The covid 19 outbreak across the globe has caused many Australians to cancel their overseas travel plans amidst lockdowns and border closures. Fortunately, our home country offers some of the most beautiful sights on earth, from white sandy beaches and coral reefs to orange deserts, and dense woodlands; Australia has it all, and what better time to explore?
If you’re planning on heading on that Aussie road trip, it’s important to plan ahead and be aware of the risks. Here, we’ve listed our top five tips to staying safe while still making the most of your adventure:
1. Don’t underestimate the size of Australia
Sometimes Aussie road trips can span thousands of kilometres – a trip from Melbourne to Cairns would take over 30 hours of driving time and unfortunately there isn’t always a fuel station exactly where you need one. Prepare for your trip by plugging your destination into a GPS and locating the areas you wish to stop and refuel on the way. The added benefit of doing this is you may find some additional spots you wish to explore. It’s also safest to assume that there won’t be mobile phone service in most rural areas so ensure that you take a paper copy of your mapped route. Depending on how far into the bush you’re going, it’s advisable to invest in a satellite device or radio for emergencies.
You might also want to check with your car insurance provider whether roadside assistance is available in the areas you are travelling to, and what additional coverage they may offer for the duration of your road trip. We would always recommend that you bring spare fuel, so you always have a backup when that rural fuel station closes earlier than you’d expect.
2. Prepare for a bumpy ride
In addition to planning your stops, it’s always best to know your exact route, especially when you run the risk of driving on unsealed roads in an unsuitable vehicle. This is particularly important if you’re heading to more remote areas of the country, such as Darwin, Katherine, and the Red Centre, where unsealed roads are more common than not. If you are preparing to tackle these bumpy stretches of road, make sure you and your vehicle are prepared. Different road surfaces can require different tyre pressures, and some roads are suitable for 4WD vehicles only. The QLD government has a great resource here, for driving on unsealed roads.
3. Watch out for animals
Australia is famous for its unique native animals, but unfortunately on the road they can become a hazard. An estimated 10 million animals are hit on our roads each year, causing a devastating effect on native species populations while risking human lives in the process. It’s estimated that 5% of all fatal accidents are caused by a collision with an animal.
To avoid these accidents, many councils have put up warning signs to notify drivers of areas with a high risk of collision with an animal. This is especially relevant between sunset and sunrise when animals are most active. It is also important to stay alert, not all Australian animals are as big as a kangaroo – some – like echidnas, birds, and snakes, are much harder to see, especially in the dark. Always keep an eye on the sides of the road as you drive, oftentimes animals can be seen before they make their way over the road and in front of your car. If you do see an animal, slow down, and if you do unfortunately hit an animal, make sure you contact a local wildlife rescue group for assistance.
4. Avoid bad weather
One of the most unpredictable and dangerous obstacles you’ll face when embarking on an Aussie road trip is our extreme weather conditions. Depending on where in the country you are holidaying will determine what hazards you could be facing. Tropical thunderstorms in Far North Queensland can develop quickly into cyclones. Massive downpours across the country can result in flash flooding, and on a windy day, a bushfire can take down an entire forest.
It is always important to check the weather conditions in an area before you head in that direction, particularly if that location is rural and evacuation could be challenging. The Bureau of Meteorology has an accurate weather radar and up to date list of current weather warnings to inform your movements. Stay informed, stay safe and remember to never drive over a flooded road.
5. Always be prepared
When it comes to the Australian wilderness, it’s always best to overprepare, even if you plan on staying in a motel every night. The stretches of road between some destinations can appear to go on forever and getting stranded will, at the least, put a dampener on your trip. You’ll want to learn how to do some basic car repairs such as changing a flat tyre, replacing a flat battery or headlights, and jumpstarting your car, and ensure you bring along some basic necessities such as:
Australia is one of the most varied and beautiful places on earth, with a rugged landscape that can test even the most brazen of outdoor enthusiasts. Keep these tips in mind when preparing for your next big adventure to ensure you stay safe and make the most of what Australia has to offer. Need some inspiration? Check out our recent article on top locations to explore in Queensland.