I believe I can fly, sang rapper R Kelly. But he can’t, because he’s just a boringly flightless human… Like us. So an aeroplane is probably the next best thing. The price war between Virgin Blue ( and Qantas’s ( budget airline subsidiary Jetstar ( means flights are eminently affordable Down Under. With such vast distances to cover we’re all big fans of Richard Branson for sticking his oar in and keeping the costs down. You wouldn’t want to fly from city to city all your way around Australia because you’ll miss out on some stunning scenery and stop-offs along the way. But many savvy travellers include one or two flights in their itinerary, especially when the time on your visa starts ticking away. Virgin has a “happy hour” on its website every day between 1pm and 2pm (AEST), with some pretty ridiculous prices on selected flights. That said, it’s notoriously difficult to actually get the site to work at this time, due to the volume of interest. So it’s best to start looking well in advance. It’s a good idea to register with both companies’ websites and they’ll often email you special deals, etc. Travelling mid-week can be cheaper and near the weekend, as can hopping on a plane at ungodly hours, like before 7am. Gulp. Over the last year Australia has also welcomed[Tiger Airways] another low-cost airline that provides cheap flights from Perth and Darwin to Singapore and Asia. So rather than having to get back to Sydney or Melbourne, you can now choose to fly home via Asia at an affordable price and really make the most of your last few days/weeks of freedom.


Adelaide to Darwin

The romanticism of train travel, the rumbling sound of the tracks below, the cinematic landscape scrolling past your window – it’s all part of the joys of The Ghan, one of Australia’s top rail journeys. Steeped in a history of desert-heat and hard-times, the train is named after the Afghan labourers who constructed the line. The line joins the south with the north, dissecting Australia right down the centre from Adelaide to Darwin, through Alice Springs. Do the entire trip, or do just half to the red centre. Leave the driving to the train driver as you lay back in comfort and watch as the outback zooms by, spotting mobs of kangaroos in the red centre sunset. A few whistle stops help break up the two-day trip and for a couple of extra bucks, you can reach out and experience the outback first hand. Canoe the ancient Katherine Gorge ($24 for a double canoe) or take a helicopter ride over the grand Nitmiluk National Park ($169). In Alice, hop on a quad bike for a tour of the NT’s oldest working cattle station ($109). For travellers with a YHA backpacker discount card, prices start from $460 for the Adelaide-Darwin journey in the daynighter cabin and drop for shorter journeys. Prices rise for Sleeper and Gold Kangaroo service. Visit for more information.

Sydney to Perth

Australia’s other great railway journey is the trans-continental Indian Pacific, which joins two great oceans. The 4,352km trip involves spending three nights on board and stops at (from east to west) Broken Hill, Adelaide and gold-rich Kalgoorlie. Travelling along the Nullarbor Plain, youÕll also stop in the small outpost of Cook, boasting a population of just two. As a budget traveller you’re eligible for student fairs of $252. (But prices are due to double on 1 April 2007.) If you’re a trainspotter you’re sure to love one of the longest and most spectacular train journeys in the world. If you’re not ready for such a huge trip you can get some training on The Overland. Taking a direct route from Melbourne to Adelaide, you’ll travel through the Grampians, to Horsham and over the border to your destination. Tickets for backpackers are $45 one way. The service takes approximately 11 hours and runs three times a week in each direction. From here you can meet up with the Indian Pacific, and travel onwards, west to Perth.



Some coaches are more pleasant than others. For example, Jose Mourinho is quite unpleasant. Coach services throughout Australia on the other hand are a very easy-going, cost-effective way to get around. They cover a surprisingly large area, linking many cities and country towns. There are various passes that offer hop-on, hop-off options, or unlimited travel over a period of time. Firefly (Freecall 1300 730 740) has very cheap daily services from Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide, and Greyhound Australia goes to many destinations. There are also a number of smaller operators who can take you off the beaten track. There are backpacker-specific coach lines and as the name suggests these trips are tailor-made for young travellers, so they’re guaranteed fun.


Tour the country like a rock star. Hopping on a tour bus with stop-offs at the highlights and an informed guide means you can throw the maps out the window and watch the world go by. This can be a cost-effective way to see the sights and get stuck into some adventures at the same time. Many tours are specific to an activity, like a learn to surf tour. Outback adventures, 4WD tours or wine tours are also popular, taking you off the beaten track. Your accommodation, food and equipment is often provided, and you’ll spend nights in hostels, cabins or tents, depending on the adventure. Many tours have flexible deals and allow you to create your own itineraries. Shop around for the one that best suits your price range and interests.

Buying a campervan

The ideal trip, if you can afford it, is travelling by car or campervan. Your own wheels, your own time. The open road with you and a friend – preferably in a ’66 red Mustang convertible, yet more likely an ’86 two-tone brown Holden stationwagon – and Australia’s beautifully varied landscape make for fantastic roadtrips. You can explore every nook and cranny, from secret beaches to ancient national parks with free or cheap campgrounds. Picking up a stationwagon, van or panel van gives you room to throw a mattress in the back for optimum freedom. With no itinerary, you can stay for as little or long as you like in one place. Supplying yourself with some camping and cooking equipment will make dinner cheaper, and subsidise the rising petrol prices.

Hiring a campervan

If you’re embarking on an ephemeral adventure, a rental car is a good bet, with no resale worries at the end of the line. You won’t have the cash for a pimped-up Range Rover, so you’ll want to go with a company within your price range. There are rental companies targeting budget travellers that have drop-off points in most cities and start from $30 a day. If you’ve got a bit more money to spend, a campervan allows you to pull over on the side of the road and sleep where you like. The luxury campers come with a TV, food-preparation equipment, a sink, shower and if youÕre Richard Branson, a couple of hot tubs. Cheaper versions of the campervan, targeted at the tighter traveller, are simpler but do the job just as well. Also, enquire about relocation specials for car and van rentals – you can get deals for as little as $1/day. It may mean being at your destination by a specific date, so you lose time to explore, but at that price you can’t complain.