So you’re going to visit Australia’s capital city? Wonderful! Canberra is quite a small capital by population with just 403,000 residents. It’s a land-locked city several hundred kilometres from the coast and is the country’s seat of government.
You’ll find Parliament House, the Australian War Memorial, the Royal Australian Mint, the National Museum, National Gallery and National Library there and it is also the location for the Governor-General’s residence and the High Court of Australia. In order to get around and see all the sights or get yourself to and from work or university, it’s important to familiarise yourself with the public transport system in Canberra. Let’s start with making your way into the City when you arrive by plane.
Simply take the Route 11 or Route 11A bus from Canberra Airport which runs every half hour Monday to Friday and every hour on weekends. You could otherwise take a taxi or rent a car but by far, the bus option is the cheapest.
The most popular form of transportation is private vehicle. Because the city is so spread out, its population density is quite low so infrastructure to move people around is not as comprehensive as it is in other major cities. That said, the bus system is efficient and is utilised by commuters, students and visitors alike.
For people who don’t live within walking distance of a bus stop, Transport Canberra has provided Park & Ride, allocated parking spaces for bus passengers to park before catching an ACTION bus to where they need to go. Park & Ride parking spots are free to use but conditions are outlined on the site.
To travel out of Canberra to Sydney, the interstate railway service run by NSW TrainLink can be used but for speed, the preferable option is obviously to fly.
ACTION stands for Australian Capital Territory Internal Omnibus Network. It’s literally Canberra’s public bus service and operates from four interchanges: Tuggeranong, Woden, Belconnen and Civic. Visit NXTBUS for real time bus information for selected stops around Canberra.
Hot tip! Subsidised student fares are offered for university students. The prices vary according to the day and time.
In Canberra, you can use cash to pay for your fares but with the MyWay smartcard prepaid ticketing system, you’ll never be caught without money on you. Plus, when you use the card, your fares are cheaper!
Once you’ve taken 40 paid trips in a month using your card, for the rest of the month, you travel free. Purchase MyWay from a Recharge Agent in the City or suburbs, where you can also top up your funds. Or, recharge online or over the phone by calling 13 17 10. Sign up for Autoload and your balance will never dip too low to pay for a fare.
For visitors, the Tourist Loop bus service is a convenient way to move between attractions. It runs 7 days a week and stops at iconic landmarks and points of interest. Drop by the Australian War Memorial, the National Zoo & Aquarium, the National Archives of Australia, Parliament House, the Royal Australian Mint, Canberra Reptile Zoo and so much more.
Hot tip! If you’re moving around the city centre, you’re in luck! The free city loop service – Route 101 – connects the city with popular tourist zones including Braddon and New Acton as well as the Australian National University. It runs from 7am to 7pm Monday to Friday and you’ll usually only have to wait about 10 minutes.
The best way to get around by bus is to utilise the Rapid Routes system. There are four different routes – Green Rapid, Red Rapid, Black Rapid and Blue Rapid – and each runs at 10 or 15-minute intervals between 7am and 7pm.
Canberra’s ACTION fleet of buses feature easy access so that people with reduced mobility can get on and off without difficulty.
You can actually take your bike with you on the bus. Blue Rapid and Red Rapid services are equipped with specially designed carry racks for bicycles attached to the front. It’s free to use and the bikes are secured in place with spring-loaded clamps.
Or, you can take advantage of the handy Bike & Ride facilities where you can lock your bike on a rail or in a locker or cage and catch an ACTION bus to where you need to go. Read about how to use the Bike & Ride option.
Gradually but surely, Transport Canberra are putting in place the Light Rail Network which will provide a modern, efficient transport system to meet the city’s changing needs.
Mobile apps make everything so simple! Here is a list of apps that can help you find your way around.
In a city where only eight percent of those who travel to work take the bus, it’s surprising that Canberra’s bus system is so comprehensive. Around 76 percent of people drive to work which means traffic congestion so it makes sense to take the bus and enjoy being driven by someone else. Take your book or pop on your headphones and watch the city go by out the window. Or, have a chat with someone and exchange a few smiles.
When choosing where to live, study or holiday in Canberra, it’s a good idea to get a grasp of the public transport system before you arrive. Understanding your public transport options is valuable when deciding where to book accommodation or rent a home.