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Some people fall into the eat to live category, but I am 100% the live to eat type. My biggest expense in Australia is definitely food. I LOVE to eat and I really love to eat out. The only problem is that it’s not the cheapest hobby to have and the dollars can soon mount up.
From fresh seafood at the coast to Pizza in little Italy, noodles in Chinatown to gourmet sandwiches and Turkish Gozleme, Australia is hugely multicultural and it’s awesome! It’s also great at supporting independent restaurants, not just the big chain names. And I’m always one for supporting small businesses but let’s be honest, artisan can often mean expensive.
But fear not my fellow backpacker, budget traveller, food loving friends! I’ve found a bunch of ways to help you eat for cheap in Australia so you can still enjoy the culinary goodness this country plates up. Here are 8 ways you can eat out for cheap in Australia and save you money whilst backpacking.
You might also like these posts to help you travel Australia on a budget:
- Budget friendly and free things to do in Sydney
- Budget friendly and free things to do in Melbourne
- Budget friendly and free things to do in Brisbane
- 10 affordable restaurants and bars you should check out in Sydney
Some general tips on how to save money in Australia
Travel outside peak season
Australia has 2 peak times of year – the first is around Christmas and New Year until the end of January as this is when all the schools have summer holidays, and the second is roughly June-August as this is winter and lots of people head up North to get some sun. These times of year are really busy and of course, prices for things like accommodation get bumped up too. If you’re on a budget, I would recommend avoiding these times if possible.
Stay in cheap accommodation
When you start looking for accommodation in Australia, you’ll soon see that hotels are pretty damn pricey. So instead of hotels, have a look at AirBnB and hostels for more affordable accommodation, or even Courchsurfing and housesitting to find free places to stay.
Join free walking tours
In nearly every city in Australia (and the world) you can go on free walking tours and they are an awesome way to get to know a place. The tours are run by locals or people who have moved there and have a real passion for the place. I’ve always learnt loads from them and having a local to talk to is a great way to find out hidden gems. They usually run every single day, no matter what the weather and you don’t usually need to book in advance. The tours run on a tipping system, so if you liked the tour you can tip the guide what you want. I tend to tip somewhere between $10-$20 which I think is a bargain way to get to know a city.
Here are the free walking tours I’ve done in Australia:
- Melbourne: ImFree Walking Tour
- Sydney: ImFree Walking Tour
- Brisbane: Free Guided walking Tour of Brisbane (this one needs to be booked in advance)
- Adelaide: Tours Around Adelaide
Hit the beaches
Australia’s coast line is teaming with some of the most beautiful beaches in the world and they are a great way to have a free day out! Whether you like to relax in the sun, swimming or snorkel, a day at the beach is mostly free. So many beaches around Australia also have the free public BBQs so you can even cook lunch while you’re there.
Take advantage of free entertainment and attractions
One thing that Australia is great for is putting on free events. In every city, there always seems to be something going so be sure to go on the tourism website to find upcoming events. As well as this, there are also heaps of museums with free entry which are great for rainy days. I’ve also put together a list of awesome free and cheap things to do in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne.
Top apps to help you eat for cheap in Australia
What is it?
This app is easily one of my top apps for travelling Australia. I found this app from a sign outside a burger restaurant that advertised a free burger if you downloaded and used it. I knew I was on to a winner from the start!
Liven is a dining rewards app where you earn Liven credit (LVN Coin) when you eat at their associated restaurants and pay through the app. Each restaurant has different rewards ranging from around 5%-20% and the discount then goes into your Liven account as LVN Coin. This can then be used towards your next meal out.
How to get the most out of the Liven app
Liven has an awesome sign-up incentive with a number of restaurants offering your first meal for free – awesome right! There really is no loophole with this so enjoy being part of something that’s actually as good as it seems!
If you’re about to sign up then be sure to use the code below and you’ll get $5 free credit, and I will too once you buy your first meal! If you then refer your friends using your own code, you can get in on this too! Guys, that’s an ice cream paid for, at least!
Use this code here: URQQKV
It’s really easy to build up the rewards on Liven pretty quickly which is awesome! You can either save up the reward LVN Coins or spend it as you go. Even when you pay with your LVN Coin, you still get the rewards for that payment. You can also send your Liven Coins to friends using the app and perhaps between you, you can get another meal for free!
