Australia's different capital city public transport systems don't have much in common -- but many of them do offer free bus services in their CBD areas (along with the occasional no-cost tram or train). Check out our comprehensive listing to save money (and traffic jams) the next time you're in an unfamiliar city. Picture from Adelaide MetroWhile most free bus services are tourist-oriented, they can still be useful for saving on taxi fares if you're trying to get around the centre town in a hurry. Plus you can feel suitably green and smug. The biggest restriction is that many don't operate outside normal business hours.
Sydney's a relative latecomer to the free bus scene, but the 555 loop service introduced in December connects all of Sydney's CBD railway stations and Circular Quay. The service is frequent -- every 10 minutes in two directions -- but doesn't run after 3:30pm on weekdays or 6pm on weekends. Details at Sydney Buses.
Melbourne offers a City Tourist Shuttle bus with 13 stops around the CBD. With a 90-minute full circuit, it's not especially speedy, and it doesn't run very frequently (every 30 minutes) or outside hours. A speedier choice is the free City Circle Tram, which circles the outer edge of the CBD every 12 minutes and runs until 9pm Thurs-Sat and until 6pm at other times. This can also be a useful option if you're trying to go in the opposite direction to the city circle trains, which generally all travel one way in the morning and then reverse direction in the afternoon. Details at That's Melbourne (bus) and Metlink (tram).
Brisbane's has two free inner-city loop buses, one covering the CBD (in two directions) and the other covering Spring Hill. Both runs every 10 minutes until 6pm, but don't appear to be active on weekends. Details at TransLink.
Perth's free transport option is way more comprehensive than any other capital: it operates a Free Transit Zone covering all buses and train services (between City West and Claisebrook) within the CBD area. While this gives a wider range of options within the CBD, you'll need to know the boundaries well to avoid being hit with a fare. Details at Transperth.
The Adelaide-Glenelg Tram (the only one in town, so you can't really mess up finding it) is free for use between North and South Terrace. (If you stay on board beyond South Terrace, you'll need a ticket, and there's invariably a conductor on board to check. It's also free for the very last stretch in Glenelg.) The free 99C bus also connects a smaller segment of the inner city, included the bus station. Both options run weekdays, weekends and evenings, generally every 15 minutes or so (the tram is more frequent and runs later). Details and maps at Adelaide Metro.
If there's any free city bus options we've missed on this list, share them in the comments.
Lifehacker Australia editor Angus Kidman prefers trains to buses, but when they become free he's prepared to make an exception. His Road Worrier column, looking at technology and organising tips for travellers, appears each week on Lifehacker.