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My first ever solo backpacking experience was to Australia. I spent a total of 6 weeks traveling up the east coast from Sydney to Cairns, then flew to Alice Springs for a 3-day Uluru Tour. From there I flew to Melbourne for the Grand Prix, then I continued my adventures in New Zealand.
For a first-timer to traveling alone, Australia is an ideal location because it’s an English-speaking country, it’s set up for backpackers and it’s easy to make friends. At first it was a little bit daunting and the thought crossed my mind; “What if I don’t meet anyone?” but as soon as I landed I realised my fears were completely unfounded. Not once on my trip was I ever alone. When I touched down in Sydney, I met lots of people in my hostel in Bondi Beach and I still talk to some of them to this day. I became good friends with a girl on the Oz Experience bus, (who was also traveling solo) and we were pretty inseparable for the next few weeks.
Don’t be nervous or apprehensive; here are my top tips for how to travel Australia alone:
First of all, make sure you purchase adequate insurance to cover you for things like emergency medical expenses and lost or stolen items.
Also make sure you have the right Visa for your trip. If you’re from the UK and traveling as a tourist for less than 3 months you can apply for the eVisitor visa online, or you might want to spend a year in the Land Down Under by applying for a Working Holiday Visa. You can also apply for an Australia visa through a private visa bureau that takes most of the work out of your hands for a slightly higher fee. Just make sure you use a reputable one.
Do your research about the activities you would like to do, but don’t have too many fixed plans in place, because the likelihood is you’ll meet people along the way and you might want to change your itinerary. Perhaps also something like “but make sure you use a reputable one”.
Try Oz Experience or Greyhound
I chose the Oz Experience bus and I would recommend it to anyone traveling alone. Basically you choose a route and purchase a bus pass before you go, and it works like a hop-on-hop-off tour. Everyone doing the Oz Experience is traveling on their own time scale- some fast, and others a bit slower. But as I made my way up the east coast, I did find that I would bump into people I had met before and soon I found I had a new crew of friends. The bus drivers are fantastic at getting everyone to socialise by playing games on the bus, and we often broke the long journeys up with cool activities such as barefoot lawn bowls. It’s a flexible, safe way to travel around Australia, and the drivers will help you book extra tours and excursions too.
The alternative is the Greyhound bus, which is a bus service that will take you between the main cities. This is just a point to point service and personally I think the Oz Experience seems a lot more fun for a solo traveller.
Stay in Hostels
If you’re backpacking Australia and want to meet other people, hostels are a great place to do that as they have common areas where you can swap stories over a few beers. My favourite hostels in Australia included Surfside Bondi Beach, Holiday Village Byron Bay, Cool Bananas Town of 1770, Habitat HQ St. Kilda, Base Magnetic Island and Global Backpackers Airlie Beach.
Take a tour
I’m not usually a ‘tour person’ but I booked some fantastic tours and I quickly became good friends with the people in my tour groups. My favourite tour was a 4×4 excursion to Fraser Island because we spent several nights camping under the stars, driving on the beaches and cooking meals together. Other memorable tours I’ve taken part in included a 3-day tour to Uluru and Kings Canyon, a tour of Kangaroo Island and a tour to the Flinders Ranges in South Australia. I booked a Whitsunday Islands sailing trip, but unfortunately there was a cyclone and we had to sail back after just one night.
Find a road trip buddy
I was lucky enough to make a friend who also wanted to drive the Great Ocean Road, so we rented a vehicle in Melbourne and off we went. If you’re looking for a buddy to do a road trip with, look on the noticeboards in the hostels. The noticeboards will often have info about vehicles for sale (if you’re staying a while) and messages from people looking to do a road trip. Alternatively I would recommend you check out the Gumtree website and the Rideshare and Travel Partners section!
I had an incredible time traveling alone in Australia, and there definitely isn’t anything to be worried about! It’s an amazing place and you’ll make so many memories.