The first things to know about Australia is that it is massive. Merely glancing on it on a map will not give you the sheer scale of this gigantic country. You really need to do some extensive research to get as many tips for travelling around Australia as possible before undertaking your adventure down under! Your options for getting around Australia include buses, trains, planes, group tours, car shares and campervans. Each mode of transport has their own set of advantages and challenges, which is why you need to do your homework!
You really need to do some extensive research to get as many tips for travelling around Australia as possible before undertaking your adventure down under! #Australia Click To Tweet
Your choice of travel will depend on how long you are in Australia and what parts of it you intend to see. A group tour might be better for covering a section of Australia if you are short on time, or a bus pass might be better if you have a longer time to travel. I would advise against trying to cram in too many Aussie destinations, the distances between towns, cities and points of interest can be huge. In order to not spend all your time in transit try and stick to smaller areas to explore. The most popular Australia travel route is up/down the east coast. Many people travel Sydney to Cairns, or Sydney to Melbourne. There are lots of cool towns and stunning points of interest on the way of both of these routes. It can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of months to travel these routes depending on your time and budget constraints. Remember to also download the Skyscanner app to get the best flight deals to Australia. You have to actually get there first!
When deciding your travel routes make sure to spend some time reading blogs and articles, speaking to travel agents and fellow travellers to get an idea of what to put on your Australia itinerary. I have lived, worked and backpacked around Australia a few times, using varying modes of transport to get me around this vast country!
Australia Bus Travel
Greyhound ‘Hop On Hop Off’ passes can be the most convenient way to travel around Australia, You can travel by coach between cities, take short trips or travel the whole country. It’s all dependent on your travel time and budget. Greyhound is the largest bus provider and offers many routes across Australia. Many of Greyhound’s coaches offer reclining seats, air con, USB charge point, reading lights and also some sporadic wifi, perfect for those gramming’ their way around #Australia.
Popular hop on hop off routes includes Sydney to Cairns, Melbourne to Cairns and Sydney to Brisbane. The passes are valid for one-way travel only and vary in price, depending on your route. The passes can be bought online on the Greyhound website so make sure to book your ticket in advance online to get your transport sorted! A Sydney to Cairns pass will typically set you back around $445 and Sydney to Brisbane will cost around $149. The passes are valid for 90 days from the date the first sector is travelled! The upside of bus travel is that it’s fairly reliable and safe and will get you around the most popular destinations. The downside, of course, is that you can’t really choose who you travel with. I once had a French man fall asleep on my shoulder and drool all over me. Luckily, he was very handsome, so I soon got over it.
Flying in Australia can be beneficial if you are short of time and want to cover large distances in a short amount of time. Prices can be quite high due to a lack of carriers, so make sure to use Skyscanner to get the best deals. The main domestic airlines in Australia include Quantas, Jetstar, Virgin Australia and Tigerair. There are also a few small, regional airlines, particularly in Queensland. One of the most popular flight routes is between Sydney and Melbourne. This short, 1.5-hour flight is served by several carriers, so prices are a lot more competitive than other routes. The Sydney to Perth route is around 5 hours long, so flying between these two cities can save you a lot of travel time! Try and book as much in advance to save money as prices can get expensive, especially in the busy summer periods.
Australia group tours
Whilst experienced backpackers might be dismissive of organised group tours, they can be beneficial to new travellers and travellers that are limited on time, who want to see as much as possible. Most tours are designed to cover the highlights in an area, in a limited timeframe. Tour groups on average are around 15 people and provide a great opportunity to make some travel buddies on the road. You can also bag some great tour deals if you book through a renowned travel agent such as STA Travel or through a local, Australian travel agent, such as Peterpans Travel.
I previously went on a tour with Topdeck Travel, as it was the most cost-effective way to travel through the ‘red centre’ of Australia, as I had gotten a great deal on the tour with Peterpans Travel. Going on a group tour meant that my transport, accommodation, food and activities were all taken care of and there were no surprise costs. This was particularly useful as travelling around remote and hard to get to places such as Alice Springs, Coober Pedy and Uluru. these destinations are tricky to get to unless you have access to a car. As I was towards the end of my first trip to Australia I was reluctant to invest in a car and lacked the time to find a suitable carshare, so a short tour was a perfect option for me. I also ended up making lifelong friends on the tour, who I am still in touch with and spend time with today.
