Brisbane is a lively, sprawling city with a laidback way of life and friendly people. Because the city is so spread out, public transport is widely used, and the network is quite efficient and well maintained. When choosing where to live, study or holiday, it’s always a good idea to get to know how to get around using the local public transport network.
In Brisbane and surrounding areas – Ipswich, Redlands, Logan, Moreton Bay, Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast – you need to get yourself a go card. This is a prepaid smart card that you can use to pay for your fares on buses, trains, ferries and trams/light rail and you can even use it to hire a CityCycle.
You can buy single paper tickets but when you use your go card, Brisbane travel is at least 30 percent cheaper. Brisbane’s public transport system is known to be quite expensive to use compared with other cities so taking advantage of discounts is wise. Pricing information on paper tickets and go card fares can be found here.
Different go cards are available for Adults, Children, Seniors and Concession card holders. You can buy a go card at 7-Eleven stores, Queensland Rail ticket offices, on board Brisbane City Council CityCats and ferries and at fare machines at busway stations. You can also buy one online or over the phone 24 hours a day on 13 12 30 and have it posted to you.
When you first buy your go card, you’ll be charged a refundable deposit and then you just top it up with funds. There’s a minimum top-up amount and you can set your go card to ‘auto top-up’ so that when your balance falls below $5, your credit or debit card will be automatically charged. Otherwise, you can recharge at hundreds of different locations.
Simply tap your go card to the electronic card reader whenever you start and finish a trip. You’ll find the readers on buses and ferries, at tram (light rail) stops and at the entry and exit points of train stations. Don’t forget to touch off or your card may be charged a maximum fixed fare.
At more than 1,200, Brisbane City Council’s fleet of buses is among the largest in Australia. They travel right across the city and a couple of different options are available to suit customer needs.
There are also free City Loop and Spring Hill Loop buses that operate Monday to Friday.
All Brisbane City Council buses are ‘low-floor’ buses meaning they are built to provide easier access for all passengers including those who are wheelchair-bound, who use a mobility scooter or have children in prams.
There are 10 train lines in Brisbane – Airport, Beenleigh, Caboolture, Cleveland, Doomben, Ferny Grove, Gold Coast, Ipswich/Rosewood, Shorncliffe and Sunshine Coast – covering 139 individual stations. The trains are clean, air conditioned and fairly new and some carriages are allocated as ‘quiet carriages’ and others offer free wi-fi.
They feature disabled access and you can take your bike on a train outside of peak times. Central Station is in the city centre however the main transport link for Brisbane is Roma Street Station which is a major transport hub for long distance bus and rail travel as well as metropolitan travel.
With the Brisbane River winding right through the city and many of the suburbs, Brisbane has need of a water ferry service. The Council operates a fleet of catamarans known as CityCats which operate every 15 minutes, seven days a week. The SpeedyCat express service is also available which stops at fewer stations, resulting in quicker trip times.
The CityHopper ferry service is free and runs 7 days a week between 6am and midnight, at 30-minute intervals along select routes. Hop on and off as you wish.
There are two taxi companies in Brisbane: Black & White Cabs (phone 13 22 22) and Yellow Cabs (phone 13 19 24).
Outside of peak times, the airport is approximately 20 minutes by car from the CBD. The cheapest, most convenient way to get to and from the airport and avoid any traffic jams is to take the Brisbane Airport train, also known as Airtrain. It stops at all the CBD stations – Central, Fortitude Valley, Roma Street, Bowen Hills, South Brisbane and Southbank – and travels to both the international and domestic airports. Airtrain operates every 15 minutes from 5.45am to 10pm Monday to Friday (from 6am on weekends).
Alternatively, you can take a bus or taxi from the airport, rent a car, hire a limousine or take a shuttle transfer. If you get yourself to the Skygate Centre, you can catch a Brisbane City Council 590 bus to the transport interchange at Toombul shopping centre where you can then catch a bus or train to where you need to go. The Con-X-ion shuttle bus offers door-to-door transportation to dozens of Brisbane, Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast locations.
For shift workers or those who enjoy going out late on Friday and Saturday nights, the NightLink service operates between midnight and 5am. Outbound buses travel from the CBD and Fortitude Valley and most of the NightLink buses will pick passengers up from any designated bus stop along the route and drop off at anywhere along the route. NightLink trains stop at all stations on the Ipswich, Caboolture and Beenleigh lines.
The MyTransLink app simplifies bus, ferry, train and tram information. You can plan your journey, add your favourite stops and destinations, view real-time information on the next services leaving your preferred stop and view public transport network maps.
Brisbane takes pride in offering clean, safe buses, trains and ferries. Travelling on public transport in Brisbane is quite safe. Take all the usual precautions you would anywhere in the world; keep your belongings close by, keep to well-lit areas, avoid talking to strangers and watch your step.