"Ever heard 'Life is a journey, not a
destination'? Probably as many times as 'It's not about winning.
It's about how you play the game.' In spacious Australia, if
you want to win the game of great travel experiences, you'd better be concerned
about the journey, as in how exactly are you going to get from Point A
to Point B. The way you decide to journey from one place to
another is going to determine what kind of Australia you see and whether
or not you should be called a loser. "
Doug Knell, Doug's Republic
90%+ of all visitors to Australia are going
to be traveling PPT. That's not a bus line or an airline. That stands for pre-packaged tour.
The backpackers will be booking cheapo
tours, the well heeled will be booking private jets. How are you
going to get around?
If Doug's Republic hasn't be obvious about it yet, we're advocates of
independent travel. If we were pro-PPT, this entire web site
would've automatically redirected to a travel agency's site.
There's nothing wrong with PPT's as long as that's not your entire
experience in Oz. We recommended mixing and matching all transport
options to create a unique trip. That's what Doug did, and that's
why you're really here, isn't it?
Getting around Oz requires all of the above or a very obedient kangaroo
We discourage you from making this your main weapon for seeing the country .
. . unless you're filthy rich and flying around the country on your own
plane. Flying usually signifies that one is trying to see a lot of
the country on a rush tour. What most people's trip amounts to is
a flight to a state capital, a few PPT's in the near vicinity, and then
a return to the airport to fly to another capital. Don't
bother doing this. Rather, concentrate on few regions and explore
those well. Flying does have its place. If you
want to sincerely explore a certain region of Australia, you can't get
there any quicker than flying.
Flying within Australia is now a lot more competitive than it was.
Virgin Blue came on the scene, Australians needed stacks of freshly
pressed laundered bills to buy a flight ticket. Even today, you
are are not spoilt for choice and if you don't get your pick of the
cheap fares on offer for a given leg, you'll be left with little money
for little Jorge's Christmas gift after
your next Darwin-Adelaide journey. With Virgin Blue
competition, flight passes like the
Qantas Boomerang Pass don't make a lot of sense anymore unless you're planning
to add New Zealand and South West Pacific destinations in Western Samoa,
Solomon Islands, Fiji, etc. Qantas limits the deals to people
flying into the country by Qantas or British Airways. The cost of
the tickets depends on the distance traveled, but it's possible to get
better priced tickets on Virgin Blue.
Below are some Virgin
Blue deals booked one month in advance. The
cheapest fare for a direct leg is listed.
LEG (one way)
Duration (in hours)
Cost in AUD
Melbourne - Adelaide
Sydney - Melbourne
Melbourne - Hobart
Sydney - Perth
Melbourne - Perth
Perth - Darwin
Brisbane - Sydney
Cairns - Brisbane
Darwin - Brisbane
Sydney - Canberra
Qantas and Virgin Blue get into price wars three or four times per
year. Let them beat the hell out of each other while you try to
score a sweet flight deal.
How romantic is it to ride around Australia by
train, eh? I'll give you more points for
taking a train than a plane if time isn't pressing.
But train travel in Oz has devastating consequences
on one's finances. As in the United States,
Australians don't travel vast distances by train.
One goes by train for the experience, not to leave
more money in the pension fund.
Australia does not have one rail line, called Ozi
Rail or some other name. There is no
Australian Amtrak. Instead, there are a few
Australian rail operators governing the major
This company handles the Brisbane - Melbourne
routes. A detailed route map can be seen
here. Covered on these routes is New South Wales
and Canberra. CountryLink offers two
passes travelers would be keen on it.
The first, the Backtracker, Pass, lets the bearer
travel with no limit on the CountryLink train and
bus networks. Those wishing to visit
touristy New South Wales to see places like the Gold
Coast and Byron Bay, the Outback town of Broken
Hill, and Sydney will benefit from this one.
The cost varies by length of validity. A
14 day Backtracker costs AUD 232; 1-month, AUD 275;
3-months, AUD 298; 6-months, AUD 420. The
Backtracker is only available to non-Australians and
a return ticket is required to buy one. The
authorities don't want foreign permanent residents
scoring the deal.
