Australia's size warrants air travel between major cities. For those with more time on their hands, Australia has some excellent highways and roads.
The domestic airline industry is currently dominated by Qantas, Virgin Australia, Jetstar (a low-cost Qantas subsidiary) and most recently, Tiger Airways. Since the entry of Virgin Australia into the market, prices have become much more competitive, particularly between major cities.
Several dozens of airlines operate on the domestic market though, and apart from the larger ones mentioned above, there are also smaller airlines operating within certain areas of the country, like Air North and some very small airlines servicing outback landing strips.
For more information about the airports and destinations, see the 'getting there' section, which also has links to the main airports and their destinations.
By Bus or Train
Buses and trains provide another option for travelling between cities. All long-distance services are of a high standard, air-conditioned and clean. The most famous train journeys are The Indian Pacific (Sydney - Adelaide - Perth), The Ghan (Adelaide - Alice Springs - Darwin) and The Overland (Melbourne - Adelaide), but thanks to their prestige, they are also expensive - much more so than travelling by air. However, you miss out on all the scenery on the way - and of course, train travel is better for the environment! For more information about schedules and prices check the Rail Australia website.
For the very long distances travelled in Australia, bus travel can be uncomfortable because you can't get up to stretch your legs - but there's no doubt that taking the bus is the cheapest way to get around. Go to any backpackers' hostel and you'll find plenty of choice. Look out for the smaller operators who run services travelling off the major highways - the trip will take longer but will be much more interesting.
- Firefly has express coach services between major cities.
- Greyhound Australia covers the main cities on mainland Australia.
Travellers with a valid overseas licence can drive in Australia without the need for any other licence, provided the licence is in English (or has an English translation). You must carry your licence with you whenever you are driving.
Hiring a car is pretty simple and cars can range from cheap to high quality. Air conditioning is essential during the hot summer months! Remember to drive on the left. If in doubt about the speed limit, drive 50 km/h in cities and towns or 100 km/h on highways.
Although touring by car can seem attractive (and in fact, many Australians dream of doing a round-Australia road trip), the reality can be very different. Distances are far longer than many visitors are used to, and the scenery can be surprisingly monotonous. Sydney to Brisbane is a 12-hour drive, and while the Australian bush looks exotic at first, it has much less variety than a European or American landscape. If you are thinking of driving by car, make sure you allow plenty of time to recover as you will get tired from long periods of driving. Avoid driving at night, as this is when most of Australia's freight is on the roads in huge trucks, and accidents are common.
Having said that, public transport in smaller towns is scarce, so having a car is useful if you want to visit sights away from the major cities. There are plenty of companies you could choose to hire a car from, including Redspot, Avis, Budget, Europcar, Hertz, Airport Rentals and Thrifty. Car hire is often not available to drivers under 25, or if it is, it's more expensive for younger drivers (generally the additional insurance cost, varying on the provider, is around $25-$40 per day is added to the daily rental cost).
If you decide to visit Tasmania, you can get there by ferry (Spirit of Tasmania) from Melbourne. The service runs most nights between Melbourne and Devonport and during peak periods there is also a day service. Most people who use the ferry are Australians who want to take their own car with them. It's hard to justify otherwise, as it's more expensive than going by air.
Reprinted with permission under Creative Commons Licence Travellers Guide