06 Jan My Top Tips for a Road Trip in Australia
If you want to experience the ultimate road trip, there’s no place like Australia. From long outback stretches to winding coastal highways, Oz has so many great opportunities to hit the open road. I’ve done two road trips in the Land Down Under- the first time I drove the Great Ocean Road from Melbourne to Adelaide and the second time I won a competition to film a 6-week road trip around South Australia. That was a memorable adventure!
Since the country is so vast, hiring a vehicle is one of the best ways to see it all. You can stop anywhere you like, pulling up at small little outback towns and beautiful scenic spots. If you’re putting together a road trip soon, here are some tips I’ve gathered from the open road.
Rent v Buy?
First, choose your wheels. For a short trip you could rent your vehicle by the day, but if you’re planning a longer trip you might want to consider buying a second-hand caravan or campervan on a site like Gumtree. Rentals can turn out quite expensive and while buying a vehicle means you’ll have to put more money up front, you also get your money back when you sell it afterwards. If you do purchase a vehicle, you’ll need to budget for vehicle registration, insurance and a RWC roadworthy certificate for when you transfer ownership. Try to get an independent mechanical check so you know everything’s in working order and know the costs of anything you need to fix.
Choose Your Travel Companions Wisely
Don’t attempt to do a road trip by yourself- it’s always good to have a buddy to share the driving with. Road trips are about singing along to the radio in the car and sharing the experience with someone, plus you’ll feel a whole lot safer. When choosing your travel companion, think to yourself “can I really spend 6 weeks in a van with this person?” because you’ll be living in quite close quarters. Perhaps try a shorter trip at home with your chosen friend first, to see how you get along before the great Aussie road trip.
Give yourself plenty of time
Don’t try to pack your itinerary too full. Having unrealistic time frames to get to the next place can make it stressful on you and your friends, so give yourself plenty of time. Distances in Australia can be FAR- so take breaks. The whole joy of having your own wheels is that you can change your plans and stop off wherever you like along the route.
Invest in a map
You might have Google maps on your phone or a GPS system but nothing beats a good old map. There may be times when you can’t get phone reception or the GPS is just ridiculously wrong, so carry a road map for Australia in the car at all times. In South Australia I couldn’t get our GPS to work, so I chucked it into the glove compartment and never looked at it again until we were back in the big city.
Be Aware of the Road Safety and Driving Rules
This really goes without saying. Read up about the driving rules before you start your trip so you don’t end up break the law. Remember, Aussies drive on the left hand side of the road and the steering wheel is on the right hand side of the car. If you’re from the UK it’s exactly the same as at home but if you’re from North America or continental Europe, you’ll probably have to get used to driving on the other side of the road.
Be aware of what parking signs mean and check the speed limits, as you don’t want to end up with any fines!
Buy your petrol in the big cities
If you’re going to fill up the tank, do it in the big cities as the prices of fuel tend to get more expensive the more rural you get. If you’re going to be travelling very long distances on open country roads, you might not see a petrol station for quite a while, so always make sure you have plenty in the tank- you don’t want to break down in the middle of nowhere!
Carry Plenty of Water
Australia is hot. If you break down in the middle of the day, you’re going to get dehydrated really quickly. Always carry some big tanks of water so that you have plenty to drink, particularly if you’re going on long journeys.
Pay a Trip to the Supermarket
Before you head off anywhere, stock up on snacks and food from Coles or Woolworths before you hit the road. If your campervan has a kitchen or you’re travelling with a camp stove you’ll be able to save lots of money by cooking your own meals, plus it’s really fun! When you stop for petrol you’ll often find the same types of shops- bakeries and fast food joints like Subway or Hungry Jacks. This can get really boring, so stock up on healthy snacks in your supermarket shop.
Avoid Driving at Night in the Bush
There are lots of animals roaming around in Australia- like Kangaroos. Avoid driving at night if you’re in the outback because the roads aren’t lit and you don’t want to run into any nocturnal animals.
Caravan Parks are Your Friends
Caravan parks are really useful so you can take a shower, do your laundry and hook yourself up to electricity. Of course they can get really busy in summer on places like the Great Ocean Road, so it’s wise book as far ahead as possible. Get to the campsite a couple of hours before sunset so you have plenty of time to set up before it goes dark. Another handy little tip; carry a spare mains hook up cable if possible- I remember someone stole ours at a camp site in South Australia!
Some camp sites can be pricey, so if you need to save money, ask the locals or other campers about roadside or free camping. Make sure it’s legal before you do it.