Van life in Australia- Everything you need to know

van life couple

Van life in Australia- everything you need to know

Have your ever dreamt about road tripping around a country in a van? If so, you’ll want to read this! Here I spill all the details on life in a van in Australia.

Firstly, I want to give myself a pat on the back for living in a van for a whole year. I was one of those who always dreamt of van life life but a weekend was long enough! I’m not high maintenance by any means but my initial worries of not having a toilet and shower totally put me off. So, if you have those same worries I’ll hopefully put your mind at ease ☺️

van on mount Tamborine, Queensland

How do you live in a van?

Van life = simple life, quite literally. Researching areas that have good amenities help. Living in a van is a really free way to live, you can move at your own pace and travel with ease.

Tip- Download apps like Campermate and All Trails

Having a good set up is key

For instance, having storage space under the bed, a small space for accessibility, a table that turns into a bed, perhaps? All these things are vital to ensure life is comfortable and not claustrophobic in the van. My advice would be to get a van with everything already set up so you don’t need to spend more money. However, if I did have more money I’d love to have kitted our van out. Our van was very basic and so was our budget at the time.

What budget do I need?

Before we came to Australia we knew we wanted to live in a van so we had extra savings ready for when we arrived. You can buy vans at a decent price and pretty easily as backpackers are always selling them after their own adventures. The problem with that is some people will run their vans into the ground as they don’t intend to keep it and often expect the same price they paid for it.

TIP- Before you go to purchase any van ALWAYS have it checked in a trusted garage. A pre-purchase check costs around $80 and all the key things, such as oil, brakes, tyres etc get checked before you buy. I highly recommend this as it will give you some peace of mind.

Day to day life for us was extremely cheap. We cooked our meals in the van. The only downside to that was repetitive meals, I was sick of pasta and avocado on toast towards the end of our time in Australia. The main costs to take into consideration are fuel and food. Also note that camp ground costs vary, especially in the popular, busy towns like Noosa and Byron.

sun rays on van

What to expect

Unfortunately, on my travels I’ve encountered some narrow-minded and judgemental people who have passed comment and even gone as far as to vandalise our van at one stage. Therefor, I’d like to be real with you and ensure you are prepared for what could be in store.

  • Not everyone will understand your choice to live in a van which is totally ok as everyone is different.
  • Some people think the worst of you and pre-judge because of their own past experiences with people who live in a van.
  • Some van campers have been dis-respectful in the past and have sadly given us a bad reputation.
  • Can often get unpleasant looks if you’re parked up.
  • People can get annoyed if your camping in public areas so try to avoid this and always be respectful of your environment.
  • Parking is illegal in many places throughout Australia. Van life isn’t easy and can be costly.
  • If you’re travelling with a partner or friend then be prepared to spend a lot of time together in a confined space. Being patient and respectful of each others personal space is key.

couple kissing in their van

It’s not all negative

I don’t want to write this to scare you in any way or seem too negative, as I’ve said van life is amazing but I want to give you a heads up for what is in store and what could possibly happen. I hope you don’t meet anyone who’s not very nice. Sadly, I experienced a lot of negativity on my Aussie road trip. However, I did meet some lovely people too. One guy even let us park on his driveway for a night after a few beers, he was a legend.

I know people who have travelled Western Australia and South Australia who have had pleasant experiences. I honestly think it depends on where you’re travelling. The East Coast is very popular and I can understand that the locals would be tired of over tourism on occasion. My opinion is based on my own personal experiences there.

Be mindful

When travelling in a van always be mindful. As mentioned above some van campers have given us a bad name so we should do our upmost to leave a good impression wherever we go. Just be a decent human.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:
  • Be respectful
  • Don’t litter
  • Use a reusable water bottle/re-fillable tank
  • Use a toilet. I know, shocker! Believe it or not I’ve heard stories of people pooping on people’s front lawns- not cool!
  • Don’t camp/get all your gear out in a public car park/street. (This is something known to annoy people)
  • Park at designated sites

van in sun

Van life essentials

Here is a list of things you will need to fully sustain yourself in a van:

  • Gas cooker
  • Cooking appliances
  • Plates, cups, cutlery etc- avoid single use plastic/plastic if you can
  • Water tank
  • Bed
  • Camping chairs
  • Battery or solar panels
  • Blanket for summer and winter
  • Storage space
  • Curtains/blinds
  • Fairy lights
  • Coat hooks or hangers
  • Table or tray
  • Washing up bowl
  • Awning- not essential but good to have
  • Oil- if you’re driving long distances check your oil regularly
  • Solar shower- not essential but great if your travelling in remote places with no public toilets
  • Porta Potty (I didn’t realise how affordable these could be)

van on road in glasshouse mountains

My experience

It’s taken me almost 2 years to complete this guide as I wanted to ensure it had everything to help you on your own van life journey. Truth is, I’m not a van life expert and can only speak from my own experiences so I hope this helps in some way.

I lived in a van with my partner for one year and although it came with many challenges, I don’t regret a single thing. I had the most amazing time travelling the East Coast of Australia. Living in a van taught me to let go a little, it absolutely taught me to go with the flow because living on the road is so unpredictable. I can’t quite put into words how happy van life made me. As I  finally conclude this blog post I have tears in my eyes remembering our wonderful van life journey. Without our van we’d never have gone on all of our amazing adventures.

My best advice to anyone thinking of living in a van is to just go for it, you won’t regret it!

van life couple

Read more

If you’re looking to start your van life adventure check out the following:

Ultimate East Coast Australia Roadtrip

8 things to do on the Sunshine Coast, Australia

A guide to Noosa Fairy Pools

Check out my Instagram for more inspiration on Australia and New Zealand road trips.


 Happy Road Tripping x

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