Another CountryLink pass, the East Coast Discovery
Pass, is obtainable by foreigners and Aussies alike,
though Aussies pay more for it. The
Discovery pass isn't as flexible. It allows
one to travel up or down Australia's east coast in
one direction with a six month validity and allows
the bearer 50% off a CountryLink ticket back to your
point of origin. Ticket prices vary by legs.
Sydney to Melbourne, direct or via Canberra, is AUD
130; Sydney - Surfers Paradise, AUD 130; Sydney-
Brisbane, AUD 130. Sydney - Cairns, AUD
369.45; Melbourne - Brisbane, AUD 220; Melbourne -
Surfers Paradise, AUD 220; Melbourne - Cairns, AUD
450.45; Brisbane - Cairns, AUD 280.50.
You can buy your passes
online and make online bookings after you become
train and coach services in the state of Western
Australia. Three main routes ply through
Western Australia. The Prospector travels
between Perth and the minefields of Kalgoorlie in
the eastern part of the state near its border with
the Northern Territory -- cost AUD 81.55 adult, AUD
40.75 child. The Australind handles Perth to
Bunbury (southwestern Western Australia) -- cost AUD
28.25/14.10. The last, the Avonlink, connects
Perth to the Avon Valley and terminates in Northam,
with onward connections to Merredin -- cost AUD
17.80/8.90 to Northram, AUD 40.95/20.45 to Merredin.
Unfortunately, there is no West Coast rail pass
equivalent to CountryLink's rail passes.
Inexplicably, there is no train network which hits
the key areas along Australia's western coast.
Southern Railroad offers the routes that get you
from one end of the country to the other. The
Great Southern gets you from the East Coast to the
West Coast, the Top End (Darwin) to the Bottom End
(Adelaide), and between all the cities in the south.
They offer four main routes. Considering how
much fuel costs nowadays, compared to driving these
places yourself the rates are decent. Where
they screw you is on the additional cost of a
sleeper cabin. If saving every penny is
a consideration, flying is much cheaper.
Backpacker and student rates are about 10% higher
than the child-pensioner rates quoted. The
prices below are valid until April 1, 2010.
After that date, the prices will change. Hint:
they won't be lowered.
1) The Overland
This 828 km journey goes during the day and travels
three times weekly. A service is
provided whereby you can transport your car along
with you. Fares start from AUD 90/45 for
2) The Indian-Pacific
This is a long hauler. The trip takes 3 nights
to travel 4,352 kilometers. The
Sydney-Adelaide leg costs AUD 308/130 for
adult/child without a sleeper. Add in
the sleeper cabin and money starts flowing to the
railways: AUD 501/365. Some 4-star
hotels don't cost the price of a sleeper.
The longer Perth-Adelaide leg costs, without
sleeper, AUD 458/211. With a sleeper, AUD
1036/628. The whole journey, without
sleeper: AUD 716/286; with sleeper, AUD
3) The Ghan
Doug experienced part of the Ghan, the original Ghan.
Before 2004, the Gan only traveled between Adelaide
and Alice Springs. In 2004, the train line was
extended all the way to Darwin. After Doug
totaled his second vehicle near Alice Springs, he
caught the Ghan from Alice Springs back to Adelaide
along with all the belongings that had been in his
car. The railway officials in Alice Springs
(Northern Territory) didn't charge Doug a penny for
the extra gear. When he got to Adelaide,
the officials there were complaining that he
should've had to pay a AUD surcharge. But it
was too late. Doug was already in Adelaide
with all his gear. The costs for
this one --> Adelaide-Alice Springs and
Darwin-Alice Springs: AUD 358/166 without
sleeper and AUD 656/400 with. The whole hog
from Adelaide to Darwin is just twice the
Adelaide-Alice Springs and Darwin-Alice Springs
prices. Alice Springs lies almost exactly in
the center of Australia and the center of the Ghan
The Southern Spirit
The Southern Spirit is not for everyone, the
advertisement on their specialized web site says.
Nope. It's for those who have inherited vast
wealth or become self made millionaires.
Their journeys are rare, and the only offer two
trips. The Grand Tour, from Uluru to
Brisbane via Melbourne and Australia's east coast,
lasts 14 days/13 nights. Meals and wines
and all pampering is included. It should be
for the AUD 8,590-13,990 per person you'll be
paying. No option to go without a sleeper on
this one, mates. All cabins are twins.
