Canberra (November 14 - 16, 2016)

Canberra, the capital of Australia. I know! Like most of you, I thought that the capital was Sydney, since that’s the city we hear about the most. To arrive in the capital, we had a little hurdle. As in New Zealand, we got ourselves a relocation vehicle, but this time around I didn’t realize that we got a manual campervan with the rudest company ever. Don’t hire from Camperman. (Can’t see company until you receive confirmation on the Transfercar website that you got the relocation vehicle). I heard the unorganized team talk in the office that they weren’t able to finish up the van, then the manager stepped out and aggressively lied to us that they don’t clean the vehicles for relocation and still forced us to sign the standard waiver which includes cleaning fees if the van was dropped off in bad conditions. Ignoring the company’s unprofessional and shifty behavior with everything, both of us are armature manual drivers. Meaning that we will kill the car a few times on the way. Getting the manual was totally my fault, but my travel partner took on the stress of driving in the cities. Thank you! I’m not sure if you know the feeling of killing the car at a green light with bunch of cars behind you, providing this rush and panic, which only results in killing the car more and more before you finally manage to get it right. Wishing that the light stays green long enough and then cry when it doesn’t. Our time would have been more fun if I would have paid more attention. Didn’t help that I worried about getting charged $250 in cleaning fees.

 Parking our awful van from a horrible company at the free campsite.

Parking our awful van from a horrible company at the free campsite.

This section of our trip could have been awful if we didn’t run into one of the best Couchsurfing host ever. Initially I reached out to the Couchsurfing community enquiring for free parking spots during the day while we go explore the city. We got a few suggestions, but Graham randomly offered a free cycling tour to the thread. We happily accepted his offer, but on our day of arrival, we concluded that we did not have enough time to see the city on bikes since he had to pick up his niece from school hours later. So, we drove our manual van instead. He had great patience with our rugged driving. On top of that, he had great knowledge of the area and history of Australia.

 View of Canberra from Mount Ainslie Lookout.

View of Canberra from Mount Ainslie Lookout.

First stop on our tour was Mount Ainslie Lookout. With a fantastic viewpoint of the entire capital, Graham pointed out all the interesting landmarks and mentioned what was special about them. He also told stories of buildings tourists don’t normally hear about. Rolling back down the mountain, the Australian War Museum was our next halt. This free museum is fantastic and should be visited while in Canberra. The museum offers free tours, but we had our host who knew what he was talking about. The fact that near the museum a Turkish flag flies, is fascinating considering the fact of the countries were enemies and that many Australian lives were lost in Turkey during war. After touring the impressive museum, we had to part ways since the niece’s school was about to end. Before we parted, Graham invited us for dinner later at his home.

While thinking about pasta dinner, we had some more locations to check off. National Museum Australia has a little of everything Australia. Entry is free of charge besides the special exhibition. Unfortunately, the main reason we came here, the Aboriginal section, was temporarily closed. So, we swiftly worked our way through the museum before our hourly parking ran out of time and after drove up on another hill for a view. The Arboretum was already closed when we got up there, but there are few walks available. We chose the trail to the best view point. Though a short path, I couldn’t escape fast enough. Tons of horse flies! (Flies that bite like mosquitos.) I’ve never had such bad reactions to bites until Australia. I made the mistake in Melbourne wearing shorts because of the hot weather and got multiple bites. The bites would swell up bright red and expand, then turn into a bruise. This resulted in my legs looking as if someone took a baseball bat and smashed it into my legs multiple times. Not a pretty sight. Not like the green view we got from the vantage point. Canberra has so many trees in between neighborhoods. Hard to tell that it’s a city, nevertheless the capital!

 View from the Arboretum. What a green capital.

View from the Arboretum. What a green capital.

Dinner time was approaching, hence we found our way back to our host for the meal, fantastic conversation, some soccer with the niece, a hot shower, and awesome advice. Instead of driving to our next free camp to spend the night, we parked nearby our hosts home. In the morning, we ate breakfast with him and he made me a barista worthy latte. I couldn’t believe that I stuck gold. I just wanted to find a place to park the van, but got a free tour, dinner, breakfast, and met a person I can ask about practical life advice. I do hope we will run into each other again. Happy about my luck, we moved on to Sydney after breakfast. Sydney was another great host experience. Probably the most pampered I felt since a child. That story is for the next post though!


Cost breakdown of Canberra (1 day with total cost of $30.08. Average daily cost is $30.08.)

