Alice Springs is known as the capital of Australia’s “Red Center” and is the launching pad to the popular tourist attractions in the region like Uluru and Kings Canyon. It’s probably the reason why 99% of people visit and travel to Alice Springs.
You’ll find that when you visit Alice Springs there’s not too much to do here beyond Uluru and the canyon. It’s a very, very small town.
But the town does have tremendous natural beauty, offering visitors scenic bushwalking trails, botanic gardens, and lots of historic buildings (which for Australia is like 150 years old).
That said, I loved Alice — the town had a good, rough, independent feel to it and locals are a lot friendlier than on the coasts. It’s that small-town charm.
Stop and stay in the town for a day or two on your way to Uluru. This is a detour well worth it and this Alice Springs travel guide while help you plan your trip!
Table of Contents
Top 5 Things to See and Do in Alice Springs
2. The Reptile Centre
3. Hot air ballooning
4. Alice Springs Desert Park
5. MacDonnell Ranges
Other Things to See and Do in Alice Springs
1. Cultural museums
Head for the Cultural Precinct where highlights include the Sculpture Garden, the Museum of Central Australia, and the Namatjira gallery that displays the territory’s largest collection of original paintings by the famous Aboriginal artist Albert Namatjira. Alice Springs’ museums are fairly small so they don’t take a lot of time to see but are interesting nonetheless, especially the Museum of Central Australia.
2. Royal Flying Doctor Service
The Flying Doctors were the first aeromedical organization in the world and patrol the outback to provide emergency medical care to the region’s remote communities. The short museum tour provides all you need to know about this fascinating and essential service for residents in this part of Australia. As a history buff, I was super enthralled by this museum! Growing up in a big urban area, it’s hard to imagine my ambulance being a plane! Admission is 17 AUD ($12 USD) and the museum is open 9am-5pm, except for Sundays when it opens at 1pm.
3. Olive Pink Botanical Garden
The Olive Pink Botanical Garden is located close to the scenic Todd River. Stroll through the magnificent landscaped gardens and check out their important collections of exotic plants, mature native trees, and shrubs. It’s open 8am-6pm every day. There’s no set fee but they do accept donations.
4. The Old Court House
Built in 1928 (which in Australia terms is very old), the Old Courthouse was originally the office of the administrator for this part of Australia, before becoming the courthouse in 1980. It is now home to the National Pioneer Women’s Hall of Fame, a small museum immortalizing 100 Australian women who were first in their fields. The museum is open 10am-5pm except on weekends when it closes at 4pm. There is no entry fee!
5. The Larapinta Trail
If you’re a hiking enthusiast, this 250-kilometer trail through high mountains in a semi-desert area is a challenge for you. Situated within a national park, the area is heavily populated by a range of bird species so you find a lot of bird watchers there. You’re in the desert so bring lots of water and gear. It’s best hiked in the cooler winter months.
6. Aboriginal Australia Culture Center
This incredible gallery highlights the cultural history of the Aboriginal people of Australia who ruled the land prior to the Europeans. You can listen to traditional music, learn how to play the didgeridoo (indigenous Australian wind instrument), and even try to throw a spear. It has much more robust information than the visitor center at Uluru. It’s open Monday-Friday from 9am-5pm.
7. Hike Kings Canyon
Located just over 300 kilometers from Alice Springs, Kings Canyon is a great place to get out and hike while taking in the amazing natural beauty of the region. The walls of the canyon are over 100 meters high, offering some amazing views and great hiking. There are a few short trails you can explore in a couple of hours, as well as a longer full-day trail (the Giles Track is 22 kilometers). If you do visit, be sure to stick to the paths. Much of this area is sacred to the Aboriginals and leaving the paths is frowned upon. Single-day tours for Kings Canyon start around 200 AUD ($141 USD).
For information on other destinations in Australia, check out these guides!
Alice Springs Travel Costs
Hostel prices – Hostels cost around 25-30 AUD ($18-21 USD) per night for a dorm room with 6-8 beds. Double occupancy private rooms with shared bathrooms cost around 65 AUD ($46 USD) per night, while private rooms with private bathrooms cost around 90 AUD ($64 USD). Most hostels include free linen, free WiFi, and some even include free breakfast.
