Central Australia is not your usual out-of-the-beaten path destination. With its capital, Alice Springs, named as one of the most remote towns in the world, to travel here isn’t a joke, especially for a woman.
As a natural sequel of my previous blog post Things to Do in Alice Springs and Central Australia, today I share with you some female travel tips that will make your trip easier, more comfortable and, honestly, less dangerous.
Driving Tips for Central Australia
If you plan to explore Central Australia by car, don’t travel alone. There are long hours’ of driving ahead of you each day and you need at least one friend or family member to keep you company. Music is essential to keep your mind active. Don’t consume a lot of sugar – after a while, you get a sugar crash and your body gets tired and you will feel sleepy.
Sticking to the speed limit is a wise thing to do. It is more important to drive as fast as you feel comfortable than as fast as you can. This is because The Stuart Highway is bumpy and there are many road trains crossing the country. Be aware of the distances. They are HUGE. You can’t even imagine it if you haven’t been here already. You need to do thorough research and planning for each day of driving.
Distances and fatigue are the biggest dangers on the road…
But don’t forget about the wildlife! Very important is that you don’t drive at night. It is when the wild horses (Bush Brumbies), the wild camels and the kangaroos are most active. They are often crossing the road looking for grass or drink water in the sidewalks. You won’t see them before hitting them. Not only you will kill the animal, but your car will be damaged. And in the remoteness of Central Australia, this can be a huge problem to deal with. Not to say very expensive.
Renting a Car in Central Australia
If you need to rent a car, Thrifty provides better cars. Good quality camper vans are from Apolo and Britz; going for a cheaper rental campervan is ok in the East Coast but in Central Australia with such long distances, lower quality campervans can be dangerous.
Phone Connection and Mobile Internet
Optus and Telstra provide the best mobile phone coverage. I use Optus and really love using their app – easy and quick to recharge my prepaid plan. They also offer to send you the SIM card to an address, so you can order it before your trip. Telstra has the biggest network
As soon as you go out of town or a resort (like Uluru), you don’t have reception. Usually, the roadhouses have reception towers and you can use your mobile Internet for texts and make calls there. Most often than not, you don’t have a mobile connection when in national parks as well. Because of this, Outback Australians use UHF radio stations to connect if they travel in a group or two or more cars.
Dehydration – The Biggest Danger in Central Australia
Winter in Central Australia is cool and sunny. Therefore, many visitors don’t realize that the biggest enemy is hiding not in the spider’s net or in the high grass, but in their own lack of vigilance.
Central Australia has a very dry climate and therefore you need to drink a minimum 4 l/day. Even if you go for a short drive or a walk, carry at least 1,5 l bottle of water with you. Pay attention for some of the signs of dehydration – headaches and orange colour of the urine.
More about the climate in Central Australia you can read on the official Australian tourism website.
Take Care of Your Energy Levels
You need to bring food or snacks wherever you go in Central Australia. If you plan to be more than a day outside the bigger towns, buy your supplies from the supermarkets. You can buy these also from a roadhouse but most of the time the products are more expensive. If you go for a few hours walk, don’t be stupid. Take snacks and water with you even if believe that it will just a short walk. And because I want you to take this advice seriously, will tell you that tourists die every year in this part of the country. It is most of the time because they didn’t consider some, or all, of these factors:
- the weather,
- the temperatures,
- the power of the sun rays
- the remoteness of everything (went alone, didn’t tell anyone where they are going)
- didn’t take food and especially water with them
The chocolate lovers will be pleased to know that chocolate snacks, muesli bars, dried fruits and similar containing sugar are highly recommended in order to keep your energy levels high. Especially important during the many bushwalks that you need to do here if you want to see the best, and sometimes, sacred Aboriginal places, in Central Australia.
What to Wear in Winter in Central Australia?
In winter, you need to wear scarfs, beanies, gloves, and windbreakers to fight the winds. The temperature during the day is generally pleasant, with the Centralian sun shining high. However, as soon as the sun is down, the temperatures drop significantly. The evenings are chilly and nights cold. If you plan to camp out in the bush, warm clothes, socks, jackets and several layers of clothes are a must. The weekend we decided to go camping in Rainbow Valley, it was one of the coldest – 0 degree Celsius during the night. The morning glow over the orange rock formation was worth all the struggles!
What Do You Need if You Visit Central Australia in Summer?
One of the first things you need to do immediately after arriving in Australia is to buy sunscreen. Don’t trust what you have bought in your country. The Australian ones are much better (and don’t shine on your face) because the country has the biggest number of skin cancer. The reasons for that is the ozone hole that is comfortably sitting over the continent for decades.
