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Getting around in Australia can be quite difficult, especially when considering the vast distances between the main cities.
National public transport networks are limited and journeys by train and intercity bus are not always the most efficient way to travel. Domestic flights in Australia are relatively cheap and by far the fastest way to travel between cities. There are more than 100 airports nationwide.
Although it isn’t necessary to own a car while living in Australia, having a vehicle does offer expats greater independence and freedom when it comes to travelling nationally, especially as the country is so dependent on road transport.
Public transport in Australia
Australia’s rail network is not as well developed as the systems one finds in parts of Europe and Asia, and there is a lack of high-speed intercity rail services in the country. The historical lack of cooperation between state territories combined with the massive distances and a relatively small population to service has resulted in Australia’s rail network being slow and somewhat inefficient.
Expats will find that it is usually faster and cheaper to fly between major cities in Australia than taking trains. However, travelling by train often offers a more scenic journey. It is also a good alternative for getting to regional towns and cities that aren’t serviced regularly by flights.
The long-distance bus network in Australia is extensive and provides a way to reach some of the more isolated places. However, bus travel is only a viable option for those who have a lot of time as journeys are generally long and tedious.
While bus travel in Australia is a cheap way to get around, some long journeys will still be cheaper by plane, so it's worth checking flight options before buying a bus ticket. Most expats will opt to fly between destinations within Australia and those who don't tend to prefer trains over buses as they are more comfortable.
Domestic flights in Australia
As a result of the large distances between the major destinations in Australia, flying is the most popular travel option in the country.
Research and booking in advance are the keys to finding the cheapest airfares. Even the larger airlines have great online deals and cheap fares can almost always be found on the busier routes.
Driving in Australia
Most expats living in Australia find it useful to have a car as this gives them the freedom to explore the country at their own pace. Australia's low population density and large size make for long journeys between cities, though.
Australia has a well-maintained system of roads and highways and signage is generally very clear. The highways between state capitals are excellent and driving on these roads is a pleasure. However, expats travelling to rural parts of Australia will find that they may need to drive on poorly maintained dirt roads. Some states also have toll roads.
As licensing regulations and road rules vary from state to state in Australia, expats are advised to familiarise themselves with the rules within each particular territory before relocating. In most cases, expats moving to Australia will be able to drive using a licence from their home country for the first three months before switching to a local licence.
Are you an expat living in Australia?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Australia. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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