Lifehacker's Australian Airport Public Transport Guide, 2010 Edition

NOTE: This guide has been superseded. Click here for the most recent version. Cheap airfares don't look so cheap if you have to spend a fortune getting to the airport in the first place. Lifehacker rounds up the public transport options to get to and from Australia’s capital city airports.

Picture by superciliousness

This is an updated version of the guide we published last year, incorporating price changes and many reader suggestions. We've included information for each of Australia's capital city airports, covering regularly scheduled services which offer transport from airports to the centre of each city. We haven't included door-to-door hotel shuttle services (unless there's no alternative offered), or looked at taxis. (As well as being more expensive, taxis often involve major queues, especially at peak times.) Costs are for a single airport-CBD trip, though I've tried to note the availability of return options where available. Some (but not all) services will offer student or senior concessions. Many will also offer discounts for smartcard users, but that won't apply to most one-off visitors.

No matter which city you fly from, using airport public transport will generally offer the cheapest option, but there are limitations. Such services often lose their financial appeal if there's more than two of you travelling at once: at that point, a taxi may well be cheaper.

In several cities, there's a further choice between a cheap general bus service and a more specific airport service. The latter is often more costly, but can make up for that with more frequent services and more dedicated luggage-carrying space.

Also beware of the early morning cheap-flight trap. Many airlines offer their cheapest domestic seats with early (think 6am) departures, but the public transport options for getting to the airport at that time are often limited. If you're looking to move between domestic and international terminals at Australian airports, check out our separate guide on the available changeover options.

Sydney

Cheapest option: The 400 bus between Bondi and Burwood via the domestic airport doesn't attract any premium. It doesn't pass through the centre of the city, but it's easily the cheapest option if you are departing from somewhere along its route. A single myBus fare costs $2.00 or $3.30, depending on your starting point. (Unless you purchase a $20 MyMulti Day or already have a weekly MyMulti ticket, you'd need a second ticket to travel on a train to Bondi Junction, Burwood, Banksia or Rockdale to connect with the service, so that's not necessarily an economical choice.)

Most convenient option: Sydney's AirportLink train runs every 15 minutes or so, with stops at both the domestic and international terminals. A single ticket to the domestic or international station from Central costs $15; tickets from other stations on the CityRail network cost a few dollars more, and there's no option for an open return.

Notes: Don't try exiting the train at Mascot, which, despite the airport-like name, is a suburban station (with warnings plastered all over the platform about this very issue). If you're already travelling on a MyMulti or other weekly ticket, buying a single, return or weekly gatepass when you reach the airport via train is a cheap but little-promoted option.

Melbourne

Cheapest option: There's a handful of public buses which leave Melbourne Airport and connect with various train stations allowing a connection to the city: the 478 and 479 go to Essendon, while the 500 goes to Broadmeadows. None are particularly frequent, though, so whether they're useful to you will depend on your arrival time. A single 2-hour trip covering these services will cost you $5.80. All relevant buses depart from bus zone 2 on the arrivals level.

Most convenient option: The SkyBus service runs at 15 minute intervals most of the day, but is available 24 hours. An open return costs $26 and is valid for three months. The journey rarely takes more than 30 minutes even in peak periods.

Notes: If there's a crowd at the Skybus Qantas/Jetstar boarding point, try taking a short walk and boarding at Virgin Blue instead.

Brisbane

Cheapest option: No public buses in sight, sadly.

Most convenient option: The Brisbane Airtrain runs to the Brisbane CBD and onwards to the Gold Coast. An open return ticket to the city, valid for 3 months, costs $28 (buying online attracts a discount, though you'll still need to collect an actual ticket at the airport ticket office). The one big problem? It only runs every 30 minutes most of the day, and it doesn't run at all after 8pm.

Perth

Cheapest option: The 37 bus runs regularly to the city, but takes almost an hour to do so. The 36 bus makes a quicker journey to Midland station, where you can board a city-bound train. In practice, catching whichever one appears first after you arrive would seem to be the best bet. A single journey to the city costs $3.60.

Most convenient option: If you don't fancy the long bus journey, you'll have to pay up for a taxi or point-to-point shuttle.

Notes: The bus stop is near the Virgin Blue end of the domestic terminal, but isn't very obviously signposted.

Both options only cover the domestic airport — the best option for international seems to be the 298 bus, but even that involves a walk of more than several kilometres and only runs three times a day. A standard 2-hour fare costs $3.60. Thanks Andrew for the Perth bus notes!

Adelaide

Cheapest and most convenient option: Adelaide's JetBus service is part of the regular transport system, so you won't pay any premium. Buses run every 15 minutes for much of the day, and there's a handful of early options. A single fare is $4.40, or $2.70 outside peak times.

