As a travel enthusiast, I used to spend a lot of time abroad (I still do, but nowhere near to what I used to). In fact, at some point in my life, my time at home was next to non-existent, while the time I used to spend with a giant backpack on trains, buses and planes had become my new way of life for a relatively brief moment. I’ve backpacked through Europe, Africa and India, and I’ve even had a brief stint in Asia, but not a single one of these locations had managed to evoke that “home away from home” feel in me as Australia did, while being a polar opposite, in a sense. With this in mind, this traveling American has rounded up a list of six things that you should take into account before setting sail for the Aussie wonderland.
Stick with buses
It’s not the inconvenience, it’s not even that the lanes are reversed (although this should be taken into account, unless you’re a Brit), it’s the price tag attached to renting a car in the Land Down Under. If you think that accommodation can be a pain in the neck in certain locations, you definitely aren’t prepared to experience the steep prices of car rentals. As a matter of fact, renting a vehicle can set you back double your accommodation budget, due to gas prices, parking fees, etc.
Instead of hitting the road in a rental and spending a ton of money, hop on a bus (hop-on/hop-off bus pass is really awesome) and enjoy the continent without burning through your savings; well, unless you can afford it.
…or rent a car
Let me be honest right off the bat: yes, traveling by car is expensive, but it is also the best way to truly experience Australia’s uniqueness. Make no mistake, if you can’t really afford the steep prices, don’t even try to squeeze them into your budget plan – it won’t work. On the other hand, the unique scenery that this continent has to offer is best experienced first-hand!
I had quite a number of scares after renting my first Aussie vehicle, especially on deserted roads in the evening hours. As soon as relaxed and started enjoying the vast empty roads, I’d catch myself slowly drifting towards the right-hand side of the road! Yeah, the driving lanes here are reversed, so my advice: practice a bit in urban areas, in order to get used to the whole thing.
Australia is huge… Like, really huge. Well, maybe not as huge as the continental US, but barren and deserted enough to seem much vaster. For instance, as much as 90% of Australia is uninhabitable; whereas the States have a cheap motel with a gas station and a McDonald’s, a KFC or a Burger King not only in every small town, but all along the long American roads, the Australian continent is deserted for the most part. This is why no one really drives from Perth to Sydney – the huge land mass of nothingness is the exact reason why I got on many flights on this and similar stretches.
I use Skyscanner to check on my flights, although I didn’t know about the app back when I was on my backpacking adventure in Australia; this is a cool way to find the cheapest flights, should your schedule allow it.
Nothing without a backup plan
The one thing that I’ve learned during my life as a backpacker is that it is an extremely unpredictable passion – its very essence dictates that you are simply never sure of where you’ll be staying or for how long. I remember being absolutely staggered as I watched my expenses grow exponentially with each passing day, until I’ve finally went overboard with my budget. Luckily, I had more than a couple of people, including some American expatriate friends, out there to help me out. This is the exact reason why you should always bring some extra money with you, just to be safe. We Australians can always opt for small personal loans online to serve as a backup, you should find similar option in your country.
Also, Euros won’t work just as US dollars don’t, and neither will any other non-Australian currency, so make sure that you always have some AUD at your side.
Prepare for beer
Sure, the Australian cuisine is really cool. Didn’t get to experience too much of it though, as I did spend my mid- to late twenties backpacking, partying and enjoying my alcoholic beverages. Australia is all about the parties and people out there are extremely friendly and inviting towards backpackers, so you can expect that beer will likely end up being your biggest expense (as was in my case). The Aussies love their beer; as in: they don’t go out for ‘drinks’, they go out for ‘pints’.
The glorious variety of experience
Sure, people say that everything is out to get you in Australia, in fact, they may even be right, but who cares, really – if I ever wanted to feel secluded, safe and sound, I probably would’ve never picked up my backpack and set off into adventure in the first place.
You’re bound to see the Great Barrier Reef at some point, but don’t miss out on surfing, sailing and diving here! The ‘bush’, or the Outback features a ton of interesting wildlife and the cities are reserved for partying; as a backpacker, it was my duty to experience it all, and this goes for you too!
Backpacking through this continent full of wonder is nothing short of a diverse, glorious, unforgettable experience. Make a rough plan of your route, your preferred means of getting around and your budget and prepare yourself for partying and a variety of experience!
Featured image by Matthew Kane