The Coastal Epic is the Grand Tour in reverse and
costs the same.
If you love taking trains, then this is the best
deal going. It's the AustRail Pass.
Only non-Australians can get their hands on it.
This pass gives the holder 6-months unlimited use in
economy class on trains from the CountryLink system, Great Southern Railway, and
others. The cost is AUD 800 if
purchased before arrival in Oz, AUD 890 if purchased
in Oz. The pass can be purchased from
selected sales outlets throughout Oz, various
overseas travel agents, or by calling the toll free
number 13 22 32 in Australia.
For more comprehensive information on all of
Australia's rail lines, visit
here. Buses Why not take
out even more money from your wallet and consider a
A bus pass and a bottle of booze will make you feel like a rambler
The AustRail Pass doesn't go everywhere.
The bus passes from
Greyhound practically do.
And for that, you'll pay for them. Most
common are the Greyhound Explorer passes. You
can buy regional passes valid for a year or get an
All Australian pass that covers the entire 23,0457
km network and will cost your over AUD 2,700.
More economical passes are valid for shorter lengths
of time, like 45 days. A Cairns to
Brisbane pass, for example, costs AUD 305; a Cairns
to Sydney pass, AUD 367. Another common
option are their Day Passes. You can buy these
in 3, 5, 7, 10, 20, and 30 Day flavors, but there is
a cap how many kilometers you can travel in total,
which averages out to about 300-333 km/day.
The longer the pass, the better the value.
The 3 Day (1,000 km limit) runs AUD 139.
The 30 day (10,000 km limit) costs AUD 930.
Fixed Day passes are a variation on this. Sold
in 10, 15, and 21 Day blocks, you get bigger
kilometer limits. The 10 Day Pass gives
you 15,000 km (AUD 372) and the 21 Day Pass gives
you 31,500 km (AUD 679).
Flexi Day Passes do not have to be used over X
consecutive days. You can buy a
10, 15, or 21 Day Flexi Pass and have 60 days to use
Pickups on the bus:
Doug has a firsthand account of an Israel man who
had a near pornographic encounter with a Norwegian
lass on a Greyhound bus leaving Alice Springs.
There is no corroborative evidence that the story
actually occurred, but Doug will give the man the
benefit of the doubt. Sleazy, "bath-house
style" pickups can occur on the Greyhounds at night.
Steer clear if this repulses you or book your passes
immediately if it excites you.
Want to take all the brain work and adventure out of
a trip to Australia? Then you're on the
same page as most of the
backpackers who use the Oz Experience Jump On
Jump Off bus. Oz Experiences works with
the backpacker hostels and picks you up and drops
you off there. The only thing left for
the backpacker to do is engineer a sleazy pickup,
which should be easy since now you've got prep time
on the bus.
The Oz Experience should be called the Half Oz
Experience. Their routes don't cover the
entire country. Western Australia gets
omitted. The Oz Experience's most
comprehensive pass, covering their entire route,
will set you back over AUD 2,000. The
Experience will not get you from Cairns to Darwin or
voice versa. You'll be out more $$$ on a
flight. You can still see Western
Australia. Just book another expensive tour.
Adventure Tours books trips all over Australia,
including a 21-day tour from Perth to Darwin for
over AUD 3,000. Rental Cars
Rumor has it that you can rent a car in Australia just like you can in most other countries!
That's amazing news. The five big movers
Down Under are:
Budget. The rates aren't going to
make you smile. Rates started at AUD 57
without the damage insurance waiver.
Throw in another AUD 15 or so for that. A web
Carhire, claims to beat any other rental price.
It compares rental price for the big five and Red
Spot. And, indeed, on a sample search we
performed, we found a Hyundai manual for AUD 36.10.
Rent New Cars offers a similar search service,
but on our search with them, the same AUD 36.10 car
we found with Carhire was priced at AUD 47.42.
Rental cars or car hire in
Oz is hired by the big five: Hertz, Thrifty, Budget,
Avis, and Europcar. Virgin Blue and Qantas the
planes. If you're in the mood to take a train
consider the Indian Pacific, Southern Spirit,
Ghan, CountryLink, or Transwa. An AustRail pass
will get you transport all over Australia. For
buses, it's Greyhound or the backpacker-
friendly Oz Experience