The thing I love about this feature is the ability to see a city through the lens of another and this week we find out how to save money in Brisbane with Kerri from down under. Whilst I’ve been to many of the cities featured in Cities for Less you can’t beat getting the gritty detail from someone who lives there.
Save Money in Brisbane
Kerri is going to share her insight to help you save money in Brisbane, possibly my favourite city Down Under. I must confess I’m biased…I like hot weather, white sandy beaches (oh Whitehaven, how I miss you!) and diving in pristine blue seas.
So let me introduce you to Kerri of Beer and Croissants. It’s impossible not to love the girl with a website by that name. I mean, come on, who doesn’t love a beer or a croissant?
Introducing Kerri from down under
Kerri’s passion for travel writing began in the late nineties when she would write long, handwritten letters home to family and friends. Isn’t that sweet? It brings back memories of the years I spent living in Europe where I used to write home (we didn’t have Internet back then!). It’s almost a forgotten art now but I still have boxes of saved letters from friends that I love to pull out every now and then!
Kerri now plans her travel around food destinations, and is known for souvenir shopping of a different kind. Each trip sees her bring home suitcases filled with a country’s finest foods (all declared of course!)
Living in Australia, Kerri has overcome the “long haul flight” syndrome to travel to over 30 countries and now writes honest travel stories for others to enjoy on her blog.
So lets hear Kerri’s ideas to save money in Brisbane. Be warned, this is an EPIC post so you may want to bookmark it and return to it again and again.
Getting to know Brisbane
Brisbane is where I live when I’m not travelling. It’s my home, and has been for 25 years. I’m not a nomadic wanderer. This city lures me back when I’m tired of time in foreign lands.
Brisbane is a city that should be experienced, as much as possible, in the great outdoors, an under-rated part of Australia. Its’ big sisters, Sydney and Melbourne, hog the limelight leaving Brisbane crying out for more attention. On the plus side, there’s less people, it’s not as crazy busy as the other cities and the people are friendlier, more casual, more welcoming. It is sometimes affectionately called “a big country town”
Blessed with near perfect weather, a casual lifestyle, natural beauty and a growing cosmopolitan presence, it’s the unsung hero of our fabulous country.
But, before you get too immersed in all the great things to do, here’s some fun facts that will have you blending in and talking to locals like a pro.
Brisbane is the capital of Queensland.
We call it the Sunshine State. Come and visit and you’ll understand why. We’ve got plenty of sunshine all year round averaging 261 days per year. (Anne: oh boy, you can really go off some people quickly! We are lucky to get about 50 days of sunshine in the UK!)
We love doing everything outdoors.
Houses have huge decks and we eat and play in parks. We swim, fish, camp, dive and snorkel. Restaurants have alfresco dining, so we even sit outside when we eat. (Anne: who wouldn’t? It’s bloody gorgeous up there!)
Australians (Aussies) like to shorten everything
So in Brisbane, we’re from Brissie or lately it’s been given a more global feel, with the addition of “BrisVegas” to the list of nicknames. If people are talking about us, they often call us “Brisbane-ites”. Our nearest neighbours are the Gold Coast (Goldie), Sunshine Coast (Sunny Coast) and Ipswich (Ippy).
While we are on language, it is pronounced “Brisbin” (say it all together fast)….never “Bris-bain”.
Brisbane has around 2.3 million people and is the third largest city in Australia. Around 28% of the city’s residents were born overseas as they too know it’s a great place to live.
Other Fun facts
- The aptly named Brisbane River winds it’s way 344km from the mountains through the city out into Moreton Bay.
- Brisbane is the gateway for visiting the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, or the offshore islands of Moreton and Stradbroke.
- We are mad, patriotic, one-eyed supporters of the “Maroons” our state rugby league team.
- We are spoilt for choice with an abundance of fresh seafood and fresh produce
Anne: now if that doesn’t already have you drooling, here’s some fabulous pictures to persuade you to book your flight.
There are plenty of places to stay in Brisbane. The majority of the hotels and hostels are in the CBD, or at South Bank. Cheaper accommodation, called motels, can be found in the suburbs, usually on main roads.
Prices for hotels in the city can vary but as a general rule, a three star hotel can range from $120 – $A160 AUD per night for a standard room.
There are also a number of hostels and cheaper short stay apartment locations where rooms can range from $20- $35 AUD for a shared dorm to $100 AUD for a private room. Try YHA or Hostelbookers for availability.
The Brisbane community also supports and contributes to AirBnB and Couchsurfing and there are plenty of options here. Or if you are planning on a long term stay, housesitting is a popular alternative to save money in Brisbane with many travellers from overseas swapping houses each year.
