Australia is a fantastic destination for solo female travel! I love Australia and if it were easy and cheap to fly halfway around the world, I would go all the time!
Australia is probably the #1 country that people tell me they want to visit. Many people keep Australia as a “someday” destination, wanting to visit but put off by the long, expensive journey to get there. And I won’t lie — Australia isn’t a trip that you can plan casually on a whim. For most people, it’s going to require diligent saving and careful planning.
But it’s worth it. SO worth it.
And for that reason, I urge you not to save Australia for “someday.” Someday you might not be able to travel the way you can now. Don’t put it off too long.
I’ve traveled Australia with others, and I’ve traveled Australia solo. Australia is a particularly good destination for solo female travelers and this guide will give you an overview on how to stay safe in this unforgettable country.
Why Travel Solo to Australia?
Australia is an easy-to-visit country that also has a high exotic factor. Australia is endlessly interesting. The wildlife is one-of-a-kind. The nature is bonkers. And the cities are just different enough that you feel slightly off-kilter — in the best way.
If you’ve never been to Australia, you’ve never seen the best beaches in the world. It’s almost embarrassing how good the beaches are, from white sand behemoths in Western Australia and Queensland to the gorgeous urban beaches of Sydney. Nothing you’ve seen has prepared you for this.
Besides, you’ve probably been dreaming about visiting Australia since you were a kid! Isn’t it time to fulfill your childhood dreams?
Finally, as a solo traveler, you have so many options in Australia. Do you want to join a group tour? Go for it! Do you want to be part of a hop-on hop-off bus? That also works! Do you want to go on a solo road trip through the Outback? Challenging, but you can pull it off solo! Whether you want to meet people or be solo, whether you’re interested in cities or nature, whether you prefer touristy areas or getting off the beaten path, you can find so many things to do as a solo female traveler in Australia.
Is Australia Good for First-Time Solo Female Travelers?
Australia is a wonderful destination for first-time solo female travelers. Australia has some of the best travel infrastructure on the planet: everywhere is outfitted for travelers. English is the spoken language and Australians are incredibly friendly and helpful. The only mark against Australia is that it’s an expensive country, which becomes a bit of a pain when you’re not splitting costs with anyone.
Of course, not every Australia trip is equal — if this is your first solo trip ever, I wouldn’t recommend going extremely off the beaten path, like driving solo in the Outback. Driving in Australia requires its own set of skills unless you’re sticking to extremely well traversed areas. You can see more about driving in Australia below.
But for the vast majority of trips to Australia, particularly when driving is not a factor, it’s very easy to travel.
Group Tours to Australia
If you’re nervous about traveling solo in Australia, consider joining a group tour. You’ll meet lots of people and all the work will be taken care of for you! G Adventures, whom I’ve traveled with and recommend, offers several tours to Australia.
Is Australia Good for Experienced Solo Female Travelers?
Absolutely, Australia is terrific for experienced solo female travelers. I had already been to more than 40 countries before arriving in Australia and I was delighted in all senses of the word.
If you’re already an experienced solo traveler, chances are you’ll have different interests than a newbie. You might be drawn toward hiking and culinary exploration in Tasmania or exploring tougher-to-reach areas of the Kimberley. Then again, you might simply want to do the classic route of Sydney, Melbourne, and the Queensland coast. It’s a cliché for a reason.
I’ve spent time in two regions of Australia that are more challenging to travel: Western Australia and the Northern Territory. If you’re driving on your own in rural parts of these states, be sure to heed the driving advice below. Driving can turn deadly in the Outback, so be sure to take all the precautions you can.
Is Australia Safe?
Generally speaking, Australia is a very safe country. Likely safer than your home country. The kind of country that provides healthcare to its citizens and bans the vast majority of guns after one massacre, not thousands. (How about that?!)
The important thing is not to get lulled into a false sense of security in Australia. Anything can happen here, including crime, and it’s best to remain conscientious at all times.
If you’re hanging out in touristy or especially backpacker-filled areas, be conscious of petty theft. Many people prey on tourists who are drinking and are less aware and have fewer inhibitions. You can see the following advice for tips on keeping yourself and your belongings safe while traveling in Australia.
