What travel costs 1: Alice Springs

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Counts Point
Counts Point

ORT_Logo   Breadtag Sagas ©: Author: Tony, 6 June 2015

Trip to Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia to walk on the Larapinta Trail and to see Ayer’s Rock, 15 June to 2 July 2013

I was at a dinner the other night and some friends ridiculed me for thinking of providing information on what travel costs, because they say it is so idiosyncratic. I don’t fully agree about this. People like information about travel and searching on the Net there isn’t much information out there about what travel actually costs. And it doesn’t matter whether you are on a higher or lower budget, such information is useful.

Ellery Creek Big Hole
Ellery Creek Big Hole

I’d even further disagree that old information is not useful. If you are going on a similar trip and want to know what it will cost you now, all you have to do is pick up on one element or area of the past expenses and calculate the current value and then use the percentage increase across the other areas. It will give you a pretty good idea for travel that is less than five years old. Even expenses ten years ago, whilst useless to calculate current value, still give you an idea of what to expect. In this changing world travel more than ten years ago, whilst still helpful in some places is wildly inaccurate in others. That’s why I’m always happy to use out-of-date Lonely Planet Guides because while the specifics may be wrong the general is good enough!

In looking for information on the web regarding travel expenses, there doesn’t seem to be much detailed information. We were helped, when taking our first trip to Japan for six weeks in October 2013 by Never Ending Voyage, who occasionally provide excellent information on costs and other related things.

In this series of small articles, I’ll focus on the expenses for trips we’ve taken, but include comments on other aspects of travel, on types of travellers and their differing needs, and hopefully other useful information. I’ll try to meld the specific with the general.

Preamble

Denise and I took our first trip overseas together for 12 months in 1995. Denise had never been to Asia so we spent some months in Thailand (with a quick visa trip to Malaysia) before flying to Lahore in Pakistan and spending two and a half months travelling up the Karakoram Highway to Kashgar in China and back. We crossed out of Pakistan to India at Wagah near Amritsar and spent six months travelling in India before returning to Thailand, traveling to Burma and then home.

We travelled quite cheaply on this trip, as we were backpacking but we did stay in middle of the range places, much more up-market than I as a feckless male had stayed in when backpacking on my own previously. I think we spent the same in one year as my sister and brother-in-law did on a six-week trip to India around the same time. I think the trip cost us about AUD $10,000 around AUD $27.40 per day, but that was twenty years ago.

Near Serpentine gorge
Near Serpentine gorge

1995 was a good time to do a last trip backpacking. The world was changing. When I began travelling the only way to get to remote destinations was either on professional expeditions or by backpacking. In 1995 the only way to get to the Kashgar Sunday market in China was by three quite difficult routes: 1 up the Karakorum Highway, 2 through one of the old Soviet Republics (where solo travel was still difficult) or 3 by a three-day bus-trip from Urumqi. Within a year or so you could fly to Kashgar from Europe with little effort.

I experienced similar things in Thailand from 1991, within ten years there were no more remote beaches. Denise and I went to Laos for the first time in 2001 when travelling by road to Luang Prabang was an adventure. In 2002, we went back, the whole country was full of backpackers and you could fly direct to Luang Prabang from Europe.

Nowadays, the most remote places on Earth are easy to get to, if you have the money. Populations have increased. Vientiane in Laos where our friends lived is no longer a dusty little town. The cities in China are modern and cosmopolitan. Denise and I are now middle-of-the-road travellers. We are no longer backpackers and no longer seek out the cheapest holidays, but we also can’t or don’t want to afford four or five star hotels or de-stressing times at luxury resorts. We don’t need to.

Ayers Rock
Ayers Rock

Yet, we like to travel and tend to travel longer than our working or retired friends. Denise received a package from work in 2012. From September 2012 to 30 December 2014, we moved out of our rented house of 12 years packed up our possessions and put them into storage and spent our time mainly travelling. We have now bought a house in Canberra with all the expenses that entails and our future travelling will be constrained by a tighter budget.

Our friends who work tend to spend more on holidays. Indeed, some people we know like to stay in up-market resorts and hotels. A few even go on cruises. Some of our older friends are more adventurous and are going on tours, particularly educational or theme-based tours, while they still can. We’ve even undertaken some tours ourselves.

Background

Denise and I travelled to Alice Springs with a group of 6 other friends to undertake a 7-day walk on the Larapinta Trail. These friends are people we go bushwalking with at least once a year and frequently more. The Larapinta Trail is a 13-14 day walk out of Alice Springs. Parts of it are hard and very rocky, particularly if the weather is hot. No-one walks in the desert in midsummer.

