Australia - it's a pretty special place. Every time I come back here it feels like I'm back home, which is crazy considering my home is the smallest, most English village in the universe. There's some sort of magnetic pull, or maybe it's just the Tim Tams... But either way I can never get enough. So, when I got the chance to scoot up the East Coast again I jumped at it and thanks to Oz Experience, I could really see the highlights all over again.
But what is the Oz Experience? You may be thinking it's something like the Kiwi Experience, and while it used to be, it's now been recreated in partnership with Greyhound Australia to make it even more flexible for us travellers. Using the public bus network, the Oz Experience allows backpackers to have unlimited use of any Greyhound buses going in one direction (up or down the coast, then up or down from Adelaide to Darwin via the Red Centre depending on the pass you choose) for up to 6 months. If you just want to hit the main towns & cities - easy, but if you want to visit all the tiny 'off the beaten track' destinations it's easy too. As long as a Greyhound bus goes there, you're good to go.
What makes the Oz Experience different from just the Greyhound bus only pass though is that they throw in all the bucket list activities along the way. By packaging it up they managed to get it to you at a hefty discount compared to booking everything one by one. To keep it flexible, all the activities are open dated, which basically means you can book in the date of the trip only a few days before it starts without having to go into any of the many travel agents in each town you travel through and potentially get ripped off.
They have loads of different passes to pick from, and I went for the Beaut pass which goes from Brisbane - Cairns. Since I was going in the Aussie winter, I wanted to stick in Queensland to get the sunshine. With this pass, I had all the below inclusions thrown in for $1599 RRP Australia dollars, which is currently around £998 for my fellow Brits.
- Unlimited travel on Greyhound in one direction
- Fraser Island 3 Day / 3 Night trip with all meals included
- Whitsundays Sailing 2 Day / 1 Night trip with all meals included
- Magnetic Island 1 Night Stay at Base with Ferry Crossing
- Full Day Great Barrier Reef Snorkel trip with BBQ lunch
- Full Day Atherton Tablelands Trip
The greyhound Australia fleet is a little different to what I was expecting. We've all watched American TV shows and have seen how they represent the Greyhound buses, they're not so pleasant to say the least. However, these buses in Australia are seriously something else. Leather seats that reclines, and additional leg room. You get a foot rest, a personal charging spot and wifi. Since it can cost upwards of $4 / day for wifi in a hostel, you can just take advantage of the free stuff on the coach saving you some cash later on. They also have onboard facilities in you just can't hold in your pee until the next rest stop, so no uncomfortable shifting around while you wait!
As Australia is pretty big, this perhaps isn't so great for someone who is short on time. The greyhound buses are insanely comfortable for a backpacker bus, but when the distance between Brisbane and Cairns by road comes to approx. 1692KM it does regularly include some 6 hour + drive times. I took just under 3 weeks to go between the cities with stops which felt pretty fast but I still saw loads but I would say it's the min time for the route. So if you're going to be less than that and have a large budget you may want to consider flying between. However, with buses more comfortable than planes why would you want the hassle of flying?
Other than time, there aren't many other limitations to the Oz Ex passes in my opinion from what I've experienced. The price tag is high I won't deny it, but unfortunately Australia is an expensive place to travel anyway, and by paying for everything upfront it makes it easier to manage the budget when you're away. It also brings the total price down by around 30% RRP by it being all packaged up. Basically - get your asses to Australia and check out why I love it so freaking much!