With Darwin being one of Australia's major inbound tourism points, backpackers form a significant proportion of the tourism industry in the NT. Like Cairns, Darwin has embraced the backpacking fraternity with open arms, providing an comprehensive infrastructure catering for the special requirements of this type of tourist. As well as being a point of entry for backpackers, Darwin is a very popular departure point with several flights each week to Asia. Some backpackers are lucky enough to score a ride on a yacht departing for Indonesia or elsewhere.
A quick flick through the yellow pages reveals plenty of backpacker hostel accommodation in the Darwin area, everything from single rooms to dormitories. If you arrive on an aeroplane, you can get into town via a shuttle bus which will drop you off at whatever hostel you wish to stay at. The shuttle only costs a few bucks and a taxi or hire car will cost about fifteen dollars. If you phone from the airport, the hostel may even come and pick you up.
I've no idea how good the accommodation is as I've never stayed at any of the hostels. They look okay but looks can be deceiving, you'd be better off asking around other travellers to find the best place to stay. Some, if not all, of the hostels have swimming pools.
Mitchell Street is Darwin's party street and a favourite place for backpackers to stay, with hostels, pubs and restaurants lining the road. There are night markets which open in the late afternoon and close late at night which sell those touristy type things which may appeal to backpackers, you know the stuff, Didgeridoos, sarongs, etc. Mitchell Street is also home to the Transit Centre which consists of small shops selling food and souvenirs which caters very much for the backpacker population although locals do eat there also.Several hostels are located on Mitchell Street, included the Darwin YHA and the YWCA, with the YMCA being close by, on the corner of Mitchell and Daly Street.
Buying or Selling a Vehicle
Next door to the night markets is an area set aside for backpackers / travellers to sell their car. This area is only open to those people who are departing Darwin and selling their vehicle or those arriving in Darwin and wishing to buy a cheap vehicle. Often the vehicles are sold with camping gear included. Locals are not allowed to trade at this site. If you are thinking of buying a vehicle in Darwin take into account that vehicles are not cheap. If you are going to get a vehicle remember that it will have to be in good nick to get you the several thousand miles to other parts of Australia.
To get an idea of car prices in Darwin, have a look at the NT News Classifieds - Auto Seller, log on to Northern Territory, Northern Territory News
Vehicles registered in the Northern Territory need to undergo a Roadworthy Inspection once every year (same as an M.O.T.). At this time the vehicle is checked for defects which could render the vehicle unsafe ie, brakes, steering, oil leaks, cracked windscreen, rust, etc. If you can, buy a vehicle with a current Roadworthy Certificate, otherwise you could be up for an inspection and the associated problems. As well as having a current roadworthy, your pride and joy must also be registered with the Motor Vehicle Registry. Registration effectively transfers the name of the registered keeper from the previous owner to you. When you register the vehicle in your name you will be up for certain charges. For a start you'll have to pay tax on the purchase of the vehicle (I thinks it's about 2% of the purchase price), if the vehicle needs to be re-registered you'll pay for third party insurance as well as registration fees. Charges for registration and insurance depend on the engine size of the vehicle.
If you want to hitch around the NT good luck to you. As far as I'm concerned there are too many loonies out there to risk it. Remember, once you're outside Darwin there are very few places to stop and get help. Besides can you imagine being stuck in car with a group of Seventh Day Adventists on a trip from Darwin to Alice Springs, it's enough to make you want to cut your own throat.