Travel and Safety Tips for Australia
For the most part, traveling safely in Australia is about having common sense. I’ve added a few travel safety tips specific to Australia, but for the most part you should be fine behaving as you would traveling in any other destination in the world.
Don’t forget to get your ETA before you arrive. The ETA, similar to a visa, is a requirement upon arrival in Australia, and you must secure it in advance. You can apply here. The current cost is $20 AUD. While ETAs tend to process within a few days, do not wait until the last minute!!
Australia is very strict in what you can bring over the border. When you arrive by plane, you may be questioned extensively by the customs agent to make sure you don’t have wooden products, homemade food, fruits, or vegetables in your luggage. See the full list here. (I’ve been to Australia twice; once I was questioned extensively and once I was questioned briefly.)
Australia has a big drinking culture. I burst out laughing on my first day in Australia ever, in Darwin, where I saw people sitting around in lawn chairs, drinking beers from coolers. It was exactly like the stereotype I had in my mind.
As I mentioned in my UK travel guide, you need to be cautious about “shout” culture where one person buys drinks for a group, then another person buys the next round, and so on. It can lead you to drinking more and faster than you want to, especially if you’re with men or heavy drinkers. Four beers may be fine for a larger guy, but that can be a LOT for a woman, especially if they’re strong beers.
The best thing to do is to tell the group early that you don’t want to drink much — two drinks, maybe three at most. People will totally understand.
Australian wildlife can be dangerous. While drop bears may be a myth, there are very real wildlife dangers. The box jellyfish is a deadly animal dwelling in northern reaches of Queensland, Western Australia, and the Northern Territory roughly from October through May. Locals will advise you on the precautions to take to avoid these creatures.
And in the Top End and other parts of the country, crocodiles are a very real danger. Always ask a local before going near any body of water. They know what is safe and what isn’t.
Furthermore, kangaroos may look cute, but they are actually quite vicious. Keep things safe by not approaching any wild animal.
Be cautious of the ocean. Australia is famous for its surfing beaches, and with surfing comes riptides and dangerous currents. Always ask locals about whether it’s safe to swim. In most places in Australia, swim between the red and yellow flags, as these designate a safe area. If you get caught in a riptide, don’t fight it — swim parallel to shore until you escape the current.
Get a SIM card from Telstra. Having a SIM card is especially important in Australia, as wifi is slow and expensive. There are a few different carriers in Australia, but Telstra tends to have some of the best coverage. Keep in mind that there is no cell service in many rural areas, including on highways. When driving through rural Western Australia, I had zero signal until I landed within the city limits of the nearest town.
Be careful about your drinking. Drink less than you ordinarily would at home — two drinks is a good limit. Only take drinks from bartenders, never take a drink from a stranger, and always keep it with you and keep an eye on it.
Keep an eye on your belongings at all times. If you carry a purse, hold it close to you. I recommend a crossbody purse, made out of a tough material like leather or fake leather, that zips shut. I recommend many purses in this post. Never let it hang behind you — always keep it in a place where you can see it, and keep your hand on it if you’re in a crowd.
If you carry a wallet without a purse, don’t keep it in your back pocket. This is obvious to thieves and they will grab it and run.
If you use a small backpack, lock it. I use a Pacsafe backpack where you can lock the compartments shut.
Never leave your bags anywhere unattended. Take them with you. While in cities and touristy areas in Australia, if you’re keeping your bag under the table or otherwise out of sight, keep it between your feet or hook the strap around one of the chair legs.
Keep your valuables locked up in your accommodation and only take with you what you need that day. I do this with my Pacsafe Travelsafe and I consider it the most important thing I pack. Keep an extra debit card and at least $100 hidden in obscure parts of your luggage.
If someone robs you, GIVE THEM WHAT THEY WANT. Things can be replaced. Nothing is worth your life.
Don’t carry tons of cash around with you. You can use credit cards almost everywhere in Australia, and carrying lots of cash leaves you vulnerable to theft. Don’t be the traveler who loses her wallet and the $500 in it.
