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Oz on the cheap! Your suggestions?

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Jan 22nd, 2012, 11:25 AM
  #1
Amy
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Oz on the cheap! Your suggestions?

My niece and I are planning a trip to Australia in late July into August (17 days total, so only fourteen days on the ground) and we're trying to make a way for the next two (twin) nieces to come along, as well. They're still college students and don't have a whole lot of money, so we're trying for quad accommodations and such in order to save them lodging costs.

In brief, our trip would start out in Brisbane, go on to Cairns, then Alice Springs for an Outback (Uluru) camping excursion, and finish in Sydney. (Here's the itinerary: http://www.fodors.com/community/aust...ime-around.cfm )

Some money-saving ideas I've garnered so far...

1. www.wotif.com.au for hotels for Brisbane and Sydney--best to book just a few weeks ahead, I believe? Might there be difficulty in booking for July/August, or should there be plenty available? Or is name-your-own on Priceline a good way to go for either city?

2. YHA hostel in Alice Springs--the one in a movie theater--sounds like fun, but I'm open to other suggestions as well.

3. Self catering where poss and street food! (What's best, what should be avoided?)

4. Public transport--what about from airports to hotels/hostels? I'm very accustomed to using public transportation, the girls not so much, but we won't be driving. Of course, sometimes there's a courtesy shuttle from hotels, I suppose, so where we stay might have an impact.

5. Walk ON the bridge in Sydney rather than over top of it!

At the moment walkabout fares for all international (from Philadelphia) and domestic flights involved is about $2100, so that's pretty good; lodging is obviously the next big expense, so any tips on that and general cost-saving would help.

I'd love to be able to just give the trip to all of them, but I'm squeezing the cash a bit myself--and, of course, the exchange rate is no longer in our favor!

Thanks for any advice and tips.
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Jan 22nd, 2012, 03:35 PM
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3 definitely self cater as much as possible.

4. Public Transport. For getting around this is great but for transfers I would suggest that it would be cheaper and more convenient for four to take a taxi. There might be a slight delay until you get a cab big enough for all your gear but one could expect that on public transport.

5. Very sensible.

With regards to tours it may be cheaper to hire your own guide than to take existing tours. You would then also be able to build an itinerary which suits your specific needs if there is a group emphasis.
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Jan 22nd, 2012, 03:53 PM
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Looks as if your visit will coincide with School Holidays in some States. http://www.aussie-info.com/tourist/holidays.php

That may not matter so much if you're planning to use hostel accommodation, but something to be aware of.

We don't really have "street food" in the same way it's done in Asia, but Chinatown in any city will be good value, and in Sydney there's a very good food hall in Westfield shopping centre, (Pitt Street Mall). There are lots of independent cafes, take-aways and pubs offering good quality food at a reasonable price.

Suggest you download a Cheap Eats and 2012 Pub Grub guide for the capital cities. http://www.smhshop.com.au/content/pub-guide-2012/gka2js

Again in Sydney,King Street Newtown (10 mins west on a bus from the CBD) and Crown, Bourke & Riley streets in Surry Hills(about the same time east) are hives of good and interesting food of just about any type you can imagine at a reasonable price.
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Jan 22nd, 2012, 03:57 PM
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Book your accommodation/ trip early for Alice Springs & Uluru.
Our winter is a popular time for families to visit the Red Centre.

It's also a popular time for Europeans & southern state locals to head north to Cairns. The Europeans are on their summer holidays & we're escaping our colder climes
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Jan 22nd, 2012, 04:05 PM
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Amy
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Thanks to you both!

I saw the Bank Holiday for 6th August, but it looks as if terms start no later than 23 July, or am I reading something wrong? We won't be arriving until the 28th. I do try to avoid school holidays, though, as less crowded is definitely better.

Street food here (Philadelphia) includes carts and vans that are equipped with amazing little kitchens and sell cheesesteaks, sausage sandwiches, and the like, but also the take-aways; I'll definitely download the Cheap Eats guide.

