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tayls May 15th, 2004 09:06 AM

fastfood/foodcourt prices in oz
Hi all,
Been reading your tips and advice on oz travel and found some of your suggestions wonderful.

My family and I - 4 adults, 1 kid and 3 teenagers - will be going to sydney & melbourne towards the end of this month. We need to budget carefully. So we're thinking more of grabbing quick bites affordably and spending our money more on sights and such.
Would be most grateful if any of you could offer some insights into the price of fast food and/or foodcourt dishes in sydney/melb.

Thanks in advance!

margo_oz May 15th, 2004 10:51 AM

An average (very average) quality meal on a food court will cost in the vicinity of $6-8, without drinks. Maccas is similar.

With a group of that size, would you be better to look for apartments, and prepare your own food? Make lunch before you travel. By things like drinks in supermarkets, and chill.

Judy_in_Calgary May 15th, 2004 11:03 AM

Hello Tayls,

Here is a thread entitled "Ten things I liked & disliked about Australia" in which this issue was discussed. The thread went all over the map with praise and criticism of Australia and some defensive responses. You may find it boring to wade through it, but buried in there are some good suggestions about more budget-oriented districts in which to eat in Sydney and Melbourne, and general suggestions about keeping your food bill within reason.;tid=34468804

Some points to keep in mind. A couple of these were mentioned in the referenced thread.

* Australians typically do not tip in restaurants. When I lived there I was so used to tipping in North America that I felt downright guilty about not tipping, so I tipped anyway. However, if you're on a tight budget you might seriously consider skipping tips.

* Although they are on the decrease, there still are BYO restaurants left in Australia to which you can bring your own wine.

* Each city has cheaper districts in which to eat. Ethnic restaurants often are more reasonably priced. In Melbourne, Chinatown, Lygon Street and Richmond (Vietnamese) are more reasonably priced than most.

* I don't recall this being mentioned in the referenced thread, but when we travel on a budget, we have hearty breakfasts and lunches and light evening meals. Even here at home in Calgary, it's cheaper to have lunch at a given restaurant than it is to have dinner there.

* Building on the idea that Marg_oz has mentioned, we take a collapsible cooler with us from home, and have picnic breakfasts in our hotel room and picnic lunches while we're sight seeing. For example, if you were going to drive along the Great Ocean Road from Melbourne, you could pick up a couple of salads, some cold meats or cheese, and bread rolls from a deli or the deli section of a supermarket. At various lookout points along the way, you'll find picnic tables. You don't even need picnic tables. You can just sit on the grass to eat. We did that several times. Marg's idea of a self-catering apartment is a good one too.

* When friends of ours (2 parents and 3 young adult children) visited Melbourne, they stayed in a hostel in St. Kilda, which is on the beachfront, not very far from downtown. I don't know the name of the place, but they were very satisfied with it. They had the use of a communal kitchen in which they could prepare their breakfasts (and I believe their dinners too if they had wished). They also had the use of a laundromat. On top of all that, it was inexpensive by Melbourne standards.

* Check out Melbourne's Smartvisit Card, and figure out if it would save your family money compared with paying standard entry fees to individual attractions:

If you're on a tight budget, it's valid to be extra cautious about your food bill, because "good" restaurants in Australia are more expensive than their counterparts in the U.S. If you plan carefully, however, you can get by with less money than many other travellers spend.

Many beautiful and interesting sights in Melbourne are free, e.g., City Circle Tram, Queen Victoria Market (closed Mondays and Wednesdays), Bourke Street pedestrian mall, riverbank walk in Southbank, Fitzroy Gardens, Kings Dolmain (gardens), Royal Botanical Gardens, Shrine of Remembrance, walking along the foreshore in St. Kilda. The list goes on.

I rarely hang out at the Lonely Planet discussion forum, but it's more "adventure" oriented than Fodors (which is to say its membership includes more backpackers and budget travellers). If I were you, I would have a look over there as well, if you haven't already done so.

Hope this helps.

Judy_in_Calgary May 15th, 2004 11:14 AM

P.S. If you ride the Puffing Billy steam train through the Dandenong Ranges, you can take a picnic lunch with you. There are nice picnic facilities at the Lakeside and Gembrook stops.

SusanInToronto May 15th, 2004 01:57 PM

With 3 teenagers, I'm sure you're used to spending a lot on food!

You didn't say where you were travelling from. I'm quoting prices in AUD (same as the CAD).

We were just in Australia visiting my husband's mother. With the current exchange rate, I found food prices somewhat higher than here in Toronto, with some items quite high. In general, brewed coffee doesn't seem to exist - it's all espresso based coffee so it usually seems to cost about $3 for a coffee. Not even a mug, just a cup. So if we had a couple of coffees and a pastry or bagel for breakfast, it was easily $9 each. Everywhere we stayed we had a kettle, so we ended up buying a French press and some good coffee, so we could make our own. That way we didn't have to go out for breakfast - just pick up a pastry the day before. The so called Aussie breakfast (full breakfast) was anywhere from $9 up to about $14.

