Travel to Ayers Rock: Should you drive, fly, take a bus or catch a camel?
Travel to Uluru shouldn’t be a headache…
As far as we’re concerned, getting to Ayers Rock is all part of an amazing outback adventure.
We’ve been to Uluru dozens of times.
We even go there for weekend getaways.
We know a thing or two about getting to Australia’s most recognisable landmark.
So on this page, we’ve written an honest, no-nonsense account of all the good and bad things about getting to Ayers Rock by various means of transport.
We’ve even included fuel costs for people who’d love to drive this amazing part of Australia.
By the end of the page, you’ll have an idea of which form of travel will suit you the best – BUT make sure you check out the links to other pages and sites that will help you find out everything you need to know to get to Uluru.
Flying to Ayers Rock
You can fly to Ayers Rock via Qantas or Virgin Australia from all Australian capital cities (except Canberra!).
*NB: From April 2013, Jetstar will replace Qantas in flying to Uluru. This means slightly cheaper airfares.
Connellan Airport is the name of Ayers Rock’s airport. It’s located 10 minutes drive from Yulara (Ayers Rock Resort). There are free shuttle buses and hire car desks at the airport.
Before you hire a car at Uluru, make sure you read this page. You’ll save yourself money and unnecessary headaches.
A flight from Sydney to Ayers Rock takes around three and a half hours; from Melbourne, it takes about 3 hours.
Flights cost around $160 each way, but you can sometimes find cheaper flights around $130 (ex-Sydney)
Flights from Alice Springs to Ayers Rock take only 45 minutes, and are around $120 each way.
Flying to Ayers Rock will save you time, and you’ll get some great views of the Rock as you’re coming in to land.
The downside is that you’ll miss out on one of the best parts of the adventure: crossing a big part of Australia by car to get to Ayers Rock.
As we are advocates of slow travel we feel passionately about this.
The drive to Uluru is one of the most amazing, iconic road trips in the entire world. We urge you to think about taking the time to drive.
Our suggestion is to fly into Alice Springs, spend a day there and then drive to Uluru spend a couple of nights and fly out from there.
One Day At Uluru? BIG MISTAKE!
If you are thinking about flying in and out of Uluru and only spending ONE DAY there, DO NOT DO THIS!
Despite what some other travel bloggers have written, one day at Uluru is simply not enough time to experience this most special of Australian places.
Flight times to the Rock from capital cities and even Alice Springs mean that you will miss out on seeing a sunrise or a sunset, spending quality time at Kata Tjuta, taking any more than a very short walk or spending time just soaking up the atmosphere.
Yes, it is possible to just spend one day there but seriously, if you are going to spend all that money to get there and NOT see a sunrise or a sunset and completely MISS out on Kata Tjuta (the Olgas) – then we think you are wasting your time and your money.
One day at Uluru? NO WAY! Don’t rip yourself off.
Driving to Ayers Rock
In our opinion, driving is probably the best way of getting to Ayers Rock.
A lot of overseas tourists (and many Australians) spend thousands of unnecessary dollars flying to Uluru. Yes, THOUSANDS of dollars.
Flying is an expensive and restrictive option. If you fly, when you get to Uluru, you’re dependent upon tour buses or hire car agencies (read all about the Uluru car hire rip offs here) to get around anywhere.
If you fly in and fly out, you’re restricted by airline timetables and the severe rules that hire car companies place on many outback hire cars.
For example, if you DON’T have a car and you fly to Uluru then decide that you’d like to go to Kata Tjuta, a shuttle bus will cost you $90 (in 2014) per person.
We often wonder why people fly to Uluru when it’s so easy to drive there – in fact, you’re driving on some of the BEST roads in Australia and you don’t even need a 4WD to get there.
The road to Uluru is so good, you could drive there in your Mum’s four cylinder Barina! (If you’re from the US, read that as Grandma’s Honda – yes it really is an easy, but long drive to Uluru).
So to convince you, below we present the reasons you should drive to Uluru.
Benefits of Driving to Uluru
- the fun and freedom of a real outback road trip
- you can travel to Ayers Rock entirely on sealed roads if you choose, so you don’t even need a 4WD.
