International drivers need to remember our vehicles are right hand drive. Before leaving home ensure your licence is valid in Australia.
To be able to drive in Australia, it is necessary to have a driving license with you when driving. If you can show you are a tourist in the country from overseas and your license is in English, you will not need to get any special permits. If your license is not in English, you will need a translation of your license with you when driving.
Seat belts must be worn by all passengers. Driver must ensure this is done.
Driver Fatigue is very prevalent when you drive long distances. Stop and rest every 2 hours.
Fuel may not be available. Always check or carry supply.
Road Trains will amaze you they are so long. Allow 1km of clear road ahead to overtake. And get out of their way.
Dirt roads can be very dusty and obscure your vision. Watch for whirly winds that can pick up stones.
Unfenced roads may have cattle grazing . Wildlife abound especially early morn and dusk.
For more tips on driving in Australia see my Australia page review
Before my trip to the 2010 VT Meet and Survivor Camp in 2010, I decided to fly into Darwin and use the Greyhound Croc Stopover Package to get from Darwin to Alice Springs. At 269 AUD, it was reasonably priced and included coach travel between Darwin and Alice Springs with 2 stops. One stop was optional and the other was an all inclusive stay at the Nitmiluk Katherine Gorge tent village for one night, including the shuttle to and from the Katherine bus station, linen, bedding, pillow, dinner at the poolside kiosk or bistro, and a pancake breakfast. You have up to 14 days to complete the trip but I planned to do it in 4 days. Besides Katherine Gorge, I picked the Mataranka Homestead Tourist Resort as my other overnight stop.
Everything would have been fine except that the bus departed Darwin at 13:40 instead of noon on 5 Aug 2010 because it was stuck behind another bus with mechanical problems at the maintenance facility. When I asked Clare, the Greyhound lady in Darwin, she thought that the Nitmiluk shuttle would wait for me. We arrived in Katherine at 17:40 instead of 16:10. The station was closed and no one was there from Nitmiluk Tours to pick me up. When I called them, they refused to pick me up in Katherine since the bus arrived 40 minutes after my scheduled pick up time, which was 17:00. The Nitmiluk Tours lady said that the late bus was a Greyhound problem and would have to be fixed by them. This was even after I had called Nitmiluk Tours from the USA before I left on my trip to confirm my stay with them. When I asked the bus driver, Wayne, what to do, he said to call the Brisbane Greyhound office. That was no help, so I decided to stay on the bus and go to Mataranka Homestead Tourist Resort a day early. Fortunately they had plenty of vacancies and I got a room with no problem. All is well that ends well. The Mataranka Homestead Tourist Resort turned out to be a very nice place to visit. I was glad to have an extra day there.
Darwin's Greyhound Australia bus station is located in the back of the Transit Center in the Mitchell Street Tourist Precinct. The Transit Center has places to eat and shops (e.g. Chilli's Backpackers Travel Shop and Internet Cafe). The restrooms are in the Mantra on the Esplanade Hotel across the street from the bus station.
Tip duplicated on my Darwin, Alice Springs and Adelaide pages.
The Ghan is one of the Australian legendary journeys that I have been reading about since I was a kid and then as I grew up – although there are some who’d say that never did happen – another story for another day perhaps.
The Ghan run by Great Southern Railways (GSR) is number 29 on the impressive list of the Wikipedia article ‘Longest Rail Services’ and the train is well known for its luxury form of travel that has appealed to the more senior citizens – the ‘youngies’ would not put up with a 2,979 train journey from Adelaide in South Australia to Darwin in the Northern Territory that takes 3 days when they could hop on an aircraft and be there in say 4 hours. Oldies, like Lady Gaw and myself, are more content to sit back and watch the scenery, enjoy the great meals and all that is part of the Great Southern Railways service.
