Australia Transport

Get in

Air

For most visitors, the only practical way of getting into Australia is by air. Approximately half of all international travellers arrive first in Australia in Sydney, the largest city, and significant numbers of travellers also arrive in Australia in Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth. There are also direct international services into Adelaide, Cairns, Darwin, the Gold Coast and Christmas Island though these are largely restricted to flights from New Zealand, Oceania, or Southeast Asia. On account of long journey times from some destinations, some travellers from Europe opt to have a stop-over, commonly in Singapore, Hong Kong, Dubai, Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur.

Train

Train travel in Australia is faster and more comfortable than buses. The railway network is large. The Great Southern Railway, owned by Serco Asia Pacific, operates three trains: the Indian Pacific (Sydney-Adelaide-Perth), The Ghan (Adelaide-Alice Springs-Darwin), and The Overland (Melbourne-Adelaide).

Ferry

Holland America Line, Princess Cruises and Royal Caribbean, all offer cruises to Australia across the Pacific. November to February is the cruising season, and there are usually about 10 ships that arrive in Australia from other countries during this time.

Car

Roads routes in Australia assist drivers navigating roads throughout the country, by identifying important through-routes. National Routes were assigned to significant interstate routes – the most important road links in the country. National Route 1 was designated to a circular route around the Australian coastline. When the National Highway system was introduced, National Routes along it became National Highway routes with the same numbers, but with distinctive green and gold route markers.
Get around

Air

Flying is well-patronised in Australia. Services along the main business travel corridor (Melbourne-Sydney-Brisbane) are run almost like a bus service, with flights leaving every 15min during the day. There are four domestic airlines in Australia that operate jet aircraft linking capital cities and major destinations: Qantas, Virgin Australia, Jetstar, Tiger Airways Australia. Several airlines service regional destinations: Qantaslink, Regional Express, Skywest, Airnorth, Skytrans Airlines, Sharp Airlines, Northern Territory Air Services.

Train

Country train services are infrequent and can arrive at regional destinations at unsociable hours. If you are a train buff that intends travelling extensively by rail, there are some passes that may save you money.

East Coast Discovery Pass can get on and off as many times as you like on the east coast trains between Melbourne and Cairns using the Queensland Rail and NSW Countrylink services.

Rail Explorer Pass, Trans Aus, Aus Reef and Outback, and Ausrail Pass are four passes that all include Great Southern Railways (GSR) services and optionally NSW Countrylink and Queensland Rail that are available to overseas travellers only. Remember that NSW Countrylink operate the XPT services from Sydney to Melbourne, so passes that include NSW Countrylink can also be used on that service.

Bus

Bus travel in Australia is cheap and convenient. Greyhound has the largest bus route network. Others include Firefly Express and Murrays.

Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Wollongong and Newcastle have train and bus services integrated into the city public transport, with trams also running in Melbourne and Adelaide, and ferries in Sydney, Brisbane and Perth. The remaining capital cities have bus services only. See those city guides articles for public transport details.

Bike

Cycling the long distances between towns is not particularly common. However, some intrepid travellers do manage to cover the longer distances by bicycle, and have a different experience of Australia.

Boat

Many major Australian cities have ferries as part of their public transport system. However, large inter city transportation ferry services are not common.

The islands of the Barrier Reef have some scheduled services, and there are a few cruises that cross the top of Australia as well. The Spirit of Tasmania is the only long distance ferry route connects Tasmania to the mainland and runs between Melbourne and Devonport. Sealink connects Kangaroo Island. Sea SA offers a short cut across the Spencer Gulf between Adelaide and the Eyre Peninsula, running daily car ferry services.

Car

Australia has a generally well-maintained system of roads and highways, and cars are a commonly used method of transport. Most of the state capitals are linked to each other by good quality highways. There are no tolls on roads or bridges outside of the urban areas of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

There are three different categories of Australian roads: federal highways, state highways and local roads. Victoria is the state with the highest density of arterial roads in Australia. Important urban and inter-regional routes not covered by the National Highway or National Route systems are marked under the State Route system. They can be recognised by blue shield markers. Metroad route numbers were assigned to the key navigational corridors, along ring and radial routes, and marked by distinctive hexagonal shields. Most Metroads have been completely or partially replaced with alphanumeric routes in Brisbane, and they have been fully replaced in Sydney. Alphanumeric routes have been introduced in most states and territories in Australia, partially or completely replacing the previous systems.

While major highways are well serviced, anyone leaving sealed (paved) roads in inland Australia is advised to take advice from local authorities, check weather and road conditions, carry sufficient spare fuel, spare parts, spare tyres, matches, food and water. Some remote roads might see one car per month or less.

Australia drives on the left. Generally, overseas licenses are valid for driving in Australia for three months after arrival. If the licence is not in English an International Driving Permit (IDP) is required in addition to your licence.

Wildlife is not usually an issue in major urban areas, but still take extra care when driving through areas with vegetation close to the road and during dawn and dusk when wildlife is most active, such as kangaroos.