At heart I’m a budget traveller who likes the occasional slice of luxury thrown in. My usual method of achieving this is to decide on the one or two things I am going to splurge on during the trip, and then everything else is done on a budget. To help you find the funds for those special splurges too, here are all my best tips for visiting Adelaide on a budget.
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General Tips for Travelling on a Budget
I have travelled all over the world on a budget. In my forties (after my youngest daughter finished high school) my husband and I heaved backpacks onto our backs and took off around the world for a little over a year. Clearly we were no longer 20-somethings, and did not want to spend the whole year sleeping in dorms and eating 2-minute noodles. We managed to do neither of those things, but we did learn a pile of other great tricks that can be applied now to our home town. Hopefully they can help you too, wherever you may travel.
- Hostels are not what you might imagine. Not only can they be private and comfortable, they give you access to a kitchen, laundry, and other people who are travelling on a budget.
- We’ve all heard that it is cheapest to book direct with the property you are going to stay at. Multiple times I have had this proven incorrect, so do assume it is always the case. Check the room rates on 2-3 booking websites as well as direct to find the best price.
- Look out for hidden charges – AirBnB I’m looking at you here! The room rates might look good, but then add on the service fee and a cleaning fee, and you are probably better off elsewhere.
- If you are staying for more than 2-3 days, try to have access to a kitchen. Preparing just your own breakfast each day can save you a lot.
- Local foods aren’t just in restaurants. Hit supermarkets and other local stores to cut down on your food bill.
- Use public transport. Once you get the hang of it, it’s actually better in some ways than Uber and Taxis, and not just because of the price.
- Don’t discount free things to do. Some of my favourite days have not cost me a cent.
- Look out for discount programs. In Australia & NZ, the Entertainment Membership is a great way to save money across hundreds of restaurants, activities, car hire, accommodation and more. (These memberships are often sold as part of a fundraising drive for charities. If you choose to buy online, my recommended charity is Breast Cancer Network Australia)
- Long term, learn the points and miles game. There is certainly some work involved to learn it, but it can be very lucrative if you put in the time. Think not only about airlines, but hotel programs and even others like Flybuys and Everyday Rewards. Your normal shopping could be paying for your next accommodation.
Where to stay in Adelaide on a Budget
Accommodation is often the biggest expense of a trip, especially when staying in a city. Here are some places to consider in Adelaide. My suggestions are for two people staying together who like reasonable accommodation rather than super cheap.
- Adelaide Central YHA – yes, that dreaded hostel I mentioned earlier. The YHA is located on the edge of Light Square in the west end on the city. They have private rooms with an ensuite and small balcony from just over $100/night. You will also get access to a kitchen, laundry, living space, BBQ, tour desk and more. Paid parking is available, but there is also usually plenty of on street parking nearby.
- Adelaide Riviera Hotel – this is your standard budget hotel, well located on North Terrace. The rooms are basic and a little dated, but they look comfortable and clean. I’ve not personally stayed here, but I know plenty of people who have, and they seem to be happy with the value for money. I just did a quick search on a random day in a couple of months and the standard queen rooms were $80/night. Can’t ask for much more than that.
- The SOHO Hotel – this one I have stayed in (you can read about my stay here). The room size here was much bigger than expected, and we had a partial kitchenette. If you are staying in summer, there is also a small pool for cooling off in. The location is not quite as good as the other two, but it really is only a few minutes walk into Rundle Mall.
- Quality Apartments Adelaide City – for apartment-style accommodation this would be your best bet. They are also really well located on King William Street in the heart of the city. They have 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom apartments available.
- Adabco Boutique Hotel Adelaide – this would be my pick if I was looking for pet friendly accommodation in the Adelaide city centre. I like that it also offers a communal kitchen and lounge for guest use,
If you have a car, I recommend taking a look at accommodation slightly outside of the city centre – for example, in North Adelaide – as you are more likely to find cheaper accommodation and free parking this way. You can either drive wherever you need to go, or take advantage of the public transport options to get around.
Cheap Places to Eat in Adelaide
For cheap food in Adelaide, I recommend taking advantage of the supermarkets. You will find Drakes on Pultney Street near Rundle Mall, and both Coles and Woolworths in Rundle Mall. Drakes is my favourite as it has a range of pre-prepared meals available at a reasonable cost.
Look out for food courts that are generally located in shopping centres and have a range of quick food options available. There is a food court on the lower ground floor of the Myer Centre, and another one in City Cross.
