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Adelaide's Transportation

Published by Michael Dib

Introduction: within Adelaide

This written piece is pretty important for those visiting Adelaide or doing a semesters exchange in this Australian city. We’ll first talk about how to get around within Adelaide. After, we will then talk about the different ways to travel from Adelaide to other Australian cities. The city of Adelaide is relatively small with just over a million-people living in the area. While the population is pretty small most things are fairly spaced out from each other which would necessitate the need for different forms of transport when need be. Whether it's to get to the beach, a winery or university it is good to know the many different options to get around. Firstly, let's start off with the bus system.


The bus is the most widespread way to get around Adelaide. It is a commute that takes more cars off the roads and gets you to where you want to go safely. It is very convenient and allows you to relax, read or listen to music. The bus fare varies as there are a few different types. There is the regular card, seniors, school students and concession. I shall be focusing on concession as it will be the one card you will be using during your stay on an overseas exchange semester.

Adelaide's Transportation


As a university student you will have full rights and privileges to use the green concession card. This card allows for the lower fares of only less than a dollar during peak hours or about $1.75 during off-peak hours. This makes your travelling quite cheap compared to many other forms of transport. Also, since Adelaide is relatively small they do not use the system of tap on and tap off. Rather, every time you tap on you will have two hours of unlimited transportation. While this is the case you should still tap on every time you enter a bus regardless if you have the unlimited two hours in motion. The reason for this is basically to make the bus driver’s life easier. He isn’t sure whether you already paid for those two hours, so you will have to tap again else you may find yourself in an awkward situation. This also applies for tickets. If you don’t have a card on you then you can purchase a bus ticket from the bus driver himself. The tickets are a slight bit more expensive at times although you can state that you are a concession user (since you are studying at a university). You may have to show your student ID although they mostly would not ask for it. These tickets also last for two hours to which you must keep with you at all times when travelling in case you change buses, or a bus warden asks to examine tickets. If you find yourself travelling more than twice a day the I would recommend paying for an unlimited month pass. This pass allows you unlimited use of the concession card for a monthly fee. The bus is a good way to get to beaches as the nearest beach by bus is about thirty minutes from the city centre.


Our next form of transport will be the trams. At the moment there is only two directions the tram goes which is from the Adelaide entertainment centre to Glenelg. This allows you to visit Adelaide’s historical beach and the centre which provides some of Adelaide’s biggest performers. The tram is pretty fast as it does not have to deal with as much traffic as the bus although it does have to abide by all the traffic lights. It usually gets busy on the tram although they do come often between fifteen to thirty minutes. Like the Adelaide bus you’re able to use the green metro concession card to get on and off. Better yet, you could even tap on the bus and receive that unlimited two hours which also applies for the tram.

I personally find the tram as one of my favourite ways to get around as it sails very smoothly and often there are less obnoxiously loud people riding them. A downside is that it sticks to only two points travelling back and forth. Luckily, there has been a massive tram project which sees tramlines going northwards from North Terrace and Eastwards towards Norwood. This would expand the size of the network and allow more people to take trams and allow for less congestion from road traffic and put less strain on buses. Another bonus concerning the tram station is that it is free to travel from the entertainment centre all the way to the southernmost tip of the city of Adelaide. You won’t need to tap your card travelling through this area. However, if you go beyond this point then make sure to validate your ticket or card. Once in Glenelg, you can travel within the suburb by tram for free before exiting the area. If you are ever unsure, then look up while in the tram. You will be able to spot a diagram that shows where you are able to travel for free and where you are not.

Another downside of the tram is that the only beach it will drop you off is Glenelg and you are not allowed to carry bikes with you. Although, from Glenelg you could catch a bus that will take you further north or south to another beach if that is your whim. The next form of transport that we will be investigating are the trains.


Trains here are cheap to use. They use the exact same fare type as that of trams and buses. The concept is still the same when it comes to paying for a fare and having yourself two hours of unlimited travel. This is perfect as it allows you to travel to places such as way down south to Mclaren vale to enjoy wineries. You would need to get on a train and then a bus. As the trip is all under two hours you will have to pay under two dollars to get to the wine-town. Or, you could get your own bike and take the train which will then drop you off a twenty-minute bus ride away from the city which should not be much of a problem for a bike rider.

The train travels far north or south. Either way you’ll get a spectacular view of the sea. You will also pass lush areas and other scenic views which you can enjoy as you travel about.

The main train station can be found on north terrace. The area is built on is spectacular as it is part of a complex which holds the Casino, the vibrant Hindley street just south and many entertainment areas. This also makes getting home from a night out easier. Although, it's worth noting that trains, along with buses stop operating past quarter past midnight. There are exceptions on Saturdays.

The train station provides many recharge areas for metro cards and cafes. You could also access all the trains in Adelaide through here which makes it very convenient. It's also about a fifteen minute (or less) walk from the University of Adelaide and Unisa. It is also even closer to Uni west campuses and tafe. The train, unfortunately is not very flexible in the areas you’d like to catch it. We also do not have any underground metros, so the bus is without a doubt the easiest way to get around.

