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What is the best way to get to Uluru (Ayers Rock)?

by | Feb 10, 2017 | Australia, Drive | 0 comments

Over here at Drive and Hike we may be a tad biased on what the best way to get to Uluru is, but give me 10 minutes of your time and I think you’ll agree that driving is definitely the best way to get to Uluru.

With Australia being 31.5 times bigger than the U.K, you’re in for quite a journey whichever way you approach it.

We will look at the following factors when assessing the best way to get to Uluru:

  • Cost
  • Duration
  • Experience

How to get to Uluru?

  • Drive
  • Direct flight to Ayers Rock
  • A tour from Adelaide
  • Fly to Alice Springs and self-drive or tour
  • Train to Alice Springs
  • Hitchhike
  • Cycle

We saw several people hitchhiking and cycling whilst in the outback. Although these are methods that obviously work, durations, costs and experience are all unique to each individual so they will not be reviewed.

What is the cheapest way to get to Uluru?

The cheapest method and the best method are normally never the same but unfortunately our budget is what dominates most of our choices, so let’s see how they stack up.

Drive from Adelaide – £87.50

Based on:

  • 1.5 $AUD/litre, which equals 5.68 $AUD a gallon. (Current petrol prices
  • 2 people sharing
  • 1,000 miles from Adelaide to Uluru
  • 20mpg
  • Owning your own car

So 1,000 miles/20 gives you 50 gallons used, at 5.68$AUD a gallon.  That’s a total cost of around $284 (AUD) or around £175 for the car (£87.50 per person).

Once there, however, you can bypass the expensive tours which both saves you a fortune and helps you avoid the crowds who are all fighting for the perfect sunset photo.

If you do not buy a car in Australia then you will need to factor in approximately an additional £20 a day for car rental and a minimum of 5 days rental from Adelaide will be required (more is recommended).  Also, be aware that in the outback the price of petrol can be 50cents higher than on the coast. See our tips on driving to Uluru for more information on this.

Flying to Ayers Rock Airport – £93+

Flights to Ayers Rock will vary per season. The cheapest flights I could find off season where £68 + £25 baggage in February and during peak season the cheapest is around £150, with the most expensive being closer to £350.

When arriving to Ayers rock without a car your options are somewhat limited with the airport a whole 25km away from Uluru and 55km away from Kata Tjuta. Believe me you will want to see both.

You can either opt for car hire which will be over £50 a day (minimum 2 day rental) or a £75 one day tour.

Flying to Alice Springs – £150+

I couldn’t find anything for under £150, however they did include baggage.

Once in Alice Springs you are still a 4.5 hour drive away from Uluru.

This leaves you again with the same options as above: a tour or self drive.

A one day tour from Alice (where you will see neither the sunrise or sunset) can be found for £125 whereas a 3 day tour will be over £200. Ayers hotel runs a direct bus for £100/adult one way.

Working on the same fuel cost calculation as above, self drive petrol costs would be £50 per car.  However, when hiring in Alice you will face hidden costs such as the premium location surcharge.  You’ll also be subject to hefty extra kilometre bills if you do not get an unlimited deal.

The most transparent company in the area is Central Car Rentals who will rent you a small 2WD on an unlimited basis for £85 a day.

Ghan Train – £500+

Regarded as one of the worlds greatest railway journeys, it does look pretty epic.  Having said that, the cheapest ticket I could find was around £500.  Add to this the £95 for the basic Uluru tour add-on and it is starting to look unrealistically pricy.  I can see this as being an outstanding journey in itself, but I don’t think it is the best way of getting to Uluru if visiting Uluru itself is the main purpose of your journey.

Tour from Adelaide – £600

On first look these kind of tours (a week long tour starting from Adelaide, via Uluru, and ending in Alice Springs) do look like great deals, but when you scratch the surface a little you see that most of the activities included don’t actually have a cost or have a minimal value. So what are you paying for?