Budget hotel prices – You can find a room 2 in a 3-star hotel for as low as 170 AUD ($128 USD), but most are above 200 AUD ($143 USD). Most of these hotels offer a private bathroom, TV, free WiFi, air-conditioning, and many have free breakfast. On Airbnb, a private room in an apartment averages about 70 AUD ($50 USD). You can find a whole apartment for as low as $85 AUD ($61 USD), but most average out to be 130 AUD ($93 USD).
Average cost of food – There are cheap meals for under 14 AUD ($10 USD) at many of the grab-and-go and ethnic food shops, but expect to pay around 20 AUD ($14 USD) for a meal in a sit-down restaurant. If you cook your own meals, expect to pay 95-108 AUD ($68-77 USD) per week for basic groceries like pasta, vegetables, chicken, and other basic foodstuffs. Food out here tends to be more “pub” based with fewer luxury dining options than other cities.
Activities – There’s something for every budget in Alice Springs, but if you want to get to Uluru (either by rental car or on a tour), it’ll cost you. A multi-day tour will cost about 225 AUD ($160 USD) per day for everything, including food and accommodation. If you want to drive yourself, rental cars start from around 90 AUD ($65 USD) per day. Admission to nature parks like the Alice Springs Nature Park start around 25 AUD ($18 USD), while admission to museums and historical sites are from 17 AUD ($12 USD) (although there are also plenty of free sites).
Tours to Uluru and Kings Canyon – You don’t visit Alice Springs without seeing Uluru. While multi-day tours will cost around 225 AUD per day, you can book a shorter half-day tour if you’re on a budget. Sunrise tours last a couple hours and allow you to take in the sights while the sun is coming up. They will cost around 74 AUD ($55 USD) per person. You can also do short guided hikes on a day trip for around 175 AUD ($125 USD). If you want to rent a car and see the park yourself, expect to pay around 125 AUD ($90 USD). Admission to the park is 25 AUD and a car rental will cost around 90 AUD ($65 USD) per day. If you’re on a budget, try splitting costs with other travelers. That way you can share the cost of the rent a and the gas, as well as the actual driving.
Single-day tours for Kings Canyon start around 200 AUD ($141 USD). If you want to visit yourself, admission is 35 AUD ($25 USD) per vehicle or 20 AUD ($14 USD) per person on foot. Again, if you can share a car rental with someone you’ll be able to save money here — especially on the park admission.
Backpacking Alice Springs Suggested Budgets
How much does it cost to visit Alice Springs?
On a backpacker budget, you can visit here for 60-80 AUD ($42-56 USD) per day. This is a suggested budget assuming you’re staying in a cheap hostel or camping, cooking all of your meals, and using local transportation to get around. On this budget, you could stick to mostly free activities or admission fees for museums/sites. If you wanted to rent a car to see Uluru, you’ll need to add another 125 AUD ($90 USD) to your budget (a bit less if you can split the rental with other travelers).
On a mid-range budget of about 245 AUD ($175 USD), you’ll be able to stay in a private hostel room, eat fast food, book a rental car to go to Uluru, and pay the entry fee for Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.
On a luxury budget of 505+ AUD ($360+ USD), you can stay in 4-star accommodations, enjoy eating at sit down restaurants, hire a rental car to get around, or opt on a multi-day tour to Ayer’s Rock.
Alice Springs Travel Guide: Money Saving Tips
Alice Springs can be a very, very expensive country to visit. If you aren’t careful, you’ll blow through your entire budget in no time flat! Here are a lot of ways to save money when you visit Alice Springs:
- Bring food to Uluru – Food at the visitor’s café near Uluru is highly overpriced. Try to stock up on snacks from the supermarket before you set off on any adventure in this area.
- Go camping – If you intend to spend a few days up at Uluru, camping is an option as the resorts here are expensive. Expect to pay 65 AUD ($46 USD) for a site with electricity during the high summer season, and 55 AUD ($40 USD) during the low winter season.
