Finding Cheap Airport Transfers From Australian Airports

streettaxisbuses NOTE: This guide has been superseded. Click here for the most recent version. There's something really stupid about paying $80 for a flight and then paying another $80 for a taxi when you land. Lifehacker rounds up the public transport options from Australia's capital city airports.

NOTE: This guide has been superseded. Click here for the most recent version.

By definition, anyone landing at an airport hasn't got their own transport. Unless you're returning home and being met or planning on hiring a car, you'll need an option to get you to your accommodation. Taxis are an obvious choice, but they're expensive and the queues in some Australian cities (Sydney in particular) are horrendous at peak periods.

As part of the Hand Luggage Only project, I'm checking out the options for getting to and from the airport at (relatively) minimal cost. Relatively is an important term; with the exception of Perth and Adelaide, all these options are more expensive than comparable-distance public transport journeys elsewhere in the city. For solo travellers, this will be the cheapest choice, but if you have three or more people travelling at once, a taxi may end up costing much the same.

I've tried out (or will be trying out in the case of Perth) all the options listed here, with the exception of Darwin. Combine this list with our previous post on free capital city transport and you can save a fair whack getting around.

This list has a fairly specific focus: regularly-scheduled services that get you from capital city airports to the centre of the relevant town. I generally haven't included the many shuttle services that either go to regional destinations or offer to-the-door services to particular hotels, unless they're the only option available in a particular city. However, if there's a service that you think deserves inclusion, share the details in the comments -- it's entirely possible that I've missed bus options for cities I'm less familiar with. Costs are for a single airport-CBD trip.

Sydney

Cost: $14.60 (domestic), $15.20 (international) Sydney's AirportLinktrain turned out to be a bit of a political disaster after effectively sending its private backers broke, but it does offer regular services (generally around every 15 minutes) and has the advantage of not being disrupted during peak hour traffic. The journey time is around 10 minutes. Even if you have a regular daily or weekly ticket, you'll need to pay a platform access fee to exit at either the International or Domestic stations. Don't make the mistake of exiting at Mascot, which is a suburban station (which really should have been given a different name). You can't buy open returns, which is annoying. Transferring between the domestic and international terminals costs $5.

A potentially cheaper option which I haven't tested is the 400 bus, though as this finishes in Bondi Junction you'd then have to spring for another train ticket to get into town.

Melbourne

Cost: $16.00 Until a commenter pointed it out recently, I hadn't realised that you could catch a standard Melbourne bus (the 478) from the airport and transfer at Essendon station for a city train. In theory, that would let you use a standard 2-hour Zone 1+2 ticket, priced at $5.80, to get into town. However, that bus only runs to Essendon four times a day, so it's not really a practical general solution (and the once-a-day 479 is even less useful).

For most purposes, the Skybus service is going to be the best option. The buses run every 10 minutes at peak periods, and even in the middle of the night there are scheduled services. The Citylink freeway means that journey is also pretty reliable even in peak periods, which is useful given Melbourne Airport's distance from the CBD. Buses can get pretty crowded; at busy times, you'll be better off boarding at the first stop (Virgin/Rex/International) rather than the second (Qantas) if you want any chance of getting a seat. Open returns cost $26 and are valid for three months.

Brisbane

Cost: $14.00 Brisbane's Airtrain offers connections not just to the Brisbane CBD but to the Gold Coast, which is a useful option if you fancy Qantas over Jetstar. Admittedly, that does add 90 minutes on the train to your journey. An open return to the CBD (valid for 3 months) costs $26. The minor downsides are the relative infrequency (every 30 minutes outside peak times) and the inexplicable fact that it stops dead at 8pm every night. Prebooked online tickets attract a 10% discount, though last time I did this you still had to pick up an actual ticket at the station, which is a disadvantage when racing for a once-every-30-minutes train.

Canberra

Cost: $10.00 The Canberra Airliner A1 drops passengers at the main city bus interchange, which is the hub of public transport options for the capital. A return ticket costs $15. There's no service after 7pm, so it's not a good option for late (or delayed) arrivals.

Adelaide

Cost: $4.20 Adelaide wins the prize for the best-value airport transfer in Australia, since its airport JetBus lines are part of the regular system and don't charge any extra for airport access, meaning you can travel for a standard single daily fare (which drops to $2.60 outside peak hours). Even with other stops on the way, the journey doesn't typically take more than 20 minutes.

One thing to watch for: the bus is on the departures level, not arrivals (as is the case pretty much everywhere else we've discussed here). Also check the bus destination, as the stop is also used by buses arriving from the city and continuing to other locations. (Adelaide bus drivers are generally happy to tell you where they're going, which is more than can be said for some cities!)

Perth

Cost: $3.50 Perth also offers regular bus services to the city from its airport on the 37 line -- the only thing that makes Adelaide look a better deal is a more frequent service and a less lengthy journey. General frequency is every 30 minutes, and the journey to the centre of town takes around 40 minutes. (I'll be testing this service out later this week so I'll update with any relevant observations.)

Hobart

Cost: $15.00 The Hobart Redline Airport Shuttleis a to-your-hotel service, but we've included it here because there's really no other option, and the airport's far away enough to make a taxi a painful prospect. A return fare costs $25.

Darwin

Cost: $10 Like Hobart, Darwin only has a hotel bus option: the Darwin Airport Shuttle. Return fare is $18.

Throughout May 2009, Lifehacker Australia editor Angus Kidman will be travelling throughout Australia with just one carry-on bag for the Hand Luggage Only project. His Road Worrier column, looking at technology and organising tips for travellers, appears each week on Lifehacker.

