Get on a flight to Oz and you’re more than likely to be overwhelmed by the sheer number of people taking a gap-year, their optimistic temperament soon shattered by their distinct lack of appropriate finance. That’s fine if you don’t mind a plethora of organisms living in your mattress and the sound of an angry brothel next door, personally though, I’d rather work for half a year and enjoy Australia in relative comfort. Fortunately this March, I had the opportunity to enjoy the best of Australia in said comfort…

The first port of call for most Oz-bound Britons is the customs nightmare of Sydney airport, where small amounts of mud on your shoes will see you thrown into ridiculous questioning about your last six-months’ farm activity. Australian officials call this humiliating entrance ‘quarantine,’ with an enthusiastic documentary named ‘Border Security: Australia’s Front Line’ following its day-to-day events. Just make sure you don’t try to bring any raw meat into the country.

Sydney really is a distinctive city, fusing both the metropolitan with the hippy-cool that plagues Australia. If you don’t know what I mean, then all you need do is approach a 5 mile radius of Bondi beach and chat to someone in flip flops. If you stay there long enough though, you’re likely to get taken-in by the surf and splash out on some lessons. If you do, make sure you check out Let’s Go Surfing based on the west of Bondi beach (0061 2 9365 1800: http://www.letsgosurfing.com.au) – embarrassment may ensue.

YHA Australia (http://www.yha.com.au/) have 160 hostels throughout Oz and can put you up in all the main tourism hotspots as well as some more remote area, with a consistently high standard of accommodation. During my excursion, I stayed in 7 different YHA hostels each with enough character and charm to justify the premium paid for the en-suite room. The Blue Mountains YHA based in Katoomba deserves a special mention; reportedly haunted, you’re sure of a traditional hostel experience within an impressive art-deco building and a common room complete with a stage.

Accommodation aside, you can continue your flashpacking adventure by indulging in the more expensive delights that Sydney has to offer. Why not walk (literally) over the Sydney Harbour Bridge by partaking in a Bridge Climb. Ascend the famous bridge with sufficient nonchalance and admire John Howard’s city apartment visible from the top of the bridge. Bridgeclimb Sydney (0061 2 8274 7777: http://www.bridgeclimb.com) starts from £105. If you’re feeling hungry, head to The Australian Hotel in The Rocks for pizza with toppings ranging from crocodile to emu.

Eventually you will need to get out of the hustle and bustle of Sydney. Your perfect option may be an eco-tour in a canyon, which despite making me rather sweaty, was an eye opening experience culminating in the appearance of a funnel-web spider’s hideout; a funnel-shaped web (surprisingly). I purchased an Indiana Jones-esque hat only to lose it five minutes later down the side of a small boulder. Nevertheless, the world was put to right again by the comprehensive knowledge of our guide from Wildframe Tours (0061 2 9440 9916: http://www.wildframe.com). Wildframe operate a pick-up service from the Sydney Central YHA upon request and tours start at around $95 AUD.

Regardless of your budget, Australia has so much to offer the average student traveller. You can stay in shared dorms at YHA Australia hostels from around £20 per night, which is fantastic value considering the facilities offered by some of the best hostels. Sydney Central YHA, for example, offers both a swimming pool and cinema. If you really are on a shoestring hire a car and start an epic roadtrip; one road-tripper travelling around Oz told me it was “the best time of my life, absolute euphoria.” If you need another endorsement to convince you, please get in touch.

James was sponsored by Tourism Australia and YHA Australia last Easter as part of a student media press trip. Visit www.australia.com or www.yha.com.au for details

James Sanderson

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