Planning an adventure down under and pondering over whether to book a hostel or hire a campervan?

Both options offer unique experiences and perks, but choosing the right one can make all the difference to your Aussie escapade. We’ve seen heaps of questions online about the best way to travel in Oz, and there’s loads to consider – it defo varies from person to person!

So, whether you’re a solo wanderer or a squad on the go, we put together this guide to dive into the pros and cons (and the costs!) of hostels and campervans, helping you decide which fits your travel dreams and budget best.

Parked camper in remote area with surfboard, table and chairs.

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Hostels in Australia: Pros and Cons

Ok, so let’s start with hostels. Always a solid choice and the original adventurers’ favourite, right? They’re the go-to for backpackers looking to make new mates and stretch those travel dollars. But, as with anything, they’ve got their perks and their quirks. Let’s dive into what makes hostels buzz and what might have you looking for other options, so you can figure out if it’s the best fit for your Aussie travels!

Hostel Pros


Compared to hotels, hostels are wallet-friendly. You pay for a bed rather than a room, making it much cheaper than hotels. It’s ideal for longer stays or for those who prefer to spend their money on experiences rather than luxury accommodation.

Social atmosphere

One of the biggest perks of hostel life is the social vibe. It’s a melting pot of cultures and personalities. You’ll meet other travellers, share stories and tips, and even make new friends. Many hostels also organise social events like BBQ nights, group tours or pub crawls which are perfect for solo travellers looking to connect. It may be a bit cheese, but we strongly recommend embracing the cheese and making some memories!

Hassle-free living

Jump straight into your adventure without the fuss of setting up camp each night. In a hostel, your bed’s ready when you are, letting you focus more on exploring and less on logistics.

All of life’s luxuries… or at least a few

A good hostel will often give you decent Wi-Fi, laundry setups and a kitchen stocked with more than your average campervan could carry. In other words, hostels hook you up with many of the comforts of home.

At the heart of the action

Hostels will put you smack-dab in the heart of the action. From city explorations to hitting the local nightlife, everything’s just a stroll away – no parking nightmares involved.

Hostel Cons

Limited privacy

If you’re someone who digs having your own space, hostels might feel a bit snug. Unlike the private sanctuary of a campervan, you’re sharing pretty much everything, from bunk beds to bathroom queues. Great for making mates, not so much for midnight snorers.

Noise levels

On that note, from the early-birders to the all-nighters, hostels can come with their own mixtape. In a campervan, it’s just you, the open road and the tunes you choose. If you do take this route, ear plugs and an eye mask may come in handy.

Shared facilities

While sharing is part of the hostel experience, it can be a pain to find yourself waiting in line to use the toaster or shower. That’s hostel life. In your own campervan, it’s all yours, anytime – no waiting necessary unless it’s your travel buddy’s turn to use the loo.

Waiting for buses

Once you check out of the hostel, the chances are you’ll find yourself waiting a few hours for a bus to the next destination. These hours can mount up and often turn into half days! Rather than hitting the road as soon as you wake up, you’ll find yourself lingering around places waiting for buses with a heavy backpack. You could opt for a car rental, but then you’re tacking on a major expense that’s not helpful while you’re in town.

Set location

Love waking up to a new view? Hostels plant you in one location. Campervans, on the other hand, let you chase the sunrise, parking up in new spots as you please (as long as you’re following local rules).

Women talking in a hostel

Campervans in Australia: Pros and Cons

Alright, let’s switch gears and chat about campervans. They’re the ultimate freedom machines for anyone keen to carve out their own path across the stunning Aussie landscape. While they offer an unbeatable sense of adventure, campervan life isn’t all sunsets and open roads. We’re here to unpack the highs and the lows, helping you decide if a campervan is the way to go for your trip.

Campervan Pros

Ultimate freedom

Feel that? It’s the freedom to wake up and decide you want to catch the sunrise on a different beach each morning. Campervans give you the wheels to go wherever the road might take you, no need to stick to a set plan or location. Change your mind, change your view!

Your space, your rules

Skip the noisy dorms and say a big hello to your own little haven on wheels. In your campervan, you’ve got control, from the music on the stereo to the coolness of the A/C.

Budget-friendly bonanza

While upfront costs might be more than a hostel bed, you can save heaps in the long run with a bit of planning. Plus, your biggest transportation and accommodation costs are rolled into one nifty package, which can make planning easier.

Scenic stops on tap

Ever wanted to pull over because the view just blew your mind? In a campervan, you can. From epic coastal drives to quiet outback roads, views that will burn into your memory are just a window roll away.

