Our camper vans in Australia

Both Andy and I have visited Australia before and agree that one of the best ways to explore the country is by driving yourself around. Road Triiiiiip! We like travelling in camper vans but there are lots of other options like cars, 4WD vehicles, caravans and coaches like the Greyhound.  Australia is vast as is the number of companies offering vehicle hire.

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A few months before we were due to arrive in Australia we began researching vans. It all became a bit overwhelming with me sat at my laptop with what felt like 20 odd windows open at once desperately trying to compare each rental companies offers, vehicle specs, insurance types, extra charges for chairs, tables, bedding, gps. The list goes on.

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A month or so prior to this whilst we were in Kuta, Lombok we met a group of lads staying at the same homestay as us and it turned out that one of them runs an Oz & NZ travel agency who can do all this camper van research and booking for you. In stepped Rat Pack Travel run by the fantastic Sam (fantastic because he seemed more than happy to answer our million questions with emails firing backwards and forwards until we were happy – he may have been cursing us under his breath!) who provided us with great priced options.

Check out the details of the two camper vans we hired  for our time in Australia.

Western Australia

Vehicle: 2008 Toyota Hiace 6.0 Hitop
Transmission: Manual
Rental Company: Hippie Campers
Pick up: Perth
Drop off: Perth
Van height: 2.65m
Fixtures & fittings: – Sink with cold water and draining board housed in a two tier two door cupboard which contains plates, glasses, mugs, pots and pans, one toaster, one electric kettle and one gas kettle (the electric points only work when the van is plugged in)
– Two hob gas burner with a small flip out table to the right
– Microwave (only works when van is plugged in)
– Small fridge with freezer
– Drawer with cutlery
– One further cupboard and drawer
– Three indoor fitted lights and one outdoor light
– Two electricity points
– Two benches with storage underneath and small table
– Cable to plug in the van and hose to top up the water tank (for the sink)

DSC00756East Coast Australia

Vehicle: 2006 Toyota Hiace 6.0 Hitop
Transmission: Manual
Rental Company: Travel Wheels
Pick up: Cairns
Drop off: Sydney
Van height: 2.65m
Fixtures & fittings: – Sink with cold water and draining board housed in a four drawer cupboard which contains plates, glasses, mugs, one saucepan and one frying pan, washing up liquid and tea towel  (the electric points only work when the van is plugged in)
– Two hob gas burner
– Microwave (only works when van is plugged in)
– Small fridge with tiny freezer compartment
– Two cupboards, one with shelf and the other with a small rail and 3 hangers
– Three indoor fitted lights and one outdoor light
– Two electricity points
– Two benches with storage underneath and small table
– Cable to plug in the van and hose to top up the water tank (for the sink)

Many of the newer vans are fitted with smoke alarms (although our 2008 van had one). Now I’m all for ‘safety first’ but in such a small space the alarm will go off every time you use the toaster or light the gas hobs with a match, even if all the windows and doors are opened. Be warned!

Top tip – if you have the option to complete the registration documents online before going to pick up the van then do so. It totally saves  some time!

Another thing to note, that we were not aware of, is that in Australia drivers are not required to have insurance. This means that if someone hits your van, through no fault of your own e.g. it is parked, then you are liable for the cost of the van repairs. When collecting the van, we initially weren’t going to take out an insurance policy. We are good, cautious drivers and thought that if someone else hit us, their insurance would cover us. After finding out this wasn’t the case, we were told of various insurance packages that were available to us, and ended forking out hundreds of pounds more than expected. Eek!

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Tip – check the van to see what has and hasn’t been provided before heading to the supermarket.  Different rental companies may or may not provide washing up liquid, tea towels, sharp knife for cooking, clothes pegs, toaster, electric kettle, fan/ heater. We have excitedly run into the supermarket and bought loads of food only to realise that night after cooking that we don’t have anything to wash the dishes with!

There are various packages that are offered by each van rental company that include things such as camp chairs and table, bed linens, a bottle of gas and a GPS. Check out their website to see what they do and do not provide. It is sometimes the case that if you purchase the comprehensive insurance package that you get some or all of these add-ons for free.

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Both vans we had are set up to fit 3 people with the bed for the 3rd person housed in the roof. The two benches in the back of the van turn into a double bed using the table and a few other planks of wood provided. The bench cushions then become the mattress. We found that the bench cushions were a little of the skinny side so used the cushioning for the third bed to boost our comfort levels. The only issue with the bed is that the person lying on the right hand side of the bed has the built-in cupboards at their feet and whilst this wasn’t too much of a problem for me at 5’ 5”, the space was too short for Andy (at 5’ 8”) so bear this in mind if you are tall.

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