I recently came back from an amazing trip to Uluru and pretty much haven’t stopped talking about it. In between raving about watching the sun rise over Uluru as a “spiritual experience” and proclaiming every Australian school student should be made to make the pilgrimage to the Red Centre, I’ve also been firing off advice on things I learned the hard way once I arrived. From what to wear, what you can and can’t bring onto site, and which tours are the best, I want you to learn from my mistakes so that when you make this trip you have the best time ever!!
1. Wear long pants and enclosed shoes – even to the Sounds of Silence dinner
We turned up to the bus taking us to the Sounds of Silence dinner in reasonably nice clothing, Zoltan in shorts and myself in a long dress and sandals. “You should have worn pants and sneakers” the lady unhelpfully said as we tried to board. Fortunately they gave me enough time to dash back to the hotel room and swap my sandals for enclosed shoes, but I didn’t pack a single pair of pants due to the fact the daily temperature averaged 40°C. I felt a bit silly arriving at such a fancy dinner in a nice dress and Nikes, but at least my feet were safe from ants (and potentially snakes?!) There were a fair amount of women wearing stiletto heels and carrying fancy handbags which I strongly encourage you to avoid both – there is a bit of walking involving to get to dinner and the ground is uneven, so heels are out, and the entire ground is blanketed with red dust – so leave the Chanel at home!
2. Buy a fly face mask as soon as you arrive if you’re there in the warmer months
I must admit we laughed at everyone walking around with fly face masks on, and couldn’t believe that every store in town was selling them. But within an hour we were covered in flies and handing over our cash to the local news agency in exchange for a fly mask each. We had these on whenever outside from about 10am to 8pm when the sun went down. You look ridiculous, but it’s much better than having 10 flies stuck to your sweaty face at any given time.
3. Purchase your park pass as soon as you arrive
We boarded our Uluru sunrise tour bus at 4.45am, a tour which we had prebooked and paid for weeks ago. “Park pass please” requested the lady counting heads. We had been told we needed to acquire a park pass but had completely forgotten to do so, and they were about to prevent us from attending the tour we had been looking forward to so much! Worse yet, they wouldn’t accept credit card and neither of us had cash. After a few terse moments, they agreed to stop at the next hotel which had an ATM and wait for us to quickly withdraw some cash before we could continue on the tour. I honestly don’t know why they don’t add this pass fee into the tour ticket, or even the hotel fee – surely anyone coming all the way out to Uluru is there to see the national park? So please don’t make our mistake, and make sure you purchase your pass as soon as you arrive!
4. Book your accommodation as far out as possible and consider self contained accommodation
My holiday M.O. seems to be either insanely organised or completely last minute. When I am not busy with spreadsheets, price comparison websites and custom Google maps, I am leaving everything to the last second and am in a flap. Unfortunately for Uluru, it was the latter, and as I was trying to book our accommodation on the Ayers Rock Resort website, every single hotel room was booked out! I called them in a panic and fortunately there was still a few rooms left which I could book directly. Unfortunately this meant we didn’t have many options to choose from, and I booked us into Sails in the Desert for $420/night. Yikes! Since there is limited accommodation in Uluru, make sure you do you research and book as far out as possible to try and secure a good rate. I highly recommend looking into The Lost Camel hotel which opens in July and is priced at the more affordable price of $290/night. Another option I would have liked to consider is the Emu Walk Apartments, as these are self catering, meaning you can save some money my preparing your own meals. Which brings me to my next point…
5. Bring your own snacks and buy supplies from the local IGA for affordable meals
Food was crazy expensive in Uluru, and the quality wasn’t great. I totally understand that Uluru is in an isolated place meaning a lot of supplies needs to be freighted in, and we are paying tourist prices, but that doesn’t mean I am happy to pay $40 for a sub-par meal which I leave half of behind. I brought a few homemade muesli bars with me for snacks, and then we stocked up on supplies at the local IGA Supermarket. We bought bread, pastries, cheese, ham and fruit, and made ourselves some quick and cheap meals for when we were on the road. It definitely saved us a lot of money!
(Below is an example of a very sad, very pricey salad I ate).
6. Book a tour around the base of Uluru – the sunrise tours and Sounds of Silence don’t get you anywhere near
Despite doing both an Uluru sunrise tour and the Sounds of Silence dinner, I couldn’t believe how far we were from the rock. My only real regret of our long weekend away was not doing a base walk around Uluru. I would have loved to get up close to this magnificent natural wonder. Please note it is no longer ok to climb the rock as the request of the local Indigenous population. Tourists were stealing parts of the rock and going to the toilet on it (talk about disrespectful!) so it was decided it was best to admire this landmark from the ground.
7. Prepare to pay an outrageous amount of money for pretty much everything
After a day or 2 at Uluru you will realise that everything is really expensive, but as it’s a once in a lifetime trip you just have to roll with it. $50 for a breakfast buffet? Sure. $5.50 for a coffee? Ok fine. Once you adjust your expectations, the price gorging becomes a little easier to take in.
8. Leave your tripod at home for the Field of Lights
I was so excited to get some great pictures at Bruce Munro’s Field of Lights art exhibition and I packed my tripod specifically for it. The 50,000 colourful lights arranged in the desert were truly a sight to be seen, but they didn’t allow tripods within the installation! I ending up taking some decent photos by balancing my camera on a plank of wood I found on the ground. Sometimes you just have to be resourceful.
I hope this information has helped you when planning and booking your trip to Uluru. With a few helpful hints you will be on your way to having the trip of a lifetime! Head over here for my Ultimate Guide to Uluru which is filled with accommodation, tour and eating options.
Love Swah + 1 flew to Uluru as a guest of Jetstar. All thoughts and opinions are my own.