For those who can not or do not want to buy their own vehicle: do not panic! Australia has a large network of public transport, which is also relatively cheap. Travelling by bus or train can be fun, but it will take you a bit more time. Constantly meeting other travellers and locals is a great way to discover the country too. Long bus and train travel offer a great opportunity to meet interesting people and maybe even find fellow travellers for your trip. In this article, we show you how to travel through Australia without your own car.
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Traveling by bus in Australia
If you don’t have your own car or any other vehicle, there are many offers to travel by bus through Australia. Long-distance buses are called “coaches”. They are well-organised, clean and comfortable. These trips are quite long (for example Sydney – Melbourne: 12 hours), but also more inexpensive than other modes of transport (from $100). Coaches usually have air conditioning, toilet, adjustable seats, play movies and have a Wi-Fi connection and USB charger available.
The two largest companies are Greyhound and Firefly. Both companies offer “Hop on Hop off” tickets. If you buy this ticket for example for the Sydney – Cairns route you can make as many stops as you want on the way – even for several days or weeks.
How much it costs to travel by bus?
Here are some fares applied by Greyhound on popular routes:
Sydney – Cairns: from $599
Melbourne – Cairns: from $672
Adelaide – Alice Springs: from $205
Darwin – Adelaide: from $467
Brisbane – Cairns: $475
Melbourne – Brisbane: $199
Sydney – Brisbane: $126
Prices are lower if you book well in advance as you can enjoy the Early bird fare. You can also choose to buy packages or passes to enjoy lower fares. Check what is available before booking your ticket!
Advantages of bus driving in Australia
There are many good reasons to get on the bus:
- Route network: The major, nationwide bus companies drive pretty much to all important destinations in Australia.
- Convenience: The Australian buses are very comfortable, have air conditioning and toilets.
- Safety: Low traffic and straight roads reduce accidents, compared to Europe or Asia.
- Meeting people: Since many backpackers are travelling by bus, you will quickly get to know someone.
- Cheap: You do not have to invest a lot of money in a vehicle, any repairs, maintenance or fuel etc.
Disadvantages of bus driving in Australia
Bus driving in Australia also has a few disadvantages:
- Less flexibility: you have to stick to departure times and sometimes there are no seats available. Especially in the high season, it often happens that the buses are already full.
- Less independence: The bus only takes you to stations. You can’t just get out if you feel like it.
Traveling by train in Australia
You can also choose to travel Australia by train if you don’t have a car or a van. Various long-distance trains connect the most important places and cities in Australia. The trains have a 1st and a 2nd class. There are adjustable seats in 2nd class and even sometimes sleeping cabins on long hauls. Train rides are usually more expensive than bus rides. Some routes have special names, such as The Indian Pacific (Sydney – Perth), The Ghan (Adelaide – Darwin via Alice Springs), The Queenslander (Brisbane – Cairns).
- Indian Pacific: Sydney – Adelaide – Perth
- The Ghan: Adelaide – Alice Springs – Darwin
- Overlander: Melbourne – Adelaide
- XPT: Sydney – Melbourne
- XPT: Sydney – Brisbane
- Xplorer: Sydney – Canberra
- Queensland: Brisbane – Townsville – Cairns
- Rockhampton – Longreach
- Cairns Forsayth
- Kalgoorlie – Perth
- The Great Ocean Road, Melbourne
There are 5 different companies in Australia: CountryLink, Great Southern Railway, Queensland Rail, Transwa and V / Line.
How much does a train ticket cost?
Here are some fares to give you an idea of the cost of a trip by train.
Sydney – Perth: from $2345
Melbourne – Adelaide: $125
Adelaide – Alice Springs: from $1485
Alice Springs – Darwin: from $1235
Adelaide – Darwin: from $2475
More Information: Great Trains Australia
Domestic flights in Australia
Major cities like Sydney, Perth, Melbourne, Adelaide, Darwin and Cairns are very well-supported in terms of flights. Given the great distances that separates the major cities – it is the most suitable way to get from one point to another.
Flights are generally quite affordable, but yet often remain outside the budget for a backpacker. The major airlines are Jetstar, Qantas, Virgin. It is recommended to book a flight during week rather than the weekend to take advantage of cheaper rates.
Sydney – Alice Springs: 250 to $500
Sydney – Cairns: from $129
Perth – Sydney: 170 to $380
Sydney – Melbourne: from $65
More information: www.airlineandairportlinks.com
Widespread in Australia, carpooling is a very economical way to travel while sharing your experience with other travellers. This is a very good way to travel through Australia if you don’t have your own vehicle.
To search for a “lift” you can go to sites such as: www.coseats.com or check the Facebook pages of the city you are staying.
More Info: Ridesharing Australia
Hitchhiking works pretty well in Australia as people are generally friendly and you will get rides pretty easily.
Generally, it is not illegal to hitchhike in Australia. However regulations vary from state to state so make sure you always check where you are! For example, it is illegal in Queensland and Victoria. Hitch-hicking is legal in Tasmania, however Tasmania Police has advised against it. Generally in Australia it is illegal to hitchhike on motorways.
It is also not recommended if you travel alone.
Renting a car
Many travellers decide to rent a vehicle during their stay in Australia whether it is to get around a city or to travel further afield. Car rental is often the cheapest and easiest way to get around a big city, where public transport may not reach the outskirts or lesser known tourist spots. Many backpackers who travel for several weeks choose to rent a van, because it allows them to sleep in their vehicle thus saving on accommodation, while others want a shorter term rental or a smaller, more economical vehicle for as little as a day trip.
Prices differ depending on the agency, the city you’re renting the car in, the type of vehicle etc. They start at around 40AUD/day and can go up to more than 244AUD/day depending on the model, the season and the rental period.
- $30/ day for an Economy Car
- $40/ day for a Medium Car
- $45/ day for a SUV vehicle
- $60/ day for a 5-door car
- $80/ day for a Sedan car
- $85/ day for a 4WD or a station wagon
- over $100/ day for a premium car
FAQs on travelling without a car
Is it safe to travel without a car in Australia?
In short, yes. Thousands flock to travel Australia every year, so no matter what mode of transport you choose, you will most likely come across others also travelling or even doing the same route as you. As it is such a vast country though, you may want to consider the speed of different modes of travel or cost. Coaches tend to be the favoured budget mode of transport overall, though. Internal flights may look expensive, but when adding up the time and hidden costs you may find these more appealing.
What is the most cost effective way to travel Australia?
We say it all the time, but book everything well in advance! Depending on the distance or travel time, a flight may be cheaper for one leg of your journey while a coach or train may be best for another part. It is so important to do your research. Cost will vary depending on season, as well as the popularity of of the route/destination.
What are some scenic routes to travel in Australia without a car?
All over Australia you will find scenic routes, hikes, lookout points and stunning landscapes. Even in the big cities like Sydney, there are multiple well-known coastal walks. You may even find yourself near a national park, such as the Blue Mountains which offer several days worth of exploring by foot. Research car-free activities before arriving somewhere; most popular activities or areas give advice on how to get there without a car so it is usually easy to work out. No matter how you travel, you will still get glimpses of these whether is is from the air, a coach or train window, or over the side of a ferry.
What if I decide I do want to get a car?
When you are in cities, car sharing websites are really easy to use and relatively cheap if you want to go a short distance or use one for a day at a time as it suits you. They are more hassle free than rental companies, and you can often find one parked very nearby too, avoiding having to travel back towards the airport or out of the city centre to pick up. A similar concept has been used for bike sharing platforms, so this is another option depending on the type or length of excursion you are planning.