I have put together a long travelogue ‘The Ghan for beginners’ on our journey that we really enjoyed in July 2012 when we travelled from Darwin all those kilometers to south to Adelaide. There are 2 so called ‘Whistle stops’ in Katherine and Alice Springs for 4 hours each, however the train does stop at other locations depending on your needs – check with GSR
Some may consider a trip on The Ghan to be expensive – OK compared to cattle class crammed into a tiny seat on an aircraft with a budget carrier, perhaps it is. However a better way of comparison would be comparing business class airfares (about $A1, 500 each) and adding the cost of 2 nights accommodation (difficult to compare accom in a cramped train twin bunk compartment plus a phone box sized all included bathroom with a hotel, but say $50 each x 2 nights), then add the value of the 1 lunch, 2 dinners, 2 breakfasts and 1 morning tea (guessing $A225 each but probably more). I would think the overall price for the other-than-train way would be $A3,650 against The Ghan listed price for 2 in Gold Class at 2 X $A2,116 = $A4,232 or Child/Pensioner/CSHC 2 X $A1,464 = $A2,928. Lady Gaw and I are in the latter category (Pensioner), so not considering the amazing savings we enjoyed of ‘buy one get one free’ The Ghan is a cheaper way of ‘travel’ and has the added bonus of the scenery, Whistle Stop options, fellow crazy travelers and great on board crew.
There are 3 classes of travel – Red is economy and there are sit up all the way seats, however that class does have twin share cabins without private facilities – walk to the end of the carriage. Next is Gold Class and all have sleeper cabins either ‘roomette’ (single) of doubles with own on-suite (very small) facilities – there is also a Gold Class Superior Cabin with extras and off course more expensive than ‘basic’ Gold. Last is Platinum which is luxury cabins, with very high price tags. Gold and Platinum include all on-board meals, which are a very high standard served up by great staff.
I would strongly suggest signing up with the GSR ‘All Aboard Club’ for regular e newsletters which do contain special prices – see web site for details on The Ghan. The trains run once a week in both directions all year and twice a week both directions in the peak winter season
About the photos:
1. Just one of the 29 carriages
2. Katherine Station and note there is no raised platform. A set of steps awaits at each door position.
3. Queen Adelaide restaurant carriage for Gold and Platinum class.
4. Explorers Lounge carriage - bar and gift shop
5. Was that sun rise or set?
It’s always a battle for out-of-towners to figure out public transport when visiting a city for the first time – and I did find it quite difficult to navigate the Darwin system although by world standards Darwin is a very small city.
The web site below is the public transport portal for anything to do with transport in the vastness of the Northern Territory. The link shown is for the various bus routes in and around Darwin, suburbs and outer areas. What it really lacks is an overall map showing the areas covered by the buses and the routes – then it would be so much easier to use the drop down list of 33 different routes
We used the Darwin Interchange a few times during our 5 day stay in Darwin and that also lacked an overall map and certainly when entering from Smith Street (cannot comment from the other end). It also lacked an overall guide to the 5 different stops located at the interchange. To find a particular bus route it was necessary to walk along all of the 5 stops to find the correct stop. However there seemed to be plenty of shady seating while waiting in the area which has CCTV surveillance.
We found the buses to be clean, on time (when we’d found the right timetable) and driven by in the main very helpful drivers. Just a pity the indigenous passengers seemed to have an attitude problem.
Good news for those visiting from other parts of Australia and are holders of Seniors Cards/Government Health Care Cards – all public transport in Darwin is free, just show your card when you alight. Check web site for pricing for other bus users.
We did find some of the stops we used in the suburbs to be very poorly lit at night.
About the photos:
1. A Darwin Bus sitting opposite the interchange - and I guess the driver was having a well-earned break.
2. DarwinBus Interchange located in Harry Chan Drive.
My best alternative to get to Alice Springs was to fly from Albuquerque to Los Angeles (~2 hours), Los Angeles to Brisbane (~14 hours), and then Brisbane to Darwin (~4 hours). After a couple of days in Darwin, I took a Greyhound Croc Stopover bus tour from Darwin to Alice Springs, but spent a couple of nights at the Mataranka Homestead on the way.
