Outrageous food prices in Australia!

Old Nov 6th, 2010, 04:08 PM
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Outrageous food prices in Australia!

We just returned from a great two and a half week trip 'Down Under.' We stayed in Melbourne, Ayers Rock, up on the Great Barrier Reef and finally, Sydney. We really enjoyed the people and the great spirit of Australia; however no one told us how expensive eating out in restaurants would be!! It even made the evening news while we were there. Everything is ala carte and easily twice what we normally pay for food eating out in the U.S. For example: $24.00 for a hamburger-not a cheeseburger just a plain ol' hamburger with nothing else. Sea food or a steak was $45-$65 a piece-again ala carte- if you wanted a salad that was another $15 (average) plus then something to drink. We figured that if we ate a normal breakfast, sandwich lunch and then a nice dinner, food costs would've run easily $250-$300 a day!! People ask if we bought souveneirs-no, we spent our money on food! We stayed in nice places and bought a box of cereal ($7-$10 dollars and milk for our breakfasts to keep costs down. Our travel agent was surprised when we told her this- she had been in Australia a few years back and said at that time she and her friends feasted on the inexpensive seafood and such-Has that new tax raised everything? What is to blame for these off the charts prices?
obonnie is offline  
Old Nov 6th, 2010, 05:47 PM
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We were in Australia - Ayers Rock, Alice Springs and Brisbane - in July, and did not find the prices as excessive as you mention. We ate out most nights, and the most we paid for a steak at a top quality hotel was $30, and salad was less than $10. Admittedly we did not eat dinner out at Ayers Rock - primarily because I was not able to walk very far because of an injury - but didn't think prices were too horrendous when we scanned the different restaurants there.
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Old Nov 6th, 2010, 06:48 PM
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Prepare to be attacked (not by me). Someone is sure to pipe in that prices may be higher, but the price you see is the price you pay, no tax or tip are added on top, therefore, you're paying about the same as you are in the US. Bollocks.

<however no one told us how expensive eating out in restaurants would be!!>

I would have told you, if you'd asked.

Australia is definitely not a budget destination, although it need not completely break the bank. Ever wonder why there are so many self-catering accommodation options here?

Food prices in tourist areas are naturally more expensive than in non-tourist areas. This is just a fact of life, no matter where you visit.

There are many reasons that just about everything costs more in Australia, some valid, some not-so-much, but I'll leave that for the Aussies to explain.

For what it's worth, we went out for dinner here in Perth with a work group this week. Although I've grown accustomed to the high prices here, I was still surprised to see the menu - $51 for a steak (no sides), $3 for the peppercorn sauce for the steak, $9 for a side of mashed potatoes, $4-5 for a few rolls, $19 for desserts, etc. And on top of all that, the food was medicore and the service wasn't up to scratch.

Needless to say, I won't be going back there.
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Old Nov 6th, 2010, 09:36 PM
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Melnq8 those prices are outrageous. $ 51 for a steak, that must have been some high class restaurant, or thought it was anyway. We went out last night to the Lonestar Nelson, the mains averaged $ 30.00, desserts were $ 12. The mains did have salad and chips, but I still thought that was high. I must say when we have visited Australia we haven't pad those sort of prices.
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Old Nov 6th, 2010, 09:38 PM
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Food prices are always the killer on any trip. Try $20-30 for a bowl of soup in Iceland!

Restaurants have an image to maintain and are often quite expensive. Pubs, clubs and cafes tend to be cheaper although not much in some areas.

The Australian minimum wage is $15 dollars and hour which accounts for some of the cost. Land tax is another issue as well.

Coming from the country, we find Melbourne prices fantastic at local suburban restaurants. Even the city has some very good and very cheap restaurants.

Mel - the relvolving restaurant in Perth is good value for a classy restaurant - $200 for the two of us. The food and service was brilliant. Far superior to the revolving restaurant in Sydney
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Old Nov 6th, 2010, 11:23 PM
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It is the real estate.This country is addicted to real estate and people will pay a million dollars for an ugly dump. It makes no sense. Tourism area the real estate is even more over priced so the restuarant often has to pay outrageous rents. Then small family owned (often interesting cheap ethnic places) are forced out of business leaving it to highly expensive places that use tricks to get people in the door. So it is real bad problem and in Cairns has been a huge news issue. If I go out to the tourism places I show my id and they usually give me 25-40% off the bill for being a local.