Desserts were also fairly expensive. Often dessert in a restaurant would be $9 or more. (We rarely order 2 desserts for the 2 of us anyway.) Ice cream (gelato places are everywhere) was about $4 for a cone at a take out place.

fivestargirl May 15th, 2004 03:28 PM

Processed food, prepared food,takeaway food, and restaurant meals in Australia are a little expensive.

Most of the above attract a GST.

Fruit, vegetables, fish, and meat,are very inexpensive compared to most other countries.

Two loaves of grain bread, eight butter portions, a kilo of tomatoes, a lettuce,a cucumber,a packet of cheese, eight slices of leg ham, and there's a big lunch for eight.

Two loaves of gain bread $6.00 eight butter portions $1.60 1 kilo of tomatoes $5.00 a large lettuce $3.00 1large cucumber $1.00 1 packet of cheese $5.00 I kilo of sliced leg ham $15.00 2 kilos of bananas $5.00 8 pure orange juices $9.60

Total cost for lunch for eight people $6.40 pp.which this morning in US dollars is about $4.40.

Family picnics along the side of the road are always great fun in Australia and you save loads .

Stop by a river, a mountain top,
a beautiful beach,or a cane farm.
All of a sudden lunch becomes a memory.

A family enjoying a three day drive along the GOR, staying in an apartment in Cairns for several days, and an
apartment in Sydney for a couple of days can save enough money to pay an airfare from the states, just by
purchasing some of the worlds most nutritious, wholesome and enjoyable food.

Prices will vary from one region to an other.

For instance at the markets in Cairns tropical fruits are very cheap, (ie) bananas will cost $1.00 a kilo.

If you are in Wagga Wagga in N.S.W. you will find fruits like cherries, apples and pears much cheaper than
in Darwin.

Australia offers an abundance of fresh foods.

While driving along country roads you can buy stuff direct from the farmer.

In most of the larger towns you will find markets which sell the local produce much cheaper than the super market,although supermarket prices for fresh foods are not really expensive.


marg May 15th, 2004 04:19 PM

As well as all the good suggestions already made, here's some more.
Most Asian restaurants have take out food at cheaper prices than eat-in. The clubs have reasonable food at reasonable prices - visitors need to sign in at the reception desk and then have use of the club's facilities. A lot of clubs have very cheap meals at lunchtime - we've had a cooked meal for as low as $2.50 each.
Try the bakeries for meat pies - usually about $3 each. Also most of the bakeries make fresh sandwiches.
Look at the back of your cash register receipts for two-for-one offers at local restaurants.
Try the local fish and chip shops.
Ask at your accommodation for recommendations - the locals usually know which club/restaurant has discounted meals.
When you are in Melbourne, visit the Queen Victoria market for great fresh food and lots of other goodies to buy.
GST is included in prices in Australia - not added on after as in USA.
SusaninToronto - what is a french press? I presume it is some kind of coffee maker but I've never come across that term before.

Judy_in_Calgary May 15th, 2004 04:54 PM

Hi Marg,

I think what Susan calls a french press is what you may call a plunger, although my memory is fuzzy on this point. Anyway, here are photos that illustrate the concept:

SusanInToronto May 15th, 2004 05:40 PM

Yep, French press would be the same as a plunger. We picked it up at a hardware store but I'm sure you can find them anywhere.

tayls May 16th, 2004 01:46 AM

Thank you all for your very helpful suggestions. The price of the average quality meal at the food courts looks within our budget - we were thinking of about AUD$10 - $12 per head per meal. I will certainly look into stocking up for breakfast or for picnic lunches as well. The price of fresh food looks very, very decent.

Marg, you mentioned lunching at clubs. What kind of clubs would these be? And don't we have to pay a fee upon registration?

Also had a look at the link Judy sent (thanks, Judy!)and it does have some good tips - like the hearty Oz breakfast for less than AUD$7 each! But she sounded somewhat negative in general. I certainly wouldn't mind being called "mate" or anybody walking barefoot for comfort - though I won't try it myself! Will definitely check out the lonely planet website as well.

While browsing through this forum, one traveller mentioned paying AUD$14 for a buffet meal in the Crown Casino. That sounds like a good valaue deal. Have any of you tried it before?