Only use ATMs at banks if possible. If your card gets eaten, it’s a lot easier to retrieve it from a real bank’s ATM. If you can’t find a bank and it’s at night, use an ATM indoors, in a vestibule or in a shopping mall.
Get a digital guidebook and keep it on your phone. Even today, I always keep a guidebook PDF on my phone — it’s great for calculating approximate time of journeys, knowing what days places are closed, and it lists medical centers you should go to in case of emergency. I’m a big fan of Lonely Planet guidebooks — I recommend Lonely Planet Australia.
Spend extra money on staying safe. If you’re not comfortable walking home at night, spend money on a cab or Uber. If you’re hesitant on spending money on a not-as-nice-looking hostel, pay for a nicer place. It’s worth the peace of mind. Don’t pinch pennies on your safety.
Most importantly, you have no obligation to be nice to anyone. Women often feel the need to be nice and please people at all costs. You don’t have to anywhere — especially so in Australia, where the laid-back culture might convince you that you’re being “difficult.” If anyone is making you feel uncomfortable, just leave. Trust me — you won’t be the rudest person they meet that day. And so what if you were? You’re never going to see them again.
How to Get Around Australia Solo
Australia, once again, is huge and sparsely populated. Flying is the best way to get around unless you’re on a tight budget and have a LOT of time. Even Brisbane to Cairns, which looks close on the map, is an 18-hour drive! Take the 2.5-hour flight instead!
There are a few luxury long train rides in Australia — the Indian Pacific, from Sydney to Adelaide to Perth and vice versa; the Ghan, from Darwin to Alice Springs to Adelaide and vice versa; and the Overland, from Melbourne to Adelaide and vice versa. In late 2019 the Great Southern, from Brisbane to Adelaide and vice versa, will begin operations. If you’ve got the time and cash and love spending long train journeys staring out the window (and I do!) these are a great choice. See them all here.
While there are lots of tour companies in Australia, there are also hop-on hop-off backpacker buses like Stray Australia and Oz Experience. While those two companies also offer full-fledged tours with accommodation and activities, you can also just book the transportation and have the freedom to move on whenever you’d like.
Finally, you can rent a car. More on that below.
Driving in Australia
Driving safely in Australia requires a higher level of conscientiousness, particularly if you’re driving in the Outback or other rural areas. First off, they drive on the left side of the road, and they turn left at roundabouts. If you haven’t driven on the left before, it can take your brain some time to get used to it.
Wildlife is a major issue when driving in rural Australia. Kangaroos in particular will vault themselves straight in front of your car. It’s wise to drive slowly and be extra conscientious when driving in remote areas. Be especially conscientious at night and during dawn and dusk, when animals tend to be most active.
In extremely rural areas, there can be long stretches between service stations and roadhouses. Be sure to get gas (“petrol” in Australia!) as often as you can; this is not a place to wait until the next station. Additionally, when traveling the very rural route from Coral Bay to Tom Price in Western Australia, I was shocked that many of the towns on the map were a roadhouse and nothing else.
Cell service is more or less nonexistent in rural areas, even with Telstra, the network with the best coverage. I found that frequently there wouldn’t be any phone signal at all until I entered a town.
Look out for “road trains” — huge, long trucks. Give them a wide berth as it’s tough for them to swerve or slow down.
Another issue is driving long, monotonous distances on your own. For some people, driving long stretches where you see the same unchanging view in front of you can have an almost hypnotic effect, affecting your senses. It’s important to take frequent breaks.
If you’re driving in remote parts of Australia, you should know basic car maintenance, like knowing how to check oil and change a tire at the very least. You should also have an emergency survival kit packed with enough water to survive for days. Even though I’ve driven all over the world, I don’t consider myself a skilled enough driver to handle driving in rural Australia. I don’t even know how to change a tire. You should know your limits.
How to Meet People in Australia
Australians are gregarious, good-natured, and fun. In fact, I’d put Australia up there with Ireland as one of the easiest countries in which to make local friends! Australia is a country where you can walk into a bar and leave with a whole crew. Here are some ways to meet people while traveling.