For more cheaper food options take a look at the restaurants in the Chinatown/Gouger Street/Adelaide Central Market areas. There are certainly some expensive places too, but there are bargains to be had in some of the lesser restaurants. A couple of restaurant options are Adelaide Pho on Weymouth Street (I like that they have small serves available), and Sit Lo (three locations in the city), both just happen to be Vietnamese. You could also try Levant Eatery on Hindley Street for Mediterranean street food or Ajisen Ramen on Leigh Street.
There are, of course, the usual range of fast food venues that will offer cheap food too. You will find most of them around the eastern end of Hindley Street.
A good tip for cheap food anywhere is to look out for lunch specials. It’s often cheaper to eat even at top end restaurants at lunch time rather than dinner. They may have a set menu for you to try or a lunch bundle with a drink and dessert. Either way, you can have your main meal at lunch time, then pick up something lighter from the supermarket for dinner and save a few dollars.
How to Get Around Adelaide on the Cheap
The great thing about Adelaide is that is is relatively flat. It is also very easy to find your way around the grid-like streets. That makes it a really walkable city and this is my favourite way to get around.
Another option get around the city are bicycles and scooters. You will see them for hire for just a few dollars all over the city. There is a free bike hire option too. Due to Covid it is no longer located in the city, but just outside at the Hindmarsh Library. Getting there is easy though – jump on the free tram to the Entertainment Centre and the library is about 200m away. Let’s hope there is a city location again soon.
If you do need to catch public transport, there are some free options in the city centre to make it easy
- The trams are free if you get on and off between the Entertainment Centre and South Terrace. The tram is also free at the other end of the line if you are in Glenelg and travelling between Brighton Road and Moseley Square. Any travel on the tram between South Terrace and Brighton Road will need a ticket.
- There are two different free bus loops (each running both clockwise and anti-clockwise) that run in the city and North Adelaide during the week. Find the details of each route here.
To get around the suburbs of Adelaide, the cheapest options are trains and buses. Both cost the same and use the same Metrocard payment system. Details of fares and routes can be found on the Adelaide Metro website.
When it comes to Taxis and ride shares, they are a relatively expensive option here in Adelaide. Generally Uber will be the cheapest, but as always, watch out for surge pricing that can push the price up.
Hire cars are another option you may need to look at. I like to use a site like RentalCars.com to check and compare many of the car hire companies all in one online search.
Free Things to do in Adelaide
While in Adelaide there are plenty of free things to do in between those other paid activities. In normal times I would have suggested taking a free walking tour on your first day in the city – but these have not yet returned after Covid. This allows you to learn some background about the city, get your bearings and have the opportunity to ask a local any questions you may have (like restaurant recommendations or where to find something specific). It’s not free, but this relatively cheap tour currently offers the same. Hopefully the free walking tours will return soon.
Here are some other free suggestions
- Visit a museum – most of the museums in the Adelaide City Centre are free to enter. Do not miss the South Australian Museum or the Art Gallery. Look out for free tours and activities in the museums, especially kids activities during school holidays. The Art Gallery has a variety of volunteer-run tours each day too.
- Picnic – or just stroll – in the Botanic Gardens – make sure you check out the Bicentennial Conservatory. There is a free tour every day too if you would like to learn a little more about the gardens. If you would like to travel further afield, there are more botanic gardens at Mount Lofty and Wittunga too, or you could check out the Himeji Japanese Gardens on South Terrace
- Other places with free tours include the Adelaide Town Hall and Parliament South Australia
- Experience Rundle Mall – sure this is a shopping precinct, but there is always plenty going on to entertain you. Look out for the sculptures in the mall, along with buskers and other free events.
- Haighs Chocolate Factory tour – the factory just south of the city centre and offers free tours to see the chocolates being made. You can opt for a self-guided tour or do one with a guide. You may also be given samples of the chocolate along the way.
- Enjoy the colour and bustle of the Adelaide Central Market
- Look for street art – there are some incredible street art murals around the Adelaide city centre. Search for them behind budilings and down side streets. Port Adelaide is another great area for street art fans.
- Take a walk – there are many different walking trails in and around Adelaide, from the hills to the beach. Here are some of my favourites.
- Hit the beach – with over 70km of coastline, there is plenty of beach for everyone in Adelaide. The water here is calm and great for swimming in the warmer months. Popular beaches are Brighton, Glenelg, Grange, Henley Beach and Semaphore.
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Josie Kelsh is South Australian, born and bred. She has lived in the state for almost her whole life, just one short stint away as a teenager with her family. Travelling all over the world has shown her exactly how amazing South Australia is to live and travel in and she uses her passion to show it to you the way a local sees it.