How should you travel around Australia? This is a question that will elicit countless answers, ignite endless debates, and has been mentioned more times on the internet than Kanye West. But some people don’t want to get stuck and lost down the rabbit hole. No, they just want someone to give them a simple and easy answer that they can quickly understand and use to make a damn decision already so they can start planning their trips! Well ladies and gentlemen, if that describes your attitude, today you are in luck. Answer me these questions three, and I will
grossly oversimplify tell you how you were meant to get across Australia.
Question #1 Do you have a lot of time?
If you have less than a month to experience Australia, you DO NOT have a lot of time. If you have a week like those poor American saps who never stop working, you’re going to need to fly and pick two destinations tops, maybe three days in tropical Far North Queensland and four days either in the big city of Melbourne or Sydney. Two weeks is the bare minimum for a worthwhile East Coast trip, even though you’d be better off doing just Sydney to Brisbane instead of trying to do the whole coast in such a short period. A month is a great amount of time for a fully comprehensive East Coast trip or a brisk-paced adventure around Australia visiting the East Coast, the South Coast, and maybe even the Red Centre. In summary, a week is never a lot of time, two weeks is a lot of time if you’re doing a small segment of Oz, a month is a lot of time if you’re doing a large segment of Oz, and two months is a lot of time if you want to experience the whole country.
Question #2 Do you have a lot of money?
This question is the hardest and the most subjective. Australia is an expensive country. If you’re trying to see it on $50 a day, you don’t have a lot of money. That will buy you a bed in a cheap hostel, some pasta from Coles, and cheap transport. You’ll be doing the cheapest or free activities. No sailboats in the Whitsundays for you! This is obviously a vast oversimplification. How much money you need for Australia is a topic for another blog post.
Question #3 Do you have a spirit of adventure?
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How comfortable are you with uncertainty? When something doesn’t go as planned, do you roll with the punches or fall to pieces? Is breaking down on the side of the road going to ruin your life or is it just all part of the experience? Do you crave structure or enjoy waking up, not having a clue what the day will bring? There’s nothing wrong with being a planner. It’s okay if you like being organized. It is important, however, to be honest with yourself either way.
Answered those three questions? Great! Here’s how you should get across Australia.
Buying a vehicle
Purchasing a vehicle is for you if you have a spirit of adventure, a lot of time, and a lot of money. Having a vehicle means you can pull over whenever you want, be on your own schedule, and take the path less travelled, so it’s perfect for the adventurous types. A car will let you explore almost all of Australia. A 4×4 will take you down unsealed roads, off the bitumen, into the most beautiful, unspoilt parts of Australia. A motorcycle is for the true badasses among us.
Purchasing a vehicle is the best way to go if you have plenty of time because it makes the cost and the hassle a better bargain over time. You’ll need a whole education on roadworthys, green slips, etc. which is a big waste of time if you’re going to sell the car again in only four weeks.
Having your own wheels is the ultimate way to see Australia, but it is expensive. You’ll need to make a significant investment upfront to buy something that’s in good condition and will survive the journey. You’ll also need enough money left over to keep surviving if you break down and need to pay for repairs.
Got plenty of time and an adventurous spirit but no money? Hitchhiking is your best bet. You can do the traditional, stick-your-thumb out hitch-hiking but it’s easier and more fun when you find other backpackers who have cars and empty seats.
You’ll need plenty of time to travel this way. You’re not in the driver’s seat, so you’re on someone else’s timeline; they are not on yours. Sometimes you can get lucky and find a crew to do your whole adventure with. Other times you might bounce from car to car, meeting new people and then parting ways multiple times over the course of your trip. It’s generally easy to find people in hostels or on Facebook who have cars and are looking for others to join them on their adventures as long as you’re flexible.
Rent a camper or 4×4
If you crave the open road but don’t have a lot of time, go for a camper or 4×4 rental. You’ll get all of the freedom and none of the hassles of ownership. You can rent a camper for a couple of months, but as your rental gets longer it starts to be more cost effective to just buy your own and figure out all the logistics of ownership.
Book a tour
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If you’ve got plenty of money and time but you’re not much of a risk taker, a package tour might be your best bet. You’ll know exactly where you’re going, when you’ll get there, and what you’ll be able to see and do.
Rent a car
If you’ve got money, but little time and not much of an appetite for the adventure of camping and dirt roads, rent a car. You can have a fun time in a couple of weeks with your own rental car, exploring the Great Ocean Road, or driving from Brisbane to Sydney and sleeping in hostels along the way.
Greyhound or Premier Bus
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The hop-on, hop-off bus passes are great if you don’t have a lot of money and you don’t want the uncertainty of hitching with other backpackers, but you do have plenty of time to see Australia. You’ll get to make as many stops as you want along the way and know that you’ll get there safely and (mostly) on schedule.