Australia is one of my favourite countries in the world, and it’s an ideal place for a first-time solo backpacking trip. It was where my solo journey and this blog began.
On my first ever trip to Australia I bought an Oz Experience pass and travelled up the East Coast from Sydney to Cairns. I then flew to Alice Springs to do a 3-day tour of Ayers Rock and Kings Canyon, before flying to Melbourne to drive the Great Ocean Road. On my second trip to Oz I did an epic road trip around South Australia, and on my third visit I finally made it over to Perth for a taste of the West Coast.
I am now about to visit Australia for my FOURTH time. I’ll be experiencing my first Aussie Christmas in Melbourne and spending New Years Eve at Falls Festival!
I remember when I was planning my first trip to Australia I was overwhelmed with the amount of things to see and do, and I spent ages looking around the Internet for information. Having been to the country a few times I thought I’d put together my top travel tips for visiting Australia:
Where to go
Australia is a HUGE country so it’s best to decide on the area you would like to visit first. There are 7 states/territories- Western Australia, Northern Territory, Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia. Popular cities to visit for first-timers include Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane and Cairns.
You might want to just focus on one state, or you could plan a trip along one of the coasts. The most popular route for first-time backpackers visiting Australia is to travel along the East Coast of Australia between Sydney and Cairns. There are lots of cool towns to visit and great activities along the way, including 4×4 driving on Fraser Island, sailing in the Whitsundays and snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef. The West Coast is less travelled by backpackers and more laid back than the East Coast, but the scenery is absolutely stunning. You can ride a camel train on Cable Beach, swim with whale sharks at Ningaloo Reef and go wine tasting in the Margaret River Wine Region.
To help you decide where you want to go, think about what activities you would like to do. Are you a water baby? Do you want to surf and visit beautiful beaches? Do you like sightseeing and culture in big cities? Do you like adrenaline sports and adventure? Would you like to get away from it all on one of Australia’s many islands? If you’re keen to explore the Aussie outback as well as the coast, you might consider booking a flight to Alice Springs to visit Uluru- Australia’s most famous natural landmark.
Except for New Zealand nationals, all visitors to Australia need a visa. Many visitors can get an Electronic Travel Authority visa (ETA) which allows entry for up to 3 months, but you must apply for this online before you go. The ETA is available to passport holders of 34 countries including the UK, USA and Canada.
It is also quite popular for backpackers to obtain a working holiday visa which provides the opportunity to spend up to 12 months traveling in Australia, with the option of engaging in casual employment to earn some cash. You must be between the age of 18 and 30, and be a passport holder from one of the specified countries. Since the emphasis is on ‘casual employment’ you can only work for one employer for a maximum of six months.
If you wish to stay for another 12 months and obtain a second Working Holiday Visa, you must have worked as a seasonal worker in regional Australia for a minimum of 3 months.
For more information about visa types and applications, visit http://www.nationalvisas.com.au/
Australia is a vast place, so there are often large distances between towns.
The first option is to just fly from city to city. I have found that sometimes you can get cheap deals on domestic carriers if you book far enough in advance, while other times it can be very expensive. Try budget Australian airlines such as Jeststar, Tiger or Jetblue. Qantas are a bit more expensive, but they sometimes do good red-e value deals. Once you are in the city then you can usually get around by bus, tram or train, or you can book tours through high street travel companies. The downside to traveling by air is that it’s a lot harder to explore all the small country towns and more remote places.
The second option is to buy or rent a van and do a road trip around Australia. You will see the colourful Wicked Campers everywhere you go in Australia, and this is a popular choice for travellers. This gives you the freedom to go where you like, when you like. Remember to stock up on water if you are driving through the outback or any wilderness areas! If you break down, it could be a long way to the nearest town!
If you don’t fancy driving, then you can travel by Greyhound bus around Australia. There is also a hop-on-hop-off backpacker bus service called Oz Experience. I bought an Oz Experience pass for my first trip to Oz and absolutely loved it!
Your other option is to take the train, which is operated by Great Southern Railway. It usually takes considerably longer and costs more than traveling by bus or plane, but it is an experience in itself. ‘The Ghan’ travels between North and South connecting Darwin, Alice Springs and Adelaide; the ‘Indian Pacific’ travels from coast to coast connecting Perth, Adelaide and Sydney; ‘The Overland’ travels between Melbourne and Adelaide; and the ‘Southern Spirit’ takes you through four states between Adelaide, Melbourne and Brisbane.