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Comments

    The 400 from Sydney takes forever. There are several shuttle services avalible for arround the same price as the train. I use the Eastern Suburbs one, takes 20 min and they pick you up from your door on the hour ($15) 1300739766. I fly weekly so maybe see you on the shuttle...

      I second that - the 400 is a sick joke.

      The 200 was great for going to classes at UNSW straight from the airport. I would get off the plane with my notes, catch the bus, be there in 20 mins for $2 and study on the bus. If you want to go to Bondi its another $1 and 15 mins of travelling. Thus this is the best option to bypass the city if you are heading for the Eastern suburbs. The train is better if you are heading for the CBD.

    "Don’t make the mistake of existing at Mascot..."

    Meheheheh

      I believe though that Mascot is still part of the 'airport' fare zone, meaning that even if you got off there you still needed to pay the full fare. Green Square, the stop after the International Airport, isn't though, and last year, on a trip to Osaka with Jetstar, I decided to work out if getting off at Green Square was a viable option. After negotiating through an apartment complex, through a park, across a bridge, and along a river, after half an hour with a medium sized suitcase and a back pack, it is possible, but it's a bit of a hike, and definitely not recommended for anyone with a lot of luggage.

        I'm guessing you actually mean Wolli Creek rather than Green Square, since it's Wolli that's the station after international and part of the regular network. Green Square and Mascot (Suburban) are part of the airport line and attract higher fares, though not _as_ high as the two airport stops.

    Melbourne:
    There's also the 500 bus route, running 8 more services a day. It would also require an exchange at Broadmeadows train station to get to the city.

    http://www.metlinkmelbourne.com.au/route/view/840

    Thanks for the guide though - a big help.

    At Sydney Airport, if you have 2-3 people travelling together, it's far cheaper to catch a cab to city than catching the train. That's what I did last week. I paid around $20-22 to TownHall station.

    At Adelaide they have THE best (& cheapest) option. Jet Bus (J1 OR J2) every 15 minutes.

      Taxis in Sydney are a pain unless you do not mind being stuck in traffic. They take 20 to 50 minutes to get you to the city, compared to a 10 minute train ride.

    As a SydneySider.. I really feel sorry for Travelers hoping to catch a ride on the train to the city during the morning peak... the trains are absolutely jam packed in the mornings.

    As for Mascot station they now have signs down on the platform saying to not to exit here if your planning to go to the airport.

    In Perth the number 37 is called the domestic terminal bus but it can take an hour from the city! The 36 though (midlands via domestic airport) takes 20min as it goes down great eastern. It stops at the same domestic airport stop as the 37 and same price.

    What about the Gold Coast Coolangatta Airport to Brisbane?

    I just got myself some very cheap AirAsia flights and it looks like I'm going to have to pay more for transport to the airport.

      Did that ths year, after a flight from Tokyo with Jetstar. That means, getting into Australia first thing in the morning. After getting the free airport shuttle to the bus stop, you then spend an hour on a bus to Robina station, and then another 90 minutes on the train to Brisbane airport (this doesn't include waiting for the bus or the train.)

      There is a company called Connexion Coaches that charges $45 for a bus ride between Gold Coast and Brisbane. It takes about 2 hours because they drop off other people on the way, but it is door to door which is convenient, and cheaper than car hire.

    Glad to see we do some things right here in Adelaide, we normally cop a fair bit of "flak" about our public transport system.

    You didn't mention Gold Coast Airport, which is on par with Adelaide and Perth. Just walk a couple of minutes from the terminal to the Gold Coast Highway, then hop on a local bus to Surfers. The bus fare is just $4.30.

    Even better is Broome Airport. It's just a five minute walk from the town centre.

      The list was capital cities -- hence no Gold Coast etc. But thanks for the additions. I don't think the Gold Coast setup quite matches the Adelaide or Perth environment, since you do have to leave the airport itself, but it's certainly a lot cheaper than the shuttle bus.

      I agree Gold Coast deserves a special mention. It has a population of 0.5 Million and growing.

      The GC bus also runs 24/7 which beats most capital cities

    Hobart also has the "$10 Buck Bus" (Tel: 0419 382 240). It doesn't run as often as the Redline Airporter or meet late-night flights, but is worth it for single a journey.

    Melbourne also has other airport service that compete with Skybus - which might be more suitable depending upon location. See:
    http://www.jetbus.com.au/
    http://www.starbus.net.au/

    The Darwin shuttle bus is now $22 for Adults, slightly cheaper for return. You can pay in cash when you arrive as they meet every flight and connect with all departures from Darwin airport.
    The best thing for us was that they also connect with the listed flight regardless of how delayed the flight actually arrived. It couldn't have been easier.

    The Brisbane coach offers no real afterhours coaches as it claims - Basically Brisbane is dysfunctional for airport transfers after 8pm (although there are plenty of flights operating 24hours). Maybe the taxis are running the airport? When is this place going to wake up?

    The $10 buck bus is great - friendly drivers,
    on time and cheap

    You can book from the Airport - 0419 382 240

    Please add their website www.tenbuckbus.com.au

    I find in Sydney, the 400 to Rockdale/Banksia is a cheaper option, then train. Usually better connections at Rockdale, as Banksia is skipped on many train services.

    Melbourne:
    the route 901 SmrtBus now operates, this does run to frankston via keon park, south morang, epping, ringwood, dandenong and carrum downs,which takes 4 1/2 hours but just get off at keon park station on the epping line for 20mins to tulla 10 min waits in peak

    Sydney Airport Transport . Our most popular service, the Airport Shuttle is transport service than affordable prices transport to and from Sydney Airport.

    Last edited 12/02/15 11:08 pm

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