Still waiting to hear the final decision from the twins, but definitely appreciate the ideas so far. I'll look into the private guide idea where feasible, for instance.
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Jan 22nd, 2012, 04:25 PM
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We spent 4 days in Sydney earlier this month and found it didn't cost as much as we had anticipated. Take a look at www.imfree.com.au for a choice of two free walking tours. The enterprising fellow that provides them asks for tips only, and must do ok as he he has been at it a while. He also gives out a map showing lots of free attractions and cheap eateries. Same map was available at our BnB.

Speaking of tips: I hope you have heard that tipping is not the norm in Oz, and no need to feel guilty about not introducing the custom as service staff are well paid by North American standards. We actually had a cab driver tell us a tip wasn't really necessary after he had loaded all our luggage in and out on for a short ride and a fare under $10. (He took it, though) Also, taxes are included in the prices quoted, so what you see is what you pay.

The only street food we encountered was fresh lemonade on a hot day. A number of restaurants have $10 meal options which were usually enough to satisfy us.

We got a mulitpass for the transportation system on the recommendation of Fodorites, used it to go everywhere: all around town, Manly beach, the Blue Mountains, and the airport on our return. Check it out online and see what would suit your needs. There is an additional charge to enter the airport if you take it that way--$12.50 per adult, I think, so a cab would make sense for 4.
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Jan 22nd, 2012, 04:58 PM
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Here's your Sydney hostel: YHA Sydney Harbour at the Rocks.

http://www.yha.com.au/hostels/nsw/sy...ydney-harbour/
Best views in town from a fabulous rooftop deck, excellent facilities & 5 mins walk to Circular Quay.

My niece stayed there last year - Queen bed + 2 single bunks, ensuite $140.

In Brisbane, West End & Fortitude Valley are great for cosmopolitan & good value eateries.
This might be useful: http://www.urbanspoon.com/npr/337/40...heap-Eats.html

If you have a couple of days in Brisbane, Australia Zoo is very well worth a visit. I'm a local, wasn't a Steve Irwin fan at all (didn't like all the "crikey" hoopla that the Americans seemed to love) and I was astounded at how good it is.

http://www.australiazoo.com.au/

Someone else said - and I agree - airport transfers will probably be cheaper and certainly less hassle with luggage if you take a maxi-taxi or station waggon if there is more than 2 of you. Few if any of the cheaper hotels provide free airport to hotel transfers, but it's unlikely to cost more than about $40-$50 in Sydney & Brisbane, less in Cairns & Alice Springs for a taxi.

Alice Springs is such an interesting place, I hope you'll have time to explore it. Have a look at the air conditioning system in the old Hospital (Just off Todd Mall). And take the hop-on-hop-off mini bus to get an overview & then go back to see what you want. School of the Air; Royal Flying Doctors; First Telegraph Station; The Aviation Museum ...
And of course, Aboriginal Art; lots of galleries.

The Desert Park is beyond wonderful (make sure you get to the Birds of Prey show) http://www.alicespringsdesertpark.com.au/

When you get to Yulara , suggest you go to the Cultural Centre first. There's a wealth of information, interactive displays etc., that I wish I'd seen before I went out to Uluru & Kata Tjuta. There's also an opportunity of going on a walk with an Anangu (local Aboriginal) Guide. Might be worth your while contacting the Centre ahead of time to arrange this if you're keen, because that is something that may be booked out. http://www.environment.gov.au/parks/uluru/

What a great trip! Good for you for doing it and I hope the twins do go. Will be one of those really special "one for the memory bank" trips for you all (the blood, sweat, tears & laughter ).
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Jan 22nd, 2012, 05:43 PM
  #8
Amy
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Thanks again! Brisbane is actually being included for the Australia Zoo; Niece #1 was raised on those animal shows (and the Wiggles!) and wanted very much to go. Wish I had more time, but we're stretching it a bit as it is with leaving on a Thursday! I appreciate all the info; the birds of prey show at the Desert Park sounds amazing.

