I know. Some of you must be confused: I am not currently in the Southern Hemisphere. Then why this topic? This is a post that I’ve been meaning to write a long time. And knowing a few people that are headed down under, I thought I’d write up some tips… Australia can be very expensive to travel. It’s such a vast country, so transport will always be one of the biggest costs. But there are things you can do to save money:
- The cheapest way to get around is to buy a car or van, and sell it again when you are leaving (try Gumtree). Rental companies charge sooooo much money, but of course it’s a bit of a risk if you don’t know anything about cars. It will be the cheapest option most of the time, even if you’re travelling only one month. You do need to spend time to buy and sell the car of course.
- If you do want to rent a car or van, consider a relocation. Sometimes rental companies need their cars to be returned to a certain destination, because routes are frequently done in the same direction eg many people travel Cairns to Brisbane, travelling south, so you can maybe find a relocation from Brisbane to Cairns (travelling north). So if you are willing to travel in the opposite direction, you can sometimes get a car for 1 dollar a day! Often time restrictions apply, so check the conditions. A good site for this is Drive Now.
- If you rented a car the normal way you can still save money by looking for travel companions. There are sites matching people who are looking for a ride, and who are driving and looking for a rideshare, such as Coseats. Also Gumtree works. Post a message from where to where you are going, how many spaces you have in your car, what your time frame is and wait for a response. Not only will you save money on petrol and rental, but you will also meet many other interesting people.
- If you want to rent a car in high season and you want to be sure, do it sooner rather than later or you’ll end up off-roading in a non off-road vehicle because it’s all that’s left (read this post).
- If you want to fly, read my tips on how to save money on your ticket in this post.
Get a decent road map that lists all the free camp sites. There are some that are parking only, but others have bathroom facilities and most of the time they are very clean. Your road map will indicate the different ones. If you do go to a free camp site, make sure you are in the right place though. Just saying.
- Compared to Europe, eating out is cheaper, but if you’re travelling for a long time you can’t eat out all the time. If you do want to eat out, try Zomato (formerly Urbanspoon) to find good restaurants where you are.
- There are barbecues all over the country, so you just need to pick up some food from the supermarket and go for a picknick! Some barbecues are free, some are a dollar or two.
- If you are driving in the outback, forget about finding any restaurants that serve healthy food. It’s all greasy food and mostly meat based. So stock up the fridge in your van with lots of fruits and veggies… Make sure you store all food so that mice, ants or cockroaches can’t get to it. Otherwise it’ll happen that one of these big bastards suddenly flies at you while driving and you end up on the wrong side of the road. (Otherwise that only happens when drivers are singing along to Johnny Logan.) Also: be careful if you are crossing a territory border if you have fruit and veg aboard!
- When you go collect your van, and you have a top bunk, check it out. We didn’t and it stank like wet dog.
- Make sure your luggage can in no way press the button to open the top bunk, otherwise you may have to drive back 10km to collect all your pillows and sleeping bags that went flying. (“WHAT is that SOUND?”)
- If you are travelling in the rainy season in the tropics (read this post), make sure to get a tarp and a mosquito net so you can leave the side door or your side windows open to get some cool air inside and keep the rain outside. And the top bunk? Yeah, you’re screwed. Now we knew why it smelled like wet dog in there. If you have to choose between rain on your face or suffocation by heat and dog smell, the choice is easy. The tarp will also provide shade when you are in the desert.
- Speaking of weather: check the weather forecast eg on ABC. Cyclones aren’t fun (read this post) and they’ll post updates on where the centre of the storm is and how it is evolving. As long as there is still wifi and electricity of course. If you do get into bad weather conditions, seek shelter and don’t park underneath a tree. Or near a traffic sign. We were lucky.
There are many things I would do differently next time, but we certainly did have the time of our life *grin*. Hope these tips are useful for you!