Mucky May 16th, 2004 06:55 AM

Hi Tayls,
Australia was certainly much cheaper to eat out than here in the UK.
We ate in life guards clubs always had great cheap meals and drinks and some fun with the regulars.
I can honestly say that the best value meal we ate in australia was at Hard Rock cafe, I know its classed as junk food in many peoples eyes but it was really good value absolutely delicious and not expensive at all. There are usually vouchers knocking around in tourist books which allow about 20% off the bill there too.
Drinks for the children were great as they refill the soft drinks for no extra cost. We recently visited the HRC in Cardiff and it was not a patch on either of the Sydney one or Melbourne.
But with the size of your party make sure you have an apartment and cook for yourself as the ladies said earlier, it is probably the real answer to your question.


tayls May 16th, 2004 07:39 AM

Hi Muck,

Unfortunately, we won't be staying in any apartment where we can cook in Sydney or Melboune. But with the amount of sightseeing places to visit in just 5 days' Sydney and another 5 in Melbourne, we won't have much time to cook either!

On the upside, my sister managed to get us pretty decent hotel rooms through her timeshare allotment. We'll be staying at the Sydney Boulevard, which, according to the map, is within walking distance to HRC! And if the hotel's website is to be believed, it's also within 10 - 20 min walking distance to QVB, darling harbour, etc. That's why I'm looking at foodcourts! Especially since they'll have a variety of food to cater to everyone's tastes ... and possibly lessen the chances of us battling over burgers or cooked meal!


Mucky May 16th, 2004 08:50 AM

Hi Tayls,
Yes it looks like your within easy walking distance of the HRC the one in sydney is not so big and you may have to wait a while for a table, especially with a large party, however give it a go its great. First time in Oz in 1999 we stayed at the Marriot overlooking Hyde park,it looks like your not very far away from there. The location was great and not stuck in the middle of the main tourist spots which tends to hike the price up.
HRC in Melbourne is just as great but about 3 time bigger than Sydney and there was live music on at both and it really was great.

Have a great time


Alan May 16th, 2004 01:04 PM

Hi, tayls!

I've come in rather late on this thread, and I admit that I haven't read all the above responses in detail, so some of what I am about to say will probably just be a repeat. (All of what follows is about Sydney -- I don't know any addresses in Melbourne, and I admit that the last time I was there our family ate hot last-minute chicken from a supermarket, nothing else being easy to find.)

There are various food courts in Sydney and suburbs where, if you know what time to go, you can get a filling meal at a throw-out price. My favourite at the moment is right down the lowest floor of the Queen Victoria Building, where one of the pie shops reduces all its hot pies (normally around $AUD5.50; I assure you, one pie is a filling meal for an adult) to $2 at around 5:30p.m. Their sweets (fancy French cakes, etc) go down to $1. There are chairs and tables nearby. A family of six can eat their fill for under twenty Aussie dollars. A short stroll away, the Asian take-away meals in the food court under Centrepoint come down to $AUD4 at around the same time, or a bit earlier. In the suburbs you can get last-minute specials even cheaper... maybe a box of fancy donuts which would provide sweets for the whole family for $4. It's just a question of knowing where to go and what time. I haven't been into the lower-level food court at Chinatown in the last year, but twelve months ago, one could fill a plate with anything and everything on the menu there for $6, if you went near the end of the day (say, after 6 p.m.). Big supermarkets (like Coles and Woolworths) often sell full roast chickens, hot, for four dollars.. you could take one back to your hotel and rip it apart and make a complete pig of yourself.

You don't need to pay for registration at any of the clubs... you just tell them that your home is more than a few miles from their premises and they will give you a temporary membership card. Children are not allowed in near where the poker machines are, but the bistros are family affairs. The best-deal clubs, once again, are out of town, in the major suburbs like Blacktown (where you serve yourself for as long as you like from a rather stunning array, for $AUD11.00)or Ashfield (where one club used to have a two-course lunch meal every day for -- I kid you not -- $1, drinks not included. These clubs are a bit like Las Vegas casinos -- their main income is from the poker machines, so to lure you in there, they offer food at less than cost. Alas, the ones right in the city have succumbed to the willingness of the tourist to part with big bucks for a meal, so they are rarely the good value they once were. The Catholic Club in the city USED to be a bargain paradise, but lately the prices have started to copy restaurants -- and, in fact, the dining room now looks just like an upscale Chinese restaurant.

I guess the point I am making is that you don't have to spend a lot of money to eat well in Sydney, as long as you don't think that "eating well" means being served by a waiter and perusing a fancy wine list. Choose a time when the booths are almost about to close, and then pounce (Thursday night, unfortunately, being late-night shopping, sees these food courts stay open until 9 p.m., so they usually sell out of food at full price well before closing; that's the night to hit one of the clubs). Actually the whole idea of hunting down last-minute food can be quite fun.

One last thing -- don't forget to "splurge" on one night at Harry's Cafe de Wheels when you're in Sydney. Not the cheapest place in town, but still you won't spend more than twenty-five dollars altogether -- and it's a bit of a Sydney icon.

