Around Australia by train, coach or plane?

For a country almost the size of Europe, it’s really important that you put some serious thought into how you’re going to get around. Fortunately, you’ll find plenty of low-cost domestic flight options, highways connecting most of the major cities and a handful of the world’s greatest train rides.

Here’s our expert-verified, breakdown of the best ways to get from here to there while Down Under.

Sydney > Melbourne

The journey from Sydney to Melbourne is just under 1,000 km. If you’re on a tight schedule jump on a plane, but if you have a little more time you may prefer to stay on the ground. Here are some options to get you heading in the right direction.

iStock.com/LeonardoPatrizi

By train

If you’re looking to travel by train, hop on the XPT (Express Passenger Train) overnight service leaving Sydney Central at 8:40pm and arriving in Melbourne at 7:35am. Comfortable seats and sleepers are available and the price isn’t much more than you’d pay for a hotel room.

Top tips

  • Request Car ‘C’ if you’re looking for a spacious area – it’s less crowded and closest to buffet.
  • Travel time on the train is about an hour less than the bus.

By coach

Prefer the scenic approach? Take the coach. This run takes approximately 12 to 14 hours with a pit stop at the giant sheep at Goulburn. Both carriers Firefly and Greyhound, offer a no-frills service with Greyhound offering regular discount coach fares.

Top tips

  • Grab a photo op with the ‘The Big Merino‘ at Goulburn.
  • The overnight service is the quickest option with the least amount of stops.
  • It’s a long trip, so bring along some snacks and entertainment.

By plane

Catching a flight is a great option for those with time constraints. Thanks to budget airlines like Jet Star, Tiger and Virgin Australia, the trip between the two cities can be made in as little as an hour and a half – without breaking the bank! Tiger Air generally offers the cheapest fares, with Jet Star running a close second.

Top tips

  • Midweek departures tend to be cheaper.
  • Book in advance as it’s a popular route the price will go up closer to the date of travel.
Flights from Sydney to Melbourne

Melbourne > Brisbane

You’ll travel through Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland on this 1,700 km trip. Flying domestically tends to be a popular and quick option for this route. However, if you’re looking for a scenic journey take the train or bus.

iStock.com/dreamtimestudio

By train

You’ll spend just over a day on the XPT line for this run, through broad fields of agriculture and along the east coast. The trains are comfortable, roomy and have fancy amenities even for the economy passengers. Seats on the train can be quite expensive, so be sure to book ahead to score the best deals.

Top tips

  • Make a pit stop in Sydney to break up the journey.
  • Opt for the Backtracker Pass for unlimited stops on the CountryLink train network.
  • The train is faster than the bus and also provides a scenic route.

By coach

Greyhound runs the route from Melbourne to Sydney, then Sydney to Brisbane. You can save some dollars at the cost of some extra complexity with a Firefly ticket for the Melbourne to Sydney run, then Greyhound for the rest of your journey. Either way, expect a day and a half on the road. It’s up to you whether an overnight sleep is the best choice, or a daytime run so you can enjoy the sightseeing and tourist stops.

Top tips

  • Greyhound offers a hop on hop off flexible passes on this route.
  • Most routes offer an in-bus movie – choose a seat closer to the front for a better view of the TV.
  • Bring ear plugs, headphones and neck pillows for the long journey.

By plane

Tiger Air is the answer to your question for this two-hour jaunt across the southeast corner of Oz. It’s just over half the price of competing airlines and runs five to six times each day.

Top tips

  • Selected domestic flights offer entertainment devices that you can hire and watch movies on.
  • Midweek departures tend to be cheaper.
Flights from Melbourne to Brisbane

Perth > Sydney

Unless you’re the extremely adventurous type, you do not want to make this punishing 4,000 km run by road. Go with the many alternative options and let someone else do the heavy lifting. Just bring plenty to read.

Simon Yeo, The Indian Pacific at Broken Hill via Flickr CC BY 2.0

By train

The Indian Pacific train route, named for the two oceans on either side of the trip, runs 4,352km across spectacular representations of nearly every biome Australia has to offer, along with a stop in Adelaide. This four-day (65 hour) transcontinental adventure departs Wednesdays each week, with an additional Saturday departure during the September to November peak season. A seat for this route costs around the same price of a plane ticket, sleeper cars are significantly more.

Top tips

  • Book 6 months in advance for a 10% discount on Platinum or a 25% discount on Gold tickets.
  • Both roomettes and twinettes come with comfortable freshly made-up beds, towels and complimentary toiletries.
  • Off train excursions are available at Broken Hill and Adelaide.

By coach

No bus routes run direct all the way from Perth to Sydney, but you can cobble together a trip on Greyhound running along the coast either northward and clockwise, or southward and counterclockwise. It will take the better part of a week, and cost only slightly less than the Tiger Air flight. If you want to explore the smaller, more authentic nooks and crannies of Oz, this is an inexpensive and leisurely-paced way to go about it.

Top tips

  • Save money by purchasing KM Pass (Kilometre Travel Pass) you can hop on and off as much as you want.
  • Sleep while travelling – try to do the longest leg of your journey at night.
  • Buses will drop you off close to the centers of towns.

By plane

Flights for this long haul run all day, including a budget red-eye through Tiger Air. Jetstar and Virgin Australia offer flights for about $100 more than Tiger, but the extra amenities are worth it for many on this four-hour journey.

Top tips

  • Flight tickets are the cheapest on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
  • Try and get a seat by the window – you get to see all sorts of landscapes from barren deserts to lush vineyards.
Flights from Perth to Sydney

Conclusion

As with almost everything about travel, there’s no right or wrong answer for getting to and from anywhere in Australia. It’s all a matter of budget and most importantly time restraints. In the case of Australia’s sheer size, the quickest way to get around the country is by air. So in our opinion a low-cost carrier is the best and most cost effective choice.

iStock.com/dane-mo Search for cheap flights to Australia

Featured image: istock.com/davidf

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