The other problem, and I do hate saying this, but Australian have no taste. They think they are being posh if they pay a lot for food and it gives them bragging rights. They do not actually have the ability to judge a great meal so a clever chef just makes out they are new trend and the sheeple will pay. What happens when working class people get paid well.

However usually bargains exist, but very often they are where people live and this can cost extra for traveller negating the savings.
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Old Nov 6th, 2010, 11:50 PM
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Rubbish. Wherever did you eat!? There is absolutely no need to pay those prices, especially $24 for a hamburger! If you had done more research you would have been given much cheaper options. I do agree that the food here is more expensive than in the US but as mentioned above we do not have the compulsory tip/taxes. Nevertheless you were unnecessarily ripped off. I recently holidayed in NYC and was agreeably surprised at the reasonably priced food. That was more than made up for by the horrendous hotel prices. Glad you at least enjoyed your holiday other than the food costs.
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Old Nov 7th, 2010, 12:08 AM
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the hamburger price seems odd, maybe that was at Uluru.

If they stayed at Port Douglas or Palm Cove rip off is common. You buy dinner and there is a little piece of meat on the plate and you ask, where is the rest of the meal and they look surpised. You never ordered any vegetable they declare. Since when do you have to order the vegetable separate? Isn't a chef that charges high price supposed to marry the vegetable dish to the meat? Just tourist rip off.
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Old Nov 7th, 2010, 01:39 AM
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<Melnq8 those prices are outrageous. $ 51 for a steak, that must have been some high class restaurant, or thought it was anyway.>

"thought it was" - BINGO! Lovely riverside location, but that's about it. Massive disappointment. A complete joke IMO.

I told you someone would try to use that line. While sales tax and tip certainly do run up the cost of meals in the US, dining out is still nowhere nearly as expensive in the US as in Australia. That comes from a Yank who's lived in OZ for over two years and who has visited all but one Australian state.

It's all relative though. I find the quality of food in Australia of a very high standard and it's a rare occasion that I'm diasappointed in a meal (service is another issue altogether).

I'd absolutely love for the US to add tax and tip to the cost of a meal and just be done with it. I hate having to fiddle with the whole tipping thing, and being forced to tip some standard percentage, REGARDLESS OF SERVICE. Waiters should look up 'gratuity' in the dictionary.

I also adore the OZ concept of BYO - god, how I wish that would catch on in the US.

Travel is a compromise. Accept it or don't go.
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Old Nov 7th, 2010, 01:28 AM
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How very English of you!
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Old Nov 7th, 2010, 01:31 AM
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The seemingly high cost may be partly because of the increased value of the Australian dollar. It's not that long ago that the Oz dollar was worth about 50 cents US. Everyone then talked about Australia as a cheap destination.

As someone else mentioned, hotel prices in New York are a horror, but you can eat (relatively) cheaply. Swings and roundabouts.
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Old Nov 7th, 2010, 02:34 AM
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Yes Margo I remember taking our family of 4 to the US 10 years ago when we were getting 50 cents to the US dollar and buying a Big Mac which was smaller than those in Oz and the cost was outrages.

Still $51 for a steak is a very expensive meal by most Australian standards!
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Old Nov 7th, 2010, 02:57 AM
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Yeah, I know Margo. Sometimes I talk funny.
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Old Nov 7th, 2010, 03:29 AM
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Interesting reading. I certainly would not be paying prices mentioned above and nor would I have to! In my humble experience, Australian food is both good value and exceptionally good eating and I HAVE travelled extensively, including to the US where service was better than Oz I agree but food was definitely inferior.
Kriol, what planet do you live on? Australians have no taste!!!???
Food in isolated tourist settings is expensive the world over and the prices the OP quotes are certainly not 'normal.'
Lastly and sadly for visitors from the states, but you are experiencing what we Aussie tourists have had to deal with for many years versus your dollar and the pound. I remember paying the equivalent of $3.50 for a small pot of gravy to go with my KFC in London!
As Margo says, swings and roundabouts.
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Old Nov 7th, 2010, 04:26 AM
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There's also something else at work here in Australia v US, its called "economy of scale". How can a country, with a geographic area approx the same as the lower 48 US states, with less than a 60th of the population possibly compete with such an enormous mass market. The comparison is silly beyond words.
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Old Nov 7th, 2010, 05:39 AM
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Many people seem to expect Australia to have the same pricing as some Asian countries. We do not. Nor the population or wage structures.