TIP: Be aware that if you are staying outside the CBD that it is advisable to ensure you have good access to public transport. If you have a car, staying in the suburbs won’t be a problem but public transport in some Brisbane suburbs can be tricky.
I always recommend using Google Earth to review the area you are staying in and its proximity to where you will be spending most of your time.
So it’s no secret that Australia is a long, long way away from most global destinations. (Anne: you are not kidding! That’s why I’ve not been back in ten years! I can’t face the flight and the only way I’m going back is in a private jet or first class!)
There are some flights that arrive directly into Brisbane, but many originating from overseas will involve a stopover in Perth, Melbourne or Sydney prior to arrival.
Flying is definitely the best way to get here, either from international cities, or from other Australian cities. Australia is a geographically dispersed country, meaning nothing is close. In the time I could take to drive from Brisbane to another major city, I could have crossed through two countries in Europe.
If you are spending time in other Australian cities, it is best to in and out of Brisbane. Flying will save you heaps of time, and in the long run, money, especially if you are not planning on staying for a long period of time.
Jetstar, Virgin Australia and Tiger Airways regularly offer low cost airfares from Brisbane to all Australian capital cities and major regional towns.
Flying non-peak times can cost from as low as $69 AUD to Sydney (90 min flight), $89 AUD to Melbourne (2 hour flight) and $200 AUD to Perth (4 hours 30 min) one way. (Anne: check out Skyscanner for the best flights from the UK.)
Brisbane doesn’t have a definitive high and low travel season. Christmas and New Year are obviously more expensive times to travel, and school holidays see less cheaper flights in circulation.
Arriving by air
If you are arriving by air, Brisbane’s Domestic and International Airports are located in the same precinct, 13km from Brisbane’s CBD. If your flight is direct, you will disembark and clear customs and quarantine at the Brisbane International Airport.
If you have landed at another city’s international airport (eg Cairns, Gold Coast, Sydney, Melbourne, Perth), then you will have to clear customs there and transfer to the domestic airport for arrival at Brisbane Domestic.
Both Brisbane domestic and international airports are serviced by budget airlines including Jetstar and Tiger Air. Scoot and Air Asia fly into Coolangatta Airport on the Gold Coast, approximately one hour south of Brisbane with both airlines operating bus services to major Brisbane bus stations for $39 AUD.
TIP: If you are flying long-haul, (and don’t belong to an existing frequent flyer program) it might also be worth signing up for a OneWorld frequent flyer program and using one of the affiliated carriers so that you can earn points for your flight. Long flights equal lots of points !
The two airports are linked by the Airtrain, which terminates in the Brisbane CBD. The trip takes 20 minutes and costs $17.50 AUD. Children up to 14 travel free with an adult. If you are planning a return trip, return tickets can be bought for $33 AUD.
Taxis and Uber operate from both airport terminals, but taxis are very expensive especially during peak hours when roads to and from the airport can be congested.
Another option to save money in Brisbane is to catch the Con-x-ion Airport Bus into the city. This bus service operates seven days a week to and from the Brisbane CBD. One way is $20 AUD and a return is $36AUD.
The major car rental companies are on hand at both terminals should you wish to hire a car for your stay.
There are a variety of public transport options in Brisbane, but you need to be careful, as it’s not ultra cheap.
Brisbane is connected with an integrated public transport system called GoCard. This is a hard, plastic card which can be purchased from the Brisbane Airport Train Stations. Adult cards require a $10 AUD deposit and children $5 AUD. Further funds can then be added or set for auto top up as required. The GoCard allows for travel on the city’s buses, trains, ferries and CityCats (a fast ferry).
If you are wanting to travel in the inner city area, the City Loop bus connects to many of Brisbane’s great city locations and it runs every 10 minutes.
Brisbane also has some fantastic walking and bicycle paths. The inner city has 150 CityCycle stations from where you can rent a bike for free for up to half an hour. You must first “subscribe” to a plan e.g. $11 AUD for one week or $2 AUD a day. Once subscribed, you can literally ride all day for free, returning the bikes within half hour intervals.
Green cabs (three wheeled bicycles with a driver) operate from South Bank and will transport customers anywhere between the inner city suburbs of West End and Fortitude Valley. Prices start at $5 AUD per person for two adults to travel 2-3 blocks.
From one side of the city to the other is $15 AUD for two adults. This is a great way to travel if you are just needing to get around the inner city. It’s environmentally friendly, and you get to sight see whilst someone else does all the hard work.
