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Best Ways of Transportation for Backpackers in Australia

Updated on March 23, 2011

Australia is the 6th biggest country in the world, more than 70% of the land is desert and life focuses on the coasts that surround it. There are several ways to travel around this amazing continent. Considering you are a Backpacker in Australia you can basically choose freely which kind of Transportation suits your interests best. In this Article I want to introduce you to the main options of Transportation and explain to you in which situation you should take a certain kind of Transportation and why.

When you start your travel, most of the times you are in one of the mayor cities like Sydney or Melbourne and you have plenty of options to travel around. So before you start travelling around you should have a plan and a vague Route that you would like to take. Depending on your Travel Route you have to take several thoughts into account. To begin with are the distance you want to travel and the time-frame you have. For example, if you have not much time but you want to travel a long distance, the best solution is flying or taking an overnight bus. In case you have plenty of time and want to see as much as possible, the best solution is to buy a car. In the following Paragraphs I will explain what kind of transportation is most suitable for which situation.

Travelling by Car

A car is probably the best way of travelling around because you can drive it yourself and for many people even driving on the left side of the road is a little adventure. So the question is: When does it make sense to buy a car or to hire one?

Luckily buying a car is quite simple in Australia and there are many ways to get one. Especially in the bigger cities like Sydney you will find lots of different companies which sell cars but most of them are relatively pricey. The advantage of buying a car from such a company is that they normally do not have technical problems and that the necessary documents are valid for at least another half a year but be careful, even here you should check twice before buying anything.

The best way to find a cheap but working car is online or to check the black boards in the hostels and try to buy a car from a fellow Backpacker. This is basically the cheapest way to get a car but be aware that a Backpacker normally is not an expert and although he will probably tell you, that the car is fine, consider that your friend has no mechanical experience. You should check the car from a professional before you buy it or at least check the documents if they are valid for at least the next half a year.

Hiring a car does not make sense because it is too expansive for a long journey unless you can sleep in it. In case you want to hire a Van or a Mobile Home you save the accommodation costs for hostels which makes a car like this affordable again and another advantage is that you do not have to worry about selling it in the end.

Well now I want to give you an idea in which case you should buy a car. Basically buying a car is a good decision if you want to travel for at least three months or longer. Petrol is cheap and you have the possibility to stop everywhere you want and see everything you would like to see. Moreover you can join Travel groups and share the petrol, which makes driving a car even cheaper and more fun. The down side is that if something breaks you normally have to pay for it yourself and in the end you have to sell the car yourself as well. The outcome depends on the car and also your commercial skills. I have met people who sold their car for more money than they have bought it but I have also met Backpackers who had to give their car away and just got some money for the spare parts. So think twice before you buy a car but in case you find a nice one and you drive it along the coast, then it is one of the most comfortable and exciting ways to travel.

As I mentioned before hiring a car does just make sense if you can sleep in it. Furthermore it is a nice solution for short trips from one week or more. The advantages are that you have a mobile home with the same freedom like in a car and you do not have to worry about anything like buying and selling it or trouble with the necessary documents. I remember that some mates and I hired a Campervan for a Trip from Sydney to Perth, which took us around three weeks. In this case it did make sense to hire a Mobile Home because we saved accommodation costs and were not travelling for such a long time.

Travelling buy Bus

Another really comfortable solution for travelling around are the long distance busses. There are several companies offering Bus rides along the coast but the most popular one is Greyhound. Greyhound has moderate prices and the busses are comfortable and frequent. They stop at several destinations and also in smaller towns. The disadvantage is that you will probably not see the hidden nature sides like the Rainforest or smaller beaches.

Busses are the best solution for Backpackers travelling alone or with a friend. In case you are travelling alone, taking the bus has many advantages. You do not have to worry about buying and selling a car and you can flexibly hop on or hop off the bus. Greyhound offers for example coastal Tickets, which means that you can travel a particular coast in one direction and hop on or off as many times as you want. These kinds of Tickets have a certain expiry date and are valid up to half a year, which normally is plenty of time to travel along one coast. For those Travelers who want to travel a long distance in a short time, there are also overnight busses, which drive a long distance in one night and you can sleep in the bus, which saves you the accommodation costs for that night.