A community on the road

While you’ve got your privacy, it’s a total myth that you can’t make friends on the road, especially if you’re taking a popular route. The campervan and road-tripping community is a vibrant and welcoming world. You’ll find mates at campgrounds and caravan parks, sharing stories and tips under the stars.

Maximise your time

Maximise your time whilst on the road! As soon as you’ve finished your breaky, you can be on the road and onto the next spot. It beats spending half your trip waiting for buses if you opt for a hostel and bus pass combination.

Campervan Cons

Driving duties

Captain of your ship means you’re also the driver. Long drives can be a thrill but also a bit of a chore, especially on Australia’s vast, sometimes monotonous roads. However, if you opt for a bus pass and hostels, you’ll still spend hours on the bus, you just won’t be the driver.

Parking puzzles

Finding a spot to safely park your home-on-wheels each night can be a bit of a headache, especially in popular or urban areas where restrictions apply. Unlike hostels that are fixed at the heart of the action, you might find yourself on the outskirts. However, Oz and NZ cities are extremely chilled compared to the hustle and bustle of European capitals! 

Space constraints

Even in the roomiest campervans, space is at a premium. You’ll need to get creative with storage and living arrangements, which can be a challenge when you’re carrying a lot of gear or travelling with the whole squad.

Just the basics

Unlike hostels, which sometimes hook you up with lush perks like a gym or a pool, a campervan setup is more basic – just the essentials. So, you might have to skip some of those extra comforts and conveniences on your travels. Although, if you’re like us, this might be exactly what you need. Rather than a pool in a hostel – the ocean will be your swimming spot! 

Weather woes

Your experience in a campervan can heavily depend on the weather. Extreme heat or unexpected cold snaps can make living in a small, confined space uncomfortable, unlike the more controlled environment of a hostel.

Hostels vs. Campervans: Cost Comparison

Now it’s the big one: what’s it going to cost ya? When planning your epic adventure in Oz, the budget can be a major deciding factor. Let’s dive into the nitty-gritty and break down the costs of bunking in hostels versus living it up in a campervan. Whether you’re counting your dollars or just curious about the best bang for your buck, we’ve got the details to help you make a savvy decision.

Since travel is always a bit of a wildcard, we’re gonna set up a hypothetical roadie to crunch some numbers. Picture this:

  1. A dreamy two-week adventure in January (high season, so expect rates to be higher than during winter)
  2. For two legends over 21
  3. Cruising in a mid-range, 2-berth camper
  4. From Brisbane to Sydney (using The Pacific Highway A1/M1 route, which is around 1,000km)
  5. With an extra 20% for those spontaneous detours and side adventures, bumping it up to a cool 1,200km in total.

As every adventure is unique, we’ll spill all the deets right here so you can tweak and recalculate as needed. Also, note that all costs are in AUD.

Ready to see what this epic journey might set you back? Let’s dive into it!

Hostel and Car Costs

For a 14-day (13-night) road trip from Brisbane to Sydney using hostels and car hire, let’s break down the costs considering accommodation, transportation, food, activities, and miscellaneous expenses:


Cost per night: Prices can vary but have increased in recent years. Based on an analysis of comparison sites for Jan 2025, we’ll assume it’s around $65 per person, per night for a dormitory room. A private room for two would be around $200 per night.

Total: $65 x 2 people x 13 nights = $1,690

Car Hire

Rental cost per day: Prices vary by rental company and vehicle type, but an analysis of price comparison sites like Kayak suggests an average of $100 per day.

One-way fee: Car rental companies usually charge for dropping off in a different location to the pickup. Exactly how this is charged varies, but it can add around 10-20% to the daily rate, so let’s use $120 in total.

Total: $120 x 14 days = $1,680


Total distance: As mentioned above, we’re taking The Pacific Highway A1/M1 route from Brisbane to Sydney, which is around 1,000km. But we’re going to tack on an extra 20% for opportunistic escapades, bumping it up to 1,200km in total.

Cost per km: A typical car has a fuel efficiency of 8 litres per 100km, though you can check a specific car here. The average price of fuel in Oz as of writing is $1.93 per litre.

Total: 0.08 litres per km * 1,200km * $1.93 = $185


Eating out and groceries: Assuming a mix of dining out and self-catering, let’s budget approximately $35 per person, per day.

Total: $35 x 2 people x 14 days = $980


Excursions and entry fees: Including visits to national parks, museums, and other attractions, let’s budget around $200 per person.

Total: $200 x 2 people = $400


For parking, tolls and other travel expenses, let’s allocate about $100 in total.

