We have been travelling around Australia for exactly 89 days now. That’s a long time to make memories, make stories, make mistakes, learn from those mistakes and try not to make them again.
We wish we were told before we came travelling, the do’s and don’ts of backpacking. So for all of you planning to take flight towards the wonderful world of Oz, or anywhere in the world for that matter, here is a few tips and tricks, we have discovered along the way…
Now the first tip we are going to give you, is purely common sense. However you would be surprised at the amount of people we have met, that don’t follow this basic kindness.
1. Be nice to people.
Honestly they don’t expect it. Maybe it’s a culture thing. Everyone here lives their owns lives in this beautiful country. Perhaps they don’t feel the need for small interactions. Just simply asking, “how is your day going?” to the shop attendant packing our shopping bags. We have met quite a few that would not even respond to us. For the odd few that do reply, it is like they have never been asked the question before. The smiles on their faces, is why we make conversation in the first place.
Just between you and me, we have even received discounts on food and cinema tickets, just for being polite! It really does pay off….So remember your P’s & Q’s!
2. Price search.
Don’t just buy the first item you see. If you are buying alcohol or doing your weekly food shop. You may only need to walk a few doors down, and there’s a whole other shops, where spends, may be half the price.
Our advice, Dan Murphy’s or BWS is cheap for booze. Woolworths or Coles is cheap for food. Coles however does not store fresh foods such as fruit, veg or fish. Rumours say they buy their products, freeze them, before releasing onto the selves when necessary. Woolworths may be the same, but we can’t say for sure. So if it is quality you are after, you will need to find a separate independent seller. If it is backpacker budget you want, then shop away!
3. Get a good SIM card deal.
We have 45GB, unlimited international calls and texts for $40 a month, which is about £25… Bargain! If you can’t get WIFI for your devices, just hotspot the data from your phone to a laptop or iPad instead. Warning: This will burn through your data rapidly though.
4. Don’t always rely on travel agents.
Know what you’re doing. The travel agent could have always made a mistake, and you need to know when, where and how to correct it. Most travel agents are also backpackers. They have not got the years of experience or extensive knowledge of Australia, which they say they do.
We met two lads whilst travelling up the East Coast, who had unfortunately ended up booking through a travel agent that had messed up every date in their schedule! Luckily for them, they were switched on, and recognised the numerous mistakes on their paper work before they were due to arrive at each destination. Luckily, the travel agent manager, was able to change the date issues last minute, quickly resolving the situation.
Likewise, we arrived at Travellers Autobarn in Brisbane, to collect our campervan, ready for a 3 week road trip up the East Coast. We had pre-paid everything in advance with a travel agent. This information however, was not passed on to the van hire company, who were trying to charge us another $2500 for the hire of the van! After an hour or so on the phone with the travel agents, the additional $2500, was wavered and we were free to hit the road.
Moving on to camper van related tips…
5. Don’t leave fuel to the last drop!
Australia is a big place. I mean a BIG place! Which also means, petrol stations are few and far between. We never let the petrol gage drop below half way. Which you may think is extreme, but the last thing you want, is to brake down in the middle of nowhere, where another car may not pass you for several days! Along the East Coast, this isn’t much of a problem. The further inland you drive, this is a much bigger issue. Keep an eye of the fuel counter, and research where the next petrol station will be.
There is an app called ‘Fuel Map Australia’. This is a fantastic app, that allows you to plan where the next petrol station will be, and how much is will cost. This method is a great way to save money, and have some reassurance that you will not brake down, in the middle of nowhere.
6. If you have a van, buy a fan.
Remember that saying… Trust us. We bought a small desk fan for $7 from Target. Best purchase, we have ever made! It has a USB plug end, making it so easy to plug in and have constantly running, to keep the van nice and cool, rather than feeling like an oven.
7. Read the news reports.
I know this may sound extreme, but please read the news reports; it could save your life!
When we were driving up the East Coast, a catastrophic tropical storm hit north Queensland hard. Right where we were heading! There was a boat trip in the Whitsundays that we had booked onto and unfortunately could not cancel. So as to not loose our money, we reluctantly headed up towards the storm. The Whitsundays, was totally underwater when we arrived. The roads were just about clear, but it just looked like ocean either sides of the road.
Following on from the Whitsundays, we were due to drive up to Townsville for a couple of nights. To prevent the risk of floating away in the van, we decided to call the shots, and turn back towards Brisbane.
The next day, the Townsville dam flooded, killing several people and thousands of farmland cattle!
This is why it is so important, to read the news. We could have been there on that awful day.
Check out Higgins storm chasers on Facebook, for more accurate weather reports.
8. Know your check out time.
Don’t be idiots like us. Know your check out time. This one requires basic common sense, to which we did not have on this particular day.
We were due to check out of our campsite in Noosa. Not realising what time is was or what time we were supposed to be checking out. It was a boiling hot day; so decide to walk to the pool next to reception, for a swim. We noticed a lot of people going in and out of reception with their gate keys. We asked each other, and neither of us knew what time, check out was. Soaking wet, I got out of the pool, grabbed my towel and went to ask at the front desk… Classy. Turns out, we had 10 minuets, to get the heck out of there before we would start receiving late check out fines.
Looking back at it now, you just have to laugh. Never in our whole lives have we panicked so much! We literally ran back to the van, threw the table and chairs onto the bed, and started driving, still in our swimwear and towels!
9. Sun cream your head.
Sounds stupid, we know, but especially if you have a parting in your hair, the sunrays are particularly damaging here, as Australia have a huge hole in the ozone layer above the country, meaning people are far more susceptible to burn.
I have a parting, and ended up burning my scalp completely. I had to buy special shampoo, to stop the skin from peeling, and then sat with after sun in my hair. Now I sun cream my parting, everyday before going out.
Either that, or be clever and wear a hat!
10. Always look under the toilet seat!
Spiders, snakes and other venomous animals are always lurking around the corner in Australia. If you are using public toilets, like we were with the van, always check under the toilet seat…
It happens… Best to just check first.
11. Say yes to everything.
It’s the things you don’t do that you regret, that’s the common saying. I wish that we had done this when we first started travelling. We were so worried about money and sticking to a budget. There are loads of things that we ended up saying, “nah, maybe next time” to. But there isn’t going to be a next time, not always.
So just say yes to everything, don’t hesitate. You’re here to travel and experience the world, else why did you save all that money in the first place?
Last but not least…
12. Be positive.
There will be several times, when things really haven’t gone the way you planned or hoped. Don’t let this get you down. Turn the negatives into positives and just laugh it off. I know this is easier said than done, but it will make your travelling experience so much more exciting and rewarding.
Social media paints a pretty picture on everything travel related, we are guilty of this too on Instagram. However, behind the scenes there are often a lot of hurdles in your way that people don’t know about. So our final tip would be, not to compare yourself to anyone on any social media, cause it's highly likely they are going through the same things as you.
That’s everything from Nomadic Media today. We hope that at least one of these tips have been helpful to you… Or at least made you laugh!
Peace out guys.