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Self Drive Tours For Backpackers In Australia

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Jolly Swagman Backpackers Sydney wants you to have an exciting trip while in Australia. A self-driving road trip is one of the best ways for backpackers in Australia to see the country and the outback.


It gives backpackers in Australia the freedom to explore the vast terrain in your own time – you can go wherever you want, however you want, for as long or as short as you like.

However, there are some decisions to make. Buy or rent? Campervan, Car, 2WD, 4WD or even motorcycle?  What kind of vehicle you get for your Australian outback adventure depends on many different things, and there are Pros and Cons to each!   In this article, we’ll go through the choices on offer so you can make the best decision based on your needs, wants and budget!

Should Backpackers Buy or rent a vehicle?

If your trip is for a short time (under three months or so) then it’s definitely easiest to RENT a car.  You don’t have to go through all the hassle of finding the car, registering it, preparing it for your journey and taking on all the responsibilities of owning and maintaining a vehicle.  AND you don’t have to sell it at the end, which may take some time.   When you rent you literally – book it, pay, pick it up, drive on your journey and drop it off at the end!

If your trip is over three months then it’s probably going to be cheaper to BUY a car.

The best places to find cars for sale are hostel notice boards (or the car sales folder at the Jolly Swagman Backpackers); local car dealers or on listing sites like Gumtree.  Once you’re done, you can use these same channels to sell it back, making back some of what you spent.  Selling the car at the end could be harder than expected, so make sure you leave enough time at the end of your trip to sort things out.

Also be aware that if your trip is over three months in one Australian state, your regular license may not be legal and you are supposed to apply for an Australian license – you can check this with the car registering agency.

What kind of vehicle are best for backpackers?


Campervans are super popular for Outback exploration because they offer travel, accommodation and food in one package. The pricier models even have a shower and loo – but otherwise, there are 1000s of kilometres of bush and streams to take advantage of!

The only disadvantage is that many won’t be equipped to handle the tougher terrain. There are some 4WD models, but they’re a little bit more expensive.

You can pick up a used camper for $1000 and upward. To hire, a camper will normally cost $90 to $200 a day depending on the features and season.  Another option is to consider relocation deals, where hire companies offer you a hire for free/cheap because they need to get a vehicle back to base.


2WD or 4WD?


You do not need a 4WD to explore the outback. In fact, two of the most popular locations (Alice Springs and Ayers Rock) are accessible by completely flat and smooth roads, so the extra expense of a 4WD is not needed.

So, before you jump the gun and fork out for that fancy 4WD it’s important to research where you want to go and whether you’ll actually need it.

No matter what you’re driving, outback driving is not the same as driving in the city. You’ll need to be extra alert for animals jumping into the road at night, as well as changing road conditions. Over long distances, this can lead to driver fatigue, so you need to change drivers often and take plenty of rest – they say no more than 2 hours at a time!



This is by far the most challenging, yet most rewarding way to get around the outback. With everyone in your group driving there’s a real sense of camaraderie and shared accomplishment that you just don’t get in a car. You’re also more in touch with the elements, giving you a much more immersive experience of the countryside.

However, be warned that careful preparation is absolutely integral to staying safe on a long bike trip in the outback. Riding a bike is even more challenging than driving a car or campervan, so pit stops have to be planned meticulously. Also be aware your luggage space will be very limited.

In terms of getting hold of a bike there are only two choices: buy or bring your own. Renting a bike to take out of the city is ludicrously expensive so probably isn’t an option for backpackers in Australia (Why is motorbike hire so expensive?  we don’t know!!)

Hope this helps you with your planning a backpacking adventure of a lifetime!!  Remember, here at the Jolly Swagman Backpackers Sydney we love to help everyone to see as much as possible of our beautiful country – if you need help – just ask!

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