- Combine tours – Combine tours of Uluru, Kings Canyon, and Kata Tjuta to save money on the cost of an individual excursion. Expect to pay around 675 AUD ($482 USD) for 3 days and 2 nights including accommodation.
- Couchsurf – Accommodation in Australia can be quite pricey. If you plan ahead, you can usually find really nice Couchsurfing hosts all throughout the country. This way, you not only have a place to stay, but you’ll have a local host that can tell you the best places to go and things to see.
- Drink goon (box wine) – Goon is infamous on the Australian backpacker hostel trail. This cheap box of wine is the best way to drink, get a buzz, and save a lot of money at the same time. Four liters of goon typically costs 13 AUD ($9 USD) (compared to a six pack of beer for the same price). Drink this before you go out and save on spending money at the bar (where it is about 10 AUD/$7 USD per drink). Also, blow up the bag when you’re done and have a little pillow to rest your head on!
- Cook and have picnics – Again, eating out is not cheap. The best way to reduce your costs is to cook as many meals as possible. Alice Springs is a great place to bring snacks and meals to. You can make your own picnic out there!
- Find free Internet – The internet in Australia is painfully slow and expensive (just ask any Australian how they feel about this), but libraries and McDonalds have free WiFi that you can use.
Where To Stay in Alice Springs
I’ve been a backpacker here for ages and have accumulated a long list of places to stay. Here are some of my favorite places to stay in Alice Springs:
How to Get Around Alice Springs
Walk – The downtown area of Alice Springs is incredibly walkable, so it’s entirely possible to get around without having to spend much on transportation at all!
Public Bus – Alice Springs does have a public bus system. A single ticket is 3 AUD ($2.15 USD) and gives you three hours of unlimited bus travel. A one-day ticket costs 7 AUD ($5 USD). You can save 10 AUD ($7.15 USD) by getting their “Flexi-Trip” tickets, which give you 10 individual trips good for 3 hours each for 20 AUD ($14 USD) or by getting a one-week pass, which is also 20 AUD ($14 USD).
Taxi – Taxis are expensive (fares are a minimum of 4 AUD ($3 USD) and cost 2 AUD (1.45 USD) per km, so this isn’t the best option.
Bicycle Rental – Bicycle rentals are common in Alice Springs, starting from about 25 AUD ($18 USD) per day. My Ride is Alice Springs is one of the best rental places in town.
Car Rental – Getting a car rental is one of the most practical ways to get around Alice Springs and the area, and you can find prices starting from about 90 AUD ($65 USD) per day. That might be out of budget, but it’s cheaper to drive to Ayer’s Rock than it is to hop on a multi-day tour. Plus you can likely find someone to split the costs with.
Use rentalcars.com to search for available vehicles. It’s a search aggregator, so it’ll return better deals than if you rely on big companies like Hertz.
Multi-Day Tours – You can combine tours of Uluru, Kings Canyon, and Kata Tjuta to save money on the cost of an individual excursion. Expect to pay around 675 AUD ($482 USD) for 3 days and 2 nights including accommodation (the lower priced tours usually include camping). Depending on your travel style, this price can increase quickly. Some tours will include all the extras, like meals.
When to Go to Alice Springs
Alice Springs’ climate can be quite extreme, with scorching hot summers and cold winters. Summer lasts from December to February, and the average temperatures range from 60-95°F (20-35°C), but sometimes can climb as high as 104°F (40°C). It’s dry here most of the year, but January is considered the wettest months.
Winter (June to August) is “cold,” with average temperatures between 41-68°F (5-20°C), and July is the coldest month. Temperatures may even drop below zero, making it not the best time to be camping! On the other hand, prices are definitely lowest during the winter.
Spring (September to November) is pleasant with warm temperatures, but fall (March to May) really is the best time to visit. The days are warm and the nights are cool, with temperatures ranging from 54-81°F (12-27°C). This is also a great time to go to Uluru, but it can get a lot colder out there – sometimes dropping as low as 46°F (8°C). Pack plenty of layers!