Travellers often assume that group tours are more expensive than travelling independently. This is because they haven’t broken down the cost of travelling solo, especially in difficult to travel areas such as the Australian outback. Often you can get a much better deal with a group tour as by the time you have paid for car hire, petrol, camping equipment, food and excursions, the bills are already mounting up. You also won’t have the benefit of an experienced guide and a group of fellow travel lovers to share the adventure with. Do your research as many travel companies such as G Adventures, offer reasonably priced tours and also have several social enterprise elements to their tours.
Australia by Campervan
What better way to see the outback than to cruise the roads in your very own campervan? You have the freedom to drive where you want, rock up to campsites and not have the hassle of setting up a tent. Dependent on your budget and timeframe you can either hire a campervan from companies such as ‘Mighty Campers‘, or if you are planning on spending a long time in Australia, you can buy one privately from Gumtree. This is an especially cost-effective option if you are on a working holiday visa as both your transport and your accommodation are covered. It also gives you the flexibility to travel around the country in comfort with all your belongings. When I worked in Australia my friend Maria and I spend many a happy weekend in her campervan ‘Stan the Van’ driving to remote beaches and spending the weekend camping and surfing. I would really recommend this mode of transportation for long-term travellers in Australia.
Australia by Train
Trains are the fast, scenic and comfortable way to travel around Australia. You can buy tickets for single and return tickets at train stations or online, or buy flexible rail passes. If you are visiting a specific area, such as Queensland, you can buy a rail pass such as the Queensland Explorer Pass, for unlimited travel for one or two months across the Queensland Rail Network. This means you can explore from Cairns in the north, right the way to Brisbane in the south. It can be a bit overwhelming trying to decide what train journeys are the most convenient and affordable in Australia, I recommend doing your research on specialist train travel websites such as Rome2rio and The Man in Seat 61.
There are a huge variety of trains in Australia including long distance, commuter and trams but they are mostly concentrated on the East Coast. It’s important to note that whilst they are one of the most scenic methods of transportation they aren’t necessarily the cheapest. An economy seat ticket from Sydney to Melbourne will set you back approximately $130 and Melbourne to Adelaide approximately $99.
You can take trains between cities as a functional mode of transportation or you can treat yourself to an epic train journey such as the famous ‘Indian Pacific’. This train ride takes you right across Australia from Sydney or Adelaide to Perth. Travel in style and comfort with your own room, a lounge for relaxing in and a restaurant. There’s no better way to appreciate the beauty and vastness of Australia than to travel across it by rail. The romanticism of rail doesn’t come cheaply unfortunately with one-way fares for the Gold Service single sleeper costing $2419 person! This is some travel bucket list goals here, so start saving your pennies now!
Why not book a tour in Sydney?
Australia by car
To drive in Australia you’ll need to have a valid driving licence that issued in English from your home country. If your licence isn’t in English, then you’ll need to have an International Driving Permit with you. Make sure you sort this out before you arrive in Australia as it will need to be issued by your home country. Australia is a fantastic country to drive in, the roads are wide, the views are fantastic and drivers are generally courteous. If you are attempting to drive in the outback and remote areas there are a few considerations to be mindful of. Make sure you have detailed maps and/or a sat nav as well as detailed journey instructions.
Also be sure to pack plenty of water and supplies as well as plenty of fuel for your journey. Do check that the roads you will be driving on are open, [some Australian road are impassable at certain times of the year], weather conditions and if there are any hazards on the way. Believe me, you don’t want to get stuck in the middle of the outback with no water, food and not a single soul in a 500km radius.
There are a few driving options in Australia, what you end up choosing is normally determined by budget and time constraints. Here are some of your driving in Australia options.
Most hostels will have a notice board full of buy/sell notices and carshare notices. Normally a group of backpackers group together for a car share to split the journey costs. The upside is you won’t have to attempt long journeys alone but the obvious downside is that you have no idea who you might end up in a car with for several days/weeks. I recommend earphones and your own personal playlist, as there will always be someone who insists on playing ‘underground German ska’ by a band that “you probably haven’t heard of”. If there are no car share notices then check out websites such as ‘CoSeats’ or ‘Share Ur Ride’ for online lift shares.
