Brisbane on a budget: 7 travel hacks to save on your trip
One of Australia's major cities and the capital of the tropical state of Queensland, Brisbane is a place that combines cultural activities and urban buzz with an incredible natural environment that's just waiting to be explored. You don't have to go far from the city at all to encounter the wilder side of Queensland, with several national parks in the vicinity where you can explore the tropical rainforest or the wild beauty of Australia's East Coast. At the same time, Brisbane also offers everything you could want from a big city, with top attractions like Brisbane City Hall, the City Botanic Gardens, New Farm Park, and the Queensland Art Gallery all located in or near Brisbane's Central Business District. That combination of natural environments along the Brisbane River with inner-city culture makes this an unforgettable place to explore.
However, it doesn't come cheap. Australia's booming economy has made all of the country's top cities into increasingly unaffordable places, and Brisbane is no different in that regard. It's expensive to live here, and it's also expensive to visit, so if you plan to make the most of your time in Queensland, you'll need a fairly healthy travel budget to get you through.
Still, you shouldn't let that put you off. With some advance planning, it is possible to visit Brisbane on a budget. And the first step to visiting Brisbane on a budget is dropping off your bags at a convenient luggage storage in the city.
By partnering with local businesses in River City and in hundreds of cities around the world, Bounce makes sure you always have a place to leave your things behind. Whether you're looking to drop your bags in Brisbane city centre or store them close to Brisbane airport, you can always find convenient and affordable luggage storage with us.
Cheap places to stay in Brisbane
Although flights to Australia are often costly, it's the accommodation that really gets you. The average price for a hotel room in Brisbane is over $130 per night, and it's naturally much higher in the busier summer season (which here in the southern hemisphere, is December to January). Also, the closer you want to stay to the city center, the more you can expect to pay. Being close to Brisbane Botanic Gardens and Brisbane City Hall on King George Square means you'll be close to some of the best attractions this vibrant city has to offer, but it also means your bank account will take more of a hit.
Luckily, Brisbane has some excellent options for public transport that make it easy to get around the city, including the City Cat ferry that can whisk you across the Brisbane River while you explore Brisbane on a budget. For that reason, it's worth considering staying in some of the neighborhoods outside the CBD to save some money. Besides, many of these neighborhoods offer their own unique charm that makes them worth exploring. For example, the South Bank is an artistic neighborhood that's home to the Queensland Art Gallery and the only inner-city beach in Australia. You can learn more about the different neighborhoods of Brisbane with our guide on where to stay in the city.
If you're looking for somewhere to stay in Brisbane on a budget, you'll be glad to know there are some good options available. Here are some examples of affordable accommodation that's worth considering:
All Nations Brisbane
For some travelers, two things come before anything else: staying close to the main attractions and not spending a lot. If you're that kind of traveler, All Nations Brisbane can be a great choice for you. Located just a few blocks from the City Botanic Gardens and the Brisbane River, this hotel is also convenient for New Farm Park, Roma Street Parkland and its attached train station, and the South Bank Parklands just across the river. Within walking distance to most of the city's attractions and at the heart of a transportation hub that can take you to see the rest, this is the perfect place to stay if you plan to spend most of your time exploring Brisbane on a budget and aren't too fussy about hotel amenities.
This hostel offers both dormitories and private rooms. Wi-Fi is free, and there's an on-site bar and nightclub where you can party with fellow travelers within crawling distance of your bed for the night. A shared kitchen lets you cook your own meals, and a coin-operated laundry can help you look after your clothes. Perhaps best of all is the colorful rooftop terrace that gives great views over the city and the Brisbane River and is the perfect place to hang out on a sunny day.
In the middle of the December tourist season, a bed in a dorm will cost you around $30. A private room with a shared bathroom is around $80, or you can get a room with a double bed and en suite bathroom for about $100. This range of options makes All Nations a great option for exploring Brisbane on a budget, whether it's bare-bones or you have room for a little luxury.
Central Cosmo Apartments
Almost as centrally located and providing a commanding view of the Brisbane River, this affordable hotel is easy to reach from the city's train stations and is close to Suncorp Stadium. It's also just across the river from the Gallery of Modern Art and Streets Beach if you want to cool off with a swim during the summer. While it's a little way out of the CBD itself, the short walk to Milton Station makes it easy to reach central Brisbane, and Milton Markets, with its street food vendors and produce stalls, is right there to keep you on budget. Brisbane Botanic Gardens and Mount Coot Tha Lookout are also not too far away if you want to experience the more natural side of the city.
Best of all, these are apartments, not hotel rooms, so they offer a level of comfort that can be hard to find in the inner city. All rooms have their own kitchen facilities so you can prepare meals with food you've bought at nearby Milton Market, which will really help cut down on your food spending. Plus, most of the rooms have a balcony, so you can unwind with Brisbane city views or even, if you're lucky, a vista over the river. That alone is enough to make this one of the best places to stay in Brisbane on a budget.
A studio apartment, complete with a dishwasher, fridge, kitchen, air-conditioning, a balcony, and a double bed, costs around $100 even in the height of summer. Even the luxurious Executive one-bedroom apartment only costs a little over $100. Or, if you're traveling in a group, the two-bedroom apartment may offer a better deal since it can sleep four people for only $140 a night.
