Transport (Driving, Trains, Airline Info)
Australia has an extensive, efficient and convenient transportation system.
Travel time between the U.S. West Coast and Australia's East Coast ranges from 14 hours nonstop to 20 hours with stopovers. It's about 9 hours nonstop from from Honolulu. There's a choice of several carriers, including United Airlines, Qantas, Air New Zealand, Delta, V Australia and Hawaiian Airlines. Most departures from the U.S. mainland leave in the evening and arrive early in the morning, with a day lost at the International Date Line. Flights returning to the U.S. leave early afternoon and arrive the morning of the same day, making that day one of the longest of your life.
Frequent interstate flights on domestic carriers connect Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Brisbane, Cairns, Adelaide, Perth, Darwin, Hobart and Alice Springs. Several regional airlines operate short-hop flights to rural towns and islands. Savings are available on domestic fares when purchased along with the U.S.-Australia tickets.
International baggage shipping and courier services: according to Travel and Leisure magazine, airline passengers can use the following three luggage delivery companies to ship their bags: DHL (www.dhl-use.com), LuggageFree (www.luggagefree.com) and LuggageConcierge (www.luggageconcierge.com). The NY Times mentions the following: Luggage Forward (www.luggageforward.com), Skycapinternational (www.skycapinternational.com), Virtual Bellhop (www.Virtualbellhop.com) and Luggage Express (www.usxplugageexpress.com).
For information re: security issues, check travel.secure.infrastructure.gov.au.
It's possible to cruise from U.S. ports to Australia by booking that segment of an around-the-world cruise. For more information on these voyages, costs and departures dates, check the websites of Cunard, Holland America and Radisson Seven Seas.
Currently there are freighter lines with passenger cabins that make the trans-Pacific trip to Australia from the United States. One can be boarded in Los Angeles, while the other two dock at the East Coast ports of New York; Norfolk, VA; Savannah, GA. One-way voyages take about 3-4 weeks. For more information on voyages, costs and departure dates, consult the websites of Freighter World Cruises and Traveltips.
* Tasmania Ferry
One way to get to the island state of Tasmania from the Australian mainland is by crossing the Bass Strait by ferry. It carries passengers and vehicles between Melbourne and Devonport, a town situated on Tasmania's north coast. For schedules and prices, check the website of the ferry service called Spirit of Tasmania.
Generally you can use your state license in Australia, although it's a very good idea to carry an International Driving Permit. Prior to departure, purchase it at a AAA office. Also, the Australian Automobile Services are available free to American AAA members.
Australians drive on the left hand side of the road and all vehicles are right hand drive. Wearing a seat belt is compulsory as it is in the U.S. Drunk driving laws are very strictly enforced. Hitching is very risky. The hitching sign is a downward pointed finger. On rural roads kangaroos, like deer in the U.S., are not an uncommon collision hazard.
Gasoline, called petrol, is sold by liter; distances are measured in kilometers.
* Road Conditions
Unlike the U.S., outside the cities, multilane highways narrow to two sealed lanes. Traffic, towns and gas stations are scarce. Dusty dirt turnoffs heading nowhere are not.
If you're traveling in Outback Australia or the rural areas, seriously consider taking a 4WD in good shape. Take along a radio transmitter, satellite phone and GPS finder, auto replacement parts, a couple of spares, repair tools, first aid kit, plenty of water and extra gasoline. Let someone know your route, destination and date of arrival.
Th major companies have offices or representatives in most cities and towns. There are a number of local companies that offer rates less expensive than the big ones. If you're under 25, there may be rental restrictions. When renting the vehicle, make sure you're aware of what your liability is in event of an accident or road damge.
If you're planning a stay of several months or longer that involves a lot of driving, it may make financial sense to acquire a used car. Newspapers run car ads, and of course there is always a dealer. Every state has its own registration regulations.
4. Urban Mass Transit
The major urban centers and capital cities have comprehensive, modern and frequent commuter, suburban and local networks of bus, train, tram and ferry services. Passes for various durations are available for sale. Taxis can be ordered or flagged down in all cities. Buses regularly shuttle travelers between airports and locations in the cities.
For all practical purposes there's a single national bus company and a number of small regional operators. Routes follow the major interstate and intrastate system connecting cities and towns inland and along the coast. Long haul buses basically travel large loops covering differrent sections of the country.
Most of the companies sell various passes that generally are more cost effective than paying for each fare individually. One popular pass allows the traveler up to one year to travel any direction with unlimited stopovers up to a certain mileage cap. Some companies discount fares and passes for students, seniors, hostel association members and online bookers.
Bus travel is upscale. Most are equipped with air-conditioning, bathrooms and videos. The interiors are clean and roomy. Rest stops and meal breaks are frequent. Timetables in Australia, unlike many other countries, are not great works of fiction.
In the big cities bus terminals are centrally-located in large buildings and loaded with ticket booths, travel information kiosks, lockers, bathrooms, snack bars and all sorts of retail outlets. In the country towns stops may be the main street gas station, the hotel/pub or a store.
Long-distance, regional, suburban and commuter rail services vary from state to state. Most offer some form of passes and discounted fares for a specified period or a certain number of stopovers to non-Australians, students, seniors and members of approved groups. In the big cities the main railway stations are conveniently located and have ticket offices capable of booking most rail reservations in the country. Tickets, passes and information also can be obtained from the offices in the central business districts.
The privately-owned Great Southern Railway runs three long-distance trips with connections: the Indian Pacific (Perth-Sydney), the Overland (Melbourne-Adelaide) and the Ghan (Adelaide-Darwin). Intercity links between Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane are operated by the New South Wales state railway system, which also provides rail services within New South Wales.
Victoria's Vline runs a statewide passenger train network with Melbourne as the hub. Perth and towns clustered in the southwestern corner of Western Australia are served by the publicly-run Transwa rail system. Adelaide, the capital of South Australia, and its outskirts, have a suburban rail network. The only Northern Territory railroad trip is on the Ghan, which goes between Darwin and Alice Springs. Tasmania has no rail service.
Queensland Rails operates two coastal trains, the Sunlander and Tiltrain, linking Brisbane and Cairns and the towns in between. There are three rail routes that reach the Queensland Outback: the Spirit of the Outback (Brisbane to Rockhampton to Long Reach); Westlander (Brisbane to Charleville); and the Islander (Townsville to Mount Isa). In North Queensland there are three spur lines that cater mostly to tourists: the Savannahlander, the Gulflander and the Kuranda Scenic Railway.