How to Get Around Australia
It’s not Australia’s size that makes it such a difficult country to travel around.
After all, nations like China and the United States are larger and manage to be infinitely easier to plan a trip around or across.
What makes Australia a difficult country to cover is that the distances between popular tourist destinations are greater and that the distractions in between them few and far between.
When I drove across the United States over five weeks last February, it was easy to find a decent sized town in which to stop for lunch or a bit of distraction.
In Australia, with the exception of a few heavily populated routes, such luxuries don’t exist.
When planning your trip around Australia, you’ve got a few options at your disposal.
You would think that a country of Australia’s size would be a natural fit for air travel. A plane can cover the long stretches of bucolic farmland or sun-scorched desert in a fraction of the time it would take a car or a train.
But the country’s low population means that regional air travel is inhibitively expensive. Qantas pretty much has a monopoly on the market, so budget travelers will often find that it simply isn’t affordable for them to fly from Cairns to Sydney or from Melbourne to Canberra.
While major hubs such as Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane boast a number of affordable routes, for those wishing to get off the beaten track – flights are either expensive or non-existent.
Most major Australian cities are serviced by their own rail networks. While locals grumble about late trains and the crowds, they’re an efficient and affordable way to navigate these cities.
Heading out of the city, many states are serviced by an aging but workable rail network. NSW, in particular, has rail services that can get you to places such as Armidale, Dubbo, Newcastle, Coffs Harbour, and even Broken Hill.
When it comes to comfort, it’s hard to beat a train. Trains generally offer more legroom than planes or buses, and they’ve also got the benefit of 3G or 4G service, dining cars, and the ability to get up and stretch your legs.
Long distance services offer private en-suite rooms, three-course meals, and luxurious lounge areas, making it a really special experience. As long as you can amuse yourself it’s possible to have great fun on these trains. Space is obviously restricted so everyone congregates in the bar, and things can get pretty messy!
The three main long-distance lines run from Perth to Sydney (The Indian Pacific), from Darwin to Adelaide (The Ghan) and from Adelaide to Melbourne (The Overland). Lines also connect Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Cairns in the east.
Beware of the time and cost involved. The longest route (Perth to Sydney) takes three whole days and can cost up to $4199 for the fanciest two person rooms. Not so fun!
Rail passes, such as those offered by NSW Trainlink, make long term train travel an affordable way to not only move between major population centres – but also to visit some less appreciated spots.
Despite not being as expedient as a plane or as comfortable as a train, buses aren’t actually a great deal cheaper.
What they lack in leg room and affordability, however, they make up for in the selection of destinations. Where airlines fear to tread and railway lines have long since been abandoned, the humble bus has become the major source of transportation.
Whether you’re heading off the beaten track to see something on your Australian bucket list or you’re relocating for that all-important farm work, bus companies such as Greyhound are a good way to move about.
Like the train, there are also a variety of hop on – hop off tickets available for those plotting a longer trip.
- Buying a car
When my friend and I crossed the United States last year as part of my Great US Road Trip, we didn’t avail ourselves of domestic flghts or long haul trains.
Instead, we rented a bright red Mustang and enjoyed the freedom that this allowed it.
While car rentals in Australia can be a pricey prospect, it’s surprisingly affordable to source and purchase a second hand vehicle using sites such as Gumtree.
Owning the car gives you the freedom o travel whenever and wherever you want. While this can mean some long stints behind the wheel in less than inspiring country, it also means you can stop whenever you spot something that interests you.
The prospect of doing a circumnavigation of Australia in a car is a dream of mine, and Caz & Craig over at yTravel did just that over the course of a year. Envy inducing!
Whatever method of transportation you choose, Australia is a country with a hugely diverse collection of landscapes and experiences.
Whether you’re checking items off the Complete Australian Bucket List, trying a dream Australian road trip, or just getting from A to B – the above options ought to get you there.
Have you ever bought a vehicle when traveling?