The basics
Australia: Essentials - Must read

Essentials: Public transport in Australia

Learn about the best way to travel around Australia, including what travel options are available for each city, such as buses and ferries.


After what feels like jumping endless administrative hurdles, you’ve finally landed in Australia. Facing what seems and endless expanse of roads, shores, cities and impossible highways, getting to know your new home can be daunting and overwhelming. Not to worry: like most metropolitan centres, cities in Australia have plenty of transport options the get you where you need to go.


Whether you need to travel from the suburbs to the centre, interstate or just to a friend’s place in the next area, you will almost always have access to a bus or metropolitan train (and even a ferry as you'll see). Read our breakdown of public transport options in Australian cities to help you plan your way...



By car

Whilst it’s highly unlikely you’ll have access to a car whilst studying abroad in Australia (unless you are located very rurally or are very lucky!), driving is the nation’s preferred mode of transport. With the second highest rate of car ownership in the world, Australia has three-four times more road per capita than Europe. If you’re looking to travel around Australia and have an international licence, renting a car and driving alone interstate highways is a great way to see the countryside and explore smaller towns you might otherwise have overlooked. Be warned, though: Australia is an incredibly big place and driving between states is likely to take much longer than many international students anticipate. For example, it can take between 11-13 hours to drive from Melbourne to Sydney! 



By train 

There are a number of cities rail systems in Australia including Sydney, New South Wales and Newcastle. Indeed, this is probably the most efficient means of getting from one point of the city to the next.


The cheapest way of travelling by the rail network is most likely to purchase a monthly or weekly travel card. Most major Australian cities will give you the option to buy one that will allow you to electronically top-up funds that are deducted depending on how far you travel. Each city has a different transport system (most complete with buses, trams, trains and in some cases, ferries), but in most cases you will be able to get a concession card or student discount.  Sometimes you will be able to use this card over multiple modes of transport where a city has more than one. You will also usually have the option to purchase single, daily or multi-trip tickets if you prefer, but if you use public transport often then a travelcard will most likely be cheaper.


For example, in Melbourne you will need to purchase a Myki card that you'll need to top-up with electronic funds in order to ride any of the city’s trains, trams or buses. As an international student, you are entitled to a concession for up to three years. To get this concession you'll need to take proof you’re enrolled in an Australian university and your ID to  a ticket office and purchase a separate travel card. Sydney has a similar system with their Opal travelcard, which also has concession options for tertiary students. Tasmania’s Green Card, Perth’s SmartRider and Adelaide’s metrocard each work in the same way.


Students in the Northern Territory will have to purchase single-journey, daily or weekly travel passes, but are entitled to a concession fare of  AU$1 (US$0.93) for every single-journey ticket purchased. Each single fare lasts for three hours, and allows students unlimited travel during that time. The Northern Territory only has bus and ferry services, and you can buy your tickets once on board.



By ferry

Depending on where you’re staying in Brisbane, you might need to catch a ferry to class. There are 19 CityCat and 9 CityFerries services in total, across a network of 24 terminals that stretch across the state, including a stop at the University of Queensland. You can also ride the free CityHopper ferry service, which runs down selected routes along the Brisbane river. Brisbane also uses an electronic top-up travel card system called the Go Card.



By bike

Whilst cycling is a popular way to get around in many European cities, depending on where you’re living, most major Australian cities are too big to make the bike ride to class a comfortable one. Having said that, many Australian cities are incredibly bike-friendly, and offer those living close to campus a cost-effective, green and healthier way to get themselves around their new home. For example, Perth is one of the country’s best places to cycle, with most main roads sporting bike lanes and bike paths running parallel to major inner-city roads. And with weather like Australia's, you might as well make the most of it!


A number of nation-wide initiatives such as the National Cycling Strategy and Bike to Work suggest the growing popularity of cycling in Australia, whilst a reported increase in bike sales across the nation only serves to enforce this. So, if your daily commute to class is of reasonable distance for a bike ride, why not save yourself some money and get pedalling?



Ready to navigate Australia’s bustling metropolises? Browse courses in Australia now and kick-start your plans to study abroad!



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About Author

Paul Ellett is the editor for Hotcourses Abroad. His role is to plan, produce and share editorial, videos, infographics, eBooks and any other content to inform prospective and current international students about their study abroad experience. When he's not thinking about student visas in Sweden and application deadlines, Paul is an avid fan of comedy podcasts and Nicolas Cage films.


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