A Review of Australia Public Transport Cards

When it comes to make a travel plan and figure out all travel expenses for travelling Australia Public transport is also something you need to include in your budget. Australian cities are spread out and going from A to B implies long distances. These tips will help you maximise your stay in for Australian cities.

Why use public transport cards in Australia

All main Australian cities like Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, Adelaide offer public transport cards that you can purchase everywhere. While purchasing a travel card may seem very practical, it’s not always the best choice. If you are staying 2-3 days in cities, getting a day-rider is probably the best choice. But if you plan to stay longer, then getting a public transport card is the best way to save money on your trip. The average cost of purchasing the ticket is between 2 and 10 Australian dollars.

Australia Public Transport Card Review

Pros and Cons of using Australia Public Transport Cards

The big advantage of using an Australian public transport card is the save-money-aspect. If you plan to get about by public transport on a regular, daily basis, you will need a ticket. Public transportation in cities is the only sustainable way that allows you to travel cheaply on long distances within metropolitan areas and city suburbia. It’s also an environmental way of exploring a city, and it’s better than using a rental car and paying high parking fees. You can read more here on how to save money in Australian cities.

All Australia public transport cards under-the-lens

In my solo trips around Australia, I had the opportunity to try out all public transport cards in 6 different Australian cities. Here you can read about my detailed portrait of each travel card with all features, benefits and prices.

How Australian travel cards work

All Australian Transport Cards work more or less the same way. After purchasing the card, you can add money on it and use it on all city public transport services. You can top-up your card whenever you want, and there is no limitation with regards to money and time of use. Usually, cards do not expire so you can keep them for future city trips.

Tag-on-Tag-off also plays an important role. If you accidentally forget to tag-off-your-card, the system will automatically charge the card with the highest daily-ride-fare. Each public transportation network has its website that you can consult for info about fares, train and buses timetables. Furthermore, each public transport city website offers a useful journey planner page, which I highly recommend if you are a first time traveller to Australian cities.

The Go-Card for Brisbane and Gold Coast City Public Transport

This is one of the last 2 Australian transport cards I have tried. I could use it during my five weeks on the Gold Coast City Australia. It costs 2 dollars, and the highlight of this card is that you can top it up on all buses, so you don’t need to go to a newsagent or use the counter or the automatic machine. That’s a plus, as you can hop on a bus and top it up straight away. Ticket fares are structured according to peak time and low-traffic time, so from 7-9 am, and from 3 pm it is more expensive to travel with public transport than during the core hours of the day. You can use it to go to the airport from and to Brisbane and in the whole metropolitan area too.

The Opal-Card for Sydney Public Transport

In June this year, I tried out the Opal Card for Sydney. The Opal Card is the only one in Australia to be free. You can get it at the airport, train stations or any newsagent shop at zero cost. You can add money and top it up like all other cards. The card can be used on the entire metropolitan transport network, with tag-on tag-off as usual.

The great benefit of this card is the Opal Sunday cap of 2.50 dollars on all public transport including the Sydney Ferries. For only 2.50 dollars, you can travel wide and far within the Sydney metropolitan transport network. It does include cruising the Sydney harbour on all public ferries too!

On top of there are more benefits if you use the Opal card for airport transport. For frequent flyers leaving on Monday and returning before Sunday, you will get the return ticket for free. I would say this is the less complicated card among all other cards in Australia. Moreover, the fact that is free is a huge benefit for the short-term visitor to Sydney.

The Myki Card – Melbourne Public Transport

The Miky Card was the first card I purchased in Melbourne. As I stayed with friends in the Melbourne eastern suburbia, I needed a transport card to save money on travelling around. The Myki Card is very popular among the locals and travellers alike. After purchasing it for 10 Dollars you can top it up everywhere, the Myki Recharge can be done at the Top-Up machines but if you want you can activate the online top-up too. However, the automated top-up doesn’t bring any bonus nor discounted transport fares.

Melbourne public transport‘s fares work upon travel zones and the maximum you will spend on a day is 7.80 Dollars, the same fare of a day-rider. Although this may sound expensive, you must consider that all Melbourne trams are free within Melbourne CBD (since Jan 2015). Moreover to travel long distances across various zones is not expensive. I remember going for 2,5 hours from Eastern Melbourne to the northern suburbs for 7.80 dollars, both ways. That’s cheap about the travel distances covered. So the Myki card fares are going to save-you-money on long travel distances. On this page, you can read more about the Myki Card. The MyKi Card is free for early birds travelling between 5 am -7.15 am from Monday-Friday.

