An Aussie road trip will likely be one of the best experiences of your life. Sunshine, the open road, and unbounded freedom to roam where you please across (probably) the most idyllic country on Earth.
But finding work on the road so you can fund more amazing experiences, finding your way from Adelaide to Uluru, or just to the nearest campsite each evening can be an intimidating prospect for someone who has yet to touch Down Under. Where do you begin? How will you feed yourself? Here are ten essential tips to get you through it all in one piece… with hopefully no flat tires.
1. Find a campervan
Your ride across Oz needn’t simply be the cheapest and most clapped out banger you could find. You’re going to be spending most of the best month/year of your life in this van… so it’s best to find a model that provides you with all the comforts you need, even if prices for hire do vary a bit.
Travellers Autobahn have dozens of different options of van available, from basic Station Wagons, to fully fledged mini-homes. Extra room up top to sleep in, a proper kitchenette, an ice box so you can keep your Coopers chilled and something to play music on = all the feels on wheels.
2. Make sure it has a kitchen
…or a pop-up kitchenette. Scrambled eggs, pasta, pot noodles, avocado-based everything… the backpacker brunch possibilities are endless with one of these babies.
Being able to cook dinner every night under a blanket of stars is one of the most magical parts of being on the road. Plus, it works out healthier and hundreds of dollars cheaper than eating at restaurants and roadside cafes for every meal.
Psst. Plus, Coles have a Clubcard system similar to Tesco’s, which can help you save on fuel.
3. Find the right people to do it with
Travel has a wonderful way of opening your mind to other people, their beliefs and their interests. Days spent with other backpackers from all walks of life, and nights spent in hostels swapping stories with them. You’re all one biiig, happy tribe. Right?
Well. Kind of. But that wickedly hilarious guy you met in Byron and swore to travel the rest of Australia with after a few games of Flip Cup, may not suddenly seem so fun once you’re rattling 2,600 miles up the West Coast in a confined space together. At least, not all the time.
Before you set off on a looong adventure across Australia, make sure you’re both compatible on more than just the beach, and able to put up with each other for the long-haul. It helps, at the very least, if you share the same music taste so that there’s no arguments over the aux cable. And it’s always useful if you can both keep your cool with one another in times of emergency, like breakdowns and getting lost.
Nobody wants to remember their big Aussie road trip by raging rows.
4. Find work
Australia working holiday visas cost just £349, including a basic work to get you up and running. For the Kiwi equivalent, it’s just £175.
The beauty of having wheels and the freedom to earn a living on your year Down Under is that you can find casual work anywhere, instead of just being tied to the city you’re living in, where the jobs market is a little more competitive. Even if you don’t have a campervan for the whole year you’re in Australia, it’s best to hire one as and when you need it, to road trip somewhere new you’re planning on finding work in.
One popular way of earning a bit of extra cash to top up your travel funds midway around Australia is by following the harvest, which you can track right here. Roaming the land, living off it, and sleeping under the stars in your camper for a few weeks before or after? Nomadic in the truest sense!
Plus, you’ll qualify for a second year in the country if you get 88 days of farm work ticked off!
5. Download the right road trip apps
Don’t worry, they still have Tinder.
What might be more useful, however, when you’re in the Outback, miles from anything, with no signal, is Maps.me, a mapping app that runs off GPRS, meaning you’ll never be full-on, destitute ‘we gonna die’ levels of lost.
Another absolute lifeline for any road tripping traveller in Australia is WikiCamps, a huge database of campsites (including all the free ones!), backpacker hostels and van parks, which is laid out in a map format. Again, this works offline, so you don’t need to worry about using data or not having any signal!
Toilet stops are also essential. Nobody wants to end up like that guy on the horror movie who stopped to relieve himself in some wild, wild place. This is Australia after all, so make sure you download the National Public Toilet Map app so you can plan your pee stops.
All these and Tinder? What a time to be alive.
6. Plan ahead
Make sure you sit down and properly plan your attack on Aus. I mean, do you actually realise how big Australia is? Europe could fit inside it, twice over. Driving from Sydney to Cairns is the equivalent of driving from Scotland to the southern tip of Italy, and would you want to do that in just a week? Research, proper timeframes and enough money to keep you going are all essential.
7. Take rest days. Lots of rest days
Nobody wants to see Australia’s technicolour horizons or New Zealand’s dreamy mountain peaks through tired, blurry eyes. Or crash their camper, because they were actually too knackered to drive it properly.
Make sure you have given yourself enough time to take a day to relax and do nothing in-between the long stretches on the road. As a rule of thumb, for every day that involves more than a few hours driving, you should have a rest day.
Even if a ‘rest day’ actually means throwing yourself out of a plane from 14,000 feet, or diving through a coral-filled wonderland for hours.
8. Don’t ever take your eye off the fuel
Flying off the beaten path in a trail of red dust is one of the best parts of travelling, and coming across places devoid of other tourists, which look like they’ve been abandoned for years is the biggest reward.
But please don’t disappear on us! Pin petrol stations along your route on your mapping app each day, so you never risk running low on fuel when you’re over 40 miles from the next station.
Carry an extra litre or two of petrol (and five litres of water) in your van at all times, and as a rule of thumb you should never let your gage get anywhere near red in Australia, especially if you are somewhere in the Outback.
9. Recruit hitchhiking backpackers
Company for the day and a few extra dollars toward petrol? Giving other travellers you meet in hostels along your journey the chance to hop in means you can save a bit of money!
Just make sure you have a contingency excuse in case they try to outstay their welcome.
10. Attend a festival
Whitsundays, Great Ocean Road, Byron Bay… you’ll no doubt already have all iconic Aussie experiences on your lists of must-dos.
But have you considered rolling into one of the country’s best music festivals and setting up camp for a weekend of rain and mud-free drinking and dancing? Splendour in the Grass, Strawberry Fields, Pitch and Falls Festival are four major ones to consider. And camping at a festival in a campervan > camping at a festival in a tent… especially in the Australian heat.
Want to find out exactly what it’s like to road trip across Australia? You can, in the video below. Prepare for goosebumps and a raging case of wanderlust…