How to Stay Safe in Alice Springs
Alice Springs is an incredibly safe place to backpack and travel to. People are nice and helpful and you’re unlikely to get into trouble.
Most incidents in Alice Springs tend to occur because visitors are not used to the country’s unique climate and wilderness. Be sure you have plenty of sunscreen, and stay as hydrated as possible. This is especially true if you’re driving through the outback. There are long, long distances without any towns in sight, so if you break down, you’ll want to be prepared. If you’re hiking, make sure you know what to expect ahead of time. Be on the lookout for snakes and spiders, and if you’re bitten, seek immediate care. (Don’t worry though – all those horror stories about giant spiders and vicious animals are pretty rare!)
Always trust your gut instinct.
If you don’t do it at home, don’t do it when you’re in Alice Springs. Follow that rule and you’ll be fine.
The most important piece of advice I can offer is to purchase good travel insurance. Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. You can use the widget below to find the policy right for you:
Alice Springs Travel Guide: The Best Booking Resources
Below are my favorite companies to use when I travel to Alice Springs. They are included here because they consistently turn up the best deals, offer world-class customer service and great value, and overall, are better than their competitors. They are always my starting point when I need to book a flight, hotel, tour, train, or meeting people!
- Momondo – This is my favorite flight search engine because they search such a wide variety of sites and airlines. I never book a flight without checking here first.
- Skyscanner – Skyscanner is another great flight search engline which searches a lot of different airlines, including many of the budget carriers that larger sites miss. While I always start with Momondo, I use this site too as a way to compare prices.
- Airbnb – Airbnb is a great accommodation alternative for connecting with homeowners who rent out their homes or apartments. The big cities have tons of listings! (If you’re new to Airbnb, get $35 off your first stay!)
- Hostelworld – This is the best hostel accommodation site out there, with the largest inventory, best search interface, and widest availability.
- Intrepid Travel – If you want to do a group tour around Australia, go with Intrepid Travel. They offer good small group tours that use local operators and leave a small environmental footprint. If you go on a tour with anyone, go with them. And, as a reader of this site, you’ll get exclusive discounts when you click the link!
- STA Travel – A good company for those under 30 or for students, STA Travel offers discounted airfare as well as travel passes that help you save on attractions.
- Rome 2 Rio – This website allows you to see how to get from point A to point B the best and cheapest way possible. Just enter your departure and arrival destinations and it will give you all the bus, train, plane, or boat routes that can get you there as well as how much they cost. One of the best transportation website out there!
- World Nomads – I buy all my travel insurance from World Nomads. They have great customer service, competitive prices, and in-depth coverage. I’ve been using them since I started traveling in 2003. Don’t leave home without it!
Alice Springs Gear and Packing Guide
If you’re heading to Alice Springs, here are my suggestions for the best travel backpack and what to pack.
The Best Backpack for Alice Springs
Straps: Thick and cushy with compression technology that pulls the pack’s load up and inwards so it doesn’t feel as heavy.
Features: Removable top lid, large pocket at the front, hydration compatible, contoured hip belt
If you want something a different backpack, refer to my article on how to choose the best travel backpack with more tips, advice, and backpack suggestions!
What to Pack for Alice Springs
- 1 pair of jeans (heavy and not easily dried, but I like them; a good alternative is khaki pants)
- 1 pair of shorts
- 1 bathing suit
- 6 T-shirts
- 1 long-sleeved T-shirt
- 1 pair of flip-flops
- 1 pair of sneakers
- 8 pairs of socks (I always end up losing half)
- 5 pairs of boxer shorts (I’m not a briefs guy!)
- 1 toothbrush
- 1 tube of toothpaste
- 1 razor
- 1 package of dental floss
- 1 small bottle of shampoo
- 1 small bottle of shower gel
- 1 towel
Small Medical Kit (safety is important!!!)
