Whether you’re a visitor, just moved or have been in Brisbane for years – the city has much to offer! And to make getting where you want to go easier, we’ve got the best tips for you on how to travel around beautiful Brissie.
To find your best connection from A to B, check the TripGo app. It’ll quickly and easily let you compare all the options below, showing how much your trip will cost, how long it will take and the environmental impact it will have.
Public transport tickets
The electronic smart card ticket system used in Brisbane is called go card. It is valid for all TransLink train, bus and ferry services in South-East QLD.
If you are visiting for 3 or 5 days, also check out the seeQ card which has unlimited free travel during that time, including 2 Airtrain trips, plus discounts and offers for the SEQ area. (We’ll just refer to the go card below, but the seeQ card is basically the same.)
How to use: Touch on at the beginning and touch off at the end of each trip on the flat circle of the reader. This ensures you get the correct fare. You will get a beep & green light (double beep & orange light for seniors and concession cards) when touched on or off correctly. There’s no need to touch on and off if you’re transferring between trains in the same station.
Tips to save with your go card:
- Getting a go card will save you at least 30% compared to buying paper tickets.
- Travel during off-peak times (20% off): weekdays 8:30am-3:30pm & 7pm-3am; all day weekends and public holidays. Commence and complete your trip in the off-peak period.
- Trips are free after your 9th paid go card journey in a week (Monday to Sunday). If you can, schedule your longer trips for later in the week; you can also add some short journeys early in the week to reach the 9 trips faster.
- Note that a journey counts from the origin to the final destination and might involve up to 4 trips using different transport modes. See here for more info re journeys vs trips.
The main go card transfer rules are (N/A to SEEQ card):
- You can transfer up to 3 times across all zones.
- You have 6 hours to complete your journey.
- The final trip of the journey must start within 3.5 hours of when you started the first trip.
- There is a 1 hour time limit between transfers.
- If you ‘break’ any of these rules, you will start a new journey.
- Depending on your circumstances, it might be cheaper to get 2 go cards to use (e.g. see here).
- There is a daily cap of 2 journeys for senior and concession cards; after this all trips are free on the same day.
- Travel to some events is free with your event ticket.
- Please note that discounts do not apply to Airtrain trips.
- Register your card online to protect your balance if your card gets lost or stolen; it also allows you to check your history
Common go card problems & solutions:
- The card reader isn’t working => touch on/off using a different one
- None of the readers (on the bus/the platform/the ferry) are working => you get a free trip; do not touch off at the end
- You forgot to touch off from a train trip => you have 6 hours to do so, counting from the start of your journey (note: applies to train only)
Trips to and from Brisbane Airport
The Airtrain is recommended by many Brisbaners as the best option to get to the city from the airport (or vice versa). Get the trip cheaper by buying an E-ticket online. Alternatively you can get tickets through your travel agent, at the airport and train stations.
Taxis are quite expensive; during peak hour it can take about 45 minutes to the CBD. Depending on the time of your travel it might be worth it for more than 2 people or if you have a lot of luggage; check TripGo for a price estimate.
Parking is expensive which is why the Airtrain is often recommended. Also, traffic at the airport can be very busy during peak hours. To top things off for anyone wanting to drive, there is a toll (see Driving) to travel between the city and the airport on the direct way, but if you have a bit more time you can take a toll free route.
Check TripGo for which bus to take before you get on. Many are ‘express’ or ‘bullet’ services that omit stops on the route.
Hail the bus you want to take by raising your arm when it approaches, making sure the driver can see you. If you don’t, chances are the bus might go right past you without stopping.
Remember to touch your go card on when you board the bus and touch off before exiting to ensure you get the correct fare.
Ring the ‘stop’ bell at least 100m before your stop to give the driver time to react; TripGo will show you the stops and your current location on the map.
A great way to travel around the CBD are the free, regular City Loop buses – just look for the red bus stops.
Touch your go card on and off at the stations to ensure you get the correct fare. If you transfer between CityTrain services at the same station you do not need to touch off & on in between.
Safety: In general, public transport in Brisbane is considered safe. However, following these tips will help you avoid most unsafe situations that might come up anyway.
It is best to avoid travelling on your own at night by train as muggings sometimes occur. If possible avoid the last train, as there are often many drunk people on there.
Don’t sit alone at a station (especially if you’re female), wait with a friend if possible. Also locate and stay close to the station panic button if you are on your own.
On the train, it is best to go to the carriage that shares a door with the driver. Trust your instincts. If there are dodgy people ‘deciding’ to get off just when you get up, staying on the train might be safer as suburban stations are unattended at night.
If you can, get a friend or taxi to pick you up from your destination.
Get on the water for a pleasant (and affordable) way to see the city with the CityHopper (free!), CityCat and Cityferry services. Always make sure you check TripGo for your best connection as well as travel time and price info.
And remember to touch your go card on when you board and touch off before exiting.
If you’re in need of a cab and see one, you can just hail it. Taxis with their roof top light on are available. Alternatively, book through TripGo (via goCatch).
It’s best to book your taxi at least 20 minutes before you need it, especially during peak times.
You can pay cash or EFTPOS debit or credit card in all cabs.
Money saving tip: You might be able to negotiate your fare. Do this before starting your trip though.
Uber: Uber is similar to a taxi service, but almost everyone can drive to earn money (subject to conditions and checks). You have to book in order to take Uber (you can do this through TripGo). Fares may be cheaper than for taxis, though there might also be surge pricing at times of high demand. At the end of your trip, don’t forget to rate your driver and leave feedback.
During most times, there is a lot of traffic in the CBD, and traffic congestion is a major problem. Keep this in mind when travelling especially into Brisbane; check TripGo for your best options.