I know Australians are not so happy with the Australia public Transport and often complain about how expensive it is. While there is something that could be improved, I didn’t find the Australia public transport system so bad at all.


Adelaide Metro Card – the most complicated card

When I touched base in Adelaide, I was not sure whether the Adelaide Metro Card was something for me. After spending 5 dollars for bus fare to travel within the city, I thought the metro card would help me save money. In Adelaide public transport consists mainly of buses and trams. There is no underground. I found the Adelaide Metro Card fares expensive about travel distances (within the city) and also the transport fare structure is somewhat complicated.

It differentiates fares from weekdays from weekends. Peak time is around office time and is the most expensive if you don’t have the Metro Card, a ride on a Saturday will cost you 5.10 dollars (most expensive day) while Sunday is the cheapest, only 1.80 dollars. The card itself is cheaper than in other Australian cities, but given the fact that Adelaide public transport is mainly buses and trams, it could be improved regarding service and fare structure.

Smart Rider Perth – the most rewarding card

Perth was the last Australian city and where I spent the longest time, nearly seven weeks. If you are staying in the town, you will not probably need a Smart Rider, because the Perth free buses: The yellow Cat, the Red Cat and the Blue Cat cover the Perth CBD and more suburban areas. If you stay in Perth’s outskirts, then you need a SmartRider. The Smart Rider Perth Card works at all major public transport cards in Australia, with topping-up to recharge the card and the tag-on-tag-off charge system.

However, the SmartRider card offers some extra perks. 15% discount on all Perth transport fares and 25% if you decide to activate the online Smartrider Autoload. How does this work? You need to register online your card with your details and credit cards to allow an automated top-up whenever your card has reached the minimum amount, which is around 4 dollars.

That’s very helpful because you don’t have to rush to the counter or queue up at the top-up-machines. The autoloading system does that for you, and it automatically entitles you to a 25% discount on all transport fares. I have calculated that I saved 40-50 dollars on using the autoloading for only over one month. I find the Smart Rider Perth card the most rewarding card, easier to use compared to other cards, with an excellent public transport network service (most trains ride every 15 minutes).

Perth public transport network is cheaper concerning travel distances. I travelled with my SmartRider Card from Perth to Mandurah for only 8 dollars considering there are 75 km, the train ride was cheap.

Darwin Public Transport – Get On Card – 20 dollars 7 day-ride

While in Darwin is not always easy to get information as a traveller, the city is built for locals, and I found that often it disregards travellers needs. I was there in August and found out about this great Darwin Card; the get on, get connected card. You can purchase the card for seven days at the cost of 20 Dollars for unlimited use. Considering Darwin is a very spread out city you need a card to get around. If you don’t want to hire a car, then this card is a must. The Darwin bus network is good, and it covers all of Darwin attractions as well as much of the city suburbs, that are worth visiting. So definitely I give a thumbs-up to this card.

Final thoughts about using public transport cards in Australia

I find Australia public transport is excellent regarding networks and services. Among these six city transport cards, the two best cards are the Opal Card Sydney and the Smartrider Card in Perth for the smooth and rewarding fare system, the network and the train timetables. Second place is Go-Card and Myki Card in Melbourne, and they offer a great value public transport card to travellers. Third place is Darwin and the last in Adelaide where I think there could be room for improvements.

Pin it for later!

Australia Public Transport Cards Review


Search and find the right type of accommodation that suits your style and budget. For Australia get the best comparison results among hotels, apartments, homestay, hostels with booking.com.

Find the best deal among thousands of offers, with the no. 1 Australian Comparison Site for rental cars, campervans and relocation vans. We recommend booking your vehicles with our partner DriveNow.

Travel with peace of mind. Get a travel insurance that is affordable and offers the coverage that suits you. If you are aged up to 66, we recommend the plans, including coverage for outdoor activities by WorldNomads.


An Australia Book, with all planning elements to create a cost-effective travel plan. With 5 detailed itineraries, +40 customisation options, and +15 pages of sites, this is hands-down the best guide book you can find on the market.  Buy Your Australia Itinerary Guidebook

Get Michela’s expert advice to answer your questions, clear doubts, and craft a personalised Australia itinerary with rock-solid knowledge, first-hand tips and professional help to plan your trip to Australia.