Van Packing vs Backpacking

· 804 words · about 4 minutes

Van Packing (travelling in a van) vs Backpacking, both are two amazing ways to travel Australia. From partying in city hostels to camping out on secluded beaches, we'll compare which of the two is better?


I break backpacking expenses down into 4 groups: accommodation, transport, food and fun- for the most part this meant drinking for me haha, but this article will focus on the first two. When it comes to getting around, public transport in Australia is pretty descent. From flights, to buses, travelling the east coast of Australia is made super easy by big companies such as Greyhound, linking all the popular destinations, and for the most part city infrastructure makes it pretty easy for travellers to get around town to check out the sites. For those travelling on a shoe string, there’s always hitch hiking, which although is ’illegal,’ I’ve come across a fair few people getting around like this.

When it comes to accommodation, backpackers will have no issues. Hostels, compared to the rest of Australia's inflated standard of living are pretty affordable and you are guaranteed to get a pretty comfortable standard of living. The number one selling point for hostels is the social aspect. It's why they exist. There’s no better place to meet like minded people, all doing the same thing. Hostels provide a great stepping stone for your next step, with most housing travel agents, and are a portal to the city. The best part of travelling is meeting new people and hostels provide the perfect platform for this.

With getting around and your nights sleep covered, lets way up the pros and cons of backpacking: travelling via buses and living out of hostels:


  • social atmosphere to hostels is great for solo travellers, or groups looking to mingle
  • hostel facilities make travelling a breeze in this day and age
  • central location of hostels put you in the heart of the city
  • luxuries such as a/c, hot water, cooking facilities


  • expensive accommodation. Spending a minimum of $20 a night on hostels adds up
  • restricted to set public transport routes
  • living out of a backpack can become soooo monotonous
  • less privacy living dorm to dorm

Van packing

Getting to a new country ready to explore is one thing, buying a car/van in a new country and hitting the road is another. Having the freedom to stop and do what you want, when you want, parking up on a beach for the night, for me, there’s no better feeling. Sydney, Melbourne, Surfers Paradise, Cairns. There’s a reason these places are always on top of the backpacking itinerary. But the places in-between, the hidden beaches, the secret waterfalls, the free camping spots, that’s the real Australia and these places are easily missed without your own vehicle.


  • freedom to do what you want, when you want. Anywhere is home for the night.
  • get to see more of the places in between the big named locations.
  • can save money on accommodation.


  • expenses that come with owning/renting a vehicle eg. fuel, tolls, breakdowns, registration
  • not as social as staying at hostels

In my 4 years travelling I was lucky enough to have done both, across multiple continents. I spent about 3 weeks living out of dorms in the US before buying a car for a road trip, where I spent week nights sleeping in my Subaru Forester and spent the ‘social’ nights in hostels, with my car parked up, out of use for three days.

Across Europe I did several road trips, but this time in a camper van, where we never really got the opportunity to stay in hostels because we were too big to be driving in cities. We found ourselves staying in camp sites outside of town, not wanting to stay on the street for security reasons. This made it a bit of hassle getting into town, and although we were travelling in a group of 5, I personally feel like I missed out on a huge social part of the travel. But the trade off was some epic drives through some amazing scenery through 20 European countries with 5 child hood mates- so I can’t be too disappointed haha.

In my opinion, you can’t pass up a road trip. I'd choose the van option every time, especially in Australia. The only place I know that makes van packing hard in Aus is Byron Bay. But I’m pretty stoked to be able to say that The Aviary offers the best of both worlds. We provide a spot for backpackers/van packers to park up in the vehicle and spend the night with us. You will get access to all hostel facilities, enjoying #vanlife while getting the social side of a hostel. So if you are ever in passing through Byron in a van, looking for a place to park up, give us a shout :)