We were gifted two 15-day Whimit passes to travel up the east coast of Australia. All of our opinions are strictly based on our own experiences and we wouldn’t recommend a service unless we believed that it was of a high standard.
Bus versus Van
During our first week in Australia, we made the executive decision that we were going to live and travel in a camper van. We bought a Toyota Hiace, drove 25,500km from Perth – Darwin – Adelaide – Melbourne – Sydney – Brisbane. Safe to say, we saw a lot in our little Stripe but as needs must we parted ways after nine months and decided to carry on our journey via coach travel.
This was obviously a huge change, going from caravan parks to hostels and blasting out Queen to sitting watching Netflix (for hours). There are so many differences between van and coach life, we’re going to concentrate on the main questions.
Ok, we understand this is going to be subjective. We had a 2004 Hiace without air-con, a dodgy radio and a steering wheel that used to pull towards the left (until we had it aligned to help sell it). Doing hours and hours of driving – especially in 41 degrees – wasn’t exactly pleasant.
The bus definitely trumps this round. The seats are comfy and recline if you need to take a snooze. There’s ample amount of leg room, especially if you plan well and take bags that fit in the overhead compartments (more on that later). Plus air-con, sweet sweet air-con! Trust us, you’d rather chuck on a jumper because you’re feeling a tiny bit chilly than want to peel your skin off because it’s as hot as the sun, your windows are already down