What better way to move around Brisbane than on a CityCat?
Sure, CityCats are part of the public transport system here, but they are also a great way to save money in Brisbane and see the city from the river. For just under $4 AUD one way (adult on a GoCard) you can ride the CityCat from one end to the other. Getting down onto the water will also give you a totally different perspective of Brisbane as you pass by the backyards of some of Brisbane’s most elite properties.
The CityCat runs from St Lucia in the south to Hamilton in the north.
Or to really save money in Brisbane you can get on the free CityHopper ferries (the older ones) for hopping from one side of the river to the other in the city area.
TIP: If you are planning on using public transport a lot over a three or five day consecutive period, then the SEEQ Card would be worth your while. (Adult ticket prices are $79 AUD for three days or $129 AUD for five).
If not, then certainly get a GoCard as the price per journey is much less than if you buy a paper ticket when you board the bus, train or ferry.
Food and Drink
Brisbane is a burgeoning foodie city, with the number of cafes, restaurants and bars growing each year. We also have a vibrant market culture, with many foodie markets open during the week and on weekends in a variety of locations all over the city.
In the CBD, each Wednesday a food market operates on the river end of the Queen St Mall. On weekends, they can be found in the Botanical Gardens, West End, South Bank and many other local suburbs.
We love to eat outside, so there are many options for grabbing some takeaway, a picnic basket, or supplies for the bbq, and heading to one of hundreds of free park areas in Brisbane.
Prices for a lot of things in Brisbane have increased over the years, and eating out is probably one of the activities that has been impacted the most. Whilst I know the word “cheap” is subjective, overall, I would say that it’s no longer easy to find a “cheap eat”.
Even takeaway, which usually conjures up an image of a less expensive meal, is not necessarily so. But it can be done, you just need to hunt them out. For example: A quick, healthy takeaway lunch in the Brisbane CBD will most likely cost at least $15 AUD for a meal and a drink. A less healthy one might set you back $10 AUD. A takeaway coffee will range from $4-$5 AUD per cup.
Lunch at a sit down cafe will be around $30 AUD including a drink, whilst Sushi probably remains one of the cheaper options for a quick bite in the CBD. Eating dinner out at a casual restaurant will be a more expensive affair, costing on average $80 AUD each for a three course meal and drink.
If you are only visiting for a short amount of time (or you are a major foodie with no issues about money), then I would recommend getting to know our great outdoors in combination with meal time. Go to the Wynnum foreshore, where you can buy takeaway fish and chips, then have a swim in the wading pool afterwards.
Or to Manly, where you can sit right on the edge and watch the windsurfers battle with their boards in the windy conditions. The best way to save money in Brisbane food wise is really to pack a picnic lunch or supplies for a bbq and head over to the fabulous South Bank. There are plenty of grassed, shady areas for throwing out your picnic blanket.
You can’t visit OZ and not have a Barbie!
There are plenty of bbq’s that are free and easy to use. Key places to picnic include Kangaroo Point, South Bank, Mt Coot-tha, Sherwood Arboretum and the Brisbane bayside. Brisbane is all about being outdoors, so don’t confine yourself to eating in a cafe or restaurant.
Save money in Brisbane with this list of cheap eats.
Things To Do
Brisbane is blessed with an amazing climate which in turn spawns an incredible number of activities and things to do that won’t cost you a cent.
Unlike some places where the only thing free might be a museum (sure we’ve got those too), there is no shortage of great things to do in this city that won’t hurt your bank balance. In fact, so many of them are completely free! Now that is the way to save money in Brisbane!
A match for the Big Apple
Visitors to Brisbane are extremely fortunate to have access to the Brisbane Greeters, similar to the famous Apple Greeters in New York City.
Brisbane is the only other city in the world to have such a service for visitors. Keep an eye out for the team of volunteers dressed in bright red in the city centre.
Free things to do in Brisbane
The Cultural Precinct
The cultural precinct is made up of the Queensland Art Gallery, Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC), Queensland Museum, Queensland State Library and the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA). It occupies an enviable position on the Brisbane River, alongside South Bank. GOMA and the Queensland Art Gallery.
GOMA is the newest addition to this area, and holds a significant collection of art. Each year it has a full calendar of exhibitions, most of which are free. They also have a children’s art centre, which features interactive art.
The Queensland Museum has a revolving program of exhibitions as well as permanent ones. It is a well visited location for many visitors as well as locals. It also houses the Science Centre, but this visit attracts an entry price.
