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Sat Feb 28, 2015, 10:44 PM

travel questions

I understand I need at least a couple of years to actually see Australia but the first trip (because I already know I will have to come back to see the stromatolites LOL) is going to have to be limited to a few weeks.

We are thinking about driving from Adelaide to Darwin in August or September of next year (2016). My travel buddy was there for two intense academic trips in the 80's but otherwise we are not too familiar with things other than guidebooks and such.

Is that a trip that can be done in reasonable comfort in 3 weeks and still see some real things? Of course we will see the Uluru area and the big sites but I would live to know of anything else a local would recommend. We would love to go "off road" and may try to get a vehicle for that out of Alice Springs (or other location if that is possible) if the $$$ works out, otherwise I think it looks like one can do this in a regular vehicle with some camping and other regular accommodations fairly easily. Is that correct? Or do you think we should just plan to get a big camper-type vehicle for the whole route? I guess that is my biggest question. I hate to spend that kind of money if it is just as easy and probably cheaper to hit small motel type places and do a bit of camping.

Does anyone know the cost comparisons of eating/food purchasing between the US and there? Seems to be fairly similar from the books, but I wouldn't mind hearing anybody's take that has been both places. I expect the route we are thinking of may be a bit higher in cost, as it is away from population centers and coasts but I don't know for sure.

Is there anything fun from the US that would be good to bring as possible gifts that wouldn't be readily available? Packaged snack things or some other type of (light weight/non-bulky) product that is inexpensive but amusing and says "thanks from your new friend from the US" or "here is a funny representative item from the US for the party."

Last, is anybody near this route and want to meet up? That would be a real hoot to have a DU meet-up there, I think! (or Sidney, if that is where we end up flying into. I would probably want at least an overnight break from the sardine can)

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Arrow 17 replies Author Time Post
Reply travel questions (Original post)
Kali Feb 2015 OP
Mojorabbit Feb 2015 #1
SheilaT Feb 2015 #2
Kali Feb 2015 #4
SheilaT Feb 2015 #5
Kali Mar 2015 #7
BlueJazz Feb 2015 #3
Kali Mar 2015 #6
BlueJazz Mar 2015 #8
Violet_Crumble Mar 2015 #10
Violet_Crumble Mar 2015 #9
Kali Mar 2015 #11
SwissTony Mar 2015 #12
Name removed Aug 2015 #13
mackerel Aug 2015 #14
SwissTony Sep 2015 #15
Name removed Apr 2016 #16
mackerel Apr 2016 #17

Response to Kali (Original post)

Sat Feb 28, 2015, 10:58 PM

1. I am interested in the answers you get!

I am hoping to make it there this year and would love to hear what the locals recommend.

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Response to Kali (Original post)

Sat Feb 28, 2015, 11:24 PM

2. Keep in mind that the country is very large,


just about the same size as the U.S., so keep that in mind when planning on driving long distances. They do have excellent public transportation in the big cities, and good rail connections especially between major cities on their east coast.

The last time I went I brought Wizard of Oz things, which were easy for me to get as I lived in Kansas then. Depending on where you live, figure out something local that they simply wouldn't have there.

The last time I was there I was benefiting from an incredibly favorable (to me) exchange rate. I'd get two dollars for every one dollar US that I exchanged, and everything cost the same as in the US or less, except that it was half price for me, given the exchange rate. Eating out, as I recall, is generally cheaper than in this country, although you can certainly find pricey restaurants if that's what you want.

Have a wonderful time!

added on edit:
I just looked up the distance between Adelaide and Darwin. 1625 miles.

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Response to SheilaT (Reply #2)

Sat Feb 28, 2015, 11:50 PM

4. yeah, that long distance thing I get

I do live in the west, so I am somewhat more familiar with big space than a lot of people. In fact that is one of the things I am really looking forward to. It is getting crowded here and I still have memories of driving between Phx and Tucson with large swaths of dark night and no traffic on the interstate. That was a long time ago.

I think the exchange rate it much closer right now. US$1 to AU$1.28 but going up so maybe it will be a nice bargain next year.

ha, Wizard of OZ stuff is a cute idea! my "local" tends to be more Mexican, but I guess that is good too.

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Response to Kali (Reply #4)

Sat Feb 28, 2015, 11:53 PM

5. I likewise live in our west,


but this part of our country is positively teeming with people compared to what you'll be driving through. Do you know anyone currently living in either Adelaide or Darwin? Or Alice Springs?

I have not been to either of the first two cities, but have been to Alice in 2001, and really liked it.

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Response to SheilaT (Reply #5)

Sun Mar 1, 2015, 12:08 AM

7. no I don't know anybody

my friend might know somebody from back in her school days but she thinks the friend moved to New Zealand. She is going to try to find her sometime this spring and see what is up, but they lost contact years ago.

who knows, one thing I have learned is you eventually run into somebody with some connection no matter where you go in the world!

