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Driving the Australian Outback

Tips for driving the Australian Outback

Driving in the Australian Outback does not require any particular driving skills. On most Outback tracks you will not need a normal 2WD as many of the Australian roads are well-maintained gravel roads.

What you need are good safety tips for driving long distances across the Outback.

If you hire a car in Australia you will need a four-wheel-drive vehicle on unsealed roads.
If you drive your own car is up to you, you can either use a2WD or a 4WD. If you are experiencing 4WD for the first time you should make sure you know how to engage the 4WD.

This is very important, although it may seem a trivial detail, apparently in the past car accidents occurred in the Outback, because travellers did not have a clue how to engage the 4WD on their vehicle. If unsure ask before setting off on your road trip adventure.

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 Road Safety Tips for driving across the Australian Outback

Here below I have compiled a list of simple road safety tips for you to use when preparing for driving the Australian Outback:

  • Seek the advice of the local police, the local tourism office and/or the local national parks rangers. First of all when you have decided to travel around Outback areas, and especially if you plan to travel to extremely remote areas during the wet season. Only access this area if conditions allow it. If they say do not go, then please do not go.  Be sure you have an updated and detailed map and know the directions you are going. The best way if to download one from the internet that you can use offline, next to bring with you a print-out of the map.
  • Always let someone know friend or family, where you are heading to and what is your travel itinerary in the scheduled Australian Outback area.
  • Ensure your 4WD is peak conditions your 4WD van. If a breakdown occurs, repair facilities are limited and can be really costly. Make sure your vehicle insurance covers you throughout your trip.
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  • Be self-sufficient: carry with you a full range of vehicle spare parts, a vehicle workshop manual, and a full set of equipment recovery, first aid kit, communications and camping gear.
  • Hire a satellite phone, learn how to use it and remember that mobile phone coverage is mostly limited to towns! Learn basic navigation, take with you a full set of maps, GPS and know how to use them.
  • Carry plenty of water (3litres per person/day) food and fuel with you, including at least 3 days emergency supply. Remember that in the outback there is “truly nothing” and even at the very isolated fuel stations, their offer most of times is pretty limited, so I would recommend taking your own food and plenty of it with you.
  • Unsealed roads are exposed to high traffic and climate hazards like heavy rains, which cause bog holes, floods, washouts and corrugations. So it is very important you know what kind of circumstances you may face in the Outback and are prepared to deal with them. The biggest driving hazards, however, are the fatigue of the long driving distances and wildlife on the roads.
  • Take breaks: stop frequently for short rest, if possible at all swap the drive too and do not underestimate the long distances.
  • Never drive at night, and whenever darkness sets in like at dawn or dusk because especially at night wildlife is active and the risk of hitting a kangaroo or cattle is really too high. This happens often. I am sure you have seen pictures of dead kangaroos along the edge of the outback roads? Yes, this happens frequently, unfortunately. On some Australian roads, I have seen many dead animals. To avoid hitting animals while driving do not drive at night.
  • Check road conditions regularly with the local police, with Main Roads, the local tourist information office. Here below a list of the website where you can find reports about the Australian Road Conditions for each relevant area:
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    Northern Territory and Central Australia
    Kakadu National Park
    Main Roads of Western Australia
    Transport South Australia
    Queensland Road Conditions

  • Check regularly the weather conditions in advance and monitor the progress of local hazards like cyclones, fires and floods. If uncertain what to do, do seek local official advice and heed their advice. I have selected these two great resources from a government site which provide you with current weather conditions update in real-time:
    Weather Conditions and Warnings
    gives you updated information about weather conditions and floods, cyclones warnings.
    Australia Weather Radar Images
    this is a more specific site with radar images, it allows you to see how heavily it rains and how strong the wind is.
  • Take with you all necessary phone numbers of the local authorities of the areas you intend to explore.
  • Do not underestimate the potential danger of crocodiles, sharks, snakes, spiders or the consequences of an incident in a remote area. Learn more about how to deal with dangerous animals in Australia.

By planning your Outback road trip carefully, sensibly, and responsibly you make sure to get the most of your trip while driving the Australian Outback.

Hope you find the above Outback safety tips helpful for getting started when planning your road trip across the Australian Outback.

Safe driving in the Australian Outback!

Hiring a Car in Australia

Tips for driving in Australia – Tips for the first time traveller

Dangerous Animals in Australia

Safe Travel Australia

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