If you are trying to save cost on the trip to Uluru, please factor in that if you are staying at the resort in Yulara, you will be able to receive free transportation to and from the airport, as well as free transportation around the resort itself.
The resort is laid out in a big circle, so you are welcome to walk across the bush to get between locations, but there is really no reason with a shuttle coming every 10 minutes or so. There is only one shuttle that circles the resort, so you do have to wait on the other passengers, but this is well worth it when the heat gets turned up there in Uluru!
As for the rides to and from the plane... don't worry, they are there for all 5 flights into the airport each day, and leave the resort 90 minutes before each flight's departure. Make sure you get it while you can!
To travel from Alice Springs to Uluru and back I chose Kings Canyon, Ayers Rock and the Olgas Tour with Adventure Tours which was great. In 2000 this two-day trip cost me AUD240.
Tour departs from Alice Springs 5.30am daily. Maximum number of people on the tour is 22. Transport fully airconditioned small bus.
Drive through the James & Waterhouse Ranges
The Hugh & Finke river systems
Climb and explore the spectacular Kings Canyon North and South walls, the Amphitheatre, Lost City and the Garden of Eden
Journey to Uluru for overnight camp
Sunrise and optional climb of Uluru
Base Tour and visit the Aboriginal Cultural Centre
Tour returns to Alice springs Approx 7.00pm
Most travel purists would probably tell me that I am taking the easy way out flying directly to this landmark, but what the heck.... I turned a 6 day boring excursion through the middle of the desert to a 6 hour round trip on a plane!
Yulara Airport is located just miles away from Uluru, and offers the flexibility of enjoying a view of Uluru from the air before you land. With this kind of luck, you do not need to spend money on a private helicopter or jet flight over Uluru!
Since you would most likely have to fly into Alice Springs and drive 5 hours, then I would say just pay a little extra and enjoy the flight into Yulara direct!
If you are backpacking through Australia, the best value and best way to see Uluru (Ayers Rock) is through Mulga's Adventures. They offer a 3-day tour that also visits the Olgas and King's Canyon, called the Ayers Rock Experience. It costs about $250 - $300 AU and is well worth it! The drivers are great, and you make plenty of friends, in addition to seeing some of the best sights in Australia. If Drasko is still a driver there, try to get on one of his trips.
The trips start at Annie's Place in Alice Springs, which is also a great hostel to stay at, with cheap food, a great staff, and air conditioned rooms.
The Greyhound/McCafferty buses come into Ayers Rock Resort and pick up folks who wish to travel to Alice Springs from Yulara. (I think there are 2 or 3 such buses a day) Mine picked me up outside the Pioneer Lodge. The journey takes about 5-6 hours with a change of buses mid-way through at this lonely stretch in the middle of nowhere (very surreal). I grabbed the 12.30pm bus and I reached Alice Springs at about 6pm. Along the way, I was treated to scenes of the vast emptiness of the Australian desert (red-orange as far as you can see) and possibly one of the most beautiful sunset I have ever had the fortune to enjoy as the day slowly died away, setting the sky and clouds on fire. I sat in stupor as I watched the ambers slowly fickled away and finally darkness came to claim victory. It was a very beautiful way to end the day after my 31st birthday.
The bus journey cost me A$74 (circa 2003).
There is a free shuttle bus inside the huge resortplex of Ayers Rock Resort, allowing you to move from section to section. There is a bus-stop practically outside each accommodation so all you need to do is to find a comfortable place to sit down and wait for the bus. The wait usually lasts a maximum of 15-20 minutes.
A straightfoward tip - hire a car! For about A$60 -70 per day (taking into account insurance, petrol etc) you can hire a standard new saloon car. It is so worth it!
We paid approx A$140 for the 48 hours we were at the Park. As we arrived lunchtime and departed lunchtime, we had two sunsets and two sunrises as well as any other visits we wanted to take.
A simple excursion out of the resort was a minimum of A$80 per person running to full day trips at around A$200 per person. Maths and your own freedom would make it obvious what the best thing is to do!
This shuttle service is the ideal way for those guests at the Ayers Rock Resort without their own transportation to get around the park and to Uluru and Kata Tjuta.
A variety of ticketing options are available to make the best use of their services during your stay within the Ayers Rock Resort.
We took a camping safari to Uluru, Kata Tjuta, and Kings Canyon with Wayoutback. Although the company's website claims to specialize in "off the beaten path" trips, our trip had exactly the same itinerary as every other tour operator (from backpackers to luxury buses), stopping at every place that everyone else did. Our trip had 9 clients stuffed into the back of a Toyota Land Cruiser. This was somewhat cramped, but in the end I was very glad to be in a small vehicle just because it would have driven me insane to try to hike with a group of 25 people. For that reason alone, I'm glad we paid up to go with this company. However, neither their accommodations (swags that were full of sand and sheets that didn't seem to have been washed in years) nor their food (rather stingy portions, dull/cheap selections, and exceedingly lame cooking by our guide) were in keeping with the somewhat upmarket price of the trip. There were a lot of complaints from our fellow campers about these things, and also the fact that three days is just not enough time to drive to all these places and spend enough time relaxing and enjoying them. Still, the hiking was great and I'm glad we did it.