- Hydrocortisone cream
- Antibacterial cream
- Hand sanitizer (germs = sick = bad holiday)
- A key or combination lock (safety first)
- Zip-lock bags (keeps things from leaking or exploding)
- Plastic bags (great for laundry)
- Universal charger/adaptor (this applies to everyone)
- LifeStraw (A water bottle with a purifier.)
Female Travel Packing List
I’m not a woman so I don’t know what a woman wears, but Kristin Addis, our solo female travel guru, wrote this list as an addition to the basics above:
- 1 swimsuit
- 1 sarong
- 1 pair of stretchy jeans (they wash and dry easily)
- 1 pair of leggings (if it’s cold, they can go under your jeans, otherwise with a dress or shirt)
- 2-3 long-sleeve tops
- 2-3 T-shirts
- 3-4 spaghetti tops
- 1 light cardigan
- 1 dry shampoo spray & talc powder (keeps long hair grease free in between washes)
- 1 hairbrush
- Makeup you use
- Hair bands & hair clips
- Feminine hygiene products (you can opt to buy there too, but I prefer not to count on it, and most people have their preferred products)
For more on packing, check out these posts:
Alice Springs Travel Guide: Suggested Reading
In A Sunburned Country, by Bill Bryson
It’s hard to pick just one book by Bill Bryson that’s good, because they all are. He’s one of the most prolific and recognized names in travel writing. This book chronicles a journey through Australia and takes you from east to west, through tiny little mining towns, forgotten coastal cities, and off-the-beaten-path forests. Bryson includes lots of trivia in his tale as he travels around in awe — and sometimes in fear (thanks to box jellyfish, riptides, crocs, spiders, and snakes) — of this enormous country. This is the book that inspired me to go to Australia.
The Thorn Birds, by Colleen McCullough
This is an Australian classic, originally published in the 70s, which follows the epic saga of a family living in sheep country in the Australian Outback. The story focuses on two main characters: Meggie Cleary with her forbidden love, and Ralph de Bricassart – a parish priest whose passion for Meggie haunts him. Even if this isn’t your type of book, it’s a really awesome insight into life in the Australian Outback (especially during the 70s).
A Long Way From Home, by Peter Carey
Irene Bob loves to drive fast, and her husband is the best car salesman in southeastern Australia. Together they decide to enter the 1954 Redex Trial – an endurance drive that circumnavigates the entire country. Willie Bachhuber, a failed schoolteacher, joins them. If they win their lives will be forever changed – but first they’re led out of the comfortable Australia they know so well and into an unexpected adventure full of twists and turns. Peter Carey is a two-time Booker Prize winner, and one of Australia’s most well known writers. Read this book!
Tracks: A Woman’s Solo Trek Across 1700 Miles of Australian Outback, by Robyn Davidson
This is Robyn Davidson’s memoir of her incredible journey 1,700 miles through the Australian desert to the sea, accompanied only by four camels and a dog. Davidson fends off sweltering heat, poisonous snakes, and dangerous men – all while wrangling her temperamental camels. It’s definitely one of those transformative stories that allows you to get super invested in the author as well as the severe Australian desert landscape. It has also been made into a great documentary!
The Songlines, by Bruce Chatwin
You can’t come to Australia without learning a little bit about the country’s Indigenous Australians. This is part travelogue and part autobiography, and one of Chatwin’s most famous books. Here, Chatwin searches the Australian Outback for the source of the Aboriginal “dreaming tracks,” the invisible pathways from which the Aboriginals’ ancestors sang the world into existence. The Songlines was an instant best-seller when it was published, and nowadays it’s a classic.
My Must Have Guides for Traveling to Alice Springs
This book shows you how to easily collect and redeem travel points so you can get free airfare and accommodation.
Kristin Addis writes our solo female travel column and her detailed guide gives specific advice and tips for women travelers.
This book features interviews with dozens of teachers and detailed information on how to land your dream job and make money overseas.
My best-selling book will teach how to master the art of travel so that you’ll save money and have a more local, richer travel experience.
Alice Springs Travel Guide: Related Articles
Want more info? Check out all the articles I’ve written on Australia travel and continue planning your trip: