International students guide #3: using public transport

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As a newly arrived international student in Australia, it can take a little while to get accustomed to travelling around cities. What bus route to take? Is the train faster? Should you just shell out $10 for a cab?

All this might be intimidating but we’re here to help! Check out our list of resources, divided by state, to help you get better acquainted with Australia’s public transport systems.

New South Wales

You’ll require an Opal card (or a valid credit card) to travel on NSW buses, ferries, and trains. You can easily buy an Opal card from newspaper agencies and convenience stores.

Unfortunately, NSW is the only Australian state to not provide concession cards to most international students, so you will likely require an Adult Opal card to travel around. The only exceptions are international students on an Australian Government Scholarship or exchange position.

Pro tip: once purchased, register your Opal card on Transport NSW. This way, if your card is lost, it’s not money down the train – you can simply apply for a new one with your existing balance intact. Registering your card also allows you to auto-recharge online every month without having to make trips to the store.


International undergraduate students can travel using the international Undergraduate Student Education pass (iUSEpass) myki card. This card is a discounted annual ticket which can help you save 50 per cent on an annual full fare ticket. This iUSEpass provides you with an unlimited number of travels by trains, trams, and buses in the zone of your institute. It also provides access to all-night weekend travel on Night Network.

To be eligible for this pass, you need to be a full-time international student with an enrolment in a bachelor or associate degree, diploma, or advanced degree at an educational institute that has signed up for an iUSEpass program.

Northern Territory

You can travel on public buses in Darwin and Alice Springs with the help of a Tap and Ride card or a ticket. These can be purchased on the bus (keep in mind that it’s cash only) or for a more convenient option, purchase them at a bus interchange where you can also use your card. Full fares are typically $3 and concessions fares are $1. Notably this includes unlimited bus travel for 3 hours from purchase.

More information is available here.

READ ALSO: International students guide #2: finding a place to stay

bus darwin
Buses in Darwin Interchange. Source: Bidgee / Wikimedia Commons

South Australia

If you are planning to travel in Adelaide, South Australia, you can travel anywhere in 20 minutes – Adelaide is known as the 20-minute city!

With the metro, you can easily travel around the city and neighbouring suburbs. Using a MetroCARD is convenient if you avail public transport daily. If you have a valid student ID from a CRICOS registered South Australian tertiary institution, you can make use of the South Australian student or concession card. However, you need to be a full-time student to make use of this card.


Purchase tickets or the Metro Greencard on the Metro app to catch a Metro bus and travel around this state. Their bus and metro services are extremely affordable.

You can also avail the ferry service which comes free for Metro Greencard holders. It connects the eastern suburbs and the city and runs in peak hours in the morning and evenings. The best way to get around is by Redline Coaches and the Tassie Link if you travel outside of the major cities.

Western Australia

The State Government has launched a new International Student Travel Portal to assist in the return of international students to Western Australia. Take advantage of the prepaid SmartRider card which comes 15-25 per cent cheaper than single tickets.

Use the green SmartRider machines to tap on and off every journey whether you are travelling by bus, metro, ferries, or trains. Full-time international students at University of Western Australia qualify for a Tertiary SmartRider which provides discounted travel fares.


A Go card helps you travel by public transport here. Like most states, Queensland allows travel concessions to eligible full-time international students by applying through the Translink website. In Brisbane, there are two ferry services available for travelling around: CityCat (which is chargeable) and CityHopper (which is free).

READ ALSO: Brisbane, a city filled with stories

Source: Canva

Driving around Australia

If you have an international license or a driving license from India, you are allowed to use it to drive around Australia. Popular car rental services like Hertz, Budget, GoGet, Kayak, Avis, and Thrifty accept an Indian driver’s license.

In Victoria, you must convert your overseas license to a Victorian license within six months of residing here. In the Northern Territory, you can travel with your interstate or overseas license for up to three months after which you have to get a state license. Be sure to carry an international driving permit if your overseas license is in any language other than English.

You can also apply for an Australian license when you move here. Start by completing your Learner Permit Test or the Hazard Perception Test Online. Benefits of opting for an Australian license include now having a valid Australian proof of identity to use in the future, as well as avoiding higher demerit points, as more points are deducted from overseas licenses.


  • Try to plan ahead. Use the Trip Planner or Google Maps to see the best routes and approximate time it would take to reach your destination.
  • Make sure to carry a power bank around if your phone tends to run out of charge quicker. There’s nothing worse than being stranded in an area you don’t know with a dead phone.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help! You can always ask the bus driver to let you know when your stop comes up if you’re not quite acquainted with the city yet.
  • You can also make use of ride shares or carpooling on Uber, Ola, and Didi. It might be a bit more expensive than public transport but it’s cheaper than getting a cab on your own. Depending on the location and time of day, you might not even get any other passengers on your ride!
  • If you’re travelling short distances, cycling can also be a viable option.

READ ALSO: 6 unique beaches for your summer road trip

Swagatalakshmi Roychowdhury
Swagatalakshmi Roychowdhury
Swagatalakshmi Roychowdhury is a writer and painter. She graduated from Macquarie University with a degree in Bachelor of Media and Communications. Currently, she works as a Business Journalist at ausbiz.

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