If I had to do this trip again, I'd rent a campervan from Britz (as we did to see Litchfield and Kakadu) rather than bothering with the group tour. We could have easily done this trip ourselves. I'm annoyed that I didn't think of that beforehand.
We travelled to and from the Red Centre by plane and could use our RTW-tickets of ‘oneworld’. We were flying with Qantas or better QantasLink from Cairns to Alice Springs and from Uluru (Ayers Rock) to Perth.
Using airplanes is by far the most convenient way to travel to/from the Red Centre, due to its location thousands of km´s from other (tourist) destinations In Australia.
Both airports are connected with the major Australian cities and there are also flights between Alice Springs and Uluru (see for more info www.qantas.com.au).
Alice Springs has a small but modern terminal with all facilities. The airport is about 15 km’s from town and there is a shuttle bus running after arrival of the planes. We picked up our rental car at the desk of Thrifty.
Ayers Rock (Uluru)
The airport of Uluru is just 6 km’s from Ayers Rock Resort, with a free shuttle service to Ayers Rock Resort. There are also desks of the most important car rental companies to drop off your car.
Connellan Airport is rather small and quiet with only a couple of flights a day. There is no need to be in a hurry to check in.
In the departure hall is just one food booth and a small shop. It is better to buy your souvenirs from the Red Centre in the Resort or even better in the Cultural Centre.
Website Alice Springs Airport: www.darwinairport.com.au/ASIndex.htm
Website Ayers Rock Airport: www.qantas.com.au/info/flying/atTheAirport/airportGuide/ayq
Exploring the Red Centre with an ‘own’ car is the ideal way to get the most out of your days. We decided to do it one way, which meant from the Alice Springs (airport) to Uluru (airport).
We got the best quotation through the Visitor Information Centre in Alice Springs for a car from Thrifty. They could offer us ‘unlimited km’s’, where we got from Thrifty itself 100 km’s a day free !! Just quite a difference as we drove more than 860 km’s in three days.
There is no ‘one way fee’ if you rent your car for 3 days or longer. In Alice Springs we had to do a lot of paperwork and placed 6 signatures on the rental agreement. And it was rather strange that we could drop off our car in Uluru without any check at all. To fill up the petrol of the car tere is a station in the Ayers Rock Resort.
We rented a 4WD Kia Sorrento, although I’m not sure if it was absolutely necessary to drive the gravel roads in the desert and the Mereenie Loop Road. On the other hand it was quite comfortable having some extra power on bad parts and side roads.
All together we had to pay AUD 376,- for our three days and 860 km’s through the desert. Well worth the money for this adventure.
Central Australian Tourism Industry Association:
One less conventional way of travelling around is by motorcycle. The view you get is simply breathtaking. Having the benefit of 360 degree vision somehow makes an amazing difference. The cool breeze counteracts the heat just nicely too. I had entered the National Park some 500 times before first going in on a bike during the time that I lived there, and it was like the first time all over again.
There are a couple ways to do it.
1. You could buy a motorcycle in one of the big cities (Adelaide, Melbourne) and ride it up. This is obviously a bit time-consuming.
2. You can also hire a motorcycle (Harley-Davidson Heritage Softail) when you get there. There is motorcycle rental company at Ayers Rock Resort.
Renting a car when at the Rock is the only chance to enjoy the scenery to the fullest. It gives you the flexibility to visit with the bus hordes at dawn without them at sunset and avoid them altogether if you opt for an off-beat visit. Moreover, part of the park is the Olgas and this means that you do not have to stuff everything in one day in order to fit into a “tour”. If you decide to save same serious money by going to Curtin Springs for a sleep, the car comes more than handy since this cattle station is 100km away from the Rock itself.
My friend and I, budget travelers that we are, opted to just take the Uluru Express Shuttle into Uluru/Kata Tjuta National Park instead of going with a guided tour group. Compared to the huge air conditioned tour buses, their shuttles are meager Toyota Hi-Ace vans, but they were also air conditioned and were comfortable enough for the drives out to the monoliths.
Our shuttle drivers were very friendly and were extremely knowledgeable about Uluru, Kata Tjuta, and the local Aboriginal culture, so I think we probably learned even more than if we had taken one of the big tours, since we were able to ask our drivers a lot of questions, which I don't think we would have been able to do on the big tour groups.
They have several trip options, and we opted for the drive out to Kata Tjuta and Uluru for sunset viewing, and we also purchased the Uluru at sunrise trip. For the sunrise viewing of Uluru, they also provide hot coffee and cocoa, as well as a yummy assortment of Arnott's biscuits.
In addition to paying for the Uluru Express shuttle, you also have to purchase a Uluru/Kata Tjuta National Park park use ticket that is good for three days. The shuttle will stop by the entrance to the park so that you can purchase tickets on your first trip into the park, and you will need to hold on to the ticket for any subsequent visits during the three days that the ticket is valid. When we went in September 2006, the park entrance fee was $25 AUD.
The Ayres Rock Resort has a free shuttle bus from the airport to the resort. I flew in to the Ayres Rock airport with my camping gear and was dropped off in front of the campgound by the bus. Nice of them to do that!