Consider staying at a social hostel. There are tons of great hostels all over Australia, from surf lodges along the Queensland coast to modern chains in Melbourne to a hostel built in a former prison in Fremantle. Many of these hostels offer private rooms, if dorms aren’t your thing, and quite a few of them offer tours and other activities. If there is a bar in the hostel, it will be a very social place.
Join tours and activities. Tours are a great way to meet new people! Whether you’re doing a day trip to the Blue Mountains from Sydney or a river tubing trip from Cairns, you’ll meet people excited to explore the local region. I met so many wonderful Australians (though they were mostly 50+) at the Sounds of Silence dinner at Uluru.
Look for Couchsurfing meetup events throughout Australia. Couchsurfing isn’t just for free accommodation — they also put on meetup events where everyone is welcome. Many major cities have weekly meetups, and they always draw a great crowd.
Join a meetup on Meetup.com. Whether you’re into travel, running, movies, board games, or just want to meet a group of nice people, there’s a Meetup for that.
Put out feelers on social media. Often a friend of yours will have a cousin or friend living somewhere in Australia who will offer to meet you for coffee, just so you know someone. Take advantage of this if you can.
Tinder. If you’re looking to date or hook up, have fun! If you’ve always wanted to date a guy or girl with a swoon-worthy accent, this is your chance! Honestly, I was stunned at how many hard bodies there were in Sydney, but I much preferred the quirky folks of Melbourne.
Kate’s Picks: 10 Things You MUST Do in Australia
Hang out with the quokkas on Rottnest Island in Western Australia! Quokkas are my favorite animals on the planet. They are so adorable and look like they have smiles on their faces! And in Rottnest Island, especially near the settlement, they come right up to you and want to meet you! Just search #quokkaselfie on Instagram to see how cute they are.
Climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge. This is one of my favorite things I’ve done anywhere in the world — I’ve wanted to do it since seeing it on the second season of The Amazing Race while in high school! While it looks intimidating, it’s not nearly as bad as you think. The operation is so professional, they even breathalyze you beforehand, and while heights usually bother me, I felt fine on the bridge.
Watch the sunrise and sunset at Uluru. It’s worth every bit of hype — the giant rock changes color so many times as the sun goes down. It’s best watched with a glass of champagne in your hand. And if you can swing it, the Sounds of Silence dinner is a beautiful way to go from sunset to darkness.
Get lost in the little neighborhoods of Melbourne. Melbourne is full of hidden treasures — it’s like a nicer, more expensive version of Berlin or Bushwick. Australia has some of the best coffeeshops on the planet and I loved dropping in for a flat white in neighborhoods like Fitzroy and Northcote. Don’t miss the graffiti on Hoosier Lane.
Snorkel with the most wonderful tropical fish. Most travelers to Australia head to Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef for diving and snorkeling. But I LOVED Ningaloo Reef, near Coral Bay in Western Australia. The reef is a five-minute boat ride from the shore, far closer than the Great Barrier Reef, and you can even swim with giant manta rays!
See kangaroos in the wild. You’ve heard about kangaroos your entire life, but it will thrill you to high heaven the first time you see them in real life! And if you want to see koalas in real life, your best bet is heading down the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, near Melbourne.
Swim in rockholes in the Top End. This part of the Northern Territory is home to hot, dusty places like Litchfield and Kakadu National Parks. You’ll likely spend the day forming a crust of dirt and sweat as you hike around the region — but sliding into a cool rockhole filled with fresh, croc-free water is one of the best feelings in the world.
Walk along the gorgeous beaches of Sydney. I think Sydney has the best urban beaches on the planet. It’s uncanny to see beaches so soft and white and clean, with bright blue water, in the heart of a major city! The best way to enjoy them is to walk the coastal path from Bondi to Coogee or in reverse. Manly is great, too.
Feel like you’ve gone back in time in Karijini National Park. If you want to go somewhere off the beaten path in Australia, Karijini National Park is one of the best places to do so. It’s in the heart of Western Australia, a day’s drive from civilization — and home to red rock canyons, swimming holes, giant trees, waterfalls. As you swim through a narrow canyon, you’ll expect to see a dinosaur around the corner.
