The backpacker’s introduction to road tripping in Australia | NOMADasaurus

If you haven’t heard, but you probably have, Australia is huge. When placed over North America, it is about the same size as the mainland United States, and the distance between the east and west coasts is about the same distance as London-Moscow.

This vast expanse of open land means Australia is one of the best countries in the world to grab a few mates and go on a road trip.

The size, the remoteness, the wilderness, the animals and the climate all make driving around Australia like nowhere else. All of these things that make traveling here so unique also mean that going into a trip here requires a bit more planning than usual.

Many of these things are completely unknown before you start a journey, and you will only realize that you screwed up after it has happened.

To be your guinea pigs, a friend and I set off on an 8000km pilgrimage from Brisbane to Uluru to see just what it takes to complete one of the world’s greatest road trips.

The tips below are certainly not exhaustive, but follow them and your chances of meeting the Wolf Creek Man should be slightly less. The intent of this is not to scare you away from going on a road trip, but to help you enjoy yourself a lot more.

Backpacker Guide Road Tripping Australia

Choose your adventure

Your first big challenge will be choosing the part of the country you want to see. To keep things short I will cover the 3 most popular routes and give you an idea of ​​the distances involved.

First is the well-trodden backpacker route up and down the east coast Melbourne to Cairns. It’s mostly freeway driving, has hostel towns every few hundred kilometers and has most of the beach towns you love so much.

Ready for the distance? 3500 km (2174 miles).

Make a lap Highway One is probably the second most popular option if you’re a beast. The center is an unpopulated desert, and because of this, the national highway runs a complete 14,500 km (9,000 miles) circuit around the country’s coast.

If you are thinking about doing this, I really advise you to read the rest of this article.

For most backpackers, a road trip on the national highway is out of the question due to time and money constraints. Without a doubt, the best long-distance road trip you can do to get an authentic Australian experience is to drive from one of the capital cities to Uluru.

For most Australians driving to Uluru is something we all try to do once because it’s not just a vacation. It’s a serious test for the driver, the car, and gives us the chance to see almost any landscape Australia has to offer.

The distance for this is anywhere from 8000 km (5000 miles) return from Brisbane to 3200 km (2000 miles) from Adelaide.

Don’t try to buy a crappy car

I know… You’re a backpacker and money is tight, but having a reliable car will make the difference between weeks of bliss and hitchhiking to the nearest big city. The nearest big city is perhaps more than 1000 km away.

Most of the cars you want to buy will either be a station wagon or an old folk van sold by other backpackers.

The problem with this is that they have never done any maintenance on the thing and neither have the 10 backpacker owners before them.

Before you buy a car, make sure it has been inspected by yourself and a mechanic and has a road safety certificate that says it is safe to drive.

Finally, make sure you do the registration papers before you give them the money. If the car is unregistered, depending on the state, you may be in for a $500 fee to pay for the registration.

On top of this, if the car is unregistered, you are not insured, and if you get into an accident, you are not only screwed, you can go to jail.

A lonely windmill in the desert
A lonely windmill in the desert

Accommodation options are interesting

If you’ve done a few trips in Europe or South America, you may have been lulled into a false sense of security when it comes to where you can find a hostel. As soon as you leave the main cities or the east coast, there are no hostels to stay in and you will be lucky to find a town for the night.

The easiest way to get around this is to have a car to sleep in, or a tent is also a good choice if you can find an official campsite to pitch. No one recommends staying at roadside rest areas for safety reasons.

Wolf Creek is based on a true story, and it was only a few weeks ago that a couple was attacked in the middle of nowhere. As a last resort slept in the locked car.

The time of year is also worth considering. In summer, Australia’s deserts are about 3 meters from the sun’s surface, and during the day temperatures will be around 45 degrees Celsius and 30 degrees at night.

In this kind of heat, the only way to fall asleep is to cry and make a bag of ice cream.

In some situations, staying in a motel may be the only option, so budget for a few days of ‘makin it rain’.

Some of the landscapes of central Australia
Some of the landscapes of central Australia

Must have equipment

Okay, now we get to the safety part, but don’t fall asleep and grab a cup of coffee. This is pretty important. Doing a road trip through the outback is absolute hell for a car and you’ll need these things as a minimum because you might break down at least once;

  • A fuel drum that is at least 10L. There may be no fuel for hundreds of kilometers and the dodgy old fuel gauge may fail you.
  • Extra engine coolant, oils and fuses.
  • duct tape and electrical tape. It can fix many things at a short distance.
  • Know how to change a tire and make sure the spare tire is pumped up before you leave. There is no one to do it for you.
  • Has working air conditioning.
  • 5L drinking water per person, per day is an absolute minimum.
  • A phone with Telstra is really handy. There isn’t service everywhere, but they have more than anyone else.

Giving the car a once a day before departure is a really good habit to get into. I’ve caught a lot of problems like loose spark plugs and leaking coolant lines before they become a full scale disaster.

If you are going on a 4WD track away from the highways, tell someone ahead like a farm/road house that you are coming. That way people will actually know you have a problem if you don’t show up.

On the road

Congratulations dude, because if you’ve managed to get on the freeway, then most of your work is done. Unless you are in the passenger seat and are now required by law to be a crazy DJ for the next 2 hours.

To give you a heads up, what could go wrong now and what should you do about it? The answer to that is really simple because at this point there are only 3 things that can really ruin your day.

Your car might break down, some wild animals will decide to play chicken with your car and you will get tired if you drive.

The last one is the easiest to avoid. Don’t try to be a hero by driving non-stop for 6 hours. Take a break every two hours and change drivers, get a nap if you need it, and stay hydrated.

Even if you have everything fixed before you start, the car can decide to be a dick and break something important beyond repair.

The most important thing you can do, even if you are on a dirt road with no radio, is to stay with the car. All the water is there, you have shade and it can be seen from the air.

Everyone will be really helpful on the highways and will be happy to give you a lift to the nearest road construction that will have a tow truck.

Everything else has only a small chance of happening, but there is a real danger from animals like kangaroos on the road. Ironically, the biggest injury that occurs when an animal hits the road is the driver swerving away from the animal into a tree or another car.

The only thing you can do? Brake hard, don’t swerve, take your foot off the brake at the last second so the front of the car jumps up and lets the animal pass under the car. It’s not a nice thing to do, but it beats rolling.

Relaxing after reaching Uluru

As I wrote at the beginning, this is not meant to scare you away or sound condescending at all. This is one of the only places left where you can feel like you are the only human left and the serenity must be experienced at least once.

Hopefully, by following a few of these tips yourself, you can spend more time enjoying the view and less time on struggle street.

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