The Sydney hostel sounds like a wonderful idea; ensuite is always good, although I am going to be introducing them to the concept of shared bath. (They come from a large family; they should be able to deal with it!)

Oh, and eliztravels, yes on the tipping! I love going places where tips aren't required; I've been raised in the tipping culture (and wouldn't normally give less than 20% to US waitstaff) but still find it a pain to wangle the money and get the right amounts to the right people. I like paying up-front. The Free Walks tour looks good; I'm guessing average tip was about $20 or so per person?
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Jan 22nd, 2012, 06:59 PM
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Sydney Harbour YHA has a variety of accommodation options Amy, including dorms. Perhaps you could take a single ensuite for yourself & shunt the girls off to a dorm for a bit of teenage R&R with others from around the world.

And you could have a bit of "Amy" time (LOL).

Just near the YHA, the Australian Hotel http://www.australianheritagehotel.com/ and the Lord Nelson http://www.lordnelsonbrewery.com/are worth a look.

If you're in town on a weekend, the Mercantile http://www.therocks.com/index.cfm?me...nt_id=467often has a folk band - and there are markets in the street right outside it on weekends. http://www.therocks.com/sydney-Shopp...ks_Markets.htm
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Jan 23rd, 2012, 02:41 PM
  #10
Amy
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~~~!!~~~ (That's me happy-dancing.) The twins are going, and we've got our airfare all booked! (It was the last day of the Qantas sale.) So exciting!

Now I just have to figure out all the rest...25 weeks to go!
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Jan 23rd, 2012, 06:49 PM
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How exciting that you all can go!

For the free walking tour we tipped $20 for the two of us, as I recall. it was a fairly large group on a Saturday afternoon so he would have done ok. We did notice that some people dropped out along the way-3 hours is a lot of walking- and we were the only 60+ who persisted. The evening walk in The Rocks is shorter and certainly lots to see and learn in that area, but as we were staying there we had already discovered some of it on our own.

Smart move to introduce the younger generation to the concept of shared bath. It's never more than a minor inconvenience and there are so many different ways you can spend the money saved.
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Jan 24th, 2012, 01:07 AM
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Amy I think you should post the video of the dance.

Took my lovely dancing last night and she didn't stand on my toes once!
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Jan 24th, 2012, 01:19 AM
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Woo Hoo, Amy That's fantastic! I think I'm nearly as excited about your trip as you.

There are some great sources of info, tips, cautions and good old local knowledge here, so ask anytime you need to know something.
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Jan 25th, 2012, 12:28 PM
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Amy, Coming from Brisbane, I have read that a fellow traveller advised against Brisbane well I can tell you it is ONE of the better cities to visit in Australia we are not over crowded 1.1 million people and there is a thousand things you can see and do, Fraser Island the worlds largest Sand island is worth a visit it has the rainforest as well as dingo's and has the clearest waters in the world bring your jewellery along to clean it in one of the lakes our golden beaches are only an hour away and unpolluted not like some of the so called icon's in Sydney and I agree what you are trying to achieve in 2 weeks is a push even for Aussies.

My suggestion is to give the harbour bridge a miss spend more time in Queensland especially up in the tropics it is amazing it also is peak tourist season up there due to it is weather is more settled less rainy days. plus being tropical day temps are around 26-28c and nights around 20c so quite warm you will need cool clothing there, the boat trips are not bad at this time of year I suggest u get some Ginger tablets and take some before you go on the boat.

I can tell you there is an GO card public transport system where a lot of buses now require that to be used as cash is slowly dying out. Depending on where in the city you are staying from the airport an average taxi ride provided the driver takes you the quickest way is around $40-$50 DON'T tip they may put their hand out but just say thank you and off you go. I am not sure how you have arranged to get to Australia Zoo but there is a bus that leaves from the transit centre every day that takes you up and back for a cost.To get from Cairns to the Alice (Alice springs)requires a plane and if you have not booked then I suggest you use webjet as your search engine http://www.webjet.com.au/flights/ they provide cheap flights and you can book up to 12months in advance you pay a booking fee and credit card fee but all taxes are included use this to plan all internal flights the only one i suggest that you avoid is Tiger as they are still struggling to get themsleves organised also bear in mind that the planes here do suffer delays mainly due to they generally use one plane for a leg and if it is delayed at one end it is a knock on effect.