Adelaide's Transportation



Taxi services are also very common to get around. It's not hard to see them whizzing past the busier streets of Adelaide. Night Outs the intensity of how many there are out doesn’t drop. You could call them whenever you wanted or even pick one up from the busier clubs. They usually patrol those areas. If you do not have much luck, then the best place to head to is the Adelaide Casino. There will always be a handful of taxi drivers lying in wait for patrons to come out and hitch a ride. The taxi rides here are relatively expensive. They charge quite a bit so solo travelling might be quite dear for the average student.

On the other hand, you could always book an Uber. There are quite a few Uber drivers in the area which make it easy to book a ride whenever you want. However, there are some nights where Uber far exceeds the price of a regular fare. For example, there was this one night when I was working at the Adelaide Oval. It was a Saturday night and the patrons of the AFL game decided to head to the city after the game. It was past midnight, so I was unable to grab a bus home so had to Uber it. I checked the fare and was shocked to see how the price was multiplied by exactly 5.9x. That means a regular 14-dollar drive could potentially cost between 80-90 dollars for a ten-minute drive.

There is something inherently evil about that. Although, it is understandable to an extent as the fares are meant to motivate more Uber drivers to go out as there is a high demand for them. Although, I reckon that night there wasn’t enough Uber drivers in Adelaide to accommodate the thousands of people that were out that night. If you ever see yourself in this type of situation then I would highly recommend you go for a regular taxi as it would be much cheaper at that time. Another recommendation would be to walk although that isn’t an option many of us would like to take.

Bus shuttle

A more exclusive and not always accessible form of transport is the Adelaide University bus shuttle. This bus shuttle usually goes off late into the evening from the university on certain days. They’re great if you live in the city or within North Adelaide as they will drop you down exactly to your step for free. It's great if you live relatively far, are really exhausted or feel unsafe walking home.


One of the most common forms of transport for students are bicycles. Much of Adelaide’s surrounding area is cyclable. The city without a doubt is. Without any traffic or traffic lights you could easily cycle from the wider side of Adelaide to the other in under ten minutes. Bikes may range from around 80AUD to a couple of thousand. It is also worth noting that it is illegal to cycle without two lights on both ends of your bike and a helmet. If you do not wear a helmet, then a police officer may stop you. At first, you’ll get a warning, but repeated offences would leave to a fine which I reckon is about 150-160 AUD. That isn’t really a fun situation to be in when visiting a foreign country. Another option instead of buying your own bike you could always use one of the private bike services around the city. One such bike sharing company is OFO.

This Beijing based bike company is a new addition to the growing amount of bike sharing services around Australia. To use one of these you would have to download the application. One you downloaded the OFO application you would have to connect your debit or credit card to the service. You could use the inbuilt map that will track where nearby bikes could be found. If you find yourself a bike on the map you can walk on over to that bike and use the scan option on the app. One you scan one of the two barcodes found at the back of the bike you are then able to ride the bike as it unlocks itself. The two lights work with motion and the helmet should be securely fastened to the bike. It was free to use all of February although they have started charging. It costs two dollars for an hour of riding. Two dollars is also the initial fee so even if you ride for a minute you will still have to pay the two dollars. The maximum the bike will charge you is five dollars. So, if you plan to spend a whole day with a bike then you should be peachy.

There are also other bike services that would not necessarily cost you anything. Adelaide provides free city bikes which are popular with students and tourists. You would have to pick them up from a place in north terrace. You will also have to return them by a certain time. They are very useful as you’re able to use them almost all day and check out whichever areas you want as everything is pretty close to get to. For those living in Urbanest it is pretty easy to access such bikes. Not only is the place relatively close to rent your bike although Urbanest provides said bikes. You would have to ask them from their reception area and they will provide you with one as you do all the administrative processes in there.

Adelaide's Transportation



Last but not least, you could walk around. Not necessarily the suburb area but definitely within the city. I recall how often I would have to walk from one spot of the city to the University and although they are each at the far end of the city it would take me only twenty-five minutes walking. From the northern part to the southern part of the city it would take you only thirty minutes worth of walking. Although, if you’re trying to get from the north to south tip then I recommend the free tram. It is worth noting that it is honestly quite easy to get around Adelaide. Even the worst-case scenario will set you back by only thirty minutes rather than a couple of hours like in a larger city such as Sydney.

Travelling outside Adelaide

Now, we’ve exhausted almost all forms of transport that exclude owning a car or motorcycle. This part of the guide should help you with your day to day adventures and errands. Now, if you’re in Australia you’re more likely than not keen to travel around Australia. You may be wondering how exactly you’ll be able to do that. Australia is almost the size of mainland Europe and you do not always want to use the plane. So, what could you do? There are multiple options to get around. Firstly, let’s get rid of the flight option.


