Australia is a large, beautiful country with a wide variety of landscapes, cities, and attractions. With its size, it can be daunting to figure out how to get around to explore this massive continent. Fortunately, there are many options available, each with its own pros and cons.
Getting around Australia by plane can be a great way to cover large distances quickly if you are short on time. For longer distances, it can even be cheaper than driving once you factor in car rental and petrol costs. But you miss seeing some of the best parts of the country!
Compared to other countries though, flying within Australia can be costly. Many Aussies joke that it is cheaper to fly to Bali than to the other side of the country. So if you plan on flying, look for deals and book well in advance to get the lowest prices. Luckily, the budget airlines, Jetstar and Virgin Australia, often have competitive promotions where you can snag a great deal.
It's also worth checking out Rex (Regional Express). While they mainly service small, regional airports, the cost of their flights between major cities has become more competitive in recent years. If you are looking for comfort and price isn't an issue, then Qantas is your best choice.
Australia's diverse and unique natural beauty is what makes it so special, and the only way to really explore it is by driving. While driving is the best way to see the country, be prepared to cover long distances and make plenty of stops. Petrol is expensive in Australia, and the prices increase by at least 25% in the more remote parts of the country, so budget accordingly! But don't let that deter you; we promise it will be worth every dollar.
Car and campervan rentals can be pretty expensive, especially for longer trips. Many travelers instead buy a used car or campervan when they arrive and sell it when they leave, which is a great way to save some money. Plus, campervans usually come with small built-in kitchens and a bed, so your accommodation costs are also covered! Check out Australian backpacker Facebook groups and Gumtree for the most affordable listings.
If you really want to get into the heart of the Australian Outback, you will need a 4WD. Unless you plan on spending most of your time in these more remote areas, it can be worth hiring a 4WD car only when you need it as they use a lot of petrol and are more costly to buy. If you do plan on exploring outside the big cities, it is important to remember that some roads can be very long and remote, so it is important to plan your journey thoroughly and make sure you have enough fuel and supplies.
Australia invented the world's first seat belt law in 1970 and takes road rules very seriously! So make sure you are aware of the laws and stick to them! Most state borders won't allow you to bring fresh fruits and vegetables across to minimize the spread of harmful pests. As you reach the border, there will be large signs and bins asking you to dispose of fresh produce. Just like when you enter the country, you can be hit with a hefty fine if you're caught with them.
Remember: Aussies drive on the left side of the road!
Within cities, buses are a great inexpensive option to get around. While they are slower than train travel, their reach is often further, getting you to most places you need to go. Each state has its own public transport network, so costs can vary. Check the transport site for each state for routes, timetables, and fare information:
While a network of bus routes connects cities throughout Australia, long-distance bus travel is relatively pricey, infrequent, and not always super convenient. However, if you rely on public transport, bus travel gives you access to areas not otherwise accessible by train.
Greyhound has the largest network of buses in the country. We've heard rumours of the occasional $1 fare but have never encountered them ourselves. A ticket from Melbourne to Sydney is typically the same as a flight, but when you factor in travel to and from the airports, the bus does work out to be slightly cheaper.
Firefly Express is often much cheaper than Greyhound, almost half the cost for some routes. But their network is much smaller, with many of their destinations also accessible by regional trains.
Like buses, each state has its own train network. Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, and Perth have inner city trains that stretch to the outer suburbs and connect to the regional trains. These trains are a great way to get around quickly, and Google Maps is pretty reliable for planning your journey. Check the state transport sites above for more information on fares, routes, and timetables.
There are only two major lines for interstate train travel: The Indian Pacific, which runs from Sydney to Perth, and The Ghan, which travels between Adelaide and Darwin. While these routes pass through some spectacular parts of the country, making them an experience in themselves, they are also costly. Tickets are sold as "all-inclusive rail holidays", so if you just want your transport to get you from A to B, you are better off driving or flying!
Public ferries connect the surrounding areas in Sydney Harbour, Perth, and Brisbane. They are a convenient way to get around and can also be a cheap alternative to private boat tours!
Many small islands off Australia's coast are connected to the mainland by ferries or boat transfers. The cost varies based on the destination, but generally is a cheaper alternative to flying to those with airports.
The Spirit of Tasmania runs between Melbourne and Davenport every night. The journey takes the entire night, but you get a cabin to sleep in and can bring your car for an extra fee. While flying is cheaper, the convenience of bringing your car can make the cost worthwhile.
Australia is a vast and beautiful country with many options for getting around. Whether you choose to fly, drive, or take a bus, train, or boat, you will be sure to find a way that works for you. With so many options available, there’s no doubt that you’ll have a great time exploring this amazing continent.