Ayers Rock On A Budget - Cut Costs At Uluru
There are two ways to visit Ayers Rock in Australia: Either you bring your own transport, or you don't.
This information is for people with their own transport.
The page tells you how to visit Uluru while spending as little as possible.
Are you on a real shoestring budget? There are several things you can do to save money.
Accommodation at Uluru
The only option for accommodation or camping at Ayers Rock is the Ayers Rock Resort (Yulara). Accommodation here is expensive. Campground prices are fair for what you get, but it still costs money.
You can camp at Curtin Springs roadhouse instead. Camping here is absolutely free. You just pay two dollars if you want to have a shower.
(Water is a scarce resource in this region and it costs money to get it up from underneath the ground, so don't think that's a sneaky way to charge you for camping.)
Curtin Springs is located on the Lasseter Highway (the road to Uluru), 85 km from Uluru itself. If you want to see sunrise and sunset it'll be a very early start and a long day, but it's doable.
If you want to really appreciate the Uluru National Park you will probably want to spend one night there. One should be enough. Here's a sample itinerary:
- Camp at Curtin Springs
- Make your way to Uluru next morning and book into the Ayers Rock Campground
- Visit the Cultural Centre, have lunch there.
- Drive to Kata Tjuta and walk the Valley Of The Winds in the afternoon.
- Watch the sunset at Kata Tjuta
- Night at Ayers Rock Campground
- Watch Uluru sunrise.
- Walk the base of Uluru.
- Back to Yulara to pack up the camp (this might be a bit tight with check out times)
- Lunch, shopping, swimming at Yulara Resort (all hotel facilities are free for campground guests, and the supermarket has reasonable prices.)
- Return to Uluru for sunset, drive to Curtin Springs for the night.
- Continue to Kings Canyon or back to Alice Springs.
No, I didn't forget it. The Uluru climb is not on the list for a reason.
Uluru National Park Entry Fee
A lot of people complain about the steep entrance fee for Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. I think $25 for three days (as of 2012) is justified, but we did make the most of our three days.
If people come in from Alice Springs for a quick look and the sunset, then it is of course a steep fee. They don't have one or two day passes for Ayers Rock and that sucks a bit.
The Uluru National Park passes show the type of vehicle, but not your number plate. They ask you to scribble your name on them, but you could have forgotten that. Nobody ever checked it while we were there.
Some people who only spend one day at Ayers Rock sell their passes afterwards. Guess where? Correct. Curtin Springs Roadhouse.
So you have two chances to cut on costs here. Pick up a cheap pass at Curtin Springs, or sell your full price pass on return and get some money back.
Eating Out At Uluru
The cheapest option is of course to bring and cook your own. There is a reasonably priced and well stocked supermarket at the Ayers Rock Resort.
I found most restaurants at Ayers Rock Resort to be just like the accommodation: overhyped and overpriced. Despite their flowery prose when describing the more affordable eateries (I didn't try the astronomically priced ones) the food was average. Mostly cheap fast food.
There are two places that I can recommend for eating:
The cafe inside Uluru National Park itself is ok. Of course it's not the cheapest place I've seen, but the food is nice.
(I want to point out once more that Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park and Ayers Rock Resort are two separate entities under totally separate managements! They have nothing to do with each other.)
The only place where I'd eat at Ayers Rock Resort is the Outback Pioneer BBQ Bar.
The Pioneer BBQ has a great atmosphere, a huge beer garden, and if you stay at the campground you get a drink voucher (only redeemable if you eat here).
You purchase your steak raw - or your prawn skewers, kangaroo, emu, vegetarian patty or whatever else you might fancy - and you grill it yourself on the well equipped gas barbecues they have.
And then you hit the all you can eat salad bar. (You can also pay just for the salad bar.)
I expected the salads to be the same old boring selection of potato, pasta, and lettuce/cucumber/tomato, with boring dressings. But no, the green salad was great and there were sweet potatoes and chick peas and sprouts and lots of other surprises. You also find corn on the cob, potatoes in foil with sour cream, fresh fruit, desserts...
If you can eat half as much as I can in one go then this is really good value :-).
It does set you back $25+ if you have some meat, and I think about $16 for just the salad bar. If you consider the free drink as well then it's a very reasonably priced meal for the location.
(Maybe you can share a plate and they don't notice... That's what I would have done in my extreme shoestring budget days...)
Update: I had a reader write in and let me know that apparently the quality of the salad bar has gone downhill since I wrote this page. I don't know if this is still the case or whether maybe it was a bad night or a bad period. (Staff problems?) On a positive note, the same reader also wrote that the Pioneer Kitchen is a different story and great food and value for lunch