Travelling by Airplane

Planes are the fasted and cheapest way to come from A to B. There are cheap airlines like Jetstar or Virgin Blue with which you can fly for almost nothing. They are still quite comfortable and fly from every airport. The big disadvantage is that if you fly from A to B you will not see anything in between. In case you just want to travel from one place to another cheap and fast it is a good solution but keep in mind that the most beautiful sights are those that you discover yourself on the ground like paradise beaches with amazing waves or the nature in the Rainforests. While flying you will not see any of those yourself.

Hitch Hiking

This is an old and special way to travel around. Hitch Hiking is possibly the cheapest way to travel around. In case you want to give it a try, you should always consider that it really depends on the people behind the wheel, how you make progress on your journey. Be patient and friendly to the guy who picks you up. Luckily Australia is a very safe country and the people are friendly, which makes Hitch Hiking relatively safe and efficient. Hitch Hiking is the best option in case you are travelling alone, you have a lot of time and you would like to meet random people. It can be good fun but it can also happen something to you, just be aware of that. Hitch Hiking is also the only way of travelling that does not depend on the lengths of you journey because as a Hitch Hiker you normally have enough time for your trip and you do not have to worry about Money or Documents. I met people who Hitch Hiked almost entire Australia and I met people who just tried to come from one city to the next one. In case you want to Hitch Hike, the only important factor is the time you are able to spend on it and the will to go on because there will be uncomfortable times.


Taking a ship is a rather unusual way to travel in Australia but happens. You can work on a ship and in return they take you from A to B and offer Accommodation and Food. This is also a quite cheap way of travelling but has the same disadvantage like taking the bus. You are simply not able to explore the country yourself because you are stuck on a ship. Of course will your boat stop once in a while but you cannot hop on or hop off again. In case you want to work on a boat you decide to stick with it until you reach the final port. This can be an exciting experience and you can meet interesting people, if you want give it a try. Just consider that it is not very flexible.

These are the most popular kinds of Transportation. I guess there are more but basically it is all up to your imagination. Everything is possible and you are the one who can make the best of it.


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    • profile image

      Jane Stivenson 4 years ago

      Great insight, if travelling to Australia for admiring the beautiful scenery, fly driving or travelling on Greyhound bus would be the best way to do it.

    • doodlebugs profile image

      doodlebugs 7 years ago from Southwest

      Great Hub. I was in OZ in the late 80's and did a fair bit of hitchhiking. One of the cars I rode in was owned by a hippie couple and looked a lot like the one above. It kept breaking down and we had to all hitchhike into Darwin to get a part to fix it.

    • TimMEy profile image

      TimMEy 7 years ago from Buenos Aires, Argentina

      Hahaha that´s a funny story. Yeah I Hitch-Hiked myself in Australia sometimes and I also met really interesting people and did not have any problems. Good for you that you could leave the car. When the driver is drunk than it´s over with the fun.

    • profile image

      David Seeger 7 years ago

      Back in the 50's I hitch hiked several times in the US. never had any real times and met some very interesting people. The only time I got nervious was when a got a lift with a couple of men who had no fear of running out of gas. They could have driven many miles just on the alcohol in their breaths if the gas tank went empty.

      The first town we came to I jumped out at a stop light and wished them well. I'm not sure they recognized that they had lost a rider.

    • pertibha321 profile image

      pertibha321 7 years ago from india

      great tips loved reading this.

    • profile image

      JT 7 years ago

      I've picked a few hitchhikers up and like TimMEy said some make it more interesting.

    • TimMEy profile image

      TimMEy 7 years ago from Buenos Aires, Argentina

      Yeah I do agree with you. Hitch Hiking can also be dangerouse but I met many fellow Backpackers who made quite good experiences with it so I wanted to include it as an option.

      Thanks for the comment

    • SmittenWithTravel profile image

      SmittenWithTravel 7 years ago

      Good tips for backpackers...not to keen on the one about hitch-hiking.

      Great job!