Total Cost

  • Accommodation (Hostels): $1,690
  • Transportation (Car Hire + Fuel): $1,865
  • Food: $980
  • Activities: $400
  • Miscellaneous: $100

Grand total: $5,035 AUD 

Total per person: $2,518 AUD

Campervan Costs

Next up, we have the same 14-day (13-night) road trip from Brisbane to Sydney, but this time using a campervan.

Campervan Hire

Rental cost per day: Like car hire, prices can vary significantly based on the model and features; but, based on our experience, let’s assume a cost of $150 per day for a mid-range, 2-berth camper.

Total: $150 x 14 days = $2,100


Free camping: While not always available, free camping spots can significantly reduce your costs. We’ll assume that half of the nights are at free camping sites.

Paid campsite: As it’s not always possible to find a free site, or you might simply want to make use of some facilities, we’ll assume the other half of the nights are at a campsite. Camping spots in Australia can cost as little as $20 per night, but a powered site averages around $50 per night.

Total: $50 x 7 nights = $350


Total distance: As mentioned above, we’re taking The Pacific Highway A1/M1 route from Brisbane to Sydney, which is around 1,000km. But we’re going to tack on an extra 20% for opportunistic escapades, bumping it up to 1,200km in total.

Cost per km: A campervan tends to be less fuel efficient than a car, so we’ll increase our estimate up to 12 litres per 100km, though you can check a specific vehicle here. The average price of fuel in Oz as of writing is $1.93 per litre.

Total: 0.12 litres per km * 1,200km * $1.93 = $278


Eating out and groceries: As campervans encourage self-catering, we’ll lower the budget here to $25 per person, per day.

Total: $25 x 2 people x 14 days = $700


Excursions and entry fees: We’ll keep this the same – including visits to national parks, museums, and other attractions, let’s budget around $200 per person.

Total: $200 x 2 people = $400


Again, for parking, tolls and other travel expenses, let’s allocate about $100 in total.

Total Cost

  • Accommodation (Campsite Fees): $350
  • Transportation (Campervan Hire + Fuel): $2,378
  • Food: $700
  • Activities: $400
  • Miscellaneous: $100

Grand total: $3,928 AUD

Total per person: $1,964 AUD

Which Is Better Value?

Alright, RatPackers, when it comes to getting the most bang for your buck, it really depends on what you’re after. But let’s lay it out with our example: rolling in a campervan shaves off about 22% compared to the combo of hostels and car hire.

Hostel + Car Hire
Campervan Difference
-$1,107 (~22%)


Here’s the scoop: bundling your ride and your accommodation into one neat package with a campervan generally ends up cheaper than booking a car and a room separately.

Plus, the kicker? Hostels charge you per head, but campervan costs do not increase with each person. So, the more mates you pile into the van, the less you’re each shelling out.

And don’t forget, car hire costs can really rack up the longer you’re on the road. If you opt for a campervan for an extended adventure, you could be looking at even bigger savings.

So, if stretching those dollars is important to you, a campervan might just be your ticket to a more wallet-friendly roadie.

But hey, there’s way more to it than just the dollar signs…

Aerial view of a campervan in Western Australia

So, Which Is Better Overall?

Planning an adventure down under can spin your head with options, whether it’s choosing between the cosy confines of a hostel or the liberating freedom of a campervan. Both paths offer a slice of the Aussie dream, but the best pick?

Hostels are the tried-and-true path for many a traveller, perfect for those looking to dive into a social pool and experience city life up close without draining their wallets. They place you right in the heart of the action, and with amenities and instant mates just a bunk away, it’s a great choice for those who thrive in a bustling environment. Plus, you get the added perks of stable Wi-Fi, ready-to-go beds, and that sweet, sweet hostel breakfast.

On the flip side, campervans are the go-to for those who yearn to steer their own course. The freedom to wake up and sip your coffee in front of a new sunrise every morning? Priceless. It’s your retreat, your rules, and potentially a budget-friendlier option when you roll accommodation and travel into one.

But here’s the real tea: it’s all about the type of adventure you’re after. If meeting new people and staying in the heart of the city sounds like your jam, hostels are your ticket. Craving freedom, flexibility, and the open road? It’s got to be a campervan.

No matter the choice, remember, it’s not just about the price tag – it’s about the stories you’ll tell and the memories you’ll make. Whether it’s the people you meet over shared meals in a hostel kitchen or the silent sunrises you catch parked on a deserted beach, your choice should support the adventure you want to live.

Both roads lead to epic stories, so choose the one that calls to you the loudest. And whatever you pick, you’re in for an epic stint of sun, surf, and soul-searching in the stunning land of Oz.

Campervan on empty road in Australia

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About the Author: Sammy
You can never EVER forget where your from – In my case Manchester, UK. But for now and for...

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