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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.

Renting a car gives you the opportunity to access areas the tour buses won’t! Plus you can take a nap in it. Or can you?

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!

Kata Tjuta (The Olgas), 40 km from Uluru at 5 AM!

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.

Uluru (right) and Kata Tjuta (left) seen from the Uluru sunrise viewing point just after sunrise!

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.

Beautiful birds like this are allowed to sleep everywhere. Unfortunately humans aren’t, but there are hacks.

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 but unless you’re bringing a tent with you, this basically means you’re paying 50 AUD to park and sleep inside of your car. 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 sleep parked 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, I cannot see how this would be illegal as the parking is home to your car.

The climb is closed whenever there is a reason to close it. My advise is, respect the indigenous people’s request not to climb it!

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.

Uluru is absoluely amazing from up close too! Do the Mala Base with a ranger walk if you can!

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.

The Olgas from the Kata Tjuta viewing platform. The Uluru viewpoints are more magical.

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.

Uluru at sunset seen from the sunset viewing area where the setting sun lights up the rock in red tones.

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.

A chameleon! Can you see how well he interprets the colors around?

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.

Falling commodity prices and dovish central banks have created the best travel opportunity in many, many years.

Over the last two years, oil prices have fallen 70% and the rest of the commodities are down big time. At the same time, China struggles and central banks all over the world seem to compete with who’s going to lower the interest rates the most, just to dope their own inflation.

But why writing about this on a travel blog?
Because it might be the best travel opportunity for you in many, many years!

As big capital flees from currencies connected to these countries to find safety and yield someplace else (preferably with the US dollar), some countries that were ridiculously expensive have turned amazingly affordable during the last year.

1. Norway

Kjeragkv
Me on top of Kjeragsbolten, Norway. A rock stuck between two other rocks.

Americans save 51%
Canadians save 26%
Europeans save 33%

With a plunged currency and big cuts on corporate traveling in the oil industry, oil-based Norway just waits for foreigners to fill empty hotel rooms and plane seats. And what’s best – it still is one of the safest, cleanest and most convenient countries in the world.

With amazing outdoors, state-of-the-art skiing, midnight sun and northern lights, Norway is my top pick for this year’s vacationing.

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On top of Holmenkollen, above the clouds. Ski at Tryvann or take the sledge down Korketrekkeren.

Wintertime, don’t miss the northern lights in Tromsø, maybe the best place to spot the aurora’s on the planet because of how fast the weather changes. A couple of days in the village will guarantee at least a couple of opportunities with clear skies.

Summer or early fall, rent a car and drive to the many cliffs and fiords that you have seen so many pictures of. Trolltunga, Preikestolen and my favorite, Kjeragsbolten. Don’t forget to visit Bergen, which is the architectural heart of Norway. Bring a raincoat.

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Vigelandsparken scultpture park in Oslo by sunset.

Oslo is a great weekend destination and a perfect stopover  if you fly to Europe or Scandinavia with Norwegian Airlines. Ski on Tryvann and don’t miss Korketrekkeren, the world’s longest toboggan run. Rent a sledge or bring your own. The subway train will take you to the top of the hill. Be careful. I broke my thumb.

2. Vienna, Austria

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Chariots are all over the place! Love it!

Americans save 52%
Canadians save 28%
Europeans save 30%

The euro has fallen big time compared to the US dollar after the turbulence with Greece and the action of aggressive stimulations from the European Central Bank. But it has also attracted a big number of foreign travelers to, for instance, Paris, Rome, Barcelona and Venice. Hotel prices have actually increased quite a lot, but these cities have also overshadowed other destinations that are equally interesting.

Me, dancing my way through Musikverein, just like they do in the ballet on New Year’s Day.

Every dandy should visit Vienna, the capital of classical music and home to the most stunning Art Nouveau architecture. Now down staggering 30% on hotel prices due to heavy oversupply. So take this opportunity to wander around the home town of Mozart for less. Make sure to attend Musikverein, as they play similar repertoire to the New Year’s concert even on other dates. The Spanish Riding school offers a unique experience with beautiful equestrian dressage, and if you’re still not tired of horses after you get out, there are chariots all over the city to take you wherever you please. You will feel like being back in the 19th century!

Vienna Ice World down by Rathausplats is a nice activity to kill the afternoon with.
Vienna Ice World down by Rathausplats is a nice activity to kill the afternoon with.

For non-Mozartophiles, The Golden Quarter offers a lot of nice upscale shopping and Schönbrunn has a great zoo. Arriving in winter? Don’t forget to visit Vienna Ice World, an amazing ice skating course with cool iced paths, alleys and bridges down by the parliament.

3. Stockholm, Sweden

Strandvägen, Stockholm.
Strandvägen, Stockholm.

Americans save 33%
Canadians save 8%
Europeans save 15%

Sweden is not a commodity-driven economy. The country is in fact doing really well, but the change of government from liberal to socialist combined with a very low inflation has caused the central bank to impose negative interest rates and sent the Swedish currency to all-time-lows. So take this opportunity to visit the most high-tech and service minded country in the western world.

