Australia transport  deatails for buses, coaches, trains, airlines and ferries and details about hire cars and bus tours especially for backpackers.


Flights and Airlines 
  • International
  • Australian Internal

  • Buses 
  • Australian Interstate
  • New South Wales Regional
  • Victoria Regional
  • Queensland Regional
  • South Australia Regional
  • Northern Territory Regional
  • Trains and Railways 
  • Australian Interstate
  • New South Wales Regional
  • Victoria Regional
  • Queensland Regional

  • Ferries 
  • To Tasmania
  • Victoria Regional
  • Queensland Regional
  • South Australia Regional

    Metropolitan transport 
    Bus Tours 
    Hire Cars 
    Buying a Car 

    Australia has international airports in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Cairns, Perth and Darwin. Sydney has most international connections followed by Melbourne. 
    There are numerous European and Southeast asian airlines operating between Sydney, Melbourne and London all stopping over in southeast Asia. Air New Zealand does too. There are at least weekly flights from most other major European cities by their national carrier and Qantas, Australia's international airline. Some gulf states airlines also fly from Europe with stopovers in the Persian Gulf. American Airways and United fly from the United States. Some Japanese airlines and the few Pacific Ocean island airlines fly to Australia's east coast. There are few direct air routes between Africa or South America and Australia. 

    Australia is a big country with vast distances and few people. Consequently transport is relatively expensive, especially internal flights. Road trips can be very long. Consider trying to get a package deal on your international airfare so that you get some free domestic flights included. Qantas is the major domestic airline. It is a members of the One World alliance. Member airlines may be more likely to offer deals that include free or discounted domestic flights. Buying domestic air tickets upon arrival in Australia is usually more expensive and is expected to become more expensive following the economic collapse and closure of Australia's only other major domestic airline, Ansett. 


    Qantas is Australia's main domestic airline operating between major cities. It has a number of smaller affilaite airlines that operate from cities to regional towns. Virgin Blue also has a significant number of domestic flights. No domestic flights operate between 11pm and 6am. There are about 50 flights a day between Sydney and Melbourne, the busiest route. Flights on less popular routes, such as from state capitals to country towns, will usually be at least once daily. Airline contact details are: 

  • Qantas (phone 131313)
  • Virgin Blue (phone 136789)
  • For timetabling and pricing either phone them or refer to their website. 

    The cost of domestic airfares varies greatly depending on whether you buy a fully flexible ticket that allows you to change the day and time of travel or a cheaper restricted ticket.  The cheapest tickets are restrcited tickets bought from the airline's website, however the retsricted tickets tend to sell out closer to the day of the flight, particularly for flights at busy times of the day.  Restricted airline tickets can be about the price of buying a bus ticket.


    Buses costs about $10 per 100 kilometres, though long trips will be a little cheaper. Buses are generally half the price of trains, have a more extensive network and run more regularly. 

    Australian Interstate Buses 

    Major interstate bus operators are: 

  • McCaffertys operates in all states except Western Australia. Phone 131499.  Click here for destinations, routes and timetables on their website.
  • Greyhound Pioneer operates in all states.  Visit their homepage for destinations, routes and timetables or click here for their fare matrix
  • Discount travel passes for either bus company can be obtained from overseas before arriving in Australia. Their websites provide some details. 

    Bus operators with fewer routes are: 
    Premier Motor Service opertates Melbourne - Sydney - Brisbane. 
    Firefly (phone 133410) operates Adelaide - Melbourne - Brisbane 
    Check their websites for routes and timetables. 

    New South Wales Regional Buses 

    New South Wales has a bus network radiating from Sydney. 

    Victoria Regional Buses 

    The country bus network radiates from Melbourne to regional Victoria and southern New South Wales towns. There are only few cross country services. Buses are run by the state government rail authority VLine and the bus routes compliment the rail services. Check their website for routes and timetables. 

    Victrip is a website run by the state government which contains most country and city bus and train timetables. 

    Queensland Regional Buses 

    Buses routes run along the Queensland east coast and inland from the major coastal towns. Long distance coaches are run by the national operators McCafferty's and Greyhound Pioneer. See Australian Interstate Buses for details. 

    South Australia Regional Buses 

    Buses routes radiate from Adelaide to regional towns in South Australia. Buses are operated by the state run Premier Stateliner. Visit their website for routes and timetables. 

    Northern Territory Regional Buses 

    Buses operate along the Stuart Highway and to Ayres Rock (Uluru) by the major national bus operators McCafferty's and Greyhound Pioneer. See Australian Interstate Buses for route and timetable details. 


