Tips for driving in remote Australia

Driving in remote area

Before leaving on your self-drive trip in the outback it is essential that you:

  • Pack plenty of food and water.
  • Do not store your water in the one container but store it in several separate containers.
  • Carry extra fuel if travelling in remote areas as there are often long distances between towns.
  • Tell local authorities such as local police of your intended route and advise people at your intended destination of your estimated time of arrival.
  • Carefully check the distance between your destinations. If you believe the distance will take three hours to travel, double this estimate as terrain and road quality can be unpredictable.
  • Ensure you know how to change a tyre.
  • Road conditions can vary from a sealed surface to gravel and dirt. Be careful of holes, soft road edges, narrow roads with unstable edges, narrow bridges, changing surfaces and dusty roads. Always check on local road conditions before leaving major roads.
  • If your vehicle breaks down: If you are in a remote location and become lost or broken down do not leave your vehicle under any circumstances. It will provide you with shade and protection from the heat. Wait for help to come to you. Consider hiring appropriate emergency communication equipment, such as a satellite phone and an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) device.
  • Roads may flood in certain parts of Australia depending on the season. If you come across a flooded road the safest thing to do is not to enter. Take an alternative route or wait until the water level has dropped most flash floods recede within 24 hours.
  • Watch out for animals on the road such as kangaroos, emus, and grazing livestock. The most active time for many native animals is sunrise and sunset. If an animal crosses in front of you, reduce speed safely and do not swerve violently or you may roll the vehicle.

Driving in the Outback

Driving through Australia is something to be savoured. This is one way to experience the wide open spaces and stunning natural scenery, and many destinations can only be accessed by car. If you’ll be around for no more than three weeks, a car can be rented, while if your stay will last for more than three months, it’s most cost effective to buy.
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One of the distinguishing features of Australia is the Outback. If you drive there, you could go for hundreds of kilometres without a chance to refuel, obtain water or food, or use a civilised toilet. As a result, trips must be planned. Check how much petrol you have whenever you leave a town. Petrol stations in smaller towns and villages close at around 8pm. Road conditions can be problematic in remote areas, with roads that are made of gravel or sand and frequently poorly-maintained. Some can only be passable by four wheel-drive vehicles, and some may not be passable at all in certain seasons or after rain, which transforms many roads into channels of mud.

Mobile ‘phone coverage will be patchy or non-existent more than 20km from a town, so a satellite ‘phone is worthwhile perhaps to the point of being life-saving. Permits might be necessary to travel through Aboriginal communities, although these are usually available for free.

Many roads in the Outback are well-maintained gravel roads where a 4×4 is unnecessary. The most popular car in Australia is the Mazda3, and reading the Mazda3 reviews by will show you why. This will meet your transport needs, if you choose your route carefully.

You’ll need certain items. Sunscreen and insect repellent are two. In the warmer parts of Australia, mosquitoes carry such diseases as Australian encephalitis and Ross River fever. Your clothing should cover every possible weather – rain, sun and cold. Keep a fire extinguisher within easy reach. Your first aid kit should be well-equipped. You’ll require disaster recovery equipment. Supplies for your car that you’ll need are radiator coolant, gearbox/differential oil, automatic transmission fluid and engine oil. Spare parts you’ll need are fan belts and radiator hoses and the equipment to fit them. A pressure gauge will also be worthwhile.

Your car ought to be in top condition when you embark upon your trip. Tyres should be at least nearly new. Take two spare wheels. You might want to remove your hubcaps to avoid losing them when you cross rough terrain. One rule of Outback driving is to leave an itinerary with family or friends and to report in regularly to them. Check the weather forecast and prepare yourself for unexpected weather changes.

If you drive in the Outback, the services to which you’re accustomed will be rather further away. If you have an accident in a city, you’ll be in a hospital within an hour or two, but in the outback, it could be as much as 12 hours later, and even that assumes you’re rapidly found. It’s prudent to travel with another vehicle to provide you with support.

Fatigue is a major problem on Outback roads, causing many accidents. The distances are long and the roads quite straight, with little other traffic. The scenery, while beautiful, changes but slowly. It’s easy to become bored, distracted or drowsy. Pace yourself and pay close attention to the signals your body gives you.