  • Transportation: $28.20 (Campervan Relocation)
  • Miscellaneous: $1.88 (Hourly Parking Fee)

Melbourne (November 10 - 14, 2016)

Picked the wrong airport. I noticed that only after I’d booked my flight from New Zealand to Australia. Melbourne has 2 airports, Avalon (AVV) and Melbourne airport (MEL). We did save some money on the flight, landing at the alternative Avalon airport, but there is no public transportation besides taxis available from here. My heart shed a tear cashing out $13.39 on an Uber to Werribee, which is only a halfway point from the airport to city center. That’s me splitting the fare with my travel mate! No longer in a cheap country where a half an hour ride would set me back only $3. In the end, we didn’t save much by going to the other airport and could have spent more if we had to have taken a regular taxi or needed to go all the way into the city. Luckily our last-minute Couchsurfing host lived further out of the city, closer to our landing point. So, if you’re not staying in the heart of Melbourne, avoid the Avalon airport.

 View of Melbourne from the Sofitel Hotel bathroom.

View of Melbourne from the Sofitel Hotel bathroom.

Our Couchsurfing host was who warned us about the airport transportation. We had been messaging back and forth, but we didn’t see our host until the day before we left Melbourne and learned that the house we were staying in was the home she was housesitting for a family friend. We spent 4 nights there! She ended up being a cool kid, with whom I agreed with on many topics. She would have taken us to some points of interest further out of the city, but due to lack of time, we settled with a spin around the area in her jeep. Not only that, but she also insisted on cooking us a nourishing dinner. With plenty of leftovers, she went on to tell us to pack some up since we were departing the next morning to Canberra in our relocation campervan.

How a Couchsurfer in Canberra positively mind boggled me, must wait for the next post. First, I need to finish telling you about Melbourne. To get around here is rather easy with the train. To use the train, we needed to buy the Myki train card for $4.5. You can’t ride public transport in Victoria state without this card since you’ll need to tap on and off from the station. If you tap on and off before 7am on weekdays, you ride for free. On the weekend there is a $6 cap, meaning you can ride all you want in zone 1 and 2 and won’t spend more than $6. There is also the free city circle tram to help you get around without breaking your wallet nor your feet. The tourist shuttle bus, which stops at major tourist attractions costs $7.5.

 Tiniest books people actually used back in the day.

Tiniest books people actually used back in the day.

Besides taking the train in and out from our accommodations, we walked. I think I can explore way better on foot than on any method of transport since I can see more details. Our first attraction was the State Library of Victoria. Besides books, they also have 2 free exhibits, which are worth a look. I was especially fascinated with the history of books and looking at the first books ever and the tiniest books. From there we made our way to the royal garden with 3 pit stops. Somehow a fountain has found itself on a tourist pamphlet. We went out of our way for this apparently gorgeous fountain, but could see from the distance that, even though not shabby, the fountain had nothing on the ones we saw in Lima, Peru. The lack of tourists confirmed that we weren’t the only ones with this opinion. We didn’t even bother walking a few meters more to see the fountain up close. For the succeeding halt, I had secret intel that on the 35th floor of the Sofitel Hotel, visitors could get a great view of Melbourne from the bathroom. All we had to do is take the elevator to the 35th floor, turn left out of the elevator, keep left again, and then head straight to find the bathroom on the right-hand side. After taking in the decent sight, I didn’t forget to use the toilet before leaving. Next stopover was at graffiti alley. The entire alley including the dumpsters have been artistically graffitied. Then alas, we eventually arrived at the royal botanical garden. I’m always in awe when I see a giant park in a city. How lucky the locals are to have vast greenery at their disposal. Actually, I was looking for the other royal garden which has red rocks. Didn’t realize that the other one was further away from the city center. Being the weekend, we could have gone there without wasting money on the train, but we would have arrived right around closing time. Instead we strolled in this other plant-rich park.

 A section of graffiti alley.

A section of graffiti alley.

All in all, I got a great first impression of Australia. Decently priced public transportation (not cabs), awesome Couchsurfing host, free interesting sights and attractions, and reasonable grocery bills. I was scared for my credit card balance before arriving in Australia because all the rumors of this country eating cash. With such an expensive country, there are tons of ways for diligent tourists to save. I’ll be sharing more budget tips on my next post and tell you about my epic Couchsurfing encounter. So be sure to read the next post on Canberra!


Cost breakdown of Melbourne (4 days with total cost of $52.83. Average daily cost is $13.21.)

  • Transportation: $30.77
    • Airport shuttle: $4.51 (transport from international to domestic airport in Sydney)
    • Train: $9.02
    • Uber: $17.24
  • Food: $22.06
    • Meals: $5.98 (1 meal)
    • Groceries: $16.08