Transport and Driving in Australia

Getting around Australia can be difficult due to its vastnessGetting around in Australia can be quite difficult, especially when considering the vast distances people need to cover between the main destinations. Expats who are keen to explore the country should familiarise themselves with the modes of transport available.

National public transport networks are limited and journeys by train and intercity bus are not always the most efficient way to travel. Domestic flights in Australia are relatively cheap and by far the fastest way to travel between cities. There are more than 300 airports nationwide. While it isn’t necessary to own a car while living in Australia, having a vehicle does offer expats greater independence and freedom when it comes to travelling nationally, especially as the country is so dependent on road transport. 

Public transport in Australia

Travelling nationally in Australia is not easy. The rail network is not as well developed as one would expect in a developed country. There are very few high-speed trains in Australia and services are not very frequent. So while travelling by train gives expats a chance to view some beautiful scenery, it is not always convenient.
The long-distance bus network in Australia is very extensive and provides a way to reach some of the more isolated places. However, bus travel is only a viable option for those who have a lot of time as journeys are always long.


Australia’s rail network is not as well-developed as the systems one finds in parts of Europe and Japan and there is a lack of high-speed intercity rail services in the country. Historically, there has been a lack of cooperation between state territories in Australia and this, combined with the massive distances and a relatively small population to service, has resulted in Australia’s rail network being slow and somewhat inefficient.

Expats will find that it is often faster and cheaper to fly between major cities in Australia than taking trains. However, travelling by train offers a more scenic journey. It is also a good alternative for getting to regional towns and cities, which aren’t serviced regularly by flights.

Most rail services in Australia link towns with their state capital. Queensland has the most well-developed rail infrastructure in Australia with high-speed services connecting Brisbane to Rockhamption and Cairns. There are also a number of trains that service inland centres, including Longreach, Mount Isa, Charleville and Forsayth.

There are a number of rail operators in Australia and each manages the trains in different geographic areas of the country. Great Southern Railways runs intercity trains on the Melbourne-Sydney, Sydney-Adelaide-Perth and Adelaide-Alice Springs-Darwin routes. The Northern Territory has a railway linking Darwin to Adelaide via Alice Springs and the Australian Capital Territory has just a single railway station close to the centre of Canberra.

Other rail operators in Australia include CountryLink, which connects Sydney to Melbourne, Brisbane and Canberra. V/Line Passenger operates trains between Melbourne, Adelaide and Cairns.

As commuters rarely use trains to travel in Australia there are no rail passes that cater for frequent travellers. Most of the rail passes are aimed at tourists who are travelling through the country over a short period of time.


Bus travel in Australia is a cheap and convenient way to get around. However, the distances covered by these buses are large and journeys often take over 24 hours. Most expats will opt to fly between destinations within Australia.

Greyhound has the largest bus network in Australia and these buses travel to over 1,000 destinations in Australia every day of the year. Firefly Express offers services connecting Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney. Murrays is another small bus operator which runs services between Canberra and Sydney.

Domestic flights in Australia

Due to the large distances between all the major destinations in Australia, flying is the most popular travel option in the country. Flights along the main business travel corridor between Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane operate frequently, leaving every 15 minutes at peak times.

Research and booking in advance are the key to finding the cheapest airfares. Even the larger airlines like Qantas have great online deals. Cheap fares can always be found on the busier routes.

The main airlines that operate domestically between Australian cities are Qantas, Virgin Australia, Jetstar and Tiger Airways Australia.
Furthermore, there are several airlines which serve regional destinations. As these routes tend to be quieter, it is harder to find discounts on fares. These airlines include Qantaslinks, Regional Express, Virgin Australia, Airnorth, Skytrans Airlines and Sharp Airlines.

Driving in Australia

Most expats living in Australia find it useful to have a car as this gives them the freedom to explore the country at their own pace. The country’s low population density and large size makes for long journeys between cities. For example, the distance between Sydney and Melbourne is approximately 560 miles (900km) and takes around ten hours.
Australia has a well-maintained system of roads and highways and signage is very clear. The highways between state capitals are excellent and driving on these roads is a pleasure. However, expats travelling to rural parts of Australia will find that they may need to drive on poorly maintained dirt roads. There are toll roads in New South Wales and Queensland.
Most expats moving to Australia will be able to drive using a licence from their home country for the first three months. If the licence is not written in English, then an International Driving Permit is required. As licensing regulations and road rules vary from state to state in Australia, expats are advised to familiarise themselves with the rules within each particular territory before relocating.