Getting Around Brisbane
The best way to get around Brisbane is by public transportation. Thanks to the combination of buses, ferries, trams and trains operated by TransLink, the central business district and outer suburbs are easy to reach. You can even take a train from the Brisbane Airport (BNE) to the central business district via the city's Airtrain system. (The airport is located about 11 miles northeast of the downtown area.) Or, rely on your own two feet to get around the city. Brisbane's compact size lends itself well to biking and walking, especially along the many paths that follow the river's winding curves. Only rent a car if you plan to drive to Brisbane's outer regions, like Moreton Bay or the Redlands; you won't need your own set of wheels with this city's reliable public transportation.
To effortlessly transfer between the various public transportation modes, use a frequent rider pass, like a go card or seeQ card. A seeQ card allows you to use any TransLink bus, train, tram or ferry for three or five consecutive days. With this card, you can travel throughout Brisbane. Plus, the card includes two Airtrain trips. A go card differs from a seeQ card in that you can choose how much money to put on the card. You can refill the balance of your card online, at go card locations and at fare machines in train stations and select bus stations. Fares for Brisbane's public transportation are determined on a zone system. There are eight zones, but most of the top attractions in Brisbane are situated within Zone 1.
Brisbane's ferry service is called CityCat. There are 21 CityCats that operate among 25 terminals stationed along the Brisbane River, from The University of Queensland at St. Lucia to Northshore Hamilton. CityCats operate from about 5:15 to 12:45 a.m. (times can vary depending on if the service is upstream or downstream), running every 15 or 30 minutes all week long, with express routes during rush hour. (You can also use the free CityHopper ferry, which provides complimentary service between Sydney Street and North Quay.) Because the ferry system is operated by TransLink, you can pay for ferry rides using your go card or seeQ card. Fare costs fluctuate depending on the number of zones you pass through. If you do not have a pre-loaded card, you can buy a single paper ticket – which start at $4.60 Australian dollars (about $3.50) for travel within Zone 1 – from a fare machine, a ticket office or on board the ferry.
For trips around Brisbane's central business district and the adjacent Spring Hill neighborhood, use the free loop buses. Operated by TransLink, the City Loop bus makes stops at popular areas like Central station, the Queen Street Mall, the City Botanic Gardens and Riverside Centre. The City Loop bus runs Monday through Friday every 10 minutes between 7 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. The Spring Hill Loop bus, meanwhile, offers a convenient way to get between the CBD and Roma Street Parkland every Monday through Friday between 6 a.m. and 7:15 p.m.
TransLink also operates routes between the Brisbane suburbs and the city center. These are known as BUZ services and run daily from 6 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. at 10 to 15 minute intervals, depending on peak rush hour times. You can pay for bus rides with your go or seeQ card by touching the card to the reader on the bus. You can also pay with a paper ticket, which can be purchased from a bus driver (except on prepaid buses) or from fare machines at bus stations. Like ferries, paper bus tickets start at AU$4.60 per person.
You can also get around Brisbane's central business district and outer suburbs using the city's six different TransLink rail lines. Fares vary depending on the time of day and the distance traveled (divided by zones). A single paper ticket for one zone traveled starts at AU$4.60; you can buy single paper tickets from the ticket office or fare machine located at light rail stations. Go card fares start at AU$2.56 (or less than $2), while seeQ cards cost between AU$79 (about $61) and AU$129 ($99) for adults and AU$40 (approximately $31) and AU$65 ($50) for children ages 5 to 14.
If you're coming from the airport, hop on the designated rail line known as the Airtrain. It travels directly to the city center, making stops at the Fortitude Valley, Central and Roma Street stations. The Airtrain runs seven days a week from 4:10 a.m. on weekdays and 5:40 a.m. on weekends until around midnight; trains depart every 15 or 30 minutes. One-way fares from the airport cost AU$18 (about $14), while round-trip fares cost AU$34 (or roughly $26). Tickets can be purchased at the ticket vending stations located at the airport. Reduced rates are also available for those who buy on the Airtrain website. You can also pay with your go card. (However, you won't receive a go card discount on trips from the airport).
Thanks to the city's 300-plus miles of pathways, Brisbane is easily traversed by bike. You can rent bikes from several shops for about AU$20 (around $15.50) per 1.5 hours or approximately AU$35 (less than $27) per day, or you can use the CityCycle bike-share program. More than 140 CityCycle stations are dispersed throughout Brisbane's city center, from the neighborhood of Newstead in the east to the inner western suburb of Toowong. To take advantage of the bike-share program, you can ride for less than 30 minutes for free or purchase a subscription: Daily subscriptions to CityCycle for AU$2 (about $1.50). Brisbane's bike-share program is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Make sure you familiarize yourself with Brisbane City Council's bikeway and shared pathway maps to figure out where you can ride, park and hop on public transit with your bike in tow.
If you'd rather rely on your own two feet than two wheels, Brisbane's compact size lends itself well to strolling around the city. The Brisbane Riverwalk is a series of walking paths, boardwalks, parks and bridges that run about 12 miles along the Brisbane River. On the river's north bank, you can follow the Brisbane Riverwalk path between The University of Queensland at St. Lucia campus and Teneriffe (a suburb east of downtown Brisbane). On the south bank, you can stroll from the West End ferry terminal at Orleigh Park to Dockside at Kangaroo Point. To see a map of all the Brisbane Riverwalk pathways, visit the Brisbane City Council's website .
Thanks to Brisbane's reliable public transit system, you don't really need a car, even if you're keen to explore the city's suburbs. However, if you have your own set of wheels, you'll be able to venture beyond the city's borders for day trips to the Moreton Bay Region or the Redlands for vineyard tours and even more outdoor activities. Several rental companies like Avis, Thrifty and Hertz, are stationed at Brisbane Airport; you can also rent cars from a number of agencies located in downtown Brisbane. You can use your American driver's license to drive in Queensland, but keep in mind that you have to drive on the left side of the road.
Several taxi companies service the Brisbane area and can be flagged down from the streets around the city center, in major neighborhoods and near shopping centers. You'll also find plenty of cabs waiting outside the arrivals area at Brisbane Airport's terminals. You can expect to pay around AU$51 (about $39) to get from the airport into the city. Taxi fares for travel around Brisbane fluctuate depending on the area in which the taxi operates, but most initial fees (or "flagfalls") start at approximately AU$3 (or $2). You'll be charged AU$4.84 (less than $4) for every kilometer (or a little more than half a mile) traveled, however, keep in mind that this amount can also fluctuate depending on the area. If you're going anywhere between the West End and Fortitude Valley and care for a scenic, unconventional ride, you can also call for a Green Cab, or pedicab. The cost of using a green cab for a two- to three-block trip starts at AU$15 (approximately $11.50) per person.
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