Make no mistake, the outback of Australia is indeed beautiful, spectacular and stunning – but can also be deadly.

If you want to see and experience it for yourself and venture out into the more remote areas of the nation, there are several things you must do for your own safety. The necessity for basic preparation and homework (much of which is pure common sense) cannot be stressed enough. If you get that part right, your trip to the Australian outback could turn out to be one of the best trips you've ever made.

Most of this information is based on my own knowledge and experience, or on things I have witnessed and heard about. There is a lot more which can be found on the internet, please take the time to read up on as many different tips and guides as you can if you're planning a trip out there.

Communication in the outback

On the whole, mobiles are useless in the outback irrespective of who you're with. Although Telstra is the best, it's still useless out there. A VHF radio is one of the best forms of communication combined with at least one emergency long-distance channel (Channel 5 – and/or channel 35). There are penalties in place for general misuse of these emergency channels – also for interfering with an emergency call.

Do your homework prior to departure to find out the most reliable form of communication that can be used in even the most remote areas.

Don't forget to:

  • Dress sensibly. Closed shoes (riding boots are best, or failing that, sandshoes), long pants and a long-sleeved shirt. Also always wear a good hat outdoors – preferably with a good, wide brim. That sun can be a killer – Australia is also home to many very poisonous snakes which you won't necessarily see when walking along so adequate protection from them is essential.
  • Take great sunglasses and PLENTY of sunscreen (SPF 50+ at least). Those UV rays are deadly.
  • Pack a great insect repellent. You'll need it.

If you're driving your own vehicle:

  • Make absolutely sure your vehicle is in top-notch condition. Organise a really thorough service, including everything throughout the engine - the petrol, water, oil, tyres (including the spare), your manual and anything else you can think of - prior to leaving and explain to the people who service it what you are doing, where you are going etc.
  • Try to get some basic mechanical knowledge before leaving.
  • Take PLENTY of water – this cannot be stressed enough. Bring both personal drinking water as well as for the car.
  • Take certain tools with you: a good first aid kit, ring and open spanners, high-jack, insulating tape, lubricating spray, screwdrivers, wire, an extra fan belt, set of hoses, radiator hoses, spare bulbs, fuses etc.
  • Carry an extra jerrycan of petrol.
  • Check your tyres regularly, including the spare.
  • Always top up fuel when you get the chance, even if it literally is only a top up. It might be hours before you get the chance again.
  • Take a good torch and extra batteries.
  • ALWAYS notify the people at your destination what time you're leaving, your starting point and the route you're taking. The people at your destination will then have some idea of your estimated time of arrival, even if you don’t know what it'll be.
  • If you break down do not leave your vehicle. Think about it - when searchers begin looking for you, and they will do this provided you have followed these basic preparations, it's a lot easier to spot a vehicle than it is to spot a lone body – or even a couple of bodies.
  • Watch for animals on the road, both road-kill and animals wandering across or lying on the road. 
  • Always drive with headlights on, regardless of the time of day.
  • Plan frequent stops – fatigue kills.
  • Avoid driving on wet roads, if possible. Fines are in place for driving on closed roads, these will be signposted.
  • Most roads and tracks in the outback do go through private properties (stations). Please stay on designated roads and respect any written warnings/wishes of the station owners.
  • When meeting oncoming traffic, try to slow down slightly and veer over to the left side – the oncoming traffic should do this too.
  • Upon arrival at your destination, let those know at your starting point that you have arrived safely. If there is no-one there then let your family or a reliable friend or relative know.

If you're travelling by coach or train:

As we all probably know, coaches, trains, planes and the like travel to schedules and these usually involve passing through the smaller rural and remote towns in the very early hours of the morning. Not a great time to find yourself stranded after being dropped off and watching your transport disappear into the night. It’s actually a very scary feeling, but a few pre-arranged plans could make all the difference (this has been learned through experience!):

  • Try to pick a coach or train which is not scheduled to arrive at your particular destination in the middle of the night or in the early hours of the morning, although unfortunately, this is sometimes unavoidable.
  • Ensure that someone (from your destination, preferably) is there to meet you at the station. Prior to your departure, contact the people at your destination to remind them of your arrival so they don't forget to come and meet you.
  • If you don't have a choice in the above, pre-arrange with your accommodation to have your room key left out for you somewhere you can find it easily and in the dark if necessary.
  • Check out the taxi services in the town and make note of their phone numbers so you always have another option.
  • Again, upon arrival, make sure you contact home, or a friend or relative, to let them know you've arrived safely.

Tips to Help You Prepare for Travelling to the Australian Outback - by @red_dust_dreams

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There's a lot more that can be done, researched and prepared for a trip to the outback. I cannot stress the importance of making sure you do your homework so you're as prepared as can be before heading into the outback.

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Image sources: & author's own

Have you been considering a trip to the Australian outback? Or have you been and you have some extra tips to share? Tell me in the comments below.