This post will have you craving the open road, and leave you awestruck by the beauty of this incredible country - so hurry up and book that flight!
Everyone loves a good road trip. Create a playlist, crank it up loud and just drive. Besides a trunkful of junk food, ahem, I mean bananas...the only other thing you'll need to grab is a road map! Road tripping is the best way to discover a new country. The freedom that your own vehicle gives you is unmatched.
Australia is one of those countries where road-trips make dreams come true. You'll never be bored as you drive along cliff sides with gorgeous views of the ocean, or while you wind in and out of the tight curves through tropical rainforests. If you're one of those 'go with the flow' kind of people, or if you're just looking for an entirely new adventure, rent a car, and just go explore.
When considering a trip to Australia, you will quickly learn that the prices of everything, from flights, to food and hotels, aren't exactly the cheapest out there. But don't worry, I have you covered with budget travel hacks in another post. Intercontinental flights and Greyhound buses are expensive if you plan on using them as your main mode of transportation. Plus buses and planes get a little hectic when you consider that you need to plan out how you will get around each city once you get off them.
A car or van on the other hand, will save you money in ways you never expected. Sure you have to pay for gas, but if you rent the right car, you can save money by not having to pay to sleep in hotels and hostels - which will end up being more than the price of fuel. But more about the car itself in a hot minute.
Cars will give you that sweet taste of freedom. Stop where you want to stop, and see exactly what you want to see. Sketch out some loose travel plans, pick a few absolute top places to check out and then play it by ear from there.
Australians are all about being chill and cool and going with the flow - something that isn't practised to the same extent in North America. What better way to be submerged into the culture then letting loose. So suppress those Type A personality traits, and learn to live in the moment. Not everything will turn out perfect, but that's all part of the journey.
You will be surprised about how many epic adventures you will hear about while on the open road. So many of these hidden gems won't be boasted about while planning your trip, but are definitely worth stopping by. You may see these adventures on a tourist sign, or hear about them from some local you spoke with.
The car (pictured) was rented from Wicked Campers. It was perfect for 2 people to travel in and to sleep in. The bill came to around $400 each for the 3 week rental, not bad considering this was the majority of our transportation and sleeping costs. Of course, plan to spend a couple hundred dollars on fuel, depending on how far you drive and how long you go.
Wicked campers was a great company to deal with. Their cars are well maintained, and the modular beds were good enough to sleep in for 20 nights. Honestly, the beds are nothing glamorous, but better than expected.
In addition to beds, the cars also came stocked with a cooking pot and a stove, cutlery, bowls and cups. Pretty much the bare necessities, but definitely enough to get you through the trip. We were incredibly grateful for that little camping stove.
Wicked campers has a wide variety of vehicles to choose from too. So if you really want to save some money, rent a van, grab some friends and just drive around. The more people who split gas with you, the cheaper your trip will be. It's pretty exhilarating to sleep in a car alongside a highway in a foreign country, so convincing your IM group to tag along should be relatively easy.
I highly recommend that everyone renting a car makes sure to grab some insurance. This will be offered by the rental car company and is something that you really should add into the expenses. You never know what will happen while on the road. Nothing will ruin your trip more than getting into a fender bender in a car without insurance, in a country you don't live in.
You will be very pleased to find out that toll routes were covered by the company. This is perfect because you get from place to place a lot quicker when you take advantage of the toll routes.
TIP: Make sure that you book your car online and well before you land. This will ensure that you get the car that will suit your needs without any hassle.
Where to Sleep
I'm going to be completely honest with you here when I tell you that we were very ill prepared for this trip. We had no idea where we are going to sleep. The first night, we changed our plans dramatically. We originally planned to sleep in the blue mountains, but it started to pour rain so we both made the decision to drive as far north as we could - Great Barrier here we come! We ended up with an almost empty gas tank in a small town and the only gas station was closed for the night. So the first sleep in our car was spent in the parking lot of a Woolworths. Not something I recommend.
There is a lot of contradicting information on the internet about where you are actually allowed to sleep when travelling Australia by car. So let me get this straight for you. When you rent a camper car in Australia you can sleep at the designated rest stops along the highway. Now, these places don't have the best amenities - we found one, just one that had a shower stall, and no hot water. So make sure you are well prepared.
TIP: Check the government websites for regulations regarding rest stops in each province. We travelled through New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria, without any issues.
You won't be the only ones at these rest stops. They are generally packed with other tourists and locals too. You will definitely meet people of all kinds. Ask them questions and see where they have been and if they have any recommendations on where to go. We felt very safe sleeping here, and had the windows down for most nights with no worries.
TIP: Most highway rest stops did not have drinkable water. So be sure to stop somewhere and get a top up before the end of the day.
We didn't pick where we were going to sleep until the day of. It's not like you need to book rest stops or anything. Honestly, we just went with the flow. Around 4pm every afternoon we went somewhere with wifi and looked for rest stops nearby. This allowed us to either continue driving for a few hours, or stop at one more place and then calling it a day.