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Response to Kali (Original post)

Sat Feb 28, 2015, 11:25 PM

3. Adelaide is a beautiful city. Been about 2 years since I was there.


If it's just 2 of you going north, you might want to check on a campervan or caravan. (You'll get used to the Australian terms. )

My trip was by myself and I rented a caravan (camper) My route was from Sydney (where I was born) to Perth and back. I slept in the van most of the time but treated myself to a hotel every 4-5 days.

If you're going to the outback, you might want some hiking boots that extend up your ankle a bit IF you are also going off the road.
Buying food is pretty close to our prices. Eating at a restaurant can be a lot more. Minimum wage--over $16.50

BUT if you can find a Subway or a decent American chain-type food joint, it's fairly close to our prices.... higher but not extremely so.
As far as gifts, I gave people American dollars 5's, 10's They LOVED them. (Conversation pieces when they meet THEIR friends) but that's up to you.
I'll try to think of more.

Oh...on the plane trip from the USA. BRING PILLOWS and try to get window seats so you can prop the pillows against the window. You'll thank me

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Response to BlueJazz (Reply #3)

Sun Mar 1, 2015, 12:01 AM

6. my friend is pushing the campervan idea

and she has been before so that is another point on that column.

I do live in the desert southwest and we have sharp and bitey and venomous things all over the place so I am somewhat familiar with all of that, though we only have three types of venomous reptiles and the lizard is slow and rarely seen. (actually so is one of the snakes)

while I can take American junk food, my friend tends to want to eat local (though not especially much junk) so that may be something to budget some extra for. I expect we can picnic some of the time and if we do the campervan, breakfast is easy to prepare in camp rather than hitting the road and hunting for it. (all I really need is coffee LOL)

How is the situation for just pulling off the road and camping? I used to do that here in Arizona a lot back in the 70s and 80s, but unless you really drive way off on a deserted side road you just can't do it much any more. Too much traffic and too many settlers/traffic everywhere.

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Response to Kali (Reply #6)

Sun Mar 1, 2015, 12:23 AM

8. How is the situation for just pulling off the road and camping?


Nothing to it. Everybody does it....at some point. You'll probably see people biking way out in the outback. They pull these little carts behind them. Carts hold all their camping gear and tents, water etc.
With you living in the southwest, you'll take to it easily.

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Response to BlueJazz (Reply #3)

Sun Mar 1, 2015, 12:45 AM

10. You were born in Sydney?

Me too! I was born in Fairfield hospital and lived at Canley Vale till my parents up and moved to Canberra...

My younger brother did the drive from Sydney to Perth back in the early 80s. It didn't end up so good coz he drove like an idiot. He hit a kangaroo at high speed and his car was a write off though thankfully he wasn't hurt. Luckily for him a truckie came along who had room on the flatbed of his truck for the car and got him the rest of the way. I don't know why they bothered with the car seeing it was a wreck

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Response to Kali (Original post)

Sun Mar 1, 2015, 12:28 AM

9. I had to google to find out what stomatolates are...

I've been to Adelaide before and it's a beautiful city, though I was there for work and didn't get to see much

I've never done the drive you want to do. The closest I've gotten is going on the Indian Pacific from Sydney to Perth with my grandmother when I was a teenager, and having been in inland NSW a few times where it's flat and not much traffic, that trip put a whole new context on the word vast. There was nothing but flatness going as far as the eye can see for days, and I remember getting excited when I saw a junked out car on the side of the tracks at one point, coz I got really bored really quickly with the nothingness.

That's a really long drive yr wanting to do, but I'd be thinking you could do it comfortably in 3 weeks. It's just over 3000km and a lot of it's the Stuart Highway, which should be a pretty comfortable drive. I don't know if you've found something like this already, but this site probably has a lot of useful information on roads and trips and stuff.


I'd get a campervan. Well I would if I were you, but I'm a 5 star accommodation girl so I wouldn't if it were me


If yr going off the beaten track, be mindful of any restrictions the hire company has on what roads you can't drive on. I hired a car in NZ and found there were a few places like the road to Milford Sound where they advised hire cars not to go coz the road's too dangerous. And don't go too far off the beaten track and get yrself lost. Getting lost out that way can be really dangerous.

Food? I can answer that with some authority coz my brother went to the US year before last and had a lot to say about it. He thought food was a bit cheaper here, but that beef and lamb was amazingly cheaper here than there. Also, the servings in restaurants will be smaller than in the US. He said they had massive servings over there and one place he went to had no idea what a doggy bag was. And we don't tip here. They pay good wages to hospitality staff, at least they do now but Tony Abbott would like to change that.

As for gifts, I'm no help. One of my friends brought me back a really cute Obama bobble-head doll from Hawaii that was Made In China, but while I loved it, I'm not sure if anyone else would.