Tour accommodation and food

There are 5 nights in campsites, it looks like one night will be spent at Ayers Rock Camp Ground which cost us £20 for a pitch so £10/person and the rest look like an equivalent free campsite could be found. The underground dorm costs £25.

This brings total accommodation to £35

You do however get 19 meals which if we are being generous lets call that £5 per meal and that gives you £95 worth.

Tour Activities

Wilpena Pound (£6 parking)

Anna Creek Station (£4.30 tour)

Coober Pedy Mine tour (£6)

Josephine’s Gallery and Kangaroo Orphanage (included above)

Dingo Fence (free)

Mala cultural interpretative walk (free ranger led walk)

Uluru & Kata Tjuta National Park Fee (£15)

Uluru Base Walk (Free)

Uluru Cultural Centre (Free)

Watarrka National Park Entry Fees (free)

Kings Canyon Rim Walk (free)

These come to a staggering £31.30.

This gives us a total value around £170 for the activities, accommodation and food, Allowing for some admin fees this still leaves over £400 as transportation costs? In fairness they are doing an additional journey to Kings Canyon and Alice Springs which the Adelaide drive doesn’t account for which is just short of 500miles or an extra £87.50 worth of fuel (presumably split between a group of 30).

I know that tours are great to meet other people, remove all the stress from planning and ensure you don’t miss the best sights but the sacrifice of any flexibility and the costs, for me, make it no where near the best way to get to Uluru.

Cost Summary

So if you own a car, and are already in Adelaide, there is no doubt that driving is certainly the best way to Uluru from a cost perspective.

However if you have to rent a car, if you are only planning on spending one day at Uluru, your minimum additional costs would be £100 from Adelaide (5 days), £170 from Alice Springs (2 days) or £100 from Ayers Rock (2 days). So driving the entire distance will still work out the cheapest way. 

Duration

Drive from Adelaide – 2 days

Ok, this is going to be the killer for the road trip. You are looking at 16 hours of driving split over 2 days. But stay with me:

It is the journey not the destination that matters

Cliche I know, but so so true in this case.

We absolutely loved the drive our outback roadtrip.

Flying to Ayers Rock Airport – 8 hours

Only a 3.5 hour flight, add to this a few hours either side getting to the airport and check-in and you could be finished in way under 8 hours. Pretty impressive.

Flying to Alice Springs – 1 day

If you could get an early morning flight you would land in plenty time to complete the 4.5 hour drive to Uluru before dusk. You do not want to be driving in the dark, due to the animal activity.

Duration Summary

This one is not really a contest, with a direct flight wiping the floor with the road trip, but make sure you read on to experience. In a weird way it is the length of the journey which really adds to it.

Experience

Everyone knows that the outback is huge, but most people don’t really appreciate how huge. Or that it is mountainous in regions, has a huge variety of flora and clouds which go for as long as the eye can see.

The road trip is the ultimate outback submersion, the 1,000 miles soon start to feel like a pilgrimage to Uluru. When you arrive you appreciate what you see. I genuinely feel that if I would have just hopped on and off a plan I would have missed something, not really been taken in by the significance of Uluru. Out of context it is just a big rock, in context it is a spiritual home and one of the worlds most spectacular sights. Be warned you will miss this if you fly direct, a flight to Alice will offer you an insight but a road trip from Adelaide will give you the true understanding.

This is why, above all the other reasons that driving is the best way to get to Uluru.

What is the best way to get to Uluru summary infographic

Have you made the trip, what do you think is the best way to get to Uluru?


We have not done any of the tours mentioned above and hold no affiliation.

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About The Author

Strategy consultant by week, explorer by weekend. His first ever hike was a 9 day thru-hike at Torres del Paine and it was love at first hike. He now sleeps better in a tent than a bed. He would rather drive for 2 hours down a country lane than sit for 2 minutes in traffic. He has been known to lead driving safaris in areas without wildlife with a Justin Bieber soundtrack.

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