With Vienna being the capital of classical music, Stockholm is probably its equivalent for Pop! Avid house music fans – make sure not to miss the Summerburst music festival. More traditional pop enthusiasts, may not leave until they have seen the Abba Museum and this year’s Eurovision Song Contest.

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Island life on Vaxholm.

To maximize your visit in Stockholm, go from late May to early August, stay in the city for a few days and treat yourself with an additional few days in the archipelago, preferably Sandhamn or Möja. Best way to go about it is by yacht, but the public transport is superb. If you’re in town for a quick stopover, just have a nice glimpse of the archipelago in Vaxholm by taking the Vaxholm ferry.

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The Royal Palace at Gamla Stan.

Stockholm offers great waterfront lodging along beautiful Strandvägen in the very center. Go by foot and don’t miss the islands of Skeppsholmen, Djurgården and Gamla Stan with many attractions such as museums, the world-famous Skansen and the small narrow medieval alleys. Public museums in Sweden are free of charge as of 2016, which saves you another big bill for a rainy day.

4. Canada

Oh, Canada, the great outdoors!
Oh, Canada, the great outdoors!

Americans save 25%
Europeans save 1%

Make sure to pay a visit to oil-driven Canada. The country has got it all and it’s on sale now. For every season! I’m not missing out on the spring in the Oakanagan, the summer in Toronto, the fall in Banff and the winter in Whistler.

5. Australia

Hamilton Island Marina
Hamilton Island, Whitsunday Islands, Australia

Americans save 25%
Canadians overpay 2%
Europeans save 5%

Low oil prices and troubles in China have sent the Aussie dollar way down under from where it used to be. But it’s not much of a difference for Europeans. Canadians, who struggle with a weak currency themselves, would even lose a couple of cents on going there right now. But fortunately not too much.

Australia is a magical place with amazing wildlife, beautiful national parks and perfect beaches. You really should pay a visit down under if you haven’t done it before. Make sure to visit the Whitsunday Islands, but make sure to read my Ultimate guide to the Whitsundays before you go.

Vaud, Switzerland – Everything but a bargain

Nyon Castle in Vaud, Switzerland.
Nyon Castle in Vaud, Switzerland.

Everybody overpays by at least 15%.

But not everything is about the money. The little canton of Vaud north of Geneva is a beautiful sweet spot and you will have to pay the premium for time spent there, especially when you own Canadian Dollars and Swedish Crowns like we do. But we have fallen in love with the place and we can’t wait to return.

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Overlooking Vaud from La Salève. Me, Marcy and the Instagram app.

So if you truly want to go some place, don’t mind the fact that you are a currency loser. Go, be a wise spender and smile. Soon time will change and you will be the winner.

Ever been jealous of those who cuddle with koalas and take cool kangaroo selfies?

Getting close with Aussie animals in the wild isn’t difficult at all, you just need patience and some small items to win the hearts of your new friends.

The Phillip Island Boardwalk.

Koala

Where?
The Great Ocean Road, preferably the area around Cape Otway.

What to bring?
A bottle of water.

I dreamt of cuddling with a koala ever since I was a kid, so one of the first things I did arriving in Australia was to take this picture on Wildlife Hamilton Island. However the most beautiful encounters are probably the ones out in the very wild. Now, to get up close with a koala might be a challenge, as they sleep 20 hours a day up in a tall tree and basically don’t like doing anything else but to eat eucalyptus and drink water. But on a really hot day, even the koala is thirstier than usual.

Go to a place where you see a couple of koalas. Focus on those who are awake. If you see them looking for something, make sure they see you and your bottle of water. Pour a couple of drops of your water down on the ground so they clearly see you have it. Sit down on the ground with the bottle and wait for them to approach you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kangaroo / wallaby

Where?
All over Australia. I tried Phillip Island and Pambula beach

What to bring?
Raw sweet potato wedges

Taking selfies with a wallaby or a kangaroo might not be tricky at all. You just need to find a place where the animals are fairly used to humans and bring some raw sweet potato wedges to buy their friendship.

Simply try to make contact with them without chasing them. Hold the sweet potato out and let them grab it with their own hands. I tried Phillip Island and Pambula Beach. The kangas were literally everywhere in Pambula. They were extremely used to people, as the area tends to get stuffed with camper vans during the season. But even though they are almost tame, have respect and don’t try any sudden moves as they can punch you pretty hard.

There are no hotels near Pambula Beach, so you need to lodge in Canberra and drive for 3 hours. Is this far from your route? No worries. This trick works anywhere in Australia. Just have patience.

 

 

Penguins

Where?
Phillip Island

What to bring?
A selfie stick.

Phillip Island is a wonderful island southeast of Melbourne, famous for their penguin colony. The Penguin Parade is an amazing experience if you want to see thousands of penguins invade the island at dusk. But this really doesn’t get you up close with them. And not even during daylight!

The trick? Go out to the Nobbies at the very end of the island. There are always a dozen penguins hiding under the boardwalk, as they have decided to stay home for the day.