There are a few toll roads in Brisbane; none of them have cash booths so you’ll have to pay online. You can do this within 3 days of using the road. There are different passes available if you travel more frequently. Check govia’s product selector to find out which one will suit you best.
Parking: Brisbane has many parking stations, but none are cheap. If you are lucky, you might find on street parking; some of those spaces have metres though. On unsigned streets in the CBD you can park for a maximum of 2h. Check the city’s parking meters site for more information.
Car sharing lets you use a car that’s not your own and drive it to where you’d like to go (basically like a rental, but more flexible as you can get to the car at any time of the day). At the end of your trip, you’ll need to return the car to its pod. You have to register with car sharing services in order to use them.
GoGet offers a fleet of regularly updated and well serviced cars, with a variety of options (including economy cars, vans, utes, people movers and premium cars). TripGo lets you see details and book straight from the app.
Due to the heavy traffic in Brisbane, motorbikes and scooters can make quite a big difference in travel time, especially with lane filtering now legal. This means that as long as they stay slower than 30km/h, motorcyclists can move around stationary or slow moving vehicles. Read more about the rules here.
Unlike Melbourne, Brisbane does not allow free footpath parking, so ensure you only park in signed parking areas. There are a few free motorbike parking locations; check this map for an overview (tap on the rider symbols for more information, e.g. free or metered parking). There’s more info on the official motorcycle parking site.
The hilly terrain and humid, subtropical climate can make cycling more challenging than in other cities. Ensure you are prepared for your trip.
Bikes on public transport: Bikes can be transported on ferries (including CityCats) and trains, subject to availability of space. It is therefore best to travel off-peak if taking your bicycle. During peak hour, bicycles on Citytrains are restricted to counter-peak-flow services (i.e. away from the city in the morning, to the city in the afternoon). It is not possible to take bicycles on buses in Brisbane.
It might be worth investing in a fold-up bicycle if you need to take your ride on buses, or on ferries or trains during peak times.
Safety & security:
- Remember that helmets are compulsory; courtesy helmets are provided at many CityCycle stations.
- ‘D’ locks are recommended to lock up your bicycle.
- Keep clear of parked vehicles as doors might open any time.
- Beware of magpies during spring, they are known to swoop down on cyclists (and pedestrians). Fixing extra large plastic cable ties on your helmet with the ends sticking up might help, but be aware anyway and rather stop and dismount than swerving around and into traffic if it happens.
- It might be safer to cycle on roads rather than isolated bike paths if you ride at night.
- Ensure you carry enough water as the climate can be hot.
- If you get into a storm and the roads are wet, break carefully and gradually. It is generally safer to stop somewhere and wait for the storm to pass before continuing.
- For more tips on riding safety, check the TMR website.
Parking: There are many bike racks throughout Brisbane which are free to use.
Cyclepods provide sheltered secure bike parking free of charge at some CityCat terminals and bus interchanges.
At some bus interchanges, you can also find bike shelters. These are shared closed spaces for storing bikes. You will need an access card to use them.
Last but not least, there’s the King George Square Cycle Centre with bike racks, change rooms, showers and lockers. They offer a variety of membership options.
CityCycle is Brisbane’s bike sharing programme. Bicycles are available for her 24/7. Similar to other cities, the first 30 minutes of your bike trip are free. Just make sure you return your bicycle to a station before the time is up, and you can get another one for the next part of your trip. TripGo will automatically consider this in its recommendations.
An anti-theft chain and lock are provided with each bike for short stops, and some bicycles will come with a helmet.
Before you can use the service though you’ll need to get a subscription. There are casual and long-term options available.
For more tips on cycling in Brisbane, see above.
There are some beautiful walking tracks along Brisbane River, but in general walking is a great, free and healthy option to get around Brisbane. It might even be quicker than catching a bus or taxi through the congested CBD – check TripGo for times and costs.
Safety: Brisbane is one of the safest cities in the world. Use common sense when crossing roads etc. Also, don’t walk alone at night, especially if you’re a woman. Always hold your bag close to you.
Beware of magpies swooping; if it happens, protect your eyes (also see Cycling above). Sandflies are also active around Brisbane’s rivers and creeks, especially during dawn and dusk in warmer months. Use a good repellent and light protective clothing to protect yourself.
So, here you have it – our complete guide to transport in Brisbane.
Anything wrong or missing? Let us know in the comments below!
- Title image: Brisbane CBDandSB By Stuart Edwards. (Own work) [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- Translink Go Card Reader By dw-500 (Camera) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- 9V-STR Airbus A330-343X Singapore Airlines (9376170362) By Robert Frola [GFDL or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons
- Scania l94ub bt By MAN SL202. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.
- QRPassenger Suburban Multiple Unit 265 by Qld matt at en.wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons
- CityCat By en:User:Figaro (en:Image:CityCat-3a.jpg) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
- “Transport 3” By Jorge Láscar from Australia (“Transport 3”) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- Suzuki Alto GoGet Share Car By Tom Worthington (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- Motorcycle handlebar By AndrewDressel. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikipedia
- CityCycle Brisbane By Brisbane City Council (CityCycle BrisbaneUploaded by russavia) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- CityCycle in Newstead By Kgbo (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
- Public seating on Queen Street By Brisbane City Council [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Content (main sources)
- ACU: 9 Tips to help you get around Brisbane
- Brisbane City Council: Cycling in Brisbane
- Rail – Back on Track forum: Using the new go card fare structure optimally
- Trip Advisor – Brisbane: Arriving & Departing
- TransLink: Go Card
- Trip Advisor – Brisbane: Public Transportation
- Virtual Tourist Travel Guide Brisbane
- Wikipedia: Go Card
- Wikipedia: Transport in Brisbane
- And all websites linked in the article above
First published on 12 March 2015. Updated on 4 June 2016.