Last month, I got a chance to visit one of the most beautiful natural monument in Australia, the Uluru (Ayers Rock). As some of you may know, traveling in Australia can get expensive real fast, and Uluru is no exception, but there are some ways you can save costs and still enjoy everything the Australian Outback has to offer. Today, I will list all the things I learned first hand that I wish I knew before visiting Uluru so you can plan your trip cheaply and easily.
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The cheapest time to visit is during low season from October to April due to the high temperature of the desert. It gets really hot during mid-day so we often stick to activities in the early morning and evening whereas we spent our time in the pool in the afternoon. It's not as bad so if you don't mind the heat and are looking to save money, low season is the best time to visit.
May to September is a high season with the weather from breezy to really cold during the day and night. It is also the most expensive and crowded time to visit so I wouldn't recommend if you want to travel cheaply.
Cheap Accommodation in Uluru
The problem with Uluru is that almost all the resorts in Yulara, a town where you will probably stay during your time here, are run by one company, Voyages. Every booking from any hotel in the area will have to go through Voyages. Luckily, they do provide a few budget accommodations that are not more than decent.
If you are traveling alone or in small numbers (2 - 4), this is your cheapest option. The price for shared dorm room can be somewhere around AU$38 to AU$46 per night which is dirt cheap compared to other options like Sails in the Desert (AU$460 - AU$998 per night).
During my stay, I chose a 4-bed dorm at the Outback Pioneer Lodge and I had a blast! The lodge consists of a pool where you can cool down in the afternoon, an outback bar area (the only place that serves alcohol in the Yulara area) where you can grab beers, socialize with other backpackers and enjoy live music at night. Despite the norm of most hostels where they will stuff as many travelers in a room, the staff here will try and spread travelers out into empty rooms so it's not too crowded.
If you prefer camping and you have your camping gear with you, you can stay at the campground which costed between AU$36 - AU$165 depending on the option you choose and the time of year.
Personally, I did not have my camping gear with me and it seems that the lodge provided by the Outback Pioneer Lodge seems to be adequate so I decided to go with the first option.
Top 3 Things to Do in Uluru (Cheapest Tours)
The entry fee for the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is AU$25 and is valid for 3 days after purchased. You can buy this from the hotel or if you decided to go with a tour, the price maybe included in the tour package as well.
Some people may suggest driving instead of going for a tour, but from what I heard, there's only one petrol station at Yulara and the gas price can be expensive. If you are more than 2 or 3 people, driving yourself can be a great option since nothing is near this area. It can take from 20 - 40 minutes to reach Uluru or Kata Tjuta from the hotel area and there are no other transportation option unless you buy it from the hotel.
For me as a solo traveler, I went with the tour option instead because it means that I do not have to manage my own transportation. The total cost of all the tour packages I spent during my 3 days visit was around AU$ 573. Here's the break down of the tour that let me see everything in Uluru, plus a few hidden gems:
This tour was organized by the AAT company which includes:
1. The national park entry fee for 3 days
2. The Kata Tjuta Valley of the Winds Walks
The Valley of the Winds is an awesome two hours trail walking in between the Kata Tjuta rock formation allowing you to fathom the scale of these rocks in close proximity. The walk consisted of a few good climbs that will get your hands dirty. The tour ended at the sunset spot watching the Kata Tjuta shifted colors as the sunset while enjoying a sparkling wine, and snacks.
3. Uluru Sunrise and Guided Cultural Base Walk
The Uluru sunrise experience was astoundingly breathtaking! Probably, one of the best sunrise experience I had in years. Not just the colors of the rock that shifted but the beautiful gradient of colors in the sky the sun created during dawn was beyond beautiful. One Tip: When you are at the sunrise viewing platform, don't go with the crowd and stand at the platform, you will get nothing but photos of the crowd. There will be a walkway you can go down to avoid the crowds.
The good thing about this tour is that it combines all the highlight of Uluru in one package while offering the flexibility for you to choose what to do and when to do during your 3 days stay. If you want to see Uluru and Kata Tjuta in one go at your own pace, you will enjoy this tour.
Astro Tour will allows you to learn more about the constellation you see from the southern hemisphere through a guided journey among the stars. It started off at 9:35 PM at the Sails of the Desert resort and a few minutes walk to the star gazing area where the guide, Nick, would explain each constellation while pointing several telescopes for us to enjoy.
If you are into stars or are genuinely interested in astronomy, I highly recommend this tour. In the end, the guide will point the telescope at the moon and you can take a detail photo of it with your camera as a gift for people back home.
One of the best-kept secret (?) of the red center. The Kings Canyon Day Tour is the best tour of all the four tours I was on hands down. The tour starts off at 4:30 AM with a long 4 hours drive, a 3 - 4 hours trek up a mountain, a challenging rim walk, and another 4 hours drive back to Yulara. The diverse rock formation was a welcome change to the smooth sandstone you see at Uluru and Kata Tjuta. The rim walk was the ultimate outback adventure, I've been looking for out in the desert. If you like walking and adventure, this is highly recommended as well. I can totally say, it was worth the early wake-up.
For the camel ride, you can either take the sunrise tour or the sunset tour. The tour will let you ride a camel through a guided trail overlooking both the Uluru and the Kata Tjuta while the sun is setting/rising.
It was pretty awesome and the guide was great but the King's Canyon day tour overshadowed it for me so if you are short on cash, I would suggest you invest in the 3 tours I mentioned above.
Other Cost Saving Tips for Uluru
- Go during the low season: Between October to April is low season in Uluru and most accommodation and tours are considerably cheaper to match the decrease of demand. Even though the weather can heat up pretty fast, the tours are usually organized during the morning and evening where the heat isn't as bad. Flies are also out at full force but a simple net cap will solve this problem, or if you are like me, a few days with these flies, you will soon get used to it and consider it as part of the outback experience.
- Bring your own food: Food at the hotels and lodges can cost from AU$ 20 up to AU$ 50 per meal. If you are looking to save cost, prepare a few snacks for breakfast so you will be spending one meal less than you usually do.
Update 2019: Update accommodation and tours information.
The Solo Traveler’s Journal is a series of posts by BucketListly where we will follow our founder, Pete Rojwongsuriya around the world as he singlehandedly travel alone and experience different cultures, people, and historical locations one country at a time.
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