Driving Alone Around Australia
No solo trip is complete without a road trip in Australia. If you plan to travel solo in Australia, driving is likely not to be one of the things to do on your list. Not many fancy the idea of driving alone. While driving solo may sound daunting, there is nothing that beats the experience of going places by yourself, and a road trip is very much part of the overall solo experience.
The truth is that driving alone around Australia is not as scary as you may think. And I’m the living proof of it. There are pros and cons of travelling alone but if you choose wisely the places to visit, driving alone is the most rewarding way of exploring the country.
But don’t worry, it took me a while to get started with driving a car on the left-hand side of the road and sitting alone in a car driving into remote regions for hours.
It’s only on my third solo trip to Australia that I started driving. I first started with a friend who joined me on my road trip adventure. We set off from Melbourne to Adelaide on the G.O.R. Although that road trip wasn’t easy, it helped me get familiar with driving in Australia.
What to know about driving alone in Australia
Meanwhile, I have been on a dozen solo road trips in Australia and loved the time spent on my own. Every year I add new road trip destinations and get a little bit more adventurous by driving longer distances and going places that years before I never thought I would have done by myself. I hope one day I’ll be able to drive alone to remote Outback destinations too.
In this post, I share what I have learnt from my experience, driving alone around Australia. Here is a guide with all the things you need to consider before planning a solo road trip in Australia.
How to plan your trip when driving solo around Australia
Here are the basic rules for preparing a solo road trip. I do a lot of research about the area I want to drive by myself. I check on Google Maps what small towns are there along the route to stop for food and petrol. Here is my list with my best tips:
Plan your solo road trips accurately with the daily travel distances to drive
It is not too long or too short: 100-300 km is just about the right distance that you can quickly cover on a day. I once drove for 440 km on one day from Perth to Albany, and that was okay. While driving out of a city can be a bit tiring, if you don’t know your way, there is almost no traffic once you are in rural areas, roads are quiet: sometimes too much. Make sure you plan plenty of time to rest after your daily driving route and possibly build in days with no driving at all to recover and fill up with energy fully.
Choose driving routes around big cities like Sydney or Melbourne.
The best thing to do is to hire a car from the town or at the airport when you arrive and drive back to your destination in a loop. Starting from any central city helps organise your trip. It’s easier to travel from the city to rural areas or Outback destinations. You can pack food and all the necessities in town, and it is less expensive to drop off your car at the same place where you picked it up.
Check your solo driving route on the map.
Google Maps is the best tool because it works offline, and for driving around Australia, this is helpful. You need to download offline Google Maps areas onto your iPhone or Smart Phone to check your location whenever you want to quickly. Be prepared that there is no wi-fi or phone coverage in rural areas and Outback regions, so the offline Google Maps are very handy.
Make sure you also have a petrol station map for your road trip. There are not many petrol stations in the Australian Outback, and you must know where they exactly are to plan them into your route.
Start the road trip itinerary as early as possible in the morning.
Australia is a country for early birds. If getting up early in the morning is not your thing, Australia will need to change your sleeping patterns. Getting up as soon as possible is vital. Set off between 6.00-7.00 am to avoid the peak traffic hours, usually around 7.30-9.00. If you plan to go hiking in national parks, bear in mind that some close at 4.00 pm and by 5.30 pm the daylight has gone.
Therefore make the most of the morning hours. Sunset is usually around 5.30-6.30 in winter. Add 1-2 hours in summer for Southern Australia.
Tips for staying safe when driving alone in Australia
In the beginning, I used to be concerned about the state of my rental car. I was checking for at least 30 minutes that everything is okay. Driving an automatic car in Australia gives you extra peace of mind. But if you are not familiar with automatic vehicles, make sure you know how to use them correctly. There are tricky things to know about them.
Make sure you are comfortable with the car you are driving.
Take your time to get familiar with your vehicle. Before setting off, check the car and be sure you know everything to make your drive comfortable. If driving on the left is something that worries you, I recommend hiring an automatic car.
It will give you peace of mind when driving, which means not using manual gear. Some vehicles in Australia come with both manual and automatic car. Making yourself acquainted with the basics knowledge of automatic cars can be helpful.
Driving solo means sitting at the wheel for long hours – Stop to rest.
Make sure you have packed plenty of water and food for the journey. Depending on your type of drive, I usually take a 10-15 min stop every 100 km. In Australian rural areas, there are fewer shops and long distances in between. So, it’s always a good idea to stop for a short break for a cup of tea or stretch your legs when you approach a small town.
TIP: These tips will help you stay healthy on the go.
Driving in the night is a no-go in Outback regions – Avoid it.
Why is it driving at night a no-go in the Australian Outback? Because of wildlife crossing coupled with isolated roads and weather hazards. On top of that, the lack of phone coverage makes it unsafe for a solo traveller to be on the way. While driving at night in suburban areas can be okay, it’s always a good idea not to drive at night in Oz.
TIP: Make sure you have proper travel insurance for adventures in Australia.
Drive sensibly and use common sense – Do not drive if you are tired.
It seems obvious, but we all tend to underestimate this critical aspect. In reality, it’s easy to go overboard. An excellent way to avoid this is to set your limit of driving distance per day. Once you have reached that limit, you know that it is time to stop. I have been using this rule for my driving a few times, which works well for me.
Conclusion about driving alone around Australia
Although travelling on your own can be quite tiring and something pretty much unsustainable for the solo traveller in Australia, Australia’s most exciting memories are from my road trips alone.
Driving solo is a good idea if you feel comfortable driving on your own. As a first time traveller to Australia, I would avoid driving long distances and gradually grow into more difficult road trips like driving in the Outback.
There are plenty of easy road trips for solo travellers.
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First published in 2017, last updated in Jan 2021
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