Peteralan May 16th, 2004 04:06 PM

Tattersals Club or NSW Leagues Club in the city will get you relatively inexpensive bistro style meals and you can buy wine and beer by the glass. If you are a visitor you can gain a day admittance without any trouble or payment. There is a good food court above Paddys market ( take the escalator or lift)...reasonably priced and features foods from many different countries. Another spot..still ok but maybe a little dearer is under Myers department store in Pitt Street in the city.

tayls May 16th, 2004 07:52 PM

Alan, you're godsent! I have copied your very precise suggestions and saved them into my "Sydney" file!

PeterAlan, thanks for the tip. I will check with the hotel for directions to the clubs you mentioned. And I'll most definitely be checking out the foodcourt above Paddy's since we plan to visit there.

Well! I'm getting really quite excited now 'cos all your suggestions have made this forthcoming trip so much more real...and less of a worry vis a vis food costs! Only 10 days more before we fly ...I can almost taste it! Thanks again EVERYONE. You've all given me such invaluable help. Guess I should start saying:

Cheers, MATE(s)!


prue May 16th, 2004 09:06 PM

If at all possible request rooms on a high floor at the Boulevard Hotel - it is right in the centre of extensive construction work at present and I think the noise level could be pretty awful close to the street.

Alan May 16th, 2004 10:52 PM

Hi, again, tayls!

I didn't know, until checking the post just above, that you were staying at the Boulevard... while it's not the greatest of areas, the hotel does have one advantage re the question of budget food: it's only six minutes' walk (up the hill to Taylor Square, then one block to your right)from Govinda's, where you can help yourself to as much Indian Vegetarian as you can eat for a bargain basement price. Try it at least once! (Kids love it, and you can even see a movie there in the adjacent theatre, where you lie on cushions on the floor).

tayls May 17th, 2004 01:30 AM

Hi again,

Construction work, Prue? And not a good area, Alan? Oh dear, should have logged on to this forum much, much earlier to check. I scoured the internet to read some reviews on the hotel and those I found were quite favourable. The only other choice my sis has is the Quality Hotel SC at corner of Elizabeth and Goulburn. Is that any better? Quality Hotel is rated 3 stars while the Boulevard has 4 stars - hence our choice. Wonder if it's too late to change my accommodation plans. My sis has already paid the hotel surcharges to her timeshare.

Alan May 17th, 2004 04:17 AM

Hi, tayls!

Don't fret too much about the location of the Boulevard... the thing to remember here is that Sydney is really a very small city. Every time I say that, someone jumps on me and reminds me that it is a city of four million people, but hardly anyone actually lives in Sydney... it's not like New York or Rome. There are miles and miles of dormitory suburbs that take up to an hour to get to by car or train, but you wouldn't normally go near them (except for cheap food!). The part of Sydney you want to see is all within an area about a mile and a half square. So, while the Boulevard isn't in a great place -- mid-way between the CBD and the infamous King's Cross -- you can walk to all the "better" locations in five or ten minutes, so what's the big deal? And, anyway, the Boulevard is only a couple of blocks from the Australian Museum, and you have got kids....

Also, you can look on the Boulevard as a history lesson, if nothing else. It's quite famous, you know. In 1974, it was about the last word in luxury in pre-tourist-mecca Sydney, and when Frank Sinatra and his entourage came out for his notorious concert, he stayed in the Boulevard. His party took up a whole floor -- I think the twenty-first. Well, they almost never got out of the hotel! The Australian Press, who always liked to find some dirt on poor old Frank, ever since he disappointed them by cancelling his tour here way back in 1957 (because the promoters wouldn't pay for songwriter Jimmy Van Heusen to accompany him), were out to get him from the moment he arrived. His first concert gave them the opportunity they were after. Not only did he refuse to let them interview him, but he joked onstage about the Australian press being two-dollar hookers. Well, that did it; their union complained to the Council of Trade Unions, and before you know it almost everybody was "on-strike". The lighting people threatened not to light his next concerts (one actually did get cancelled, in Melbourne), the airport refused to fuel his plane, and his party couldn't even get room service at the Boulevard! For a few days the Boulevard was on the front page every day, until, inevitably, Frank's press agent sort of made a conditional apology, everyone shook hands, and the show went on... and, would you believe it, Mr Sinatra, in no way contrite, got up at the very next concert and launched into another tirade about the press, this time insulting the unions as well! Thankfully, by that time, everybody was a bit weary of the whole sorry spectacle, and nobody reacted much, except for a few hurt-feelings journalists (one, a little more light-heatred than the others, wrote an article raving about his concert, the closer of which was, "For you, Frank, it would only be one dollar."

Well, you didn't open up this thread to read about ancient history, so I'll shut up and get off... but it was a fun time, I can tell you, for a mad-keen Sinatraphile like myself!

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