If you plan to travel through Australia, there is a lot to consider. Whether for a few weeks, months or a year, preparation is necessary! Which ways of transport are right for you? What are typical mistakes to avoid? Australia is a huge country and it is important to know where you are going and how to get there, whether you are on a road trip, without a car, in hostels or hotels. In this article, we give you a lot of practical information. Here are some tips for traveling in Australia.
Seasons & Climate
The weather in Australia
The Australian climate is that of the southern hemisphere, so the seasons are reversed compared to the northern hemisphere!
Australia is a huge country with different climates depending on the region. Northern Australia (Northern Territory, Western Australia and Queensland) has a tropical climate. This part of the country has two seasons (dry and wet). The south of the country (Tasmania, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Southwest Australia) has a more temperate climate. In the middle of the country, there is a dry climate.
Travel with the seasons
If you want to visit the south of the country, spring and summer is the best time. The north and the center are recommended in autumn and winter.
If you travel with a vehicle through Australia, inform yourself about some points. Although this journey is an adventure for most, the wrong direction can have consequences right from the start. For example, you are in a region where the harvest season is over, rainy or winter.
Here are some points to consider:
- Seasons and climate in Australia
- Bad weather
- Specific fauna: for example, the passage of whales
- Harvest times
- Special events: for example festivals
- Visit of relatives/friends
- Return airport
For more information: The best time to visit Australia
Given the size of the country and the great distances that separate the cities, it is not recommended to travel to Australia unless you have at least two full weeks to travel.
Here is an overview of what is possible with a few examples:
Three weeks travel is good if you want to see a little of the country. You can, for example, travel the east or west coast. Take a 3-week road trip on the east coast from Sydney to Cairns, North Queensland. You can also choose between 3 different locations. For example, a week to explore Sydney and its region, 1 week for Cairns and its surroundings and 5 days to explore Uluru and the Red Center of the country. Did you know that it takes about 2 days to visit the main cities (sightseeing and city tour) and about 5 days to discover a region?
If you’re planning a trip of 3 weeks, it’s best to apply for a tourist visa.
If you have the opportunity to stay in Australia for 3 months, you will discover a good part of the country. If you explore the country on the road, you can visit half of Australia in 3 months. For example, you can cross the East Coast and the Center of the country or the West Coast to reach the south of the country. If you want to fly to bigger cities, you can see the whole Australian area. However, this will certainly require a big budget.
One year (or longer)
If you want to travel to Australia for 12 months or more, you probably need to work to finance your trip. Therefore, the Working Holiday visa seems to be the best option. For a one-year trip, you have the opportunity to travel to Australia and work a few weeks or months. You can travel along the Coast or take a trip east, for example, and cut from the inside to the south of the country to reach the other coast.
Road Trip in Australia
Australia is the land of road trips! With its large areas, it’s (often free) camping areas and its favorable climate, Australia is ideal to sleep in during your stay in a campervan or tent.
Some itinerary suggestions can be found here: Itineraries Australia
The road trip budget in Australia depends on different factors. In fact, it depends in particular on the number of kilometers driven. If you travel long, you will spend days driving 400 km, others without moving. If you are on your road trip for a few days or weeks, you will probably cover more kilometers in a short time.
According to the number of people traveling and to the allocation of expenses as well as the carried out tourist activities (diving, parachuting …) the budget has to be adapted.
Generally, you can expect around 1500 AUD per month (food, gas, camping, excursion).
Read more about it in this article: Road Trip Budget
Accommodation and hygiene
You will not have any trouble finding sleeping places (except in big cities). Camping is indeed part of the Australian culture, which offers countless campsites, rest areas, etc.. There are specialised guides listing all camp spots for free or that are cheap in the country (Camps Australia Wide) or mobile apps (Wikicamps).
If you are not traveling in a vehicle equipped with shower / WC, you can stop at the caravan parks or at campsites for showering, washing clothes, etc. You can also use baby wipes or showers on the beach if you really want to keep your budget low.
For more information: Road Trip in Australia: Tips for Everyday Life
Renting a campervan in Australia
Renting a vehicle can be a good way to discover different parts of Australia. Those who live in cities often use this medium to travel a few days / weeks. Leasing can be a fairly large budget, especially in high season. If you’re renting a car beyond 4-5 months, we recommend the purchase of a vehicle. That said if you book well in advance and for a long period of time, it is also possible to get great rates! And even if that costs just as much as buying a car, renting will give you more comfort:
- You won’t have to spend time finding the right vehicle
- You’ll avoid all the paperwork / fees, and you will undoubtedly need insurance & support!
There are many camper van rental companies across Australia. At a minimum, it takes an average of $50 p/day for the rental of a conventional van. But the rates vary between companies, model type, season, length of stay, and availability of vehicles.
Find more information in this article about Campervan rentals.
Buying a vehicle in Australia
Buying a car is an important choice because it will completely change your travel experience in Australia. Whether it’s to discover the landscapes or to just seek future employment, having your own vehicle gives you more freedom and possibilities.
In terms of budget, its usually recommended to buy your own vehicle if you are planning to travel more than 3 months. But depending on your plans and expected comfort, you might also compare with renting a vehicle (see below).
