Australia by train: Tickets, routes, and useful info for visitors

australia train routes

Australia is a vast country that has something to offer to everyone. From the famous cities of Sydney and Melbourne to the great outback and the unique landscapes, every Australian state deserves a visit. But how to get around Australia if one does not wish to drive?

Travelling Australia by train can be a fun yet relaxing way of discovering the country. However, it is important to arrive prepared and know the available routes and price tickets to avoid surprises.

Moreover, the Australian rail system may be different from what visitors from other countries may be used to.

In this article, travellers will find out about:

  • How to get around Australia by train
  • The most famous train routes in Australia
  • The price of a train ticket in Australia and the necessary documents

How to get around Australia by train

Australia is a huge country where distances are not to be underestimated. Since most tourists do not have longer than a couple of weeks to take off work for their holidays, flying is the preferred way of travelling for many, as it is undoubtedly the fastest and most convenient one.

However, the charme of a train ride cannot be matched. Australia is home to some of the most fascinating and famous routes in the world and there is nothing quite like watching the landscape change outside of the train window.

Most short and medium-distance routes are managed by state rail bodies. This is the case, for example, of NSW TrainLink, which operates services throughout the state of New South Wales and into Victoria, Queensland, and South Australia.

NSW TrainLink operates trains from Sydney to Melbourne as well as Brisbane and Canberra.

Which is a famous Australian train ride?

The longer-distance routes are also the most famous train rides in Australia.

These include, for example, the Ghan, the iconic train that goes from Adelaide to Alice Springs and then Darwin. Along the way, explorers will be able to enter the Red Centre of Australia and see the Uluru Ayers Rock.

The Ghan is run by Journeys Beyond Rail (previously known as Great Southern Rail) and runs twice a week from April to October and once a week the rest of the year, while there is no service between mid December and mid January.

The journey takes 53 hours: imagine leaving a temperate hilly landscape, crossing the desert, and arriving at the tropics. There are different fare options available. Some include en-suite double-bed cabins, meals, drinks, and even off-train excursions.

Another famous ride is also run by Journeys Beyond Rail. The Indian Pacific is Australia’s longest journey, running 4,343km (2,698 miles) from Sydney to Perth, the capital of Western Australia, and effectively crossing the whole country.

Passengers can expect 5-star service with cosy beds, a restaurant and luxury lodge, and the Blue Mountains, rural Australia, and historic towns passing by the window.

Is there a high speed train in Australia?

The government of Australia started studying the possibility of high-speed trains in Australia in the 1980s. However, projects are still in the planning stage.

Due to the enormous distance between cities and the relatively small size of Australian towns, many consider the country to be incompatible with bullet trains and therefore, the issue has long been cause for political debate.

However, the government announced in the 2019-2020 Budget that AUD $40 million were being allocated to assess 5 fast rail corridors. The government also established a National Faster Rail Agency to develop business cases for higher speed rail between state capital cities and regional centres.

The fastest train in Australia is currently the Electric Tilt Train, which recorded a speed of 209 km/h (103.4 mph) between Meadowvale and Avondale, Queensland.

Australian train ticket prices and where to buy

The cost of a train ticket in Australia depends on the journey and the company running the service.

For example, a one-way ticket from Sydney to Melbourne with NSW TrainLink takes between 10-11 hours and costs around AUD $100. It can be conveniently purchased online.

On the other hand, prices for 1 adult on the Indian Pacific for the whole Sydney-Perth journey start at AUD $2,419 for the Gold Service single sleeper. Tickets can be purchased online. Fares for the Ghan are more affordable with the journey from Adelaide to Darwin costing AUD $1,426.

Passengers may need their ID when collecting the ticket to confirm their reservation. Moreover, please note that non-Australian citizens will need a valid Australian visa in order to enter and explore the country.