Dreaming of traversing the vast landscapes of Australia but don’t have or don’t want to buy a vehicle? No worries! Australia boasts an extensive and affordable public transport network. Whether it’s by bus, train, or other means, traveling without your own car can be an enriching experience, offering unique opportunities to meet fellow travellers and locals. This guide will show you how to navigate Australia’s transport options and enjoy your journey.
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Renting a car / a campervan
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 250AUD/day depending on the model, the season and the rental period.
- Count from $40/ day for an Economy Car, $60/ day for a 5-door car and $90/ day for a 4WD or a station wagon.
If you intend to rent a campervan to make your trip a bit more comfortable, we recommend you use an online comparaison tool to get the best deals possible :
Domestic flights in Australia
For longer distances, domestic flights connect major cities like Sydney, Melbourne, and Perth. 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 $150
Perth – Sydney: 170 to $380
Sydney – Melbourne: from $70.
More information: www.airlineandairportlinks.com
Traveling by bus in Australia
Australia’s long-distance buses, known as coaches, are a popular choice for those without a vehicle. They offer a comfortable and budget-friendly travel option, with amenities like air conditioning, toilets, Wi-Fi, and USB chargers.
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 vary, but booking in advance can secure lower fares. Look for package deals for additional savings.
Advantages of bus travel in Australia
- Extensive route network covering key destinations.
- Comfortable and safe travel experience.
- Great for meeting fellow backpackers and locals.
- Cost-effective compared to owning a vehicle.
Disadvantages of bus travel
- Limited flexibility with fixed schedules.
- Dependency on bus stations for pickups and drop-offs.
Traveling by train in Australia
Australia’s rail network connects major cities and regional areas, offering a unique travel experience. Trains typically have first and second-class options, with adjustable seats and sleeping cabins on longer routes. Train travel is generally more expensive than buses, but offers a different perspective of the Australian landscape. Some routes have special names, such as The Indian Pacific (Sydney – Perth), The Ghan (Adelaide – Darwin via Alice Springs), The Queenslander (Brisbane – Cairns).
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
Ridesharing & Hitchhiking
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. Hitchhicking 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.
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.
What is the most cost-effective way to travel Australia?
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 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.