Guides

The Rookie’s Guide To Travelling Around Australia In A Van

Seeing Australia from the road is a rite of passage for many travellers. Whether you fork out the big bucks for a camper with the lot, or bum it in a beat-up station wagon, a home on wheels is one of the best ways to discover the country’s hidden gems.

Here’s a few things you should know before hitting the road.

Buy or rent?

Renting is a popular option for travellers who want to get a feel for the #vanlife lifestyle – can you hack it without a shower, toilet or air-con? A lot of people say that, if you’re not travelling for more than three months, renting is the safest option – everything comes set up and you’re (sometimes) covered if it breaks down. The most popular rentals you’ll see on the road are from Travellers Autobarn and Jucy Campers.

If you decide to buy, make sure you suss things like the vehicle’s service history and kilometers, fuel type, battery or solar set-up, water storage and bedding situation. Don’t buy the first car that fits your aesthetic goals or settle for the cheapest bomb on the market, take your time and select wisely – it will be your house, after all.

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Find your wheels

Finding The One isn’t an easy process, you’ve got to test drive a lot of frogs before finding your proverbial prince. Trawl through online classifieds sites like Gumtree using the key words and price range you’re after. And do some research before you start searching – even the mechanically inept can be adequately prepared with a little Googling. A great place to start is The Caravan and Motorhome Club of Australia, albeit focused on ye olde’ grey nomads, they’ve got sweet info that can help any van-traveller.

2WD vs 4WD

Where are you headed on this adventure? Are you hitting the east coast, with its picturesque beaches connected by plentiful sealed roads? Or do you want to dodge potholes and tear down corrugation to see the untouched corners of west coast? If your heart is set on a van, then know that there are some things it won’t be able to hack; if you can’t miss an off-road adventure, you’ll need to find something with 4WD capabilities.

Farewell creature comforts

Overall, the nomadic lifestyle is worth the lack of creature comforts, but there are some luxuries not to skimp on. Make sure your van has fly screens over its windows, an awning to hang under on hot days and, most importantly, a comfy bed.

Save your pennies

Keeping a van going takes a lot of dosh – especially when you’re remote and petrol can cost as much as $2.50 per litre and a loaf of Tip-Top is $5. And if – heaven forbid – anything goes wrong with your vehicle, you’ll need to ensure some emergency funds.

Plan, plan, plan

Planning might seem like a waste of time when you’re living on the road, but you’ve got to give yourself room to enjoy where you’re going. If you’re on a schedule, driving 500kms a day to only spend an hour at the beach is a total waste of time. Pick your destinations wisely, do a bit of research and come to some realistic conclusions before settling on an itinerary.

Stay smart

A quick search of the #vanlife hashtag will show you cute VW’s parked on the sand at sunset. But, the thing is, it’s not that easy – you can’t just pull up where it takes your fancy and set up camp for the night. Rangers won’t hesitate to knock on your window at 2am to tell you to move along.

Download apps like WikiCamps or Campermate to find legal camper locations in your vicinity.

Pack smart

Life on the road is a fantastic reminder of how little we need, but you do need to pack smart. A lot of items you’re used to getting with ease won’t be easy to find – including vital things like clean drinking water.

Make sure you’ve got the essentials – like insect repellant, torches, toilet paper, medication before you set off. YouTube and blogs like The Vanlife Diaries are a great place to find inspiration for what to take and how to store it in your van.

Check out Qantas flights and begin your next adventure.

(Lead image: Silvio Bergama / Unsplash)