The Manly Hotel
There's nothing pretentious about this place, but it does offer a rough and ready place to stay in an area most tourists don't know about. Away from the center of Brisbane, this hotel sits on the coast right by Manly Boat Harbour. Manly Harbour Village is a bustling and quirky place that feels very different from central Brisbane but still offers some great restaurants and things to do. Plus, the hotel is only an eight-minute walk from Manly Train Station that can whisk you into central Brisbane on a budget anytime you want.
The rooms here are located above a bar, which might be a good or bad thing depending on how much you enjoy nightlife. In December, a budget room with a shared bathroom costs around $75, or you can get a larger room with an en suite bathroom for around $85. $100 gets you a deluxe King room with a balcony as far away from the bar as possible so you can enjoy a restful night's sleep.
Cheap things to do in Brisbane
Attractions like Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary and Queen Street Mall have made Brisbane famous. But all of these attractions cost money. And while you don't want to sacrifice your experience by being too cheap to do anything, it's important to balance paid attractions with cheap and free things to do to keep your budget healthy. Luckily, Brisbane has some incredible cheap and free activities that are just as good as the paid version and will allow your dollars to go much further.
Sure, you could spend money on a river cruise that will let you see the skyline of Brisbane from the water and enjoy a relaxing way to travel. You don't have to. The CityHopper is a free ferry that travels along the Brisbane River through the most densely populated part of the city. From the South Bank, it stops at North Quay, Sydney Street, and Eagle Street Pier, among other places, and you'll get a wonderful view of the city as you travel. It also makes a relaxing way to get around, and while it may not be the fastest, that's not really the point.
Kangaroo Point Cliffs Park
To be fair, Brisbane is absolutely packed with beautiful parks to visit, each with their own scenic charm and things to do. Still, Kangaroo Point Cliffs Park deserves a special mention for both its wild feel and its proximity to the city center. With absolutely stunning views of central Brisbane, the cliffs here are also great for rock climbing and are beautifully decorated with public art. There are also barbecue facilities here, so you can indulge in that great Australian pastime of outdoor cooking. The park is completely free to visit and is a great place to spend a sunny afternoon staying active or just enjoying the scenery.
Brisbane's leading cultural district is home to most of the city's top museums and art galleries. And although it can be costly to visit them all, this dense collection of cultural treasures means there's always something to enjoy for free. It's easy to find free live music and free admission to interesting exhibitions and performances here, especially during September's Brisbane Festival that turns the whole city into one massive arts venue.
Cheap places to eat in Brisbane
Brisbane's food scene is one of the most vital and exciting anywhere in Australia. This cosmopolitan city takes culinary influences from around the world and transforms them into something uniquely Australian. And with so many restaurants vying for your business, you can enjoy some of the best cuisine Brisbane has to offer without spending a lot of money. Check out our guide to the best street food in Brisbane, or try some of these great restaurants where you can get excellent food on a budget.
Located in Woolloongabba on the south side of the river, this restaurant serves up the traditional dishes of northern Thailand at very affordable prices. It's worth the journey by public transportation to come here and enjoy curries for $17, stir-fry and noodle dishes for $18, and a great selection of fresh salads and sides.
Little Red Dumpling
From humble beginnings, this popular restaurant has expanded into a local chain. With a location right downtown, it's a great place for a budget lunch or dinner while you explore the city. The menu is helpfully divided into Dumplings and Not Dumplings, and with bowls of dumplings starting around $15, you can't go wrong.
This Italian eatery in the West End specializes in plant-based cuisine. And with dishes this delicious, you won't miss the meat. The small storefront may look underwhelming, but the pasta, pizzas, and burgers on offer here are mostly around the $25 mark and are well worth it.
Cheap bars in Brisbane
The days of getting a cheap drink in Brisbane are not over, although it may sometimes feel otherwise. Check out these bars for good times that won't break the bank.
The Scratch Bar
One of the best places in all of Brisbane for craft beer, this bar has a constantly rotating selection of beer on tap, starting at seven or eight dollars per glass. The bar is BYO food, so bring takeout from a nearby restaurant and settle in at a table for a journey through local beer.
Beach Burrito Co.
Beloved by local surfers, this Mexican restaurant on Coolangatta Beach provides three-dollar tacos and cheap pitchers of margaritas to share with friends.
Bonus budget tips for Brisbane
Walk or bike: Brisbane is a walkable and bike-friendly city, so consider walking or biking instead of taking a taxi or renting a car.
Use public transportation: Brisbane has a good public transportation system, including buses, trains, and ferries. You can purchase a Go Card to save money on fares.
Stay in a hostel or budget hotel: Hostels and budget hotels are affordable options for accommodation. You can find options in areas like South Bank, Fortitude Valley, and Kangaroo Point.
With so many great free things to do in Brisbane, combined with affordable accommodation and great restaurants and bars, Brisbane remains a place where you can have a good time on a budget, even as the cost of living continues to go up. Drop off your bags and enjoy some of these low-cost options to get the best out of the city without spending a fortune.