Australia Car Rental
Most cities and town will have car rental companies that you can hire a car from. Remember that rental companies require a valid driving licence in English and many require drivers to be over 21 and to own a credit card in their name. Car hire isn’t the cheapest option in Australia but if you are looking for a car for a few days, it might be the most convenient option. You can also check out deals online with the big players in car rental including Budget, Europcar and Hertz. When renting a car, it’s important to read the contract thoroughly. Also, find out what the insurance coverage includes and what the excess is. Remember this is Australia, it is not beyond the realms of possibility to hit a kangaroo, get stuck on a dirt track road in the outback, break the window wipers driving through a swarm of gigantic bugs, or accidentally drive into a crocodile creek. You’re not in Kansas no more kids.
Buying a car in Australia
Having the freedom to cruise at your own pace on scenic routes and the coolest road trips, such as the Great Ocean Road is incredibly beneficial. When you purchase your own car or campervan, you are in charge of your driving destiny. The downside is that there is a fair amount of paperwork and preparation involved when buying privately. There are things like registration, stamp duties, maintenance and transfer fees to consider. You will also be responsible for selling it on before you leave Australia.
When you privately purchase a vehicle in Australia you are responsible for transferring the registration into your own name. The confusing part is that each Australian state has its own set of requirements, regulations and organisations for this. So it’s really important to pay attention to the details rather than assuming that ‘it’ll probably be fine’ and ordering another Jägerbomb at the beach bar.
In certain states, both the buyer and seller need to complete and sign ‘Transfer of Registration’ paperwork, some states also require a ‘roadworthy certificate’ provided by the seller. You will also have to make sure you are properly insured and have a valid driving licence. Do your research online, speak to other travellers who have owned cars in Australia and read travel blogs on the subject to get a good understanding of what is involved. Make sure you not only have the minimum car insurance required, [in some states it’s included in the vehicle registration cost] but also personal travel insurance as well. You want to be sure that you are covered adequately for all eventualities. World Nomads offer comprehensive Travel Insurance for travellers. When travelling you have to be prepared for all sorts of travel fails on the road.
If you aren’t completely overwhelmed at the thought of the paperwork and admin involved, the upside of having your own vehicle is that you can get off the beaten track a lot more. Australia is full of secluded beaches, quirky and remote towns and bizarre outback landscapes formations, many of which can’t be reached by public transport. There’s nothing like driving out to the middle of the outback and basking in the beautiful emptiness.
Australia by Motorcycle
Australia lends itself perfectly for motorcycle travel. The roads are wide and scenic and the weather is favourable. The obvious setback is that there is no real way of carrying your luggage, so a good option is to pay to store it at a hostel for a few days whilst you go off on a biking adventure. Much like driving a car, you will need to have the correct licence, as well as insurance, before taking to the road.
Much like buying a used car privately you should check that you have all the correct paperwork and insurance. The bike should have the original sales receipts and fully stamped service book. Make sure you check both the service records and ensure that the bike does not have any finance left on it as well. A HPI check should confirm this. If you don’t have a motorcycle licence but want to experience the thrill of riding a bike down under, then check out Scooteroo bike tours. Take a tour through the tiny town of 1770, on a mini ‘Harley’ style chopper. No bike licence is required for these ridiculously fun tours, you just need a provisional car licence.
Why not book a tour in Melbourne?
Australia Car Relocations
Car and campervan relocations are a great idea for backpackers who are looking to do a one-way trip. You can drive the car for free to help the rental company to relocate their vehicles. If you use a company such as Transfercar, you can register your details, search what cars and campervans they available and then submit a request for your chosen vehicle. If your request is accepted, you can organise the collection and drop off details with the rental company. It’s a great option for the budget conscious traveller!
Australia is one huge adventure, there are beautiful beaches, surfing spots, coral reefs, remote townships and an expansive outback. Make sure you give yourself enough time and budget to explore it properly and get around it at your pace. If you are looking for accommodation in Australia, why not check out your hostel options on Hostelworld or reasonably priced hotel options on booking.com? What do you think of my tips for travelling around Australia? How would you travel around Australia? Let me know in the comments below!
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