Ormiston Creek campsite
Ormiston Creek campsite

We’d planned and booked more than a year ahead (most unusual for us) for a 6-day trip with Trek Larapinta (the most professional and well regarded of the trek operators). Our trip was what is called ‘glam camping’. We walked a section of trail each day (magnificent) and stayed in a private camp site on Ormiston Creek. We were hosted by two very fit young women. They took turns, one was our guide for the day and carried lunch; whilst the other remained in camp doing chores and preparing dinner. Breakfast was more casual.

Campsite
Campsite

This was a fantastic, once in a lifetime organised walking holiday, but it was quite expensive, as was Alice Springs and central Australia. Tourism itself is always relatively expensive in Australia, which is why so many of us go overseas for holidays in Asia. Australia was cheap until recently for Europeans, but not in 2013 or 2014 because the Australian dollar was almost at parity with the US dollar. It has now gone down again. Bad for us!

Information session at Ayers Rock
Information session at Ayers Rock

We also spent time in Alice Springs with our friends doing touristy things, including participating in the Annual Alice Springs Beanie Festival. When our friends left Denise and I moved into the only private AirBNB accommodation in town. We also organised a three-day tour with Emu Run Tours to Uluru and King’s Canyon, which was also fantastic. And when back in Alice Springs did a one-day tour to Hermannsberg Mission and Palm Valley.

Overall Breakdown of costs

Summary of Expenses (all in AUD) for two persons spending 18 days (17 nights) in Alice Springs and surrounds.

General expenses

1 Airfares

(from Canberra to Alice Springs and back to Sydney)                                   $907

2 Travel Insurance

Worldcare travel insurance                                                                                   $83

3 Alice Springs

Trek Larapinta 6-day walking tour (5 nights, 6 days)                                   $3,200

Emu Run tour to Uluru (2 nights/3 days)                                                          $700

Alice Wanderer Hermannsberg/ Palm Valley (1day)                                        $170

Total General Expenses                                                                             $5,060

Other Expenses

Accommodation

Aurora Hotel (1 night)                                                                                              $120

Alice on Todd Apartments (shared; 4 nights)                                                     $390

AirBNB room in home (6 nights)                                                                           $419

Accommodation Total                                                                                   $929

Food (Restaurants, supermarkets)                                                                        $480

Outdoor gear, Post Office, presents etc.                                                               $311

Cash ATM withdrawals etc.                                                                                  $1,085

(Included alcohol & food paid with cash & other expenses)

Total Cost   (USD 7370; EUR 5592)                                                         $7,865

 Breakdown of Costs

Time spent: 18 Days (17 nights)

Cost per day all up for 2 persons:      $437

Cost per person:                                   $218.50 (USD 205; EUR 155)

Accommodation cost per night

2 persons (not including 2 tours):   $84 (USD 79; EUR 60)

Cost per day (not including airfares or travel insurance)

2 persons: $382; per person:           $191 (USD 179; EU 136)

Comment

This is one of the most expensive trips we’ve taken as a couple.

The glam camping and trekking with Trek Larapinta whom I’d highly recommend cost $267 per day per person (USD 250; EU 191), but that covered everything, except alcohol and was well-worth it. You could do it much cheaper and harder by yourself as a 13-day trek, or you could dip in and out on day sections and camp yourself with a 4WD vehicle. The trip with Emu Run Tours was also terrific with a mixed group of young people, it was a bit more down-market but also fantastic (the woman cook, driver and general organiser worked very hard, but we also all pitched in and generally kept to time, which was important). The Emu Run tour was three very full days travel and two nights camping, but we did have time to do quite an amount of walking. It cost $117 per day per person (USD 110; EU 83) and also included everything, except alcohol.

Northern Australia, which includes northern Queensland, the Northern Territory and northern Western Australia is especially expensive. However, there are bus/camping tours and backpackers hostels to ameliorate this.

Most Australians realise that Australia is an expensive place to travel in and many of us go to Asia for our holidays. At this time the Australian dollar was high against the Euro and the young Europeans we met also suddenly had found that Australia was expensive. However, many of them cut costs by working under the working visa program. A group of the young people we travelled with on the Emu Run tour had organised to return a camper van from Cairns to Alice Springs, which was free. They had a week but had to pay for the petrol. They had a fantastic time.

Photos and Slides

Photos on the Larapinta Trail

Photos of the Uluru trip

For slides with captions see Slideshows

Further information

Larapinta Trail information

Trek Larapinta

Emu Run tours

Key words: Alice Springs, Australia, Uluru, Larapinta Trail, travel expenses

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