I'm headed to Australia for the first time by myself. I want to start in Sydney and head North, seeing Ayres Rock along the way. Is Sydney the best place to go to meet people? A good starting point? Do you need to have everything planned or just a general idea? How do hostels work? Do you meet people and just go with it?
Uluru isn't "along the way" when heading north from Sydney (unless you mean to go on west and south upon reaching Cairns), but you can fly there from pretty much any major city. Just don't go there during the summer.
You can meet people pretty much anywhere. Sydney is a good place in one aspect, as almost everyone starts out there, but bad in another, as the big city vibe means everyone spends far less time in the hostel than in smaller villages where there's just not that much to do at night (which means nights are excellent for sitting in the lounge and catching up on your tripreport writing and trip planning, plus for getting to know the other backpackers).
Definitely don't have everything planned in advance; your plans won't survive beyond the first month or two anyway. Have a rough idea of what you want to see, and where that is in relation to each other (so you don't have to backtrack too much), but don't be afraid to follow your whims and head off in a completely different direction for a while, skip things altogether, or return to places you previously visited because you suddenly realize that hey, you really liked staying there. Every week or two, do detailed planning for the next section of your travels, just going through the relevant pages of your lonely planet.
Hostels work by everyone staying there being in the same boat, and knowing this: you don't want to be woken up by someone turning on the light at 2 AM, so you make certain not to do that yourself either. (Which means, you make your bed when you arrive, and make certain to carry a tiny flashlight to find your bed with if you know you'll be out late.) You remember to label your food with your check out date, curse the lack of space in the fridges, celebrate the free food section, and sit back in the lounge with a drink and your lonely planet, knowing you'll get as many worthwhile ideas for what to do from that lonely planet as from the fellow backpacker who'll sit down next to you in a couple of minutes.
Be prepared for all fellow travellers which you get to really know to move on to their next destination the very next day after getting to know them; be prepared for the "where are you from, where have you been, where are you going to" routine to get boring (but remaining essential); and be prepared for running into people again six month down the road, and having a great day swapping tales.
I think it depends what sort of person you are as to how much you plan. I had a set amount of time and money so I needed a good basic plan to make sure I could do what I wanted. It got deviated from a fair bit, but if I hadn't sorted out things like car rental before hand I wouldn't have been able to do it when I was there as a lot of things were already booked up.
I think Sydney's a great starting point, there are loads of other travellers there and its probably one of the best bases as you can get to most places from there. If you want to see Uluru my advice, for what it's worth, would be book the trip in advance if you can. It fills up pretty quick and the prices don't seem to go down as the dates get closer. However if you have an indefinate amount of time I don't suppose it matters if you can wait.
I think lone travellers on the whole seem to find it easier to meet people. A great hostel I can recommend in Sydney is the Wake Up! It's a bit on the high-end hostel side if you're on a tight budget, but it's big so more people to meet, is clean and really friendly. Dorms are great for meeting other travellers.
Also, if you're taking public transport the Greyhound is also good for meeting people. Again, I would pre-book this if you wanted to use it, I did and saved $$$. I think my one-month use-as-much-as-you-like ticket was about $200AUS pre-booked and each trip would have been around $150 anyway, so that sort of planning was a great saving.
I hope this helps in some way
Some invaluable advice from Sander and Pinkgirlie. It's good to have a rough idea of what you want to see but don't get too concerned on a time limit. If you find a place you really like and want to hang out there for a few days then do just that. I spent a month down the east coast from cairns to sydney and would have liked an extra couple of weeks to see a bit more but i was commited to spending xmas with family in sydney. a 45 day bus pass from cairns to sydney cost $300 and it would be the same in reverse. consider a VIP card which discounts the greyhound ticket and participating hostels also. internal flights are pretty cheap and can save lots of time. be aware of the long journey times involved in traveling oz. 11-12 hour bus rides are not uncommon! you'll meet loads of people and often follow a similar route and timescale so you'll often bump into them again. a pay as you go phone is advantageous and pretty cheap and makes arranging to meet up with people a lot easier. be aware of the seasons and avoid going to the northern territory in oz summer, it will be hotter than hell! have a great trip
Thats some good info I also took in. This is the same question I wanted to post. Im defo gona check in at the "Wake up". Do I need a reservation? Or can I turn up on the day?
Maybe we will cross paths Marcus, have a good one mate.
i would make a reservation as it is a very popular hostel. it was fully booked over xmas and new year. it will be a little quieter now but i would play it safe and make a booking. have a great trip