If you have sensitive or very white skin, you need to do more than applying sunscreen. In Australia, you can buy clothing with sun protection. If you don’t take any additional measures to protect your skin from the strong sun, at least wear brim hat all the time. No need to be one of those funny ones with an insect net at the front; only tourists wear them anyway.
Additionally, apply moisturizer frequently to fight the dryness of Central Australia. If you don’t drink regularly water and don’t use moisturizer, for a few weeks your skin changes and the dry places of your body, like your heels, start to crack.
In summer, additionally, to the brim hat (you can buy one of those iconic Akubra hats, one of the best Australian souvenirs) and sunscreen, a fly spray can be very useful. One of the most popular is Bushman’s Personal Insect Repellent you will find in the stores. You can use also lemon or eucalyptus oil and rosemary and cedarwood cream to deterring the flies.
In terms of clothing, make sure to use loose, comfortable clothes always. It is important to give your skin space to breath, it will help with the regulation of the body temperatures and the sweating. If you have to wear a belt, I recommend using Jelt Belt or a similar travel-friendly accessory.
Food in Central Australia
Roadhouse food is good but expensive. Buying a larger quantity of food from Coles or Woolworths before you leave (Alice Springs or other big town or city) will save you a lot of money.
Central Australian’s Mentality
The Territorians (as are often called the people living in the Northern Territory) have a more serious attitude than the Australians you will meet along the coast. I assume it is because of the harsh environment. However, they are even more helpful, probably for the same reason.
Aboriginal People in Central Australia
Aboriginal people by custom typically keep to themselves. This can come off as they are trying to ignore you but, in their culture, an Aboriginal person must acknowledge your presence before you can introduce yourself. Typically, in Aboriginal culture, introductions are only made through pre-existing close relations or friends.
Coffee Culture in Central Australia
Coffee in Central Australia often consists of instant coffee with milk or water. That’s why, if you are a coffee snob, like me, bring your own Italian coffee maker. For a real Outback experience, you can buy an Australian billy and bring ground coffee beans with you in the bush. The ‘billy’ is one of Australia’s outback symbols.
Camping in Central Australia
One of these billies and everything you might need for your camping trip in Central Australia, you will find in Desert Dwellers shop in Alice Springs. Trust their expertise. Their motto is: “If we don’t have it, you don’t need!”
Do not camp in summer. Camping is a good idea only in winter because summer is terribly hot and dangerously dry. If you don’t have a large amount of tap water with you, you can dehydrate and even dye. Many people do this mistake every year and the results are fatal.
There are public toilets at rest stops and campgrounds in remote Central Australia. What’s the most amazing – there is always a toilet paper roll in these places. I don’t know who takes care of this stuff, but they do their job well. However, as a woman, you need to bring with you all the other stuff (you know what I’m talking about) you might need. Don’t rely on buying them from the roadhouses. Get some from the big supermarkets, just in case. Probably it is not a bad idea to try some of these women’s travel gadgets if you haven’t been using them already.
Snakes and Spiders – Are They Really So Dangerous?
And finally, let’s talk about the snakes and the spiders. It is said that in Uluru – Kata Tjuta National Park less than 1% of the visitors will even see a snake. Snakes and spiders are not aggressive. Most of the people bitten by snakes and spiders were bitten on the hand because they tried to take a photo with their smartphone.
“Don’t bother them and they won’t bother you!”, this is what most of the Australians will tell you.
Let’s Someone Else Takes Care of All the Problems!
Most of the problems, I discussed in this blog post, will be taken care of if you join a tour. The guides take care of your walks, food, safety and everything else you might need assisting with. The only things you need to bring with you on the tour is your own 1,5 l bottle of water and steady hiking shoes.
Here are some of the tours you can join:
Tips for Photographers Travelling Central Australia
Travelling the Northern Territory, and especially Central Australia, give you the great chance to use a long lens camera. The distances are so huge and the many viewing platforms scattered around Central Australia so numerous, that you can make stunning photos almost at every place you visit. Make good use of all of your equipment and skills and show this beautiful land to the people who haven’t been to Central Australia (yet)!
It is not easy to travel around Central Australia as a solo female traveller, but it is not impossible. You just need to be better prepared and aware of the specifics of the place. Some of you might decide to visit the place with girlfriends? Alone or in a company, don’t forget to consider these tips before taking the long way to Australia.
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