Five tips for using public transport in Australia

TramAlthough choosing a course and institution, deciding where to live and organising a student visa might be your main priorities, it is worth considering your public transport options in Australia. After all, most students need to use transport to get to class. The availability and cost of transport may even affect your decision about where you will live once you arrive in Australia.

Learn about the different types of public transport and costs
Depending on where you live in Australia, your public transport options will vary. Those living in regional areas might be limited to a local bus service, while those in metropolitan areas may be able to choose between trams, trains, buses, ferries or a combination. If you have not yet decided where in Australia you will live, you may like to consider the cost and availability of public transport in each region. If you have already chosen an institution and know where you want to live, then it is worth researching the different types of local public transport available, the extent of the network, timetables and the proximity of stations or stops to your home and institution. You should also consider the different types of fares available (for example, you may be able to pay per trip or purchase a monthly or weekly pass that covers all forms of transport) and the availability of student concessions.

Learn transport etiquette
As in all countries, there are rules of etiquette that you should try to follow when using public transport in Australia. You should be courteous towards other public transport users by waiting for people to disembark before you board a service, keeping your voice and music to a low volume around other passengers, and not littering. It is also common to offer your seat to passengers who are elderly, pregnant or suffering from a disability or medical condition. Be aware that some forms of public transport can be congested at peak times, meaning you may need to stand and make room for people who are boarding and disembarking. On public transport it is an offence to drink alcohol, smoke, swear or rest your feet on seats.

Plan your journey
Once you have secured your accommodation and determined your campus location, it is a good idea to plan your public transport journey before your first day of class. You may even do a trial run to ensure that everything runs smoothly. You can use the public transport websites in your state (see the Transport in Australia page for details) to determine the most appropriate form of transport (you may need to use multiple services to get to your destination, such as a bus followed by a train), the usual time that it will take you to get to and from your destination, and how different services connect. Keep a copy of the timetable handy so that you can check when services run throughout the day.

Have a back-up plan
There may be times when your service is late or cancelled, so it is important to have a back-up plan in place to ensure that you are still able to get to your destination. Alternatives may include using another form of public transport, using a form of personal transport such as a bicycle, or taking a taxi. Keep in mind that on weekends, evenings and public holidays, the availability of public transport may be limited, so you may have to use your back-up plan during these times as well. Whenever you are using public transport it is also important to allow extra time to cater for any unexpected circumstances. This is especially vital if you are on your way to an important event such an exam.

Consider a form of personal transport
If you live in a location where public transport is limited, it may be necessary to have access to a form of personal transport. Many international students find it too costly to run a car in Australia, so you might like to consider cheaper options such as a bike or motorised scooter. When using a form of personal transport on the road, it is important to learn the road rules in your state or territory. For example, cyclists need to wear a helmet at all times; need to ensure that their bike is fitted with brakes, a bell and lights; and are not permitted to ride on footpaths or other pedestrian crossings.

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