Unlike many airports around the world such as in Paris and Madrid, getting to the Adelaide airport is not too much of a hassle. Paris, for example, you would either have to get to the right track and pay about fifteen dollars to get a train to a ticket or in another Parisian airport you would have to pay at least 25 AUD and endure a two-hour shuttle bus to get to where you need to be for your flight.

Adelaide’s airport is a short way away. If you’re 2-3 people or live in the western. Southern part of the city then I would recommend an Uber or taxi. You also have the option of taking the bus there. There is the J1 bus and its variant which acts as a shuttle bus to take you all the way to the airport. It barely takes twenty minutes from the centre of the city to the airport with the J1 bus. One thing I find really fun is the double decker J1 bus. It's the only double decker bus service provided by the Adelaide metro. It's a pretty nice experience to have. Now, if you’re on a budget then I would recommend you take JetStar or Tigerair to get around to other cities. If you’re looking for a regular budget, then go for Qantas or one of the many different flight companies.


Now, if you do not want to fly there are quite a few options left to you. One of them is the Greyhound bus service. It is the main service I know of which takes you by bus city to city. This might take some time compared to driving around although it is a comfortable ride. It's not the cheapest option but you get the scenic route around. Also, you’re guaranteed to have enough seats for you and your mates in case flights get too busy. You will also stop at decent places along the way which allow for exploring the local area.

Adelaide's Transportation


Backpacker hitch-hiking

Another option is by simply hitching a ride with backpackers. Australia is truly a land of adventure and exploration. It is very common to have people from all around the world will lead to many travelling about by car. Many adventures are done with simply one or two people which leads them to have extra seats in their car. Often, many of these backpackers are budget hunters so they would be more than keen to have people join them to share the costs. The issue with this is that you cannot predict when and where these people will go. Although, it's easy to spot where these adventures are off to through backpacker websites online. Facebook is a great way to request or provide a car from a place to another if there are any backpackers going through that area. I also have quite a few stories of successful backpacking hitchhike experiences.

There was this one exchange mate of mine who was only in Adelaide for four weeks. She was keen to check out the great ocean road trip and to get to Melbourne. So, she hitch hiked with a girl who was doing an adventure around Australia. This girl was passing by the Great Ocean road and together they went through there all the way to Melbourne where my mate flew back. You will have people who simply are trying to get from one city to the other as fast as possible which would be more satisfying for those simply keen to check out the city destination rather than the way there.

Another story would be one of my own. There was this one time I did a massive outback road trip. Myself and two German exchange students flew to Darwin and stayed there for four days. We then left off using a rented car (which was a relocation car, this I will talk about in detail further into this written piece). We picked up a French backpacker as we had a free spot and wanted to cut costs. Once we reached Alice Springs we dropped her off there and picked up a British backpacker getting from Alice Springs to Adelaide. This ends up saving everybody quite a bit of money and an enjoyable experience overall. I would recommend caution and extensive background check ups before accepting any trips around.

Relocation or rental cars

Lastly, one of the best and definitely the cheapest way to get around is be relocation cars. Relocation cars are cars that had been rented at full price and left off in another city. As you know, Australia is massive. So, it costs quite a bit to have somebody pick up that car and drive it all the way back to their original position. So, car rental companies have come up with a brilliant idea. Rather than paying potentially hundreds of dollars to get their vehicles returned they would instead have individuals doing it themselves. That is to say, on many websites for car rentals they would have a relocation option. From there you can see which cars (or even campervans) are needed to be relocated. Instead of paying between 25-50 dollars they would pay between one to five dollars per day. Not only that, often you would be given fuel allowance which ranges between 50-150 dollars to help with fuel costs. This makes the trip much cheaper and could save you hundreds of dollars.

However, there is a time limit if you were trying to get from one area to the other. This is not really much of an issue if you’re trying to get from one city to the other as you would probably want to get there as fast as possible. It has been the single most cost-effective way to get around. Another option could be that if you’re five people travelling you could rent a car and drive on all the way to the other city. A campervan is another option as well if you’re a much bigger group


Finally, an option that is limited and quite pricey but very interesting would be the single train track. That is to say, there is a train that travels from the South of Australia all the way to the north through a luxurious train trip. This is not an option often picked by students due to its pricing. However, they do provide accommodation and it definitely is quite an interesting ride. Often though, you will more likely than not see elderly people or wealthy individuals taking this form of transport to get from one side to the other.

All in all, there is a massive contrast from getting around Adelaide to getting from Adelaide to somewhere else. Getting around within Adelaide is no struggle at all and you should not worry too badly getting from A to B. The only issue would be traffic although this is Adelaide traffic which is not much of an issue against other forms of traffic such as those found in Paris or Sydney. However, getting around from Adelaide is where the hassle can be found. It definitely is more expensive if you want to get from one city to the other. Driving to the closest city to Adelaide, Melbourne, takes about eight to nine hours. You won’t find any cheap and fast trains that get you from one city to another in no time like within Europe. I hope this will act as a guide for those staying or visiting Adelaide. Stay safe and Happy adventuring!

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