Don’t miss South Bank
South Bank is both an iconic landmark and destination in Brisbane. This is Brisbane’s inner city green playground and oasis, a place built on the site where Expo ’88 put Brisbane on the world map. For years, it sat as a wasteland, and a reminder of the great times everyone enjoyed here during Expo.
Today, 28 years on, it is the thriving heart of the inner city and represents everything we love about our lifestyle. On weekends and holidays, the South Bank Parkland is awash with activity.
On weekdays you will find a little more serenity, but beware the peak hour rush at both ends of the day when pedestrians and bike riders are whizzing about on their way to or from work. There are also plenty of places to eat here, and some fabulous pubs as well.
On the other side of South Bank you will find Little Stanley Street, a hive of cafes and bars. But, it is the free things that bring people to South Bank , over and over again. It is one of my most favourite places in the entire city. Here you can walk, run, bike ride or hire a segway. You can roller blade, walk your dog, or just sit on the seats that line the promenade and people watch.
You can even join in a session of tai chi or yoga, with the groups that put their mats out on the grassy hill and begin their day with some quiet meditation. Or, you can find yourself in the midst of “Epicurious”, the community garden, lovingly cared for by volunteers. Many come past here on their way home from work to pick that special herb or vegetable and take it home for inclusion in their dinner.
Each weekend, the South Bank Markets fill Stanley St with such things as jewellery, handmade clothing, leathergoods, crafts and food. South Bank is also home to an enormous waterpark area, including a pool and a man made beach, complete with sand and a lifeguard.
It is here at Streets Beach that visitors and locals alike love to come and it is the epitome of all things Brisbane. In amongst the green, shady trees, families bring picnics and enjoy the use of the free park area and bbq facilities.
People stroll along the beautiful pink bougainvillea-lined arbour that winds it’s way through the centre of South Bank. All year round, South Bank offers a diverse calendar of events such as the Regional Food Festival, Sunday afternoon music sessions on the river, twilight movies in the park, fireworks, street theatre and dancing. There is always something going on here and it’s almost always free.
Check out the local markets
With such amazing weather, it follows that we would have an abundance of outdoor markets to satisfy almost every need. From the more popular and well known markets at South Bank, to the hip and funky “Eat Street” markets that operate out of shipping containers at Hamilton, to the eco-friendly, alternate green market at Davies Park West End, there is something for everyone. Options you might like to try are:
- Boggo Road, Dutton Park is on the site of a former jail with heritage protected buildings surrounding the market
- Jan Power runs the “foodie” markets at four locations: Brisbane City, Mitchelton, Powerhouse and Manly each week.
- The Riverside Markets were held in the CBD along the river boardwalk for over 25 years. In 2016, the markets have found a new home in the City Botanical Gardens.
Go up to Mt Coot-tha (Brisbane Lookout)
Don’t be fooled into thinking this mountain that overlooks Brisbane city is just for the TV stations and their recording studios. Mt Coot-tha has long been a favourite place to go for locals and visitors alike. It’s the place where we take any new visitor to the city and. It’s where we go on a stormy day to watch the thunderstorms roll in.
For the ultra-fit, it’s the most challenging mountain in a generally flat city. We have bbq’s and picnics up there, sitting in amongst the gum trees, hoping to spot a koala. At worst, you’ll get white cockatoos screeching from their perches high up in the trees, or magpies, watching you carefully just in case you should drop a crumb off your table.
This is bushland, right in the heart of the city. Mainly though, it’s the place where everyone goes to get a panoramic view of the city. On a clear day, you can see right out to Moreton Bay, and at night, it’s a shimmer of lights. If you are lucky enough to be in Brisbane for Riverfire (September each year), it also provides one of the best seats in the house for the annual fireworks show.
Visit the Kangaroo Point Cliffs
Made from volcanic rock and heritage protected, these incredible cliff faces are a landmark in Brisbane. The Kangaroo Point Cliffs, located on the opposite side of the river to the CBD, are one of my favourite places in all of Brisbane. Here, you can sit at the very top of the cliffs, taking in the sweeping view of the city, having a picnic, watching the fireworks, or just sitting back and staring at the view.
Below, at river level there are more bbq and picnic areas, along with a great walking track that takes you on a loop through the city. From here you can walk the 10km across the Story Bridge, through the Botanic Gardens to South Bank and back. In the early mornings and late afternoon these paths are alive with people exercising. The peaceful surroundings and views make the punishment to your body seem so much less.
At night there are beautiful views of the city lights and of the Story Bridge as it too, turns on it’s ever-changing coloured lights. Buy a few drinks, find a piece of the wall at the top, and sit and watch the sunset over the city, as the workers leave their jobs for the day and the city settles into a night routine of twinkling lights.
