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Transportation in Australia: Getting Around as an Expat

Navigating your way around a new country is exciting, but it can also be overwhelming when figuring out how public transportation works. This guide discusses everything you need to know as an expat in Australia regarding transportation and getting around.

Driving in Australia

Since Australia is a massive country, driving is a necessity. Having a car and being able to drive it makes it more convenient to get around and for everyday life.

Driving Laws and Driver’s Licence

If you want to drive in Australia, knowing that each state has unique driving laws pays. First, you must check the specific rules for the state you are moving to. This information is also available on the official Australian government website.

Most Australian states generally allow anyone with a foreign driver’s licence to drive within the country as long as the licence is written in English. Most states allow driving only for the first three months. If this does not apply to you, you must apply for an international driver’s licence (primarily if your existing licence is not written in English).

Another option is to convert your driver’s licence into an Australian one. This option is highly recommended for an expat in Australia. To convert your driver’s licence, you must undergo a knowledge or driving test before obtaining a licence.

Driving tips for expats in Australia.

Driving Tips in Australia

The Australian Highway Code is the central book that governs all traffic and driving laws in Australia. Even if you are an experienced driver in your home country, it pays to study these laws as they vary slightly from other countries.

The seat belt requirement is the same as other international traffic laws. Drivers and passengers must wear seat belts at all times. You will be caught and fined if you’re caught not wearing a seat belt. Meanwhile, driving within speed limits is heavily enforced in Australia. Speed limits are marked on the roads, so watch for these road signs. If you don’t see one, keep to driving within 50 km per hour in urban settings. 

There is also a blood alcohol limit for professional drivers in Australia, which subjects you to penalties and fines if you exceed that limit. Australian driving law considers drunk driving a serious offence. Your fine could be a maximum of 2,200 AUD, and they could also suspend your licence. 

Highway personnel conduct random checks, so it pays to always abide by these basic traffic rules.

Public Transport in Australia

Aside from driving, it pays to know about the public transport system in Australia if you’re moving there as an expat. The good news is that the country provides various modes of transportation, allowing you to choose the most convenient way to get from point A to point B.

1. The Rail System

Australia’s subway and train system is one of the best ways to get around in major cities. The train system connects you to various parts of the country, making travel easy and convenient. Australia’s extensive rail network spans over 33,000 km of tracks. 

Here is an overview of the various rail service providers connecting major Australian cities:

  • NSW Trainlink connects the following cities: Brisbane – Sydney – Melbourne
  • Indian Pacific connects the following cities: Sydney – Broken Hill – Adelaide – Kalgoorlie – Perth
  • Til Train connects the following cities: Brisbane – Rockhampton
  • Spirit of the Outback connects the following cities: Brisbane – Longreach
  • The Ghan connects the following cities: Adelaide – Alice Springs – Katherine – Darwin

2. Buses

Buses provide an economical way of getting around in Australia. Many bus service providers operate using a prepaid reusable smart card system, making it easier to get on and off these buses in the city. There is also an option to pay via debit or credit card. Buses in the regional towns enable you to purchase tickets directly from the bus driver.

Buses and coaches can be short- or long-distance. Some of the top bus companies operating in various parts of Australia are Bus Charter, Greyhound, and Transport Network Australia.

3. Taxis and Ride-sharing Services

If you prefer to get around comfortably in Australia, you can hire a taxi to reach your destination. Taxis are easy to find in cities, and you can wave them down if you want to hire them. A taxi is the best way to get around the city, especially if you want to reach your destination quickly. 

Cab companies have a method for calculating fares, and it is more expensive than riding the train or bus as you are paying for the added convenience. Taxi fares in Australia are non-negotiable. You must pay for the amount shown on the cab meter as you reach your destination. Typically, taxis have a higher rate after 10 PM. 

Another option is to use ride-sharing services like Uber. You must use your smartphone app to book a ride. You must input your pick-up location and destination on the app, and it will calculate your distance and fare accordingly. Uber is the most popular and preferred ride-sharing service in Australia. Most Australians prefer it over taxis.

4. Bicycles

Bicycle riding is the cheapest way to get around in Australia. Luckily, the infrastructure in major Australian cities for bicycle riding is efficient, making it a good option for residents and expats who prefer to take their bicycles to work or school.

You can purchase a bike, and bike rental services are in the country. When you bike in Australia, wearing protective gear, such as helmets, is crucial. You need to have functional lights on the front and back of your bike, too. Cyclists are also subject to traffic and road rules. Make sure to heed them at all times.

Bicycle riding is the cheapest transportation option

Reusable Transportation Cards in Australia

Australia employs smart card technology on its public transportation systems. It is a convenient alternative to cash transactions when using public transport systems for fare collection. It simplifies the process for commuters and avoids long ticket queues. 

Each major city in Australia has its own reusable smart card system for public transportation, such as the following: 

  • Go Card in Brisbane
  • Opal Card in Sydney
  • MetroCARD in Adelaide
  • MyWay in Canberra
  • SmartRider in Perth

You can purchase these smart cards at bus stations, supermarkets, and convenience stores. If you link these cards to your bank or debit account, you can conveniently top-up the card to pay for public transportation. Most stations also have counters where you can pay in cash to top-up your smart cards. 

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