The biggest challenge for travellers to Australia is to find out the best ways to travel around Australia. If you consider that the travel distance from Perth to Sydney is 4,500 km and from Cairns to Perth nearly 6 thousand km, you soon get a picture of how big Australia is and how challenging getting around the country can be. Long distances and low demand for flights and public transportation to remote areas make it expensive to travel around Australia.
So it’s only with a thought-out travel plan of Australia and proper planning that you can make the most of your time and save money on transportation. A last-minute goal is a no-go in Australia because of the high cost involved.
That’s why learning a few critical things about travelling on a budget in Australia is essential.
I have written many blog posts about this topic here on Rocky Travel. On this page, I give you an overview of all public transportation in Australia, along with my best tips on how and what to choose.
What are the cheap ways to travel around Australia?
Depending on how much time you have and which part of Australia you want to visit, flying is the faster way to get around in Oz. While fly-and-drive can be the best-suited solution for those on a tight schedule, it’s not always the cheapest.
If self-driving is not your thing, bus travel is the second-best option for saving money on your trip. Train travel is another great way of seeing the country, but while it’s convenient in populated areas, travelling to remote Outback regions can be expensive.
Below is a breakdown of all viable options for getting around Australia more simply and smartly when touring the country.
Flying within Australia
Flying within major Australian cities is the way to go. For flights from Sydney to Melbourne or Brisbane to Cairns or Perth to Melbourne or Sydney to Perth, and more popular destinations, there are many deals throughout the year. With less than 100 AUD, you can likely book a flight from Sydney to Melbourne, and if you grab a flight sale, you can often save up to 50% on the price.
The key is booking all your domestic flights early when airlines start their flight sales or offer weekly deals. Airlines usually come out with 4-5 flight sales in a year.
Tip: Check the Friday Frenzy deals on Jetstar or Happy Hour on Virgin Australia to save money.
These are the most popular airlines in Australia:
- Qantas covers most of Australia
- Jetstar (a low-cost Australian Airline) covers most of Eastern Australia
- Virgin Australia covers New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania
- Tiger Airways (a low-cost airline) covers most of Eastern Australia
- Skywest is the local airline for regional Western Australia
- Airnorth is the local airline for the Top End and North Western Australia
Regional flights in Australia are costly, and they are rarely on sale. That’s why it will sometimes cost you more to fly from Perth to Broome than a flight from Perth to Bali.
If you are looking for cheap flights in Australia, you can check this page for flight deals, where you can view flights from a range of Australian airlines, allowing you to compare all flight options at a glance.
Driving around Australia
Driving in Australia is probably the best way to travel around the country on the cheap and the most flexible way to see much of the country.
However, hiring a car is convenient if you travel in a small group or with a travel companion. You can hire a car to drive in Australia alone. I have done it many times, and it was not expensive. The key is to grab good car rental deals. I once hired a car for 250 dollars for ten days in Western Australia.
Usually, car hire deals are available from major Australian cities only, as long as you return the car to the exact location. All in all, renting a car in Australia is a good idea and not expensive, provided you book early. If you don’t have the additional one-way fee, you can hire a car for as cheap as 25 dollars a day!
Tip.1. For short-term travel, I recommend hiring a car and driving in Australia in a loop back to your starting point.
Tip. 2: I would suggest hiring a campervan for long-term travel. If you plan +4-5 weeks around Australia, camping is the best way of exploring the country. I wouldn’t hire a campervan for one week. Finally, it’s going to be expensive and not cost-effective.
So, for a short road trip, get a car, but if your road trip is much longer, a campervan would be much better.
Getting around Australia by bus
What if you don’t want to hire a car in Australia? If you are now wondering whether it is possible to explore Australia without a vehicle, you can be sure that you can almost go everywhere without a car.
Of course, you will not be able to get to the most remote regions, but there are good alternatives to travel around the country. Getting around by bus is relatively cheap in Australia. Among all public transportation in Australia, bus travel is the most affordable.
There is an extensive bus network with great connections along the entire East Coast of Australia, from Melbourne to Cairns. The most popular bus network is Greyhound Australia which offers an array of Bus Passes for most of the country.
Travelling around Oz by bus with Greyhound Australia
I would undoubtedly use Greyhound if you go on your own and don’t fancy hiring a car yourself. You can also purchase single bus tickets for specific destinations; these tend to be a bit more expensive. In Western Australia and Northern, Australian Greyhound is the cheap alternative for covering long distances where flights would be too pricey and hiring a car too challenging.
I used Greyhound buses on my backpacking adventure in 2004 and loved it. I still use their service now and then to cover destinations that are difficult to reach by car or too expensive to fly.
Ticket discounts are available to YHA members, VIP, and Nomads, and memberships cards from other approved organisations in Australia.
Regional bus services in Australia
Furthermore, there are also smaller regional bus service operators. Here are the major bus companies in Australia:
- V/ Line runs in Victoria to the main towns on the southeast coast to Bairnsdale, Merimbula.
- Tassie Link runs across Tasmania, covering most destinations.
- Premier Motor service destinations in South Australia and along the southeast coast to Sydney.
- Integrity Coach Lines runs from Perth up to Exmouth and Broome.
Travelling in Australia by train
Train travel in Australia is another great option if you are going on your own, but you need lots of time. Train networks in Australia work very well in metropolitan and city areas, along 4.000 km of East Cost with daily connections. All the rest of Australia is a no-go by train, with some exceptions of the long-distance railroads like the Ghan train and the Indian Pacific and in Queensland, a few railway services are serving Outback regions.
I have travelled on all trains for +15 thousand km and loved my time onboard Australian trains. They are, however, not inexpensive and cheap tickets are offered as seats. If you want to book, night-berth prices will not be lower than 1000 dollars per person, depending on the destination. I have written extensively about my train journeys in Australia.
Going on guided tours in Australia
If you plan long-term travel in Australia, combining a little bit of everything will be ideal. Flying, self-driving and public transportation in cities.
Sometimes joining a local tour is the best alternative to hiring a car.
If you wish to take a break after long driving distances or too many flights, the best idea is to go on a tour. In Australia, there is a considerable offer to cover all types of services, ranging from backpacking to budget and luxury guided tours.
My advice is to prefer small tour operators run by locals who offer next to experienced tour guides and a more personal approach by giving an insider’s perspective about the destination.
On this page, you have a list of my Australia Tours
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Getting around Australia – More travel resources
For more info and advice on how to get around Australia, check out these pages:
First published in Oct 2018, last updated in Jan 2023
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