Liven often sends out restaurants deals offering high rewards for a specific period of time (usually for only that day) and for holidays like Christmas, they did 12 days of Snaxmas where they had a deal a day on at a different restaurant.
How to use the Liven app
On the app you’ll see a map of all the restaurants that accept Liven and what rewards they are offering. If you’re looking for a particular cuisine then you can filter by that too. The app also shows nearby restaurants as well as the trending restaurants to get some inspiration.
You need to add your bank card to the App and when you go to pay, you simply open the app, find the restaurant you’re at, hit ‘pay now’ or switch on the ‘use LVN Coin’ button and tell the cashier the code that pops up. You’ll straight away be able to see how much you’ve spent and how much you’ve earned in LVN Coins, ready for next time.
What is it?
EatClub is another awesome app that shows restaurants that have spare tables available who have last minute deals going on. Restaurants don’t want to have empty tables and you and I don’t want to pay full price. Last minutes deals can give you up to a whopping 50% off – what a bargain! You have to be quick though as the deals don’t last long and are limited.
How to get the most out of the EatClub app
Getting the deals are mostly about being in the right place at the right time so you need to be keeping an eye on the live deals throughout the day. As the deals are last minute they often also have a timer on them before they expire.
However, some restaurants offer all day and take away deals so there isn’t always a mad rush to get the bargains. You can also find restaurants that offer a pre-book option where the stated deal will be available between specified times. Flexibility is the key here but it’s a great way to find and try loads of new restaurants!
At the moment they don’t have a referral incentive but it is coming soon, so stay tuned for some more deals!
How to use the EatClub App
As with the Liven app, EatClub has a map displayed when you open it based on your location and will show restaurants nearby. You can toggle the ‘live deals’ switch on and off to find deals that are going on right now, or you can leave it off and it will show all the restaurants EatClub vouchers can be spent at. You can also filter by cuisine and by discount which is super handy.
As well as the map tab, the app also has the option to search by distance from your location and by the best deals within 2km of your location. This is great if you’re looking for somewhere to eat right away as you can get there pretty quickly.
When you find a restaurant you want to go to, be sure to check how long the deal has left on it by the timer and then just tap on ‘redeem voucher’, fill in your details and show the voucher when you get to the restaurant. If you go somewhere and you really like the restaurant, you can subscribe to it on the EatClub App so you can quickly check back and see if they have any new deals live.
The Happiest Hour
What is it?
Aside from being the best website name for a frugal backpacker, this lifesaver of a website shows all the happy hours (food and drink) going on nearby. They don’t offer any rewards and you can’t book through them, but it’s an awesome resource to find out happy hour food deals as well as cheap drinks. Many of the listings are pubs and hotel bars but you’ll also find other restaurants listed on there, especially for drinks. With this app, you can quite literally happy hour bar hop your way around the city.
The Happiest Hour also has a fully functioning website where you can search for happy hours as well, so if you don’t have your phone on you, you can still have a look and find a bargain meal.
How to get the most out of The Happiest Hour app
I recommend registering your details when you get the app which will allow you to be sent some awesome deals as they come on. They also have an exclusive deal that runs each month so you have a few weeks to make the most of that each time.
There isn’t the option to book anything or place orders on The Happiest Hour, it’s literally an information resource – nice and simple! It has 2 tabs to find happy hours near you which are either in list form or via a map and that’s pretty much it!
How to use The Happiest Hour app
As i’ve just mentioned, you can find happy hours near you via the list or map tab on the app. The app automatically sets itself to show the deals for the day by distance for that day but you can filter it by day, food type and user ratings if you prefer. You can also toggle on for ‘live deals’ to find what happy hours are going on right then. On the map tab, you can move around the map and research the new area to find the deals in a different area which is a great way to explore a new area and have somewhere to aim for.
When you find somewhere you can click on it to get more details such as directions, a link to the website and a list of all the deals the place has throughout the week. You can even favourite a place so you can easily find it for another time.
Top websites to help you eat for cheap in Australia
What is it?