    Trains are slower than buses except across the Nullabor Plain where they are faster. Trains are quite often twice as expensive and run less often though more comfortable than buses. 
    Australian Interstate Trains 

  • Countrylink trains run Sydney-Melbourne and Sydney-Brisbane. They are run by the New South Wales state government.
  • The Indian Pacific (pictured at top of page) runs 3,000 kilometres Sydney-Perth through Port Augusta across the continent, including across the Nullabor Plain along the world's longest straight section of track.
  • The Overland runs Melbourne-Adelaide.
  • The Ghan runs Adelaide-Alice Springs through Port Augusta. 
  • New South Wales Country Trains 

    Train lines radiate from Sydney ro regional towns. They are operated by Countrylink, a state government authority. See their website for routes and timetables. 

    Victoria Country Trains 

    Train lines radiate from Melbourne to country Victorian towns. Trains are operated by VLine, a state government authority which also runs the state's long distance buses. See Vline's website for routes and timetables. 

    Queensland Country Trains 

    Queensland Rail runs train services along the coast to as far north as Cairns and inland from major coastal towns. The economy fare for a seat Brisbane to Cairns is $193 and takes 36 hours. This is recommended over the bus in terms of comfort. See Queensland Rail's website for routes, timetables and fares. 


    Ferry to Tasmania 

    TT-Line runs an overnight ferry between Melbourne and Devonport in Tasmania carrying passenger and vehicles. It runs twice a week each way. In summer TT-Line also runs a fast and more expensive catamaran on the route. It is the world's largest catamaran and the world's fastest passenger vessel and hold the cross Atlantic record. 

    Victorian Ferries 

    A ferry runs from Sorrento to Queenscliff across the narrow entrance to Port Phillip Bay, at the head of which Melbourne is built. The ferry carries passengers and vehicles. See Mornington Peninsula page for details. 

    Queensland Ferries 

    A vehicular ferry, which also takes passengers runs, around Cape York Peninsula to Cairns as the 4WD tracks on the peninsula become impassable after rain. 

    Passenger ferries also run to the various tropical islands. Some ferries to Fraser Island and the ferry to Magnetic Island also takes vehicles. Refer to the entry for each individual island for details. A list of islands covered by this guide is on the Queensland page. 

    South Australia Ferries 

    A vehicular ferry that also takes passengers runs from Kangaroo Island to the nearby coast. A fast passenger ferry also runs from Kangaroo Island to the Adelaide beachside suburb of Glenelg. See Kangaroo Island page for details. 

    Metropolitan Transport 

    Refer to individual town and city page entries on this website. Select a city or town from the Australia homepage or click one of the direct links below to a major city: 
    Sydney  Melbourne  Brisbane  Adelaide Canberra Cairns Gold Coast 

    Hire Cars 

    The large car hire companies have offices at major airports and many larger towns nationwide allowing pick up and drop off to be in different places, though they will likely charge a fee if you do so. Smaller car hire companies are often cheaper but have  a limited number of offices, rarely ahve an airport office and often you will have to return there car to the same place as the pickup. 

    Expect to pay $65 a day for a small car, up to $80 for medium size car, $100 for a baby four wheel drive and $150 for a full size four wheel drive. Some travellers hire Brits-Australia campavans to cut accommodation costs while touring the outback. The daily rate falls the longer you hire the same car for. All prices include insurance. Rental companies are reluctant to hire to young drivers, especially larger vehicles. There is an insurance surcharge of about $10 a day if a driver is under 25 years of age. You will be lucky to find someone who is prepared to rent you a car if you are 22 or younger. 

    Websites for the major car companies are: 

  •  Avis 
  •  Hertz 
  •  Thrifty 
  •  Budget 
  •  Delta Europcar 

    Territory Rent-a Car operates throughout the Northern Territory. 

    Always read the fine print before signing a car hire contract. Not only compare the daily car hire costs, but also look for comprehensive insurance, any excess in case of an accident, airport drop off and pickup fees, whether the young driver surcharge applies to each driver or only needs to be paid once. 

    Petrol prices are about $1 a litre in cities and $1.20 in country and up to $1.40 in remote outback locations, such as the entire Northern Territory. Petrol is 20% cheaper in Queensland where taxes are lower. This prices are high by American standards but low compared to Europe. Americans note there are about 4 lites to a gallon. 

    Organised Bus Tours 

    Major bus tour companies with nationwide tours are: 

  •   AAT Kings 
  •   Australian Pacific Tours (APT) 
  • These are also small tour operators that offer adventure camping tours and bus tours catering specifically to backpackers, where obviously you are more likely to meet other backpackers with similar interests to you. 

    Buying a Car 

    Some travellers get together and buy a cheap second hand car then resell it at the end of their holiday. This can cut costs if you have a group of three or four and will be travelling long distances on your holiday. Buying a car does however bring hassles, such as if it breaks down you will have to pay for towing and repairs which will also delay you. Take care when buying a car. Know the market, do not get overcharged, do not get pushed in buying anything, take time to think about it and get the car mechanically checked before signing anything. The state motoring bodies such as NRMA in New South Wales, RACV in Victoria and RACQ in Queensland will provide a mechanical check for a fee before you buy. This is highly recommended. 

    Copyright (c) 2005 Graham Warren
    Backpackers Guide to Australia (TM)
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