Is Australia Really That Expensive?

Is Australia Really That Expensive?

We decided to compare #Perth's cost of living to the other cities that we've visited over the last two years. Our sample includes Bali, Bangkok, Penang, Playa Del Carmen and #Antigua, #Guatemala. So far we've found that most of the world is more #affordable than Perth!


While we have been travelling the world we became aware that life on the road was cheaper than we first expected. We started saving money instead of spending it all. We read an article in 2013 that announced our hometown of Perth was now the 10th most expensive city in the world and we listened to our fellow travellers complain about the costs of living in Australia.

Local currency
Local currency

Well now we are back. So is Australia really as expensive as they say?

Here are a few examples of costs we paid per month, through our 600 days of travel so far. All prices are in AUD (to make it easier for our US readers, during the period of our first year of travel, the USD/AUD exchange rate was close to 1:1).

Ubud, Bali

Accommodation: We stayed at the Bali T House Hibiscus, opposite a rice paddy with shared swimming pool. The house was open aired, 2 bedroom, semi-outdoor bathroom and upper loft.

Utilities: Included water, electricity, Wi-Fi, cleaning and breakfast every morning prepared in our kitchen.

Food: Josh and I could often get food delivered for as little as $5. If we went out to a nice restaurant we might spend a maximum of $20. Bali has a wide range of foods available, but obviously local Indonesian food is going to be cheapest.

Transport: We hired a van for $480 for the month. Fuel was so cheap, 45 cents per litre. This supposedly included insurance, but you never know.

Cinema: We did not visit a cinema while we were in Bali. I think there was only 1 cinema on the whole island at the time.

Daycare: $30 for 2 kids for the month at a local daycare in Jimbaran. The staff didn’t speak much English. We also donated items like markers, pencils and toys. Other more Western-focused daycare centres would probably cost more.

Our stay at the Bali T House Hibiscus
Our stay at the Bali T House Hibiscus

Bangkok, Thailand

Accommodation: A beautiful executive apartment with 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, massive living space. Gym and beautiful pool in complex. 

Utilities: Included water, electricity, Wi-Fi and cleaning once a week.

Food: Street food was delicious and cheap, sometimes only costing a few dollars. Tourist restaurants were higher, but still relatively cheap.

Transport: We daily took a taxi to the kids day care (about 10-15 mins), which was $3. Tuk tuks were even cheaper and the train system was also relatively inexpensive and modern.

Cinema: The cinema in Bangkok was cheap. You could attend Gold Class for $12 per ticket, including pillow and blanket.

Daycare: Daycare was quite expensive at $22 per child per day, however, it included all meals and several activities per week including music class, gymnastics and art. Regular daycare centres would have been a bit cheaper.

At our accommodation in Bangkok
At our accommodation in Bangkok

Penang, Malaysia

Accommodation: Upper level apartment in Miami Green, 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms. Several pools one with a slide, playground, gym, parking.

Utilities: Included excellent Wi-Fi, cleaning, electricity and water.

Food: Visits to Long Beach Hawker food would be roughly $10 for our family, amazing Indian restaurant $12. If we wanted steak, probably around $20 – 30.

Transport: We hired a small car for $470 for the month. Fuel was so cheap, around 68 cents per litre.

Cinema: While the kids were at daycare Josh and I visited the movies. 2 tickets, 2 popcorn and 2 drinks came to $12.

Daycare: We researched many schools and the kids liked the one we chose. It was $225 per month for full time care 6 days a week. We only wanted 3 days per week and they agreed to do half the price. 

Miami Green in Penang
Miami Green in Penang

Playa Del Carmen, Mexico

Accommodation: During the peak season we managed to find this deal through a lovely rental agent. It was a 2-bedroom apartment with a pool and only 10 minutes walk from the beach. 

Utilities: We had to pay for electricity and cleaning, but all other utilities were included.

Food: You could get tacos from a stall for 75 cents each or head to a restaurant and spend about $20.

Transport: In most parts of Playa a taxi is a standard flat fare of $1.80AUD. We also hired a car for two days to explore the region for less than $20 per day.

Cinema: We didn’t attend a cinema in Mexico.

Daycare: The kids didn’t go to daycare in Mexico.

Writing articles by the pool
Writing articles by the pool

Antigua, Guatemala

Accommodation: We decided on some extra security in Guatemala and moved into a house within a gated community. It was 2 story with an open-aired garden in the centre. It had 2 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, and a massive amount of living space with views of the volcano. There were cheaper alternatives available around town. 

from  $72

Hotel Palacio De Dona Beatriz

 Calle De Los Duelos Palacio, Antigua Guatemala, Guatemala
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Utilities: Included all utilities.

Food: We loved the restaurants in Antigua and a fine dining French restaurant set us back maximum $30, most meals were under $20 for 2 adults and 2 kids.

Transport: The Owners of the house were kind enough to lend us their scooter while we were in Antigua. Filling up the tank with petrol cost $5. Sometimes we spent a few dollars on a tuk tuk at night.

Cinema: We didn’t go to the cinema while in Guatemala.

Daycare: The kids attended a local childcare where the teachers only spoke Spanish. AUD$3.74 per hour for 2 children.

Entrance to our house
Entrance to our house

Perth, Australia

Accommodation: We own a house in Australia and built in 2006 before the massive real estate boom kicked in. While we pay a small mortgage, a fully furnished holiday house/apartment in Perth can cost minimum $200 per night. 

from  $342.05

Duxton Hotel Perth

 1 St Georges Terrace, Perth, WA, Australia
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Utilities: On top of that utilities are costing us about $400 per month.

Food: Probably the most expensive anywhere we have been since the minimum wage is so high. Takeaway is anywhere from $30 - $50, a meal at a typical American ribs/steak diner is about $80 – that was with the kid’s eating free! Breakfast of 1 scramble eggs, 1 egg benedict and 1 pancakes for the kids to share will set us back about $60 (not including orange juice!).

Transport: Thankfully my parents had a spare car they lent us while we are here in Perth for the next 4 months. Fuel is about $1.60 per litre. A small car rental is around $1100 to $1500 per month.

Cinema: If you have a special membership card (you buy for $35) you can get discounted tickets for $12 each, otherwise normally around $18 each. Gold Class cinemas will set you back about $40 per ticket not including food.

Daycare: Before we left Perth our kids were enrolled in a local day care, which cost $75 per day per child. Australian residents can apply for government discounts.

Back to Perth
Back to Perth

So yeah Australia is expensive. Out of the 41 countries we visited we found Jerusalem, Israel & Rovaniemi, Finland to be the only places on par with Perth in terms of pricing. Everywhere else, including New York and London, worked out cheaper. 

Everywhere else, including New York and London, worked out cheaper

While Perth is the most expensive city in Australia, the others are not that far behind. To compare these numbers across the country, Sydney is 115.29, Melbourne is 111.58 and Brisbane is 109.67.

The Numbeo score uses the cost of living in New York City as the benchmark (at “100”), and all other cities are calculated on a scale compared to that. So at over 123, Perth is around 23% more expensive than New York City overall.

It is commonly known that Perth is considered a “mining city” because we have a large population of workers flying out to work on the iron ore mines. And these workers are responsible for keeping the economy buoyant. While we live in a beautiful part of the world, the costs seem extravagant compared to other cities that offer a lot more in terms of activities, culture, infrastructure and entertainment. 

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