Moving to Australia

Guide to Public Transport in Australia

Public transport in Australia offers four main options: train, bus, ferry and light rail. Not every city has a river or harbour network so ferries won’t be available and light rail (also known as trams) are not in use in all cities either.

Reusable smart cards

The following capital cities offer reusable smart cards for their public transport systems:

  • Brisbane – Go Card; used on trains, trams, buses and ferries.
  • Melbourne – myki Card; used on trains, trams and buses.
  • Sydney – Opal Card; used on trains, trams, buses and ferries.
  • Adelaide – Metrocard; used on trains, trams and buses.
  • Perth – SmartRider; used on trains, buses and ferries.
  • Hobart – Greencard; used on buses.
  • Canberra – MyWay; used on buses.
  • Darwin – Tap & Ride Card; used on buses.

Read more information about public transport smart cards.

Allianz Global Assistance Overseas Health - Australian-Cities

Where to buy the smart cards

Depending on which city you arrive in when you reach Australia, you may be able to purchase one of these cards at ticket windows at the Domestic and/or International airport train stations. Depending on the city, you can also buy the cards at vending machines, 7-Eleven stores, newsagents, bus stations, train stations, ferry wharves, pharmacies, supermarkets and convenience stores.

Benefits of prepaid public transport cards

When you first arrive in Australia, you may have to use cash but be sure to have small denominations such as coins and lower value notes as drivers and ticket booth operators are not happy to exchange large notes.

  • Discounts and offers – Public transport cards offer a range of benefits including capped fares on weekends, discounted fares during off-peak travel times, free travel in a week after taking a specified number of journeys and the ability to use the same card across all methods of public transport.
  • Prepayment – Being able to prepay for your public transport needs is convenient because you don’t have to fumble in your wallet or purse looking for coins and you don’t have to have the right change available. It is also cheaper to prepay instead of paying for each journey.
  • Online account management – You can manage your public transport card account online and see your current balance as well as view all journeys made and which method of transportation was used.
  • More convenient – When you use your public transport card, you simply ‘tap on’ and ‘tap off’ at the designated card readers at train stations, buses, light rail stops and ferry wharves. You don’t have to try and find a ticket booth and you don’t have to waste time. If you’re running late, you simply pull out your card and ‘tap on’!
  • Automatic top-up – When your card balance goes lower than a specified amount (usually $5 for children or $10 for adults), the transit authority will automatically top it up via your debit card or credit card so that you can always use public transport. Of course, during the sign-up process, you need to provide permission for this function. You may also choose not to have automatic top-up and simply pay over the counter at various locations.
Allianz Global Assistance Overseas Health - Sydney-Train-Network

Smartphone apps to help use public transport

Most transit authorities in Australia offer a smartphone app that will help you find your way around the city using public transport. The apps allow you to access service updates (cancelled, rescheduled or late services), find out estimated arrival times, learn where to find your closest bus stop, train station, wharf or light rail stop, and plan your journey from wherever you are to wherever you need to go.

Taxis and Uber services

Allianz Global Assistance Overseas Health - Australian-Taxis

The Australian taxi network is comprehensive. You’ll find a taxi at all typical locations such as airports, hotels, train stations, city centres, shopping malls, hospitals and most tourist destinations. Many cab companies have developed smartphone apps for customers to use to order a taxi and calculate fares however they are all available by phone.

Unfortunately, the cost of using a taxi in Australia is notoriously high compared with other countries in the world. A survey conducted by New Zealand organisation, Digital Hothouse in 2014 examined the cost of taking a taxi from the airport to the city in some of the biggest cities in the world. Sydney, Melbourne and Perth took out the 3rd, 4th and 5th most expensive positions. When possible, before you take a taxi, try to spend a few moments on the smartphone app of the company you intend to use – or call the company – and determine a fare calculation for your journey. It’s important for overseas visitors to note that in Australia, taxi fares are not negotiable. The fee on the meter must be paid in full.

Uber is a fairly recent arrival in Australia and has been met with mixed reactions. The taxi industry would prefer it didn’t exist but consumers are happy with the cheaper fares and different service offering. In some states it is legal but at the time of writing, it remains illegal in others.

Public transport on public holidays

At various times throughout the year, public transport will be less available, less frequent or more expensive. Usually, on public holidays, public transport systems operate on a Saturday or Sunday timetable. You can find this information at the authority’s website for the city you are in, or via their smartphone app.

Allianz Global Assistance Overseas Health - Melbourne-Trams
Allianz Global Assistance Overseas Health - Sydney-Ferries---Transport

Safety and hygiene on public transport

In general, Australia’s public transport systems are very well maintained and provide safe, clean services for customers. The systems are heavily regulated to ensure customers can rely on a high standard of facilities. It wouldn’t be possible in Australia to see a train overloaded with passengers hanging out the windows or sitting on the roof, such as the case in other countries.

The trains, buses, trams and ferries are modern and comfortable (mostly air conditioned) and the stations and terminals looked after and monitored with 24-hour CCTV. Uniformed and plain clothed security guards patrol stations and terminals and at times, also ride on the vehicles to ensure the safety of all.

Public transport in Australia is designed to be efficient, comfortable and safe. Be sure to purchase your smart card so that you can take advantage of every possible discount and special offer!

For more information on public transport for main Australian cities, see our guides below: