Don’t rule out beautiful Uluru simply because of the price tag. With a bit of planning and some creativity, the visit doesn’t have to be more expensive than your regular Aussie getaway.
Uluru, or Ayers Rock is a long-cherished dream for many. It is unique and mysterious. And it’s the heart of Australia. Once you get there, you will be mesmerized by the scenic beauty. Other things that will blow you away is the distance to any kind of civilisation and the heavily inflated prices that come with a remote location like this.
But don’t rule out Uluru simply because of the price tag. With a bit of planning and some creativity, the visit doesn’t have to be more expensive than your regular Aussie getaway.
The only thing you have to sacrifice is your morning beauty sleep to really be able to enjoy the magic of the outback.
1. Try to find a Jetstar flight deal and rent a car
There are plenty of budget friendly carriers in Australia, but Jetstar has the best promo fares. A couple of times a year, they launch their ”Free Return” promo for 199 AUD from Sydney and 189 AUD from Melbourne. On other rare occasions the price from Sydney and Melbourne is 99 AUD one way on both Virgin and Jetstar, but the problem is to find a return fare in the same price range, which makes the Free return option the smartest deal. Make sure to book a rental car in advance. We had this lovely Outlander for 180 AUD for two nights and it was the best rental car we’ve ever had!
2. Don’t reset to Outback Time and be at the gates when the park opens
Outback time is absolutely ridiculous. It is 1,5 hours west of Sydney. Don’t bother resetting your watch and adjusting your sleep to your new time zone. Take advantage of the earlier bedtime you will be bringing with you from the East Coast and rise before the sun. The sunrise is the most magical thing you will experience, so queue in line at the gates of the national park and enter just after 5 AM. You will have plenty of time to find a good spot for your tripod and camera on the viewing decks.
3. Stay a maximum of 3 days
One day and one night is enough to see it all, but I realize people generally travel in slower pace than myself, so make sure to fit inside 3 days. Your entry tickets to the park last for 72 hours which is more than enough.
4. Be creative with your lodging
Ok. It’s against the law to sleep in the car in Australia. However the law is rarely enforced and many tourists never have a problem with this unless they have provoked a land owner by camping on private property. Bad news is: the entire village of Yulara is owned by Ayers Rock Resort. It is therefore private property, and you’re stuck with lodging prices that vary from 300 to 1000 AUD per night. You can also use the non powered campsite for around 50 AUD. The national park closes an hour after sunset so you can’t camp there. There are 2 options if you want to save 50 bucks:
1. You sleep in your car for free on the next property, Curtin Springs, 103 km east of Yulara – convenient if you’re visiting “nearby” King’s Canyon.
2. You park on the same parking on the airport from where you rented your vehicle.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but as long as you don’t leave the car and e.g. use the parking as a urinal, I cannot see how this would be illegal as the parking is home to your car.
5. Don’t expect to climb up on the rock
Uluru is a sacred rock formation and is also considered a religious center for the indigenous population. The weather conditions up there are also more challenging than one may think where several rescue operations are conducted each year. The indigenous people and the rangers ask visitors not to climb it and they will close the hike if there is any chance of bad weather. We were there from Oct 8 to Oct 10 and the hike never opened.
6. Bring lots of water and a tripod
Luckily, there are more things to do than to hike up the rock. You can hike through amazing landscape or drive to amazing viewpoints. Make sure to bring a tripod to be able to snap great sunrise and sunset shots. Do bring lots of water and stay hydrated.
7. Have a plan on what viewing area to choose
Planning ahead on what viewing are to choose will assure you to get the best spot for yourself and your camera gear.
There are two main viewpoints of Uluru. The sunrise viewing area will allow you to take great sunrise shots with the sun coming up from behind you and lighting up the rock to its magical red color. On a clear day, you will also see Kata Tjuta, The Olgas in the distant. This platform is also great for sunsets if you want to capture Uluru as a silhouette. The sunset viewing area is just as magic when the red sun lights up the red rock, and it will also serve well for early sunrise shots if you want the silhouette. The Kata Tjuta viewing point is also good, but not brilliant. Instead we enjoyed watching the formation by just parking along one of the paved roads.
8. Do visit the cultural center
Remember, you’re in the land of the Aboriginals. They take care of the park and were here thousands of years before yourself, so pay a tribute by learning more about their culture and customs in the Cultural Center. You will not be disappointed.
9. Don’t worry about wildlife
Me and Marcy were scared of spiders, snakes, everything! Totally unnecessary. We once found a spider in our bathroom. That was it. And it turned out he was harmless. And out in the nature? Well, the only real thing we found was a dingo and this lovely chameleon. Can you spot him?
10. Worry about bugs
No, kidding. Nothing to worry about but there are occasionally lots of flies in the area. Make sure to bring a net over your head to prevent flies from colliding with your face all the time.