That Sydney is one of the most expensive cities is well known and ought not be a surprise to anyone who reads anything about world travel & cost comparisons. There are myriad options for good quality food at very reasonable prices in cafes, bistros & pubs around the inner city suburbs, Surry Hills, East Sydney, Newtown, Potts Point, Paddington.

Food can be expensive in Australia, and particularly in tourist oriented areas, compared with the US. It is also releatively easy to eat well at significantly less than the OP's figures for a steak/seafood. I had grilled kingfish, chips & salad at a restaurant in Bondi today for $16.90.

Would be very interested in which restaurant and city/town you had the $24 hamburger & $45-65 steak & seafood, obonnie.

These are not typical prices, although it is certainly possible to pay $45 and more for a steak at top end restaurants. Many of the better restaurants offer fixed price menus; fairly typical would be $35 for 2 courses.

Too late for the OP, but other visitors may find some gems in "Cheap Eats" - available in most newsagents for the major cities.

There is also an Entertainment Book (about $60) which gives discounts and "2 for 1" deals at a range of restaurants, bistros, cafes, and covers car rental & accommodation, amusement parks etc. http://www.entertainmentbook.com.au/home.aspx

Australia is more expensive in a number of aspects, including food, than some people expect. However, to imply that the prices quoted are typical or that no alternatives exist is arrant nonsense.
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Old Nov 7th, 2010, 09:29 AM
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Thank you all for your responses. Trust me, we didn't eat the $24.00 hamburger nor did we indulge in the expensive sea food! Instead we tried to stick to self catering or take away places. I think the main point I was trying to express was the surprise of food being double and in some cases triple what we normally pay for food. We had had no indication before going about this. Aside from this small by comparison shock, we loved the country and the positive friendly people. (My husband kept kidding me about who was my new best friend of the day) not to mention the great sites we saw. We learned alot, saw alot and will always treasure the memories we keep of Australia.
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Old Nov 7th, 2010, 12:38 PM
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I live in San Francisco and am used to paying higher-than-average prices for dining out, but the food is generally excellent. Many of the tourist-oriented restaurants, on the other hand, are overpriced and underwhelming. I think this is true of most heavily touristed cities. Good research ahead of time usually helps separate the good from the bad.

That said, I have been researching an upcoming trip to Sydney and Port Douglas, and the restaurant prices in both cities do appear to be unusually high across the board (especially in Port Douglas). At least we will be prepared for this! Any personal restaurant recommendations in these two cities would be most appreciated, for both casual and fine dining establishments.
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Old Nov 7th, 2010, 01:50 PM
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I agree that places like Port Douglas do not seem to have the cheap options like the larger cities. In places like Broome food is expensive too and not that fantastic.Also found it difficult to get cheap eats in Noosa but in places like Melbourne there are oodles of places to eat cheaply and well. I can have a t bone steak in an inner melbourne pub for $13 and good quality too.
The cheap eats guide as previously pointed ou is a good option but probabaly not for the places like Uluru.
I know that I am not going to get the range of cheap family style restaurants that I can get in the US-it's about many things-volume, wages , distance, attitude eg 'oh no we don't split bills". I asked for salad instead of chips in a Broome restaraunt a few days ago and was told that will be $6 extra!!!
When you get good food it is fab though and not necessarily expensive.
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Old Nov 7th, 2010, 02:06 PM
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obonnie, I am glad you enjoyed our country. I have found people in yours to be very friendly and welcoming too.

However, "I think the main point I was trying to express was the surprise of food being double and in some cases triple what we NORMALLY pay for food," (my emphasis) clearly shows how ridiculous the whole post was. There are expensive, by my humble standards, restaurants on the Tablelands and in Cairns but I do not NORMALLY eat there.

Further to Pat's good point about size of market, we do not have the tax base to pay twice for food. Actually the US no longer has either but I bet you will continue to do so. The agri business lobby controls enough votes in the mid west to make them as much a threat to democracy as the military-industrial and health industries.
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