Plan to spend every third or fourth night in a nice campground. These are scattered all about and are pretty cheap. Staying in a campground/caravan park will allow you to have a nice hot shower, cook some hot food in the community kitchens, and just relax a little. Some of them may even offer free Wifi and may have a pool on premises. Anytime you know you are going to be in a particular city or area that night, look for caravan parks, call one up and make a reservation. It'll be quite easy to snag one up last minute as well. For a single night, these are quite cheap. Quite a few of them are around $15/night.
Things to Consider
Australians drive on the left side of the road. So if you're coming from North America, definitely consider that you might be in for a little bit of a lesson. But seriously, don't let this scare you away; after a couple hours behind the wheel, and a couple of right hand turns and roundabouts, you'll be comfortable enough to drive for thousands of kms.
TIP: If you won't be getting a cellphone plan and SIM card while in Australia, make sure that you are well prepared by downloading Google Maps of the areas you plan to visit. You can easily make these maps available offline so that you can use them overseas. This way, you won't have to worry about getting lost - but trust me, you will get lost anyways, even with the maps.
Overnights can get a wee bit nippley, especially in the southern regions, and areas in the outback. Bring a sweater and maybe buy a pillow and light blanket before you head for the open road. When you settle in for the night you will probably realize that you are uncomfortably hot but don't worry, by the time morning comes around you may get quite the chill.
Wildlife is everywhere in Australia! You'll see kangaroos, wombats and even koalas on the road during your trip. I know that it's very exciting to see these animals, but not so exciting when you see them in the middle of the road. Be careful. Driving at night will pose more of a problem.
Always have a good stockpile of food and clean drinking water. Make sure you head to a chain grocery store and grab a few extra snacks. You may be travelling long distances without any major towns in sight, and food prices can get quite out of hand in rural areas.
Fill up on clean drinking water whenever you get the chance, and make sure that you always have some as back up. Keep in mind that in the heat and sunshine you will need more water then you think. Keep well hydrated so that you feel your best!
Get gas whenever you have the opportunity. There will be periods of time that you will go hours without seeing a gas station. The worst time to run out of gas is when you're on a deserted road in the hot desert and you don't have cell service. So don't risk running low on petrol because it will cause you a lot of undue stress and anxiety.
Where to Go
Go anywhere you want to go! Just make sure that your route makes sense geographically. Many people stick close to the coast lines. So if you start in Sydney, for example, you could take a trip along the southern boarder to do some whale watching, and hit up the Great Ocean Road (I highly recommend this). Alternatively, you can head North towards white sand beaches, and the Great Barrier Reef.
Use Google at your disposal to map out the distances between two places. You might be surprised to find out the amount if time it takes to drive from one area to the next in this vast country. Plan to have lots of spare time incase there are any hiccups like flooded roads, flat tires, and construction.
Where you go depends on what you want to experience, and how much time you have as well. I can't tell you WHERE to go, but I can tell you that where ever you end up, you'll have an incredible time.
What to Eat
Living in a car, means eating in a car too. Which means that you need to plan some quick easy meals to make while on the go.
What to Bring
Be prepared for every situation, but keep in mind that you won't have very much space. I will be putting together a complete packing list, but in the meantime some key items to pack are:
Sweater - Like mentioned above, for being cozy and such when the temperature drops.
Pillow and blankets - If you plan on getting the car right away you can always bring these items on the plane with you. If you don't have room, don't worry you can alway pick them up at a Woolworths if you need them.
Salt shaker - Again, something you can pick up from the grocer. This will come in handy so often when you make your food everyday.
Dish soap - For all your dish washing needs. Also to make sure that you don't attract some strange foreign bugs and birds to your car.
Water bottles, and a camel back - Seriously, this is important people! Bottled water is overpriced (and bad for the planet). Pack some reusables, you'll thank me later.
Turkish Towel - Honestly, I don't know what I would have done without this. Towels in general get so smelly if they aren't dried properly, and you really don't want to drive around with a smelly towel in your car. Remember you will need to use it multiple times without washing. YOU CAN FIND ONE HERE!
Mini Flashlight - This is good for those middle of the night bathroom breaks that we all have from time to time. It will also come in handy if you arrive to a rest stop after dark and need to change, and prepare for sleep.
If you want to have the best, authentic Australian experience, then renting a car is a must! It's the best way to see as much as you can of the country, and it offers you the most freedom. You'll have plenty of opportunities to stop at places you never knew existed, and you'll save some cash too!
Driving around an unknown country may be scary to think about, and it might put you out of your comfort zone, but that's what travel is all about! You will get back home and feel empowered because you toughed it out, made mistakes and lived through it all. With a little bit of careful planning and decision making you will be on your way to having the journey of a lifetime!
What's Next?If you need more information about Australia, check out the best tips for planning a trip to Australia, and if you're looking to save a buck, check out everything you need to know about visiting Australia on a budget!