Transport - getting around
Also see Beginning a Life in Australia (Chapter 8 – Transport)
Australia is a vast nation with many of its cities and towns separated by large distances. You will need transport to get around whether you are travelling across the country or across town.
There are a number of forms of public transport to use in Australia including buses, trains, trams and ferries. Public transport runs on a set schedule which requires passengers to be on time and have appropriate change or a pre-paid ticket. Most services have encouraged behaviour standards including minimal noise, making space for the elderly, disabled or pregnant travellers, and not eating or drinking.
Each state and territory operates their own systems of public transport with different ticketing systems. Many operators offer electronic cards or weekly, monthly or annual tickets for discounted fares. Operators are encouraging the use of these forms of ticketing as they cut down on time spent purchasing fares at the start of your trip.
The below links provide information on public transport for the state and territory capitals of Australia.
- Australian Capital Territory (ACT) - Action buses
- New South Wales (NSW) – Transport Info
- Northern Territory (NT) - Northern Territory Public Transport
- Queensland (QLD) - Translink
- South Australia (SA) - Transport, travel and motoring
- Tasmania (TAS) - Metro Tasmania
- Victoria (VIC) - Public Transport Victoria
- Western Australia (WA) - Public Transport Authority
Taxis are privately owned vehicles that will pick you up and take you directly to your destination for a fee. Taxis are much more expensive than regular public transport. Most cities in Australia have several taxi companies and you can make a taxi booking by calling, emailing or messaging them. Alternatively, taxis can be hailed on the side of the road if the light on the top of the car is on.
The private transport system relies on an extensive road system and the motor car. We pay for this with taxes that go towards construction and maintenance. The road system is provided for private users as well as many organisations that conduct their business upon the roads. For example, trucks are used widely throughout Australia to transport goods rather than trains or ships in many other countries.
Most Australians own a car for everyday travel, for work and social events. To drive a car, you must hold a valid driver licence and obey all road rules. State and territory police patrol the roads to enforce these rules and ensure safe conduct on Australian roads.
You may wish to buy a motor vehicle soon after you come to Australia. Traders of new and used motor vehicles advertise them for sale in papers, on the internet and in retail outlets (car yards). The cost of operating a vehicle is high with petrol, registration, servicing and repairs all being necessary for safe road use. State motoring organisations can assist you by providing advice and information for the purchasing of a vehicle.
Licensing, car registration, insurance and other requirements are handled by the separate state governments around Australia. Having a state licence allows you to drive in any other state across Australia though you will need to change your licence and registration if you plan to live permanently in a different state.
Cycling and walking are cheaper and more environmentally friendly options for getting around. Buying a bicycle is a simple way to save money from running a car while also providing exercise and recreational activities. Like cars, bicycles can be bought new from a retailer or second hand from sellers in the community. Check websites, local newspapers and shopping centres for more information. Many cities and towns provide bike lanes adjacent to the road but all road users must obey the road rules. Wearing a bicycle helmet is mandatory in all Australian states and territories and will protect you from head injuries.
Below are links to the relevant state and territory departments for more information on private vehicle use in your state. Many of the sites also contain useful information on cycling.
- ACT Territory and Municipal Services
- NSW Roads and Maritime Services
- NT Department of Transport
- Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads
- SA Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure
- Tasmania Department of State Growth - Transport
- Victoria VicRoads
- WA Department of Transport
If you are travelling longer distances, you may want to consider airline travel. There are several carriers that operate nationally within Australia and most capital cities have an international airport for travel outside of Australia.