I'm nowhere near where yr going. If you were in Sydney, I'd catch the bus up from Canberra and have a mini DU meet-up for sure

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Response to Violet_Crumble (Reply #9)

Sun Mar 1, 2015, 01:25 AM

11. hee hee

I thought I remembered you were in Canberra, and I knew you preferred not to rough it, or I would have sent you a PM

Thanks for both those links. There does seem to be a number of campervan rental places, I hadn't seen a compare site yet. If we go with the campervan I will need to sort out reviews and make some kind of decision.

If I was younger (and rich) I would bail and head out for a couple of months and just buy a vehicle, but it sounds like the regs are much more complicated there than here (at least in Arizona anyway. one advantage to repuklican hatred of government is lax regulations on things like car inspections and rules for ownership LOL)

Lamb is insane here, and beef jumped last year - he just missed having it still be pretty reasonable, but that jump is going to help me make it over there so I will eat chicken and wait until I get there to eat beef again. ha!

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Response to Violet_Crumble (Reply #9)

Sun Mar 1, 2015, 09:30 AM

12. Violet has some pretty good advice

"And don't go too far off the beaten track and get yrself lost. Getting lost out that way can be really dangerous". Very dangerous. As you know, Oz is about the same size geographically as the US. Big difference is population size. We've got 23 million. The US has 320 million. And most Aussies live on the coast. That means lots of "off the beaten track" places are empty. If you really want to get off the beaten track, consider taking an organised tour. Sounds boring I know but you'll be lead by people who know what they're doing (hopefully) and have the equipment to get out of a sticky situation. As way of illustration, here's some Aussie humour...

In Australia, we have roads on which you won't see another car for hours or even days. If you're going to be travelling on these roads, take a blanket and a pack of cards. If you break down, find a shady tree, spread the blanket and sit down and start playing patience. Within five minutes, you'll have someone looking over your shoulder saying "That's not how you play patience."

More seriously, consider other possibilities than driving all that way. My suggestion? Hire a car in Adelaide and explore the Flinders Ranges, Kangaroo Island, the Adelaide Hills and the Victor Harbor area. Then fly to the Alice and hire another car and go to Uluru and the Olgas. There's some pretty interesting gorges to the east - much overlooked by tourists. Then fly to Darwin and hire another car! Have a look at Kakadu and Litchfield. Watch out for crocodiles. No, I'm serious. You can go swimming in a croc cage in the city centre, but apart from that any other body of water is suspect.

Other tips...ask the locals as Violet has said. As soon as they hear your accent, they'll fall over backwards to help you.

Use Google to look at temperature etc in all three places. August/September is the cool part of the year and if you're camping out, it can be quite cold in the bush. Darwin is always hot. It has basically two seasons, the Wet and the Dry. And maybe the build-up to the wet, known as Mango Madness or the Suicide Season. But you'll be travelling during the Dry. But it will still be hot in the Top End.

Take water with you. Lots of it, particularly if you go hiking.

Try a Violet Crumble. And Tim Tams. And Chocolate Mint Slices. And Monte Carlos. Try vegemite once just to convince your self how awful it is.

Drive on the left. If you've never done it before, it's pretty terrifying at first. I'm an Aussie living in Holland and have been back to Oz on many occasions and even I have to think about the switch.

Hope this info is helpful.

Edited to add...

You can take a train from Adelaide to Darwin. It's called The Ghan. A sit-upseat will cost around $900 (Oz) and you'll get to see a lot of the country. You can get off in the Alice and reboard a day or four later.

Go to an Australian Rules Football game. The mighty Port Adelaide and the despicable Adelaide Crows both play at Adelaide Oval which a short walk from the city centre. I support one of those teams, but in order to not sway you one way or the other, I won't say which.

A word about bringing in foodstuffs...our Customs are friendly, fair but FIRM. They generally take a dim view of people bringing in foodstuffs. And not just foodstuffs, any product made from (say) wood. When I brought my guitar in, they checked it out even though I had actually bought in Australia. If you try sneaking it in, expect to spend quite some time talking with the men and women in blue and you'll leave with a bit of a hole in your wallet or credit card.

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Response to Kali (Original post)

Response to Kali (Original post)

Mon Aug 31, 2015, 12:05 AM

14. My boyfriend says that it is cheaper to eat in the U.S. but that there is no tipping in Australia

so it ends up about the same if you factor in tipping vs. no tipping.

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Response to mackerel (Reply #14)

Tue Sep 1, 2015, 11:33 AM

15. I used to do what I call convenience tipping.

If I took a taxi and it cost $9, I'd give the driver $10 and say "Thanks, mate". But, it's not required and they bwon't get snitty with you if pay the exact amount.

Do a google on "food prices in Australia vs US". Prices are about 10% higher in Oz, but check your exchange rate. And tipping is optional.

xe.com indicates that $us1 = $Au1.42 at present.

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Response to Kali (Original post)

Response to Kali (Original post)

Thu Apr 7, 2016, 08:38 PM

17. I just finished reading

In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson. It's a good read and gives you a good feel for the country.

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