Travel to Australia
Australia is a long way from everywhere. Most international airlines carry passengers to major Australian cities, (Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane or Perth) however be prepared for at least one stopover. If you’re coming from Europe, Tokyo, Singapore, Dubai and Hong Kong are popular stopover points. Flights from the west coast of the United States are often non-stop or you can stop-over in Hawaii.
Travel Within Australia
Competition between air carriers Virgin Blue, Tiger Airways and Jetstar (the budget subsidiary of QANTAS) has seen airfares drop and more Australians taking to the skies. Airfares between major cities can at times be ridiculously low and if you’re only in Australia for a week or two, you don’t want to spend your whole stay traveling.
Australia is so large and its population so small that many travelers don’t realize that it might take 8-10 hours to drive from one major city to the next.
A car is good if you have plenty of time. Many backpackers will buy a vehicle in the red light district of Kings Cross in Sydney and meander up the coast with it. A car has the added benefit of being a (relatively) secure place to sleep, and you can get to popular destinations without having to join tours or mooch off strangers.
Train and Bus
Train and bus travel has suffered with the advent of cheap flights in Australia. Greyhound is Australia’s main long-haul bus company and trips can be crowded, uncomfortable and incredibly tedious. They are however good for getting to places where flights are exorbitantly expensive or simply non-existent.
Many Australians travel by train for aesthetic purposes. Train travel can be slow and not much cheaper than flying or taking the bus, however trains provide a more thorough familiarity with the country. The Tilt Train runs along the eastern coast of Queensland while the Ghan slices Australia in half, starting in Adelaide and making its way up to Darwin in the Northern Territory.
Hitchhiking in Australia is becoming a dying art. Negative publicity from the Backpacker Murders and Peter Falconio cases has made backpackers wary of hitch-hiking in Australia at all. Films such as Wolf Creek have perpetuated this belief.
Hitch-hiking in Australia is likely no more dangerous than anywhere else, although it would be wise to keep two things in mind: a) not everyone who lives in the bush is a lovable larrikin [A uniquely Australian term for a mischief-maker, a practical joker like Crocodile Dundee] and b) if you’re female and remotely attractive, you may be subject to unwanted sexual advances.
That said, if you don’t mind the risk of a weirdo picking you up, murdering you, grinding up your carcass and storing you in the freezer, who are we stop you?
Check out the book Thumbs Up Australia for an idea of what hitching in Oz is like.