- there is so much to see and do along the way to Uluru. There’s the adventure of driving the legendary Stuart Highway if you’re coming up from Sydney, Melbourne or Adelaide.
- if you’re driving from Alice Springs to Ayers Rock, then there’s must-see places like Stuarts Well (where the singing Dingo is), the Finke River, Mt Connor, and the stunning landscapes along the way
- there’s no better way of getting a sense of how big Australia is
- you’ll see first hand that the outback is not just flat, boring and dusty. It’s actually got mountains and lots of trees
- you can go where you want to go rather than following a tour itinerary, and stop when you want to stop
For us, these are all reasons why we prefer to drive rather than fly.
Yes, there are a few.
Here’s what’s not so good about driving to Ayers Rock:
- You will need to add in at least 2 extra travel days to your itinerary
- Ayers Rock is a long, long way from everywhere. Even Alice Springs, the nearest outback town, is 450 km away (5 hours) by road
- If you’re driving from Sydney, Melbourne or even Adelaide, it’s going to take you at least 2 or 3 full days of driving to get to Uluru
- the price of fuel on outback highways is up to 50 cents per litre MORE expensive than it is in Australia’s capital cities
Real Fuel Costs
Currently (2014) fuel in the roadhouses (service stations/gas stations) along the Stuart Highway is anywhere from $1.80 – $2.80 per litre. Fuel is cheaper in towns such as Port Augusta and Alice Springs, and much cheaper in capital cities.
Driving from Sydney to Ayers Rock in a 6 cylinder station wagon will cost you around $450 one way (based on a fuel price average of $2.00 per litre).
In a big 4WD like a Toyota Landcruiser or Prado, you’re looking at $710, based on an average of $1.80 per litre, and an economy of 13KPG on the highway. (We know. We’ve got one!)
Of course, if you’re sharing the fuel costs and camping, then driving to Ayers Rock will be a lot more affordable.
This page will give you details on where to find shared rides. Our tip is to try Gum Tree first!
We really encourage you to think about driving to Uluru – especially if you’re an Australian. The positives far outweigh the negatives – and you can even find free accommodation along the way if you use this sneaky iPhone app.
Bus to Uluru
Bus travel to Ayers Rock is a real option if you’re looking to save money and see a lot of the outback
However there’s one really important thing you need to know:
- You can only catch a bus to Ayers Rock from Alice Springs
There’s no Greyhound bus service to Uluru from Adelaide or Melbourne or anywhere else.
The good news is if you take a bus from Alice Springs you’ll see a lot more of the outback, including it’s unofficial capital, Alice Springs.
In our opinion, if you go to the outback and don’t visit Alice Springs, you are making a huge mistake.
Bus companies who travel to Ayers Rock from Alice Springs:
- AAT Kings (1800 556 100 or (08) 8952 1700). http://www.aatkings.com.au/ Alice Springs office: 74 Todd Street, Alice Springs. Fares start at $155.
- Austour (1 800 335 0090) http://www.austour.com.au/ Fares start at $140.
Package tours are a popular way to travel to Ayers Rock from almost anywhere in Australia.
You can find all kinds of different tours ranging from cheap, backpacker camping style tours, to 5 star luxury tours.
The most popular tours to Ayers Rock are either the down-and-back in one day tours offered by Emu Run, starting and finishing in Alice Springs.
Or the many three day tours offered by a whole gamut of tour companies, also starting and finishing in Alice Springs.
To help you learn more, we’ve written an entire page about Uluru Tours here.
Hitching to Ayers Rock
We see lots of backpackers standing on the side of the Stuart Highway with their signs held out for Uluru.
We’ve occasionally picked people up and given them rides.
Hitching in Australia is reasonably safe although I wouldn’t advise that women do it alone!
Dress nicely, hold up a sign and be prepared to wait. You will get a lift eventually.
Again, use your commonsense. If someone looks suspicious, then they probably are! Trust your gut feelings and don’t take any unnecessary risks.
Hitching in Australia can be fun and a cheap way to get around – but safety and commonsense much always come first!
What are YOUR experiences travelling you Ayers Rock/Uluru?
Do you have any tips and tricks to share?
We’d love to know! Whether it’s good or bad news, share your thoughts with everyone in the comments section below.