Notes: Catch the bus on the departures level, not arrivals. Check that the bus you're boarding heads to the city — there are also services to several Adelaide suburbs.

Canberra

Cheapest option: Canberra's Airliner A1 bus runs from the airport to the main city bus interchange. A return ticket costs $16.20; a single is $9. There's no service after 7pm and limited service on weekends.

Darwin

Darwin doesn't have any public transport options; the Darwin Airport Shuttle costs $12 for a single, $22 for a return.

Hobart

Hobart doesn't have any public transport options; the Redline Airport Shuttle costs $15 for a single, or $25 for a return. The $10 Buck Bus is less frequent, but, as the name suggests, cheaper.

Missed a useful option? Let us know in the comments.

Lifehacker Australia editor Angus Kidman breaks out into a cold sweat when contemplating the Sydney Airport taxi queue. His Road Worrier column, looking at technology and organising tips for travellers, appears each week on Lifehacker.


Comments

    From my place in the Inner West I have always found it cheaper and infinitely more convenient when travelling with 2 or more passengers to just get a cab. The train to the airport in Sydney is a rip off.

    The city is even closer to the airport than my place.

    There is at least one newsagent (not available at all newsagents but maybe more than one) in the Queent St mall in Brisbane (outside Queens plaza) that sells Airtrain tickets from CBD to Brisbane airport for cheaper than elsewhere. From memory I think it was about $12.90 each way. I will check next time I'm there. They're valid for use anytime over a 6 month (I think) period. I currently have one at home that I bought but forgot to take it with me when I needed it (the downside :) ).

    Sydney: Bus 400 goes to Rockdale station, so if you travel on Illawarra line to the south it's cheaper to get a bus instead of expensive train to Wolli Creek, where you need to change platforms anyway.

    The Brisbane Airtrain borders on useless and sits smack back in frustration. I've come home from countless flights to find I have to get a cab into the city (at ridiculous expense) because the air-train isn't running. There are also no discounts for students, pensioners or concession card holders. I'm not sure whether greyhound run a ferry bus into Roma St station or not. I think I caught something like that once.

    The rest of public transport here runs until around midnight. Why doesn't this service feel its a good idea to stop running before planes stop landing? Its seems like such a poorly made decision.

      This has happened to me also, Brisbane public transport is a complete and utter joke when compared to the (most) Australian capitals. Trains stopping before planes, uhhh what?!

    smack bang*

    Nice write up Angus, nice & conclusive.

      Another poorly researched article.
      The Hobart Ten Buck Bus stopped running nearly a month ago after Redline poached their customers by picking them up at the Ten Buck Bus pickup points.
      If you had actually gone to the Ten Buck Bus website, rather than just posting the link, you would have seen that.

    There is also no transfer bus between between Brisbane International and Domestic airports. You have to rely on the air-train and since it only runs every half an hour, I would plan plenty of time between flights

    And if you really need a taxi checkout the correct prices at www.worldcabfares.net

    Melbourne's Skybus actually runs every 10 minutes for most of the day, 7-days-a-week. The times I've used it, it's been a consistent 20 minute trip, though peak hour may affect it a bit.

    Melbourne has now also introduced the 901 bus between the Airport and Broadmeadows which runs every 15 minutes throughout most of the day on weekdays.

    I don't even bother using the Brisbane AirTrain anymore - I've been using the shuttle service which departs frequently, is also 24/7 and costs the same as the AirTrain. It also gets me closer to my door than the AirTrain (I live close to the city).

    It does door to door hotel and backpacker pick ups and drop offs and runs up and down the coasts.

    http://www.coachtrans.com.au/brisbane.aspx

      +1 to using coachtrans in getting to/from the airport.

      My first solo plane adventure finished with me touching back down in Brisbane at around 7:45pm on a Friday night. By the time we landed and got off the plane, the last airtrain had already departed for the night. Seriously?!?
      I didn't know anyone who lived in Brisbane that had a car and hadn't already started drinking, so was VERY thankful to find the coachtrans booth still open. I only caught it to Central (so I could jump on one of the normal trains to get back home), but the driver was fantastic. I think it was the same price as the airtrain anyway.

      After the couple of days in Sydney using their rail network (they ran flawlessly while I was there), it really made it even worse to come home to this. So disappointing and embarrassing - we're a capital city and we don't have a rail option after 8pm?!?!
      If I go interstate for work, I usually have to stay until at least 5pm, so I'd never land before 8pm. I'd assume I'm not the only one with a schedule like this....

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