Weather is a hit an miss affair I would pack autumn clothing and a warm jacket Brisbane's day temps are roughly 19-22c night temps in July-August can be as low as 2-8c the Alice is colder as it is out in the desert so you could get down in the minuses at night and maybe 12-15c day temps.

We don't have food carts as per say we do have the macca's (MacDonald's) burger kings and KFC we also have some good little eateries in our shopping centre's (Malls) as said before the price you see on EVERY thing includes taxes there could be a credit card fee other than that it is how it is. Hopefully this has given you a little insight into what u are looking for
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Jan 26th, 2012, 03:33 PM
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Bokhara2 and I think alike. I second the suggestion for the youth hostel in Sydney. My daughter used to work for YHA and she and her fella would often stay there if they were going to something in the city. Now, she's a bit of a princess that daughter of mine ;0 but she raved about that hostel.

I hope you have a lovely time. I just read your post in the lounge that you have booked the flights.
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Jan 26th, 2012, 07:06 PM
  #16
Amy
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Thanks, cathies (and of course Bokhara again!) for the insights. I'm wondering, though, if I'll be able to do as well on wotif or Priceline for some tonier accommodations at about the same price--it's a little pricey for hostel, though of course location and ensuite are great! I thought maybe with it being off-season and tourism down a bit that perhaps we'd be able to get a deal closer to the time; what are everyone's thoughts?

StewR, we are indeed going to Brisbane; it's our first stop. (We fly into Brisbane and out of Sydney, with flights to Cairns and Alice Springs in-between.) It is indeed a bit of a rush, but we're focusing on some main ideas and realizing that there will be a lot that we can't do, but some wonderful things that we can.

At this point we've got our Qantas airfares booked; the domestic "legs" were on sale and the whole thing (open-jaw international from Philadelphia, flight to Cairns, AS, and Sydney within the country) cost about $2100 with all taxes and fees, so that seems pretty good to me.

We'll be staying at Lilybank B&B and then Daintree Wild for the Cairns area portion, and Alice Lodge Backpackers/Wayoutback camping tour for Alice Springs to Uluru and back, so I just need to get Brisbane and Sydney sorted.

Since there will be four of us (yay!) we'll probably do taxis from the airport, but I'm thinking maybe the train and the bus from there for Australia Zoo--depending on where we end up staying, of course. I always like a train ride, though!
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Jan 27th, 2012, 08:51 PM
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Amy, I am sure you'll have a great time. Give those "horrible" people at Lilybank some cheek from me. Still waiting to see the dance video.
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Jan 28th, 2012, 09:54 AM
  #18
Amy
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Okay then, Alan, here's all four of us dancing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3G5IXn0K7A

I just booked the Sydney Harbour YHA; figured it's best to have it and it does look lovely, especially with its location. And I got what seems a decent deal on the Tribeca Apartments www.tribecaapartments.net.au in Brisbane: a 2 BR apartment with kitchen and laundry for $169 (US) a night on Orbitz. I realize I could have waited and perhaps done better, but I like to have my ducks in a row about where I'll be--especially with four of us!
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Jan 28th, 2012, 03:31 PM
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Good thinking 99!
I don't think you could do better than the Sydney Harbour YHA for your party of 4.
Have visions of the girls meeting other young travellers from around the world & exchanging trip tales etc.

No reason not to book ahead when you have a fairly fixed itinerary.
One less thing to do later, and you can work out transport etc., before you arrive.

Love the hamsters!
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Jan 28th, 2012, 05:22 PM
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Thanks Amy.
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