When you arrive in Australia, you will soon realise that there are many ways to experience your time Down Under.
Hostel folk will always tell you that their way was best – “You have to travel first…” “No, get a job and save some money first…” “Farm work first, then fun stuff later….”
While advice is nice, pay as little attention as possible to anyone who tries to tell you how to travel. It is entirely up to you, there is no right or wrong way to go about it and whether you decide to work in the city or the country first and then head off or vice versa is totally fine!
People travel in different ways, they enjoy seeing and experiencing different things and like staying longer in different places so don’t worry if that noisy guy at the hostel bar thinks you’re mad for wanting to work first and travel later!
With that being said, we at Ultimate Travel like you to be able to make as informed a decision as possible when it comes to travelling in Australia.
There are two main options for your travelling delights – campervan or bus (more specifically, the Greyhound). With the Ultimate Travel East Coast Package, we take care of pretty much everything you are going to want to do throughout your time on the East Coast. Make sure you have a look through the package as, by booking up in advance, you can save heaps of cash!
Both campervans and buses have their merits and they suit certain people perfectly. A 6 hour bus ride may be your idea as hell, just as sleeping each night in a van may be too, so we’ll try and break down the pros and cons of each and see what you think!
Remember, it is up to you and just get travelling! If you need any more information about either campervan travel or Greyhound tickets – get in touch!
Obviously, the only thing you need to get on the Greyhound is the money for the ticket! There is a luggage allowance of 20kgs which you should bear in mind too but luggage on the Greyhound is a bit of a grey area. They aren’t like an airline and don’t take the luggage allowance too seriously but if you turn up with two surf-boards and 12 bags – you’re going to get charged more! Other than that, you are good to travel anywhere in Australia via Greyhound.
When travelling the East Coast, a Kilometre Pass offers the best value for money, outside of our Ultimate East Coast trip, and let’s you travel between Sydney and Cairns effortlessly!
With a campervan, you’ve got to be able to drive! You do not need an Australian driving license but you do need a full driving license from your home country – if you are on a provisional license then you will be unable to drive unfortunately!
There are different insurance options which are long-winded and can be explained far better in person so if you need any more information on that – get in touch!
Just a little road trip primer – Australia’s drive on the left hand side of the road and their speed limits are in kilometres per hour, rather than miles as are the road signs. You will be looking at 100-120kms/h on highways and 40-70 on other roads but make sure you keep your eyes open for speed limit signs as you’ll still get fined even if you are a traveller!
With the Greyhound comfort comes with experience. Your first bus journey is likely to feel pretty painful, especially if it is a long one! Make sure you check out our guide to surviving the Greyhound before you even think of setting foot on the bus!
Once you are used to the Greyhound seats and know what you need to make each journey as comfortable as possible, you should be fine. The beauty of the Greyhound is you’ll probably be sitting next to or near someone in your exact position – heading north to Cairns or south to Sydney or Melbourne.
There is a kindred spirit with travellers and you’ll pick up friends and knowledge as you head further along the road.
With a campervan, driving comfort is great! You’re either driving or sitting in the passenger seats, messing about with the radio and trying not to get lost!
The comfort issues come when the journey ends! Depending on the van you choose and the number of people you travel with, it could be a tight squeeze when you bed down for the night. Bear in mind when you are booking your campervan that you are going to get very close to whoever you choose to hit the road with…
Heat is a campervan problem that is difficult to get around. You can open as many windows as you want but getting the airflow through the van is tough. You’ll get used to the campervan quite quickly though and it becomes more bearable as the trip continues.
Campervans offer a lot more comfort for the actual travelling part of the journey but the bus offers the chance for more comfort once you arrive.
One of the best thing about having a campervan is being able to stop and go as you please. If you drive past a cool sign and checking it out, you’re free to do so! Fancy an ice-cream or need a bathroom break? You’re in charge!
The bus isn’t exactly like that. You stop when the driver stops and you are limited to the Greyhound schedule. There are a heap of buses that leave each stop on the Greyhound map and there is extensive coverage right the way across Australia with a big focus on the East Coast – so you’ll be fine getting to all the major stops – but it is only the major stops that you get to explore.
If you do love the freedom to see a tourist information sign and turn off to find something a little more secluded then you’ll love a campervan but if you want to hit the big stops up the coast, a Greyhound is a great way to do it.
With the Greyhound, you’ll either be staying in hostels or sleeping on night buses. As I’m sure you all know, hostels are awesome! We can help you out with any bookings or any hostel recommendations you need.
Overnight buses also offer the chance to save a night on hostel costs and keep moving along the way. These are only available for the long journeys, which we’d recommend avoiding if you have the time to do so, so bear that in mind.