On any day of the week, morning or late afternoon, you will also see groups of rock climbing enthusiasts scaling the cliff face. It might not be the most challenging of rock climbs, but wow, what an incredible place to do it.
Follow the Albert Street Literary Trail
Thousands of locals walk over the 32 brass plaques that make up this trail everyday, most without ever knowing what they are. Quotes about Brisbane from Queensland writers are engraved on these plaques that are embedded in the footpath, running from King George Square (near City Hall) down to the City Botanic Gardens.
Go for a walk
It’s an easy city to walk around, and you can see so much when you do. A great place to stretch your legs is on the New Farm Riverwalk. This walkway, built out over the river, has recently re-opened, having been washed away by significant floods in 2011. Now, you can walk uninterrupted and vehicle-free from New Farm Park, to the Story Bridge, which bookends one end of the CBD.
Cycle the bikeways
Brisbane is full of bike paths. The renowned “river loop” offers around 40km of fast action as you ride through the residential streets and along the Brisbane Corso. It’s a popular ride on the weekend as many corporate workers don their lycra and ride up some fairly challenging hills.
For something a little more gentle, there are plenty of cycle paths in Brisbane, including along the river. And of course, with the City Cycle hire program, it doesn’t matter if you don’t have your own bike.
City Hall and Museum of Brisbane
Learn about Brisbane’s history at City hall and Museum of Brisbane. The Brisbane City Hall, with it’s recent refurbishment, is a fantastic example of the heritage buildings in the Brisbane CBD and you can take a free guided tour of the 1920’s building.
Climbing the clock tower is also a must, and it serves a dual purpose of providing a great view out over the city. Upstairs you will also find the free Museum of Brisbane, which also has a terrific gift shop.
Enjoy free music every Sunday at Customs House
The University of Queensland band puts on a free concert in Customs House each Sunday morning. You can kill two birds with one stone by also taking the time to look around one of Brisbane’s fabulous heritage buildings.
Tour the Old Government House
Old Government House was Queensland’s first public building, and still sits in the same location today, albeit now surrounded by the buildings of the Queensland University of Technology. It was the home of the first Queensland Governor and continued to house all Governors until 1920.
Tours can be conducted at 10.30am from Tuesday-Thursday each week, are free, last for one hour and must be booked.
Take yourself on a Self Guided Heritage Walks
Grab a list of the various routes that you can walk. Try the Historical Tour which walks you past the Commissariat, built by convicts in 1829, or the Brisbane General Post Office, a former womens’ jail, built in 1872, plus a whole host of other buildings that are important to Brisbane.
Or, there’s the Art and Architectural one which will guide you past some of the weird and wonderful street art and sculptures in the city centre.
Get cultural at the Brisbane Powerhouse
A former power station at New Farm, is now the home of a modern cultural and arts centre called the Powerhouse. All year round, the Powerhouse offers an eclectic range of music, comedy, exhibitions, theatre, dance, workshops, discussions, and meeting points for clubs. Whilst some of the programs are ticketed, many of the activities are free.
One such example is “Knockoff”. Knockoff is an Australian slang term used to mean “finished work”. So every Friday, at 6pm, people are encouraged to “knockoff” and attend a free hour of comedy at the Powerhouse.
Your Best Splurge
Story Bridge Adventure Climb
We all drive or walk across bridges, sometimes every day. But, did you know that the Story Bridge, in Brisbane’s CBD is one of only three bridge climbs in the world? Witness the sun rising at dawn, see the sunset at night, or climb it during the day.
Whatever the time, an awesome experience and view is guaranteed. Depending on the time of day, prices range from $79 AUD to $159 AUD. So as we say in Australia, C’MON, come visit us!
You now have an enormous, but by no means exhaustive list of some terrific things you can do to make the most out of your experience in Brisbane, without having to re-mortgage your house.
Often, visitors make a long haul journey to Australia, only to visit Sydney and Melbourne, so do yourself a favour and be sure to include Brisbane on your next trip down under. We’re already looking forward to seeing you.
Anne: OMG Kerri, this post is totally epic! Crikey, guys, if there isn’t enough inspiration here to keep you going then frankly I do not know what will . What a great guest post, I’m sure you will agree!
Have your say
What are your thoughts? I loved this post by Kerri because it transported me back to my last visit to Brisbane 13 years ago (Christ where has the time gone?!). Maybe you have visited and have your own top tips. Feel free to share them as we love hearing stories from fellow travellers.
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