Needing a tranfer to the Airport from your hotel ?.. So easy to organise a pickup from your hostel/hotel as I did by booking a pickup time at the Bus transfer station .The Station is located at the Transit Centre top end of Mitchell St. Darwin.. They also hold your luggage for you.
A lot of flights leaving Darwin leave at dreadful hours most around midnight or later so these transfer busses are just the shot...Luggage was no problem and they are on time..The pickup was directly from my hostel at 12.30.am.
These transfer costs are a lot cheaper than a Taxi..make sure though you book early in the day for that night flight.
Well my trip from Adelaide to Darwin was a long one of nearly 3000 kilometers and I must add that it was a really enjoyable journey...being a person who loves train travel and whenever the opportunity arises will always opt for this type of travel..and as these tickets were on special I jumped at the chance...I decided to break the journey in Alice Springs as I wanted to visit ULURU National Park and Wartarkka National Park.( a most fantastic place to see).the five day break in the journey enabled me to do this...then I boarded the train once again for the rest of the trip to Darwin..such a long train ..so many carriages etc.must be nearly a kilometer long...The train trip I found to be most comfortable ..with dining car serving good fresh large portioned meals at a very reasonable price compared to other train journeys that I have been on..there is plenty of room to move about and there also was a lot of interaction between the so many different nationalities of travellers on board.I find train travel to be so good as one can get up and walk around on such a long journey with many parts of the train to utilise..unlike busses or Aircraft that can be so cramped for long periods...There is a lounge car that has outlets for PC's and also recharging points..and many choose to sit and chat also in the dining car which sells good food and all forms of drinks....so easy to sit and look out the windows at the vast changes in the landscape.. from the vast wheatfields of South Australia to the arid desert scenery of the centre and the beginning of the tropical vegetation in the north.The trip from Alice Springs to Darwin is one of about 26 hours and about 1500 kilometers.The train makes a stop at Katherine for around four hours for everybody to either visit Katherine Gorge (Nitmuluk National Park) tours are organised on train..or ..spend the time in Katherine..The difference in temperature upon arrival in tropical Darwin was really such a change from the minus temperature experienced in Adelaide's wet winter cold..Also some people decide to transport their car on the train and then drive back...I can only say that I recommend this trip to anyone wishing to travel to the Red Centre and then on to Darwin..one of the worlds great train journeys.
more on these train journeys on my Adelaide and Alice Springs pages..(see transport tips)
Tickets were purchased on special from Great Southern Rail.
We rented our car in Darwin from Hertz. We all had a day or two after the big vt meet to have a look around so we decided to share the cost.
We had no problem with Hertz and considering some problems people have with car rentals wanting to pin everything on you.....I don't have a problem with recommending this mob.
Darwin International Airport (DRW) is probably the smallest of Australia's International Airports. It is however a nice little place for a layover believe it or not.
I prefer to fly with oneWorld Carriers (AA, British Airways, Qantas, Cathay), so I had the privledge of checking out the Qantas Club lounge while waiting for a 1am! flight back to Sydney!
If you do not have status on the OW airlines, then I would wait until the last possible second to enter the Darwin Airport as there really is not much else to the place. You walk through security and are immediately at your gate, which is nice, but also tedious for longer amounts of time. There are a couple little places to eat, but as you can imagine, no grandeous fine dining locations or gift shops here.
The MVR (Motor Vehicle Registry) has Customer Service Centres throughout the NT. If in a remote locality, or outstation you may attend your nearest Police Station.
All telephone enquiries: 1300 654 628
Fax (08) 8999 3189
GPO Box 530
DARWIN NT 0801
Hours Of Business
Monday to Thursday
8am to 4pm
Friday 8am to 5.30pm
Other branches are located in Darwin, Casuarina and Palmerston