A couple of days ago, I found a post on Facebook by an American user who was planning their upcoming trip to Australia. The question was, how to get around from one place to another, not just within the cities but across the whole country.
Don’t underestimate the distances
Many people that hail from Europe and other places don’t realise how big Australia really is. To give you an idea: If you placed Perth somewhere close to Lisbon then Brisbane would be somewhere close to Moscow. Now, in Europe that means that there are many, many people between these two places. And people means infrastructure, road networks, a variety of options.
But in Australia, it’s just the Red Centre in the middle and nothing else. Just the vast emptiness of the desert, a forbidding landscape that you cannot just simply pass through.
Most people in Australia live in the cities along the coast, such as Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide, with a clear concentration along the stretch from Melbourne to Brisbane. They don’t live in the arid centre of the continent.
With the population of Australia mostly concentrated along the East Coast, you may be excused to think that it should be relatively easy to get from, say, Melbourne to Sydney, or from Sydney to Brisbane. But the truth is that there is still quite a lot of distance to cover. You can easily spend 15 hours in the car to get from one city to the other.
If you like me come from Europe you will probably see that it’s really quite difficult to wrap your head around these distances.
Why you should not just stay in one place
Now, as a tourist visiting from another country you have probably already spent quite a significant amount of money just to buy plane tickets to Australia. Once here, you would want to make it count and visit not just one place but several in one go.
Since Australia is also a big country you will want to experience the different climate zones from the tropics to the Antarctic winds, the different landscapes from rainforests to deserts, and see the difference between the mountains and the coast.
The question is, how to travel from Sydney to Perth, or from Brisbane to Cairns in a cheap and efficient manner.
Well, there are three ways.
Plane travel for covering long distances
First of all, you can of course book plane tickets to get from one city to the other. In many cases this is a good idea. For example, if you don’t have a lot of time but want to cover great distances, then flying is the best option.
And here’s a tip: Generally speaking, the busier the airports, the cheaper the tickets and the more frequent the connections.
A flight from Melbourne to Sydney is easy to book, cheap and very flexible. We have several low-cost carriers in Australia that will offer you a minimum of space, luggage allowance, and service but will get the job done of getting you across the country in no time at all. Check for example the websites of Jetstar, Virgian Australia and Tigerair.
The problem is that you don’t really get to see the country other than airport lounges and the view from above from your window seat. You miss out on all the beautiful things between your point of departure and your point of arrival, which can be a shame.
The rail option if you want to stay close to big cities
A second option is the railway. Yes, we do have rail in Australia and it can be a good option for certain connections and distances.
For example, if you want to see some of the smaller places within a state, or want to travel to weekend destinations nearby bigger cities then the train is a valuable option. You need to check first though if a railway line does exist in the first place, because Australia’s network is not as comprehensive as in European countries or in places like India. The distances are enormous, and it costs a lot of money to build a train network and to maintain it too.
Having said that, train travel is a wonderful way to experience a country. Personally, I find a lot of pleasure in watching the world go by from the comfort of a train seat. Train travel feels less hectic than a flight on a plane, and it offers the best scenic views, too.
A great way to see the country is to book a ticket on the Ghan or the Indian Pacific which connect Adelaide with Darwin and Sydney with Perth respectively. These trains are built for long-term travel over several days, very luxurious and exclusive, with a restaurant on wheels, private cabins and and all-inclusive train excursions enroute. A wonderful way to see the Australian outback from the comfort of a train carriage.
Overland busses connect country towns and help save money
If train travel isn’t possible for your selected route, you can still opt for the road. Australia has an extensive overland bus network. You need to bring with you a fair amount of time and a comfortable cushion but the reward is that you get to see Australia from a very different perspective.
You will pass through tiny country towns and drive along national parks and forgotten places. You will meet people on the road that are in a similar situation like you, international visitors who want to see not just the big city facade of Australia but also the many different details that in its sum make up the Australian picture.
How to find the best option for your itinerary
It can be quite confusing to find the right mode of transport, route, and travel times when you want to move around Australia. There are a couple of websites that you can use which will help you get started. GoTicket Australia is one of those websites that will provide you with connections for your selected itinerary, giving you a good idea about possible routes, fares and the length of travel.
To book your tickets you will then have to go to the operators’ websites. To make it dead easy, the most frequently searched and used connections can be accessed using the links on the start page.
No matter how you choose to travel around the country, Australia is far more than just Sydney or Melbourne. It does pay off to spend some time travelling around, from big city experiences to countryside nostalgia, there is so much to see in this wonderful country.