Beach, Magnetic Island, Hobart, Perth, Darwin, Alice Springs, Cairns, Mission Beach, Noosa, Byron Bay, Agnes Water, 1770, Emu Park, Rainbow Beach, Hervey Bay, Surfers Paradise and Coffs Harbour).

Base and Nomads teamed up to offer a multi-night flexible accommodation pass, the “Bed Hopper.” You can buy up to 60 nights of accommodation in hostels affiliated with either of the two networks for $1,680 (i.e. $28/night).

Working hostels

Working hostels look like hostels and offer the classic experience—dorms, a shared kitchen, etc. However, they are usually located in towns or in rural areas, close to farms, and they help backpackers looking for work (transport to the work site can also be arranged, for a fee).

Here’s the deal: you sign up to stay at the hostel while you work, and the hostel helps you find a job (usually farm work). The hostel owner puts you in touch with either a local farmer or a contractor (a middleman between the farmer and agricultural workers) and in theory, it’s a win-win situation where demand meets supply.

However, there are issues with working hostels:

  • In a few cities (e.g. Mildura, Bundaberg, etc.), you can only find a job if you stay in a working hostel. No farmer will hire you directly.
  • Despite the “help wanted!” ad, you may have to stay in the hostels for weeks before getting a job.
  • Contractors can offer very low wages and you won’t have much left after paying for your bed and groceries.

It’s best to contact farmers directly and avoid relying on working hostels, where you’re “paying back” the “networking favour.”

If you do want to try the working hostel experience, beware and follow these tips to avoid tricky situations:

  • Watch out for the “fake job scam”! Don’t send money for a deposit when some hostel halfway across the countries promotes “great job opportunities.” Many backpackers have been scammed after spotting an ad on websites like Gumtree. This is how it works: to get the job, you must send a $100-$200 deposit to secure equipment or your bed in a working hostel. But once you get there, the hostel doesn’t exist or the owners have never posted an ad on Gumtree… and the scammer is spending your deposit. Read “Backpackers, beware of this scam” for more info.
  • Check current, local work opportunities, especially harvest dates, to avoid spending weeks in a working hostel until the fruit-picking season starts.
  • Don’t forget to read reviews on the working hostel. You will have to live there for a few weeks, after all, and it’s a good way to spot scams or terrible work opportunities. Just take reviews with a grain of salt because people tend to be more vocal when something went wrong.
  • Chat with other backpackers to find legit work opportunities and working hostels. Recent, first-hand experience is precious! Then, share your own experience and tips on our forum.

Can I live in a hostel for several months?

Why not? It’s been done before! Backpackers typically live in working hostels for a few weeks, and even in regular hostels, it’s not unheard of to see travellers staying there for a while.

If being around strangers coming and going doesn’t bother you, there’s no maximum-stay rule! Tip: try to find a hostel that offers you a free bed for part-time work. You will still have enough free time to look for a job and you will stay rent-free.

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Cofondatrice de, j'ai fait 2 PVT, au Canada et en Australie. Deux expériences incroyables ! Je vous retrouve régulièrement sur nos comptes Insta et Tiktok @pvtistes avec plein d'infos utiles !
Cofounder of I went to Canada and Australia on Working Holiday aventures. It was amazing!

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