But before buying a vehicle, you will need to consider which option is most suitable for your plans and budget. You’ll also have to spend a bit of time researching the different registration systems in Australia. Indeed, each Australian states have different policies, so it’s really important to understand how they work. In most states for example, you will need to get an inspection in the registered state in order to sell your vehicle. This could become an issue if you are planning to sell your vehicle in a different state. Western Australia is probably the most popular state to register a vehicle as it’s more flexible and cheaper. They don’t require an inspection every year or before selling your vehicle. However it also means that these vehicles are not regularly checked and as a result, means more risks of potential breakdowns, repairs…
The most common way to find a vehicle is to go online, using Gumtree.
Download the Australia Backpackers Guide to get more tips about:
- A presentation of different types of vehicles
- Their advantages and disadvantages
- Where to find ads
- All our advice to check a vehicle
- The Registration explained for each state
- Various insurance offers and assistance
- How to sell your vehicle
- What to do in case of an accident?
How to travel around Australia without your own vehicle
For those who do not want to buy their own car or do not have the means to rent, do not panic! Public transport is widespread in Australia and generally affordable.
It is quite possible to travel by bus in Australia. Buses that travel long distances are called “coaches” and are well organised and comfortable. The journeys are often very long from one city to another (eg. Sydney – Melbourne: 12h) but fairly affordable (from $ 65). The two major travel companies are Greyhound and Firefly. Coaches are often air-conditioned, have a toilet, sometimes wifi, reclining seats and show films during the journey.
Both Greyhound and Firefly companies also offer ‘hop on hop off ‘ tickets. For example, if you buy this type of Pass that links Sydney to Cairns, you can make as many stops as you like between these two cities for several days, or even visit for several weeks.
Rates for this kind of pass, for example (Greyhound):
Sydney – Cairns: $417
Melbourne – Cairns: $526
Adelaide – Alice Springs: $244
Darwin – Adelaide: $488
Several long distance railway lines criss-cross Australia and connect the main points of interest of the coast and the center of the country with a connection between Adelaide and Darwin. The trains have economic class and first class. In the trains economics classes, you will have reclining seats, and on longer trips, cabins are also available. Travelling by train is generally more expensive than by bus. Some lines carry specific names, such as The Indian Pacific (Sydney to Perth), The Ghan (Adelaide to Darwin via Alice Springs), The Queenslander (Brisbane to Cairns) or The Overlander (Adelaide to Melbourne).
There are mainly five railway companies in Australia: CountryLink, Great Southern Railway, Queensland Rail, Transwa and V / Line.
You can enjoy discounted rates if you are holding a card such as YHA ($32 for those under 26 years, valid up to one year) or a “backpackers” card. For example:
Sydney – Perth: from $559
Melbourne – Adelaide: $79
Adelaide – Alice Springs: from $279
Alice Springs – Darwin: from $279
Adelaide – Darwin: from $549
Rail Consult Australia: www.railaustralia.com.au
Major cities like Sydney, Perth, Melbourne, Adelaide, Darwin and Cairns are very well supported in terms of flights. Given the great distances that separates the major cities – it is the most suitable way to get from one point to another. Flights are generally quite affordable, but yet often remain outside the budget for a backpacker. The major airlines are Jetstar, Qantas, Virgin Blue, Tigerair. It is recommended to book a flight during week rather than the weekend to take advantage of cheaper rates.
Sydney – Alice Springs: 200 to $450
Sydney – Cairns: from $150
Sydney – Perth: 150 to $330
Sydney – Melbourne: from $75
More information: www.airlineandairportlinks.com
Widespread in Australia, carpooling is a very economical way to travel while sharing your experience with other travellers.
You can also check out many Facebook Groups for carpooling such as “Australians Backpackers” where many travellers are often offering seats in their car. Gumtree is also another great way to find a lift online.
More Info: Ridesharing Australia
Hitchhiking works pretty well in Australia but is illegal in most states. It is also not recommended if you travel alone.
Tours and excursions
Excursions and activities in Australia
Most of the attractions in Australia are accessible via road. For example, you can visit the vast majority of national parks on paved roads or reach the Red Center of the country via the Stuart Highway with a vehicle. Nevertheless, some spots need a travel agency to get there. Here is a shortlist of the most important places for a trip to Australia:
Whitsunday Islands: This archipelago of 74 islands is an ideal place for snorkeling, diving, flying, cruising etc.
Fraser Island: The largest sand island in the world is in the state of Queensland. Fraser Island is rich in varied landscapes with lakes, sand dunes and tropical forests.
Great Barrier Reef: Known throughout the world, it is the ideal place to discover the beautiful seabed. Cairns is the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef.
Exmouth & Ningaloo Reef: “small” coral reef “on the west coast, Ningaloo offers many water sports. This site is also famous for the passage of whale sharks that you can swim with!
Uluru & Kata Tjuta: The mythical interior of the country, you can admire the sunset on Uluru or the Olgas or you wander around the rock or in the Valley of the Winds.
Kakadu & Litchfield: Unavoidable National Parks of the Northern Territory. Kakadu is a natural gem with a variety of wildlife, breathtaking landscapes and particularly beautiful Aboriginal rock art. Litchfield offers beautiful waterfalls and natural pools and is ideal for cooling off.
There are many tour operators who offer tours or activities in the main tourist areas of the country. However, these offers are generally expensive, as they include fares, hotels, excursions and agency services, etc. You should know that it is quite possible to organise your stay yourself. In fact, you can use a search engine to find a plane ticket to Australia. If you want to rent a car, it is best to compare different offers to get the best rates based on availability. Once there, you can reach most of the country’s attractions via paved roads. For excursions and tours by boat or plane you will find travel agencies on site.