Travel Australia by Train on the Cheap

Travel Australia by Train on the Cheap

I’ve just completed over 16,000km of train travel in Australia over the last two months; a luxurious relaxing way to see the country for less money than you might think.

This includes world-class train trips such as The Ghan and The Indian Pacific, which in and of themselves are pinnacle experiences for many of the passengers who spend lifetimes dreaming about and planning out their journeys.

And while some of these passengers are traveling in the height of luxury, enjoying three-course meals and lavish sleeping cabins with ensuite washrooms, there is a range of options on Australia’s trains that will fit any traveler’s budget.


Rail Passes

One of the most economical ways to see Australia by rail is to purchase a train pass. One fee will grant you access to a variety of train lines for periods ranging from three to six months. I met a number of travelers with these passes, and in fact one fellow and I crossed paths on the trains on three separate occasions over a month!

After purchasing the pass, all you have to do is call the reservations desk quoting your pass number to book your seat on each journey of your preference, with as little as 24 hours of notice.


Seats and Upgrades

Your train pass grants you access to Red Service Day/Nighter economy seats on each journey. For the long-distance trips (which can be up to three nights long), the seats are surprisingly comfortable with lots of leg room and a 40% recline.

But if sitting upright for days at a time isn’t your speed (and let's face it: it's still a seat), you can purchase an upgrade on-board for less than you’d pay at the reservations desk. A basic Red Sleeper cabin costs an extra $150/night (based on availability), and gives you some privacy and a chance to get horizontal. And waking up in your cabin to see the vast Australian outback going by outside the window is a treat.


Lounge Access

If you choose to remain in the seat for your long-distance trips, it’s worthwhile to purchase a Red Lounge Pass. For only $10/day, $15 for two days, or $25 for three days (again subject to availability on-board The Ghan and The Indian Pacific), this gives you access to a special lounge with lots of comfy chairs, plenty of power points, free tea and coffee, and afternoon tea. Have a couple of cups of coffee alone and you’ve paid for your lounge access.



Passes range in price from $270 to $990, depending on your length of stay and preferred routes. You can visit to purchase your pass or for more information.



Written and contributed by Nora Dunn


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