Use your selfie stick to get some really good shots. You will probably get as close as I did.

Always dreamt of white beaches, crystal clear waters and amazing wildlife? Not much compares to the Whitsunday Islands. It’s pricy, but priceless. If you do it right.

Hamilton Island Marina
Hamilton Island Marina

Starting off your journey to the Whitsundays

The Whitsundays are a group of 74 islands just east of Proserpine and Airlie Beach. The first, a small town, solely known as the cheaper Whitsunday airport – the latter, a place to accommodate drunk backpackers seeking a cheap bunk bed, or more upscale travelers who prefer the mainland as a hub to explore the islands. Whatever you do, don’t spend more time in Airlie than what it takes for you to sleep. Airlie is to the rest of the islands what Jersey is to Manhattan.

Airlie Beach. Skip the town and head out to the islands!
Airlie Beach. Skip the town and head out to the islands!

Arlie might also house the most sightseeing tour agents per capita in the world, as everybody you’ll meet will try to put you on a plane, boat, jetski (or actually anything that moves as long as it’s salable), so do your best to separate the wheat from the chaff. As I’m far from being a party animal, I prefer the 1-day sailboat excursion with Southern Cross which covers a visit to Whitehaven Beach and some reef snorkeling. The party seeker would probably choose the overnight option with drinks on a cat or powerboat. A family or group of 6+ will however be much better off with their own sailboat and skipper as it will give you the most freedom, luxury and adventure for your buck.

Me at Whitehaven Beach. A magnificent place, even in really bad weather. It was pouring down!
Me at Whitehaven Beach. A magnificent place, even in really bad weather. It was pouring down!
Whether it is a 1-day getaway on a shared sailboat or you rent a yacht with a skipper, every minute is breathtaking!
Whether it is a 1-day getaway on a shared sailboat or you rent a yacht with a skipper, every minute is breathtaking!
Diver? Rent a yacht with a skipper. He/she knows where to go scubadiving to see the yummy parts.
Diver? Rent a yacht with a skipper. He/she knows where to go scubadiving to see the yummy parts.

Not a big tour fan, just looking for an island that has it all?

Fly directly to Hamilton Island and skip the rest. It oozes quality and offers great comfort, and you’ll arrive in style at Whitehaven beach too. Especially with the seaplane. Landing on the most beautiful beach of the world is a cool experience, even for someone who has done it all.

And while Airlie stuffs your body with cheap beer and junk food, Hamilton Island is the complete opposite. A great variety of good, healthy cuisine. And wine, of course. Not too surprising as the entire island is owned by the Oatley family (as in Rosemount Winery). Coca Chu is our top choice for tropical gastro. One Tree Hill for cocktails. And a must-do is Wildlife Hamilton Island where you get to eat your breakfast together with the koalas!

Dent Island golf course. A must!
Dent Island golf course. A must!

Hamilton Island’s real advantage is their love for sports.

Your exercise is included in your stay. And we’re not talking about using the hotel gym. Catseye beach offers free use of catamarans, kayaks and paddle boards for island guests, which is a privilege for your morning exercise. The avid golfer must pay a visit to neighboring one-of-a-kind Dent Island. The entire island is a golf course! And a stunning one too. The green fee includes transfer to the island and the use of a club car, or a buggy, as the locals say. Dent as well as Hamilton Island is completely engine-free, leaving the electric buggies as the only mean of transportation, except the free shuttle bus.

Another good exercise is hiking around the southern tip of the island (5 km) or up to One Tree Hill. You will see views you will remember for the rest of your life.
Another good exercise is hiking around the southern tip of the island (5 km) or up to One Tree Hill. You will see views you will remember for the rest of your life.
Palm Bungalows.
Palm Bungalows.

So where to stay?

Qualia is an all-inclusive resort on top of the island for the honeymooners and the big spenders, but the price tag is too hefty. I stayed at the Palm Bungalows as they offered the most space, good bedding, a terrace, hammock and a parking place where you can charge your buggy.

If you still prefer to stay overnight in Airlie, stay away from the backpacker strip. And always expect to pay small, ridiculous extra charges or prepare yourself for a minor battle with every transaction! Funniest example was when I arrived at my rented apartment in Airlie Beach. The owner wanted 10 extra dollars for the Wi-Fi, saying that ”free wi-fi” doesn’t mean it’s free of charge. It’s just free for everybody to use it.

Best

Private sailing with a skipper, Whitehaven Beach and Hamilton Island Wildlife Park. If you have kids, you will appreciate that kids under 12 stay and eat for free.

Worst

Stay away from Daydream Island! You’ll be stranded on an island that has less to offer, and is less beautiful than all the other ones. And wherever you are, be a wise spender.

Best time to come

The weather is good all-year round, but I prefer September or March. Even the race week in August is a good pick. 

Customer service

Much better than the country’s average (Australia can be really terrible, though)

Value for money

Fair

Accessibility & transport

Exceptional

Review

Betyg45