I’m sure you already know about Groupon and yes, I know the emails are annoying, but Groupon is huge in Australia so you can find loads of restaurant deals on there too. Groupon is a massive website offering deals and vouchers for pretty much anything you can think of and has a huge variety of restaurants with deals on there. Each deal is different but you can find ones for the high-end restaurants as well as the more backpacker-friendly places so it’s pretty easy to snap up a deal.
How to get the most out of Groupon deals
You can never be too sure what might pop up on Groupon so the best way to make the most of it is to check it regularly and see what takes your fancy. You can sign up to deal categories so it’s worth signing up to the food and drink one so you can see new deals coming in.
Unlike with the apps above, Groupon requires you to purchase a voucher and then you usually have to contact the restaurant to make the booking using the voucher code. Be sure to check the terms and conditions as the vouchers might have some notes about when it can and cannot be redeemed. The vouchers are also only available to buy for a certain period of time so make sure you don’t leave it too late and miss out.
Groupon is a great way to get get a deal on some really good restaurants that might otherwise be pretty pricey. They also do deals on drinks and things like wine and beer tasting which are always good fun. Sometimes the deal can be a percentage of the bill taken off and sometimes if can be a discount set menu like ‘2 course Indian meal for 2 people for $X’. You really just have to take a look around and find something awesome that takes your fancy,
How to use Groupon
The Groupon homepage is a mixture of everything it has to offer, so the first thing you want to do is put your location in the top and then click on the ‘local’ tab and onto ‘food & drink’ to find the right section. I recommend just leaving the search set to show all deals and from here you can have a look through everything.
When you find a deal you want, you’ll need to double check the terms and conditions and read the description on how to redeem it. Once you’ve decided to go ahead, you just purchase the voucher and follow the redemption instructions.
What is it?
I stumbled across this gem when I was on one of my random google sessions and it’s awesome! TheFork is a restaurant booking and review site but it also has a sweet AF section for deals offering a whopping 50% off. 50%! That means you can afford to eat out twice as much! Well, that’s how I see it anyway.
In addition to the insane discount offers, they also encourage people to leave reviews about the restaurants and it also states how much it costs on average per person so you can easily gauge the cost to suit your budget. It shows available deals by date and meal time so you can really filter your search down.
How to make the most of TheFork website
TheFork has a special ‘deals’ tab that you want to make sure you’re on to find those 50% off gems. As with Groupon, TheFork has a huge range of restaurants and cuisines to choose from, as well as price range. When you have 50% off though, it’s a great excuse to try a restaurant that might otherwise be out of your budget.
The website shows you all the deals available for a certain date and time of day (breakfast, lunch or dinner) and how many deals are left to book. There are limited numbers for the bookings so if you see a deal you fancy, I would recommend booking your table pronto.
In addition, TheFork has a rewards scheme where you gain 1000 points for booking through the website and another 1000 for leaving a restaurant review. Once you get to 10,000, you can redeem a $20 reward to use at selected restaurants.
How to use The Fork website
The homepage of The Fork website asks you to put in your location, date you want to eat out, meal time and number of people. This is important as deals are time and day dependent. When you then search you want to make sure you’re always on the ‘Deals’ tab when you’re looking for restaurants. This is where you’ll find the 50% off deals. You can filter by location and even by cuisine if you wanted to find something close by.
Once you’ve found your restaurant, be sure to check the deal terms – some restaurants offer 50% off all food and some offer 50% off a set menu. Each restaurant has it’s own terms so be sure to read those before you continue. Once you’ve checked all that, you simply continue on to book your table by filling out your details.
General ways to eat out for cheap in Australia
Australia loves a lunchtime deal and swapping your dinner for a bigger lunch is a great way to save money. Lots of pubs and bars have these sorts of deals on and they vary throughout the week. Lots of them also run on weekends which is great news if you’re working whilst in Australia and miss out on the weekday ones. Just keep an eye out as you wander around and you’ll probably stumble across some.
As well as the lunchtime deals, lots of places also do weeknight dinner deals. Again, you’ll probably find them as you walk around or through word of mouth. What’s better than enjoying a dinner out no matter what day of the week it is?
What’s an RSL I hear you ask? Well, they are the Returned and Services League of Australia organisations. Put simply, they are an organisation for all services men and women, past and present to support them. It’s a fantastic organisation and you’ll find RSLs all over Australia. As well as this, they also serve up a fantastic feed for a great price!