Posted: December 20, 2018 07:00
Any Australian will tell you the one sight you do not want to miss when passing through the Red Centre is Uluru. It’s the big one. The iconic beauty we know and love and the place which has come to symbolize Australia and its unique history. Unfortunately, you’re unlikely to have unlimited dollars at your disposal and getting all the way out to the middle of the desert isn’t cheap. But there are plenty of ways to save money and still get to enjoy the big red rock. Here are our top money saving tips to get you there without breaking the bank.
1. Take advantage of the cheap flights direct to Ayers Rock Airport
Not many travelers realise that Alice Springs isn’t exactly near Uluru. In fact, you’d have to hit the road for 450km before you get there! Hook yourself up with some plane tickets straight to Yulara and you’ll land about as close as possible to Uluru as you can get. At just 8km away, Yulara is by far the closest airport to the big red rock and you’ll save heaps of cash on travel from Alice Springs.
2. Hang out in Brisbane, Cairns, Melbourne or Sydney before you fly
You can fly direct to Yulara (Uluru) from Brisbane, Cairns, Melbourne and Sydney, but given they’re four of the most popular destinations for travelers in the country you’re never likely to be far away. If you’re pretty flexible with dates and only take a carry-on bag, a one-way flight could cost as little as $100 each way.
3. Hit the road
Organising a group road trip to Uluru is one of the cheapest ways of getting there, not to mention an adventure in itself. Passing through the stunning desert landscape, witnessing sunsets that will blow your mind and having the freedom to stop wherever you want, whenever you want, is tough to beat. Check out ridesharing sites such as coseats and Gumtree or Facebook groups like Australian Backpackers to find others who want to share the adventure, and the costs, and you’ll be saving money and having a road trip to remember to boot. Alternatively why not join an Uluru tour and let someone else do the driving, and guiding - a great option if you want to meet new mates and learn more about the Outback at the same time.
4. Fuel up away from Uluru
If you’ve managed to save some dough on hiring your own car and doing the journey yourself, don’t get stung by the high fuel prices that abound near Uluru. Make sure you fill up in populated areas where the prices are likely to be lower and always carry jerry cans of fuel for emergencies, and for filling her up nearer the big red rock.
5. Map your way there for free
It may come as no surprise that the GPS signal in the Outback is sketchy at best. So forget forking out for an expensive sat nav system, or draining your battery with Google Maps that will likely not work when you need it anyway. Pick up free and accurate maps of the Red Centre from any tourist office along the way, and well before you leave if possible. The Northern Territory tourist centres are great for this, and you can get some free advice on how to stay safe during your road trip while you’re there. Also free.
6. Camp for free
There is a great selection of free camps along the Stuart Highway leading to Uluru and most have fantastic facilities. Curtin Springs is the nearest to the rock and you can even grab a hot shower there for $2 - it’s “only” 100km away which, in Outback terms, is just down the road.
7. Camp overlooking Uluru on the cheap
Stay in the cheapest digs in Yulara at the Ayers Rock Campground and wake up a mere 8km away with the chance to see the sun rise in spectacular fashion over Uluru. This one isn’t free but if you bring your own tent and buddy up with someone it’s by far the cheapest option. You’ll also find a well-equipped camp kitchen here, laundry facilities and even WiFi.
8. Take advantage of any free activities on offer
The beauty of Uluru is you’re here to enjoy one of nature’s wonders, and that doesn’t cost a penny. Aside from just staring with jaw appropriately dropped, check out the cultural centre for free talks and walks. The Base Walk is a popular, and free, choice, as is just kicking back and watching the myriad colours change with the sun from one of the many viewing platforms dotted around. If you want to explore a few sights in a short space of time and get detailed information from a local tour guide, consider joining up with our 2 day Uluru tour departing and finishing in Uluru while you’re here to learn more about its fascinating history.
9. Grab a park pass
A park pass allows entry into the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park for 3 full days and costs a mere $25. Get your money’s worth and base yourself in Yulara for a few days exploring Uluru and its stunning surrounds. There’s more than “just” Uluru – check out Kata Tjuta (formerly known as the Olgas) and feel like you’ve stepped on to another planet among its weird and wonderful boulders.
10. Avoid the crowds and visit during the shoulder season
Timing is everything when it comes to price – and the crowds. High season generally runs from May through to September and during this time prices are at their peak. Conversely temperatures during November to March can be outrageously high. So plan your trip to coincide with the cooler months and lower prices during the shoulder months of April and October. You’ll get the best of both worlds and avoid the crowds at the same time.