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Getting around in Australia can be quite difficult, especially considering the vast distances between major cities.
National public transport networks are limited and journeys by train and intercity bus are not always the most efficient way to travel. But domestic flights in Australia are relatively cheap and by far the fastest way to travel between cities.
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
Public transport services in Australia are managed by state and territory governments. The Australian government’s website provides region-specific information regarding transport.
Australia’s rail network is not as well developed as the systems in parts of Europe and Asia, and there are no 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 has resulted in a slow and somewhat inefficient rail network.
Expats will find that it is usually faster and cheaper to fly between major cities in Australia than taking trains. Travelling by train does offer a more scenic journey, and 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 reaches some of the more isolated places, such as Canberra and Darwin, that only have bus services. Buses are efficient and some even feature WiFi and USB charging for mobile devices.
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.
Domestic flights in Australia
As a result of the large distances between the major cities in Australia, flying remains a popular travel option in the country, and there are more than 100 commercial airports nationwide. The four domestic airlines are Qantas Domestic, Virgin Australia, Rex and Jetstar.
Travellers should research the cheapest airfares and keep an eye out for specials. 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 with which they can 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. Some states also have well-maintained toll roads. Expats travelling to rural parts of Australia, on the other hand, will find these roads are often poorly-maintained dirt roads.
Licensing regulations and road rules vary from state to state in Australia, and 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.