With the van, you’re accommodation is slightly different. You’ll be sleeping in the van obviously, but you have a variety of choices of where you stop.
Certain hostels offer really cheap parking where you can stay overnight, plug in and charge and have all the best of the hostel atmosphere. Campsites and caravan parks are a little quieter and more expensive but you can still meet fellow campervan travellers and enjoy some luxuries like a pool, a kitchen area and a game room – if you so desire.
There are certain road-side or beach-side stops you can stay overnight for free. These are sign-posted and and will often be filled with fellow travellers so keep your eyes peeled!
The beach side locations are awesome as they have bathroom facilities, showers and most of the time, free BBQs that you can use to cook your meals. Not to mention that you wake up at the beach!
I don’t want to sound like anyone’s Mum or Dad here but be careful. Make sure you lock your doors at night just in case and remember, you can’t just stop anywhere and sleep. Airlie Beach, for example, is very strict about campervans staying overnight in car parks and setting up camp anywhere they shouldn’t be. If you get caught trying to bunk a night somewhere around Airlie, you could be in for a hefty fine!
It is much easier to meet fellow travellers if you get to stay in hostels which makes it easier to meet people travelling by bus.
That isn’t to say that if you are in a campervan, you are on your own – far from it! You’ll see a tonne of campervans going both ways on the Pacific Highway and every stop you make, it is almost a certainty that there will be some other van nomads somewhere near by.
Much like a hostel, you just have to have the guts to start a conversation. With the campervan, you are able to meet people you wouldn’t normally get in hostels whether they are Grey Nomads (pensioners on road-trips around Australia) or groups of Aussies on holiday at different sites along the coast – you will have a different experience to the usual hostel life.
In terms of experience, it is a case of what you are hitting the road for.
If you are travelling the East Coast to hit the big spots, move on, go out, meet people similar to you and repeat then you will be fine on the bus. If you are looking to save money, have more of a structured arrival and departure pattern and spend time in some of the best hostels in the world – the bus could be for you too.
You may like the idea of managing your own time, stopping where and when you want and living out of a van for as long as you can! A massive part of the van experience is your co-pilots. If you are in a couple or have a group of close friends that you desperately want to travel with, then the van is a great way of splitting the cost of travelling and spending time with people you already love!
When it comes to the two coolest trips on the East Coast (Fraser Island and Whitsunday Islands) both are easily accessible by bus or by van. You’ll have to find somewhere to park your van before you go on the trips – there is secure parking near each departure point – but you are good to go either way.
With the bus, any side trips you want to go on will cost more just because you can’t drive yourself there. With the van, your only cost will be a map and petrol if you want to go somewhere without an official tour group.
The big question really – how much does it all cost!?
Well, with a campervan it varies week to week, even day to day. To get the best rates, try and plan ahead and get in touch with one of our travel gurus as soon as you know when you want to go. We can talk you through the different van options available, the different companies to use and the different types of insurance cover you can buy. Even if you leave it until the last minute and want to book a van to leave in a couple of days, we’ll do our best to get you the best deal we can!
Another thing to remember with the van is the cost of petrol. While petrol isn’t astronomical in Australia it can soon add up. From personal experience (and this shows the nerd in me) I spent $536 on petrol from Cairns to Sydney in November 2013 travelling for a month. If you split that between two, three or four people – it is entirely manageable.
While you don’t have this cost on the bus, you do have hostel costs which soon add up. You will probably need to pay for the majority of campsites you use along the coast if you do choose a campervan but at least you have the option of free accommodation.
You’ll need to buy food for both and both options allow you to cook rather than eating out which saves a lot. With the campervan, you are able to buy food without worrying about the hostel fridge getting cleaned out but the fridges or coolers in each van vary in size as does how long the battery lasts without being charged up.
With everything that you get included with the UltimateOz East Coast package it is definitely worth considering if you want to travel by bus. You are given extra savings by booking all of the stuff you want to do in one go rather than breaking it up into chucks. You can add and take-away things you want to do or don’t fancy and add days on to your package but for that, you need to speak to one of us!
Hopefully, this has given you a bit of a balanced view of the ways you can travel Australia!
The campervan or bus debate will long rage on and you’ll hear conflicting stories from both sides of the battle! Some will say the only way to experience Australia is driving it yourself, while others will tell you how much fun they had travelling by Greyhound not worrying about getting lost!
As I said earlier it doesn’t matter how you travel just as long as you do it! Whether you want a van or to jump a bus it is entirely up to you and remember we are here to help you every step of the way!
Let us know your best and worst bits of travelling by either campervan or bus! What would you do if you were travelling and if there are any questions left unanswered then fire away!