Eat the best breakfasts on the planet. I’m convinced that Australia is home to the best breakfasts in the world — it’s standard for a restaurant to have several outlandish dishes on the menu! Whether poached eggs over spiced brown butter pumpkin mash on sourdough bread, or a coconut rice pudding with starfruit, pomegranate seeds and pineapple, I was blown away by the creativity of breakfast dishes in Australia.
Recommended Accommodation for Solo Female Travelers in Australia
While I’ve stayed in a mixture of hotels, apartment rentals, and crashing with friends in Australia, and not all the places I stayed are still open today, there are a few I highly recommend for solo travelers:
The Mangrove Hotel in Broome, WA — Staying at the Mangrove Hotel was the highlight of my time in Broome. It was the perfect place to kick back and chill, as well as meet Australians on holiday. In the early evenings, this is the place to be, especially during the Staircase to the Moon event during the full moon each month.
Sydney Harbour YHA The Rocks in Sydney — If you’re looking to stay in a hostel, this is a GREAT one. It’s clean, comfortable, and has an unbelievable view of the Opera House from the rooftop deck — perfect for selfies!
Outback Pioneer Lodge at Uluru National Park — This mid-range hotel is one of the better value options at Ayers Rock Resort, which is comprised of several hotels. There is music and a great atmosphere at the barbecue restaurant at night! If you want to splurge, stay at the shmancy Sails in the Desert.
Alex Hotel in Perth — This is a trendy, upscale boutique hotel in the heart of downtown Perth. It feels super hip and you can get anywhere from here!
Karijini Eco Retreat in Karijini National Park, WA — You can sleep under the stars in this beautiful tented camp in the national park. There are dorm-style tents for backpackers and standard and upscale private tents for people with more cash to spend.
Travel Insurance for Australia
A lot of people don’t think it’s necessary to get travel insurance for Australia — after all, it’s a safe country with good healthcare. But you need it. If you get sick or injured on your trip, if you get robbed, or even if you have to be flown home, travel insurance will protect you from financial ruin. I use and recommend World Nomads for trips to Australia.
The first time I went to Australia, I had been suffering allergic reactions to an unknown substance for the last few weeks. Sometimes it got so bad that my lips or face swelled up, and I had to go to the doctor several times in Australia. Once I had to go to the hospital in Alice Springs when it got really bad. (Fun fact: lots of Australian doctors prefer to go by their first names.)
While prices aren’t anywhere near what the US would charge you, you could end up paying a lot of money for a serious medical issue like mine. But travel insurance protects you and refunds you for your costs. It’s the kind of thing you don’t know you need until you need it.
My #1 Australia Travel Tip
See as much of Australia’s natural environment as you can. Don’t spend too much of your time in cities.
Australia’s cities are very cool, especially Sydney and Melbourne, but they are not what make Australia special and unique. What makes Australia special and unique is its nature and wildlife. It’s unlike anywhere else in the world, and for that reason that’s what you should prioritize seeing. I recommend that you try to see at least two different kinds of outdoor destinations during your trip — like the Queensland coast and the Red Centre, or the Top End and the Great Ocean Road. If you can do more than two, even better.
Too many people plan trips to Australia centered around Sydney and Melbourne. You’ll probably land in Sydney, and I definitely recommend spending a few days there (if only for the Opera House, the BridgeClimb, the beaches, and attempting to spot Hugh Jackman!), but once you’ve done that, it’s your cue to get out. As much as I love Melbourne, and it’s one of my favorite cities, I think it’s better to include it as part of a longer Australia trip only.
If you’ve already planned a city-centric trip, consider adding in some day trips. From Sydney, you can visit the Blue Mountains; from Melbourne, you can visit the Great Ocean Road; from Perth, you can visit Rottnest Island; from Adelaide, you can visit Kangaroo Island.
Australia is waiting for you!
You are going to have the best time in Australia. Everyone I know who has been has loved it, and that goes for solo female travelers as well as everyone else. Australia is magical. It never lets you down.
Go have the time of your life in Australia. Then come back and tell me all about it!