How to Travel cheap: Nullabor, Western Australia
2,700 kilometers or 1,600 miles. Over the Nullabor from Adelaide, (the capital of South Australia) to Perth, (the capital of Western Australia.) That’s 28 hours – driving! Yes driving. Not by air which I have done many times as well. The Nullabor is said to stretch from Ceduna through to Norseman – the largest limestone karst landscape in the world. You will find people very easy going and friendly. Chatting with others about why they decided to take this “long trek”.
I have traveled over and back 4 times now. My first when I was just 7 years old. The Nullabor was dirt and my dad had to deal with a broken axle from the ugly ruts. This is my third time as an adult. This last time was when a water pump seized. I have flown many times – a much easier way – but you miss out on the feel of that connection with the Australian Outback. A raw beauty that cannot be shown with a camera. It must be experienced.
Here are some common sense tips to make your journey as cost-effective as possible.
- Have your car serviced
Make sure your car is running well and has been serviced by a mechanic you trust. They will see all the “man” things are done. It is false economy to do otherwise.
- Little things that add up for better Fuel Economy
Since you can expect to pay 50% to 80% more than the Capital city price for fuel on the Nullabor – consider carrying Fuel cans. Collecting at a cheaper price to use when the fuel price rises drastically during the trip. There are also a number of things you can do. Like correct tyre pressure, your load size, driving economically, wheel alignment, size of your vehicle, etc. that all add up to larger savings over a long distance.
- Sign up for Road Side Assist
Road Side Assistance turns out to be very economical if you have a break-down! We stopped on our last trip in the evening at a fuel station and my observant husband (and brother in law who was traveling with us) noticed a dark patch on the concrete. It turned out to be a seized water pump and the coolant was leaking.
Belonging to our State Motor Vehicle Road Side Assistance saved the day. We were put up free of charge at a Motel on a Saturday evening – the mechanic worked to replace the Fuel pump the Sunday morning and we were on our way. Each State in Australia has their own Road Side Assistance which will cover for the other States. Such as RAA, (South Australia) RACV (Victoria) RACQ (Queensland) NMRA (New South Wales) etc.
- Taking a camper or not taking a camper?
I have been on both sides – having a camper and not. When younger – we swapped drivers often since we were coming from Brisbane way and so had little breaks of sleep in the car. That was 49 hours of driving. Good sleep is paramount to experiencing life and not having a “holiday” just sitting in a car seat. No motels were involved. When you are younger and more flexible you don’t worry too much about comfort. I have stayed in a Motel on the way across and also used a camper we took with us. Economy-wise staying at a Motel was more cost-effective. Less wear and tear on your car and a huge difference in fuel economy. Plus the big benefits of how refreshed you feel in a “roomy” motel plus how you can do some food preparation. At one place we found the Motel rather expensive – so traveled slowly to the next one and were happily surprised at the price difference.
- Consider signing up for Re-location of a vehicle
We have a friend who spent most of her time in traveling around Australia while using the service of relocation of vehicles. This can be either cars or campervan/motorhomes. There is also an offer of either free fuel or a fuel rebate, insurance and sometimes other extras. If your time is your own and you can fit into a fairly lenient schedule this might just suit and is great for the budget. There are many companies out there and you could find a connecting link (time-wise) works in well with your plans.
- So as not to lose the fresh food you have
Eucla/Eyre Highway is the checkpoint for any fruit or vegetables that are a potential risk for disease for Western Australia. Consider having as much fresh food to eat up before this point (takes just a little organizing to eat those last two tomatoes!) so there is little to hand in. Much more economical that way. I learned the hard way once though and got a new jar of honey taken from me – since honey is on “no/no” list. It is worthwhile checking on their Website what is disallowed
- Take a simple Emergency Kit
I will write up a full emergency kit that I have had for years and years in any vehicle I am traveling in.
It includes all that not everyone thinks of for convenience on long and short trips. You can see my list here– Don’t forget to take your spare blanket (an oldish one in case your man needs to lay down on a hot road to change a tyre) and a pillow. Hats are good to include too. Have oil, plenty of water and other necessary items for mechanics and the climate
- Prepare food
Have onboard forks, knives, spoons, bowls, mugs or cups. Take an esky and ice packs and plastic containers.
Bring some coffee (if you drink it) and small packages of UHT milk and sugar If you consider that coffee can be $5AU or $3.90US per cup you can understand that economies on food can play a huge part in just your hot drinks alone. Take water not only for your car but for you to drink. Water to buy is not cheap either.
A good list of food items to carry: (Some to use initially – canned & packeted for later in the trip)
- Boiled eggs
- Healthy Muesli bars
- Plastic packs of sliced fruit in juice
- Bread and crackers, cucumber for Hummus
- Peanut butter for sandwiches
- Hummus for dip and sandwiches
- Curried egg for sandwiches
- Savoury Rice (which we had on the return trip which lasted 2 days with the esky)
- Tomatoes, cheese, cold meat (if you eat it) (Put in bread) (we did without butter/margarine)
- Tins of Baked beans (can be eaten cold or on bread)
- Tins of Lentils with vegetables (can be eaten cold or on bread)
- A variety of nuts
- Cut up celery, capsicum (peppers), cucumber (Before Quarantine time)
- Dehydrated fruit – Pear, Apple, Figs, Banana, Dates, Sultanas
- Fresh fruit – Such as Grapes, Bananas, Kiwi, Pineapple, Rockmelon (Cantaloupes), (Before Quarantine Time (includes tomatoes) Cut up the bigger fruit.
The cost of food over the Nullabor was in the high range of expensive – so I was always glad to have had food on hand as it cost budget costs dramatically.
When it comes down to it the costs are fuel, accommodation, roadside assist insurance, and food. Allow yourself a leeway on budgeting for costs. You can’t always calculate what things are going to end up costing – so make sure you know what type of mileage your car gets for instance. Travel is easier on the car in winter and night time. But safety for night-time driving has to be taken into account with the wild-life – particularly kangaroos, camels, and wombats – all which can do serious damage to your car. Driving slower is a choice.(I’ve done it at night on another outback trek) Though I was only traveling at 60km or 37mph I managed to count about 980 kangaroos on the road that night! So be aware of the wildlife along the Nullabor – take precautions in the rain, night-time, sun-rise, and sunset.
Enjoy part of one of our most unique landscapes here in Australia.
Deborah Hunter Kells
I have a wide range of interests and the top of my list is people and relationships. I appreciate our big wide world and nature which tries so hard to deal with what we do to it. I enjoy learning and am a “forever student”. I would love to hear about you and what you have experienced – that one or both of us may learn.