The biggest challenge for travellers to Australia is to find out the best ways to travel within the country. 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. The long travel distances coupled with the low demand for flights and public transportation to remote areas makes it expensive to travel in 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 plan is a no-go in Australia, because of the high cost involved.
That’s why it’s important to learn a few key things on how to travel on a budget in Australia.
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 though. If you cannot consider driving by yourself, bus travel 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 by train to remote Outback regions can be quite expensive.
Here below 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 to book a flight from Sydney to Melbourne, and if you grab a flight sale, you can often save up to 50% on the price. Key is to book all your domestic flights early, when airlines start their flight sales or when they offer their 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 the local airline for regional Western Australia
- Airnorth 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 at times it will cost you more to fly from Perth to Broome that 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 is probably the best way to travel around Australia on the cheap and also the most flexible way to see much of the country. However hiring a car is convenient if you are travelling in a small group, or with a travel companion. If you go alone you can certainly hire a car and drive around by yourself, I have done it many times, and it was not expensive at all. 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, and as long as you return the car to the same location. All in all, I find that 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. For long-term travel, I would suggest hiring a campervan. 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, basically, 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 car, you can be sure, that you can get 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 cheapest.
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 in 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 purchase single bus-tickets for specific destinations too; 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 have 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 as well as from 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 main towns in south-east coast to Bairnsdale, Merimbula.
- Tassie Link runs across Tasmania covering most destinations.
- Premier Motor service destinations in South Australia and along the south-east 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 areas and city areas, as well as 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 spend onboard of 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, then 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. It’s crucial you choose the way of transportation according to your time frame, travel distances and places of interest on the way to your destinations.
If you wish to take a break, after long driving distances or too many flights, the best idea is going on a tour. In Australia, there is such a huge offer to cover all types of services, ranging from backpacking tours to budget tours to high-end tours.
My advice is to prefer small tour operators run by locals who offer next to experienced tour guides also a more personal approach by giving an insiders’ perspective about the destination.
On this page, you have a list of my Australia tour reviews.
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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 2021
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