Trains in Australia
The bulk of Australia’s rail network lies in the east of the country in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. These three states are well connected, have country rail services and a number of passes exist to take travellers up the east coast. Despite this fact, perhaps the two most famous of the country’s rail journey’s for the most part are outside this region.
The Ghan is the train journey from Adelaide to Darwin through Australia’s ‘red centre’ and the Indian Pacific stretches from coast to coast from Perth to Sydney. Both trips are deservedly considered among the world’s great rail journeys. There is a good range of accommodation on both trains, the cheapest being airline style seats which can be had from $363 on the Ghan and $313 on the Indian Pacific. For more comfort you can upgrade to a sleeper cabin with shared facilities for around 3 times the cost of a seat, and for those who are looking for sheer luxury there are ‘Gold’ and ‘Platinum’ class carriages which provide travellers with a genuine hotel quality experience on the train. Certain rail passes allow seated travel on both of these journeys.
The main Australian Rail Passes are:
Austrail Pass, which allows up to 22 days travel anywhere on the entire Australian rail network at around £490.
Rail Explorer Pass, which allows 6 months of unlimited travel with stopovers on the Ghan, the Indian Pacific and The Overland (from Adelaide to Melbourne.) Although this pass doesn’t include the popular east coast it is excellent value from around £325.
East Coast Discovery Pass, which allows 6 months of unlimited travel in a single direction from Melbourne to Cairns (or vice versa), or a reduced section of the journey (i.e. Sydney to Brisbane.) Melbourne to Cairns starts at around £252.
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There are 3 main airlines covering Australian domestic flights, Qantas (the national carrier), Virgin Blue and Jetstar (Qantas’ budget airline). Tiger Airways, which is a seriously budget contender has a growing number of routes around the country as well as flights to a growing number of international destinations from Perth via Singapore.
In terms of domestic flights, prices have become very competitive so it pays to shop around. For those flying to Australia on a round the world trip (or via a number of destinations) consider purchasing your Australian domestic flights as part of the same ticket with Qantas. This can be a very cost effective way to travel domestically. Qantas also have a straightforward tool that allows you to plan multiple domestic journeys throughout the country without purchasing an international ticket. Virgin Blue offer an Australia and New Zealand airpass, flights prices are similar (if slightly cheaper) than individual one way flights, but with free online changes this is a handy way to plan a multi sector Australia journey. At the moment Jetstar does not offer the ability to book multi-city tickets online but they do have some great, cheap one-ways.
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Connections Australia has arguably one of the most comprehensive tour networks of any company operating in Australia. They operate along the east coast from Sydney as far north as Cooktown, they operate around the ‘red centre’ and Northern Territory and also all the way from Perth to Darwin along Australia’s rugged west coast. Connections are also one of the few companies to offer a trip from Perth to Adelaide across the vast Nullarbor Plain. Connections trips tend to be very good value as they often include many ‘must do’ activities such as sailing in the Whitsunday’s and trips out onto Frasier Island, that travellers would otherwise be paying for separately.
Another great option for an Australian tour is Adventure Tours Australia. These guys started out in the centre, so they know the outback like nobody else. They operate a broad range of adventurous tours through the centre with plenty of destinations in both South Australia and the Northern Territory included in the itineraries. You will have the opportunity to experience the life of an Aussie bushman, sleeping under the stars in a swag on many of their tours. They also operate trips on both the east and west coast of Australia. All Adventure Tours guides are also qualified park rangers, so they have a vast amount of knowledge to share about the remarkable and remote areas they visit. Even a very independent traveller should consider travelling with a tour in remote areas of Australia.
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Buses in Australia
The largest bus network in Australia is operated by Greyhound, with routes all over the east and west coast of Australia, South Australia and the centre. Greyhound have a great range of passes that will suit any itinerary or budget. From Kilometre passes, which allow you to use your pre-purchased kilometres (between 500 and 20,000km) anywhere on the network over a 12 month period to passes that cover specific popular routes.
Some of the most popular passes sold by Greyhound Australia are the mini-traveller passes. With a mini-traveller passengers can travel between two popular destinations over a period of 45 days, for example Melbourne to Cairns. This is of course a particularly popular way to see the east coast. You can stop as often as you like with this pass and the only restrictions are that travel must be in the same direction and completed within 45 days. If this isn’t long enough, you can also go for a ‘traveller’ pass which gives you 6 months to complete the journey.
Those who want to see a greater area of Australia or have longer to complete their trip can opt for a kilometre pass or an explorer pass. The largest explorer pass being the ‘All Australian;’ which allows you 365 days to travel anywhere on the entire network.
Find out more about pass options at: www.greyhound.com.au.
Jump on – Jump off Buses
Oz Experience is the incredibly popular jo-jo bus service in Australia, offering flexible travel on a variety of routes for up to 6 months. Every year when passengers are asked what they like best about the service the answers are the same; the best things about traveling with Oz Experience are the excellent guides and meeting other travellers. While you travel completely independently and can go where you like and do what you like, your onboard guide knows their stuff and can give you great recommendations on places to stay and things to do while you are there. They are a great resource for you to use as much or as little as you want.
The Oz Experience service works on a pass system, so the first thing you need to do is work out where you want to go. The most popular passes cover the east coast of Australia, like the ‘Bruce’ pass which starts in Sydney or Melbourne and heads up to Cairns, or vice versa. For those with less time there are also passes that cover on parts of the route, for example the ‘Strewth’ pass which travels from Byron Bay or Brisbane up to Cairns. For those who want to see more of Australia there is also the awesome ‘Fishhook’ pass which travels from Sydney or Melbourne through South Australia and the red centre to Darwin.
The Oz Experience is a fantastic way to experience Australia, prices are also comparable to traveling by ordinary bus, so when you consider the extra services you get it is great value for money. The only limitation is the lack of coverage in Western Australia. For travellers planning to spend time in WA it’s worth looking at travel passes from Greyhound Australia. You can look at these passes in addition to Oz Experience or as an alternative.
Learn more about your options at www.ozexperience.com
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Driving in Australia
Australia sometimes feels like a country that was designed for the road trip! Roads are often long, empty and pass through breathtaking scenery. Drivers from overseas can travel on their home driving licence, but may be required to have it translated into English.
There are plenty of car hire options, and it is normally not a problem to collect and drop your hire car at different locations. Young travellers who wish to hire a vehicle should consider Travellers Autobarn who will rent to drivers of 18 upwards and also rent campervans which are an immensely popular way to see the country. Another common site on Australian roads are wicked campers.
Many backpackers opt to buy a car and sell it at the end of their travels, which can definitely be a cost effective option. You should probably only consider this if you have at least rudimentary mechanical knowledge otherwise you are quite likely to be landed with a lemon. Cars for sale are advertised on hostel notice boards throughout Australia. You will also see many adverts from people with a car looking for others to chip in with driving and fuel.
If you are heading out into rural Australia, ensure that you have plenty of water and food. Think also whether you have the ability to deal with mechanical problems with your vehicle, as being stranded on roads where you may not see another car for days has the potential to go tragically wrong. Remember that many of the first European visitors to Australia died in this inhospitable physical environment and ask yourself honestly if you are better venturing into very remote parts of the country with experts (see tours.) Obviously this warning does not apply to all parts of the country.
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Boats in Australia
Boats of all shapes and sizes are a common site around the Australian coastline. For many, the highlight of a visit to Australia is sailing around the tropical islands of the Whitsundays in Queensland.
Cruise ships stop at a number of Australian ports as well sailing from Australia to New Zealand and many Pacific islands.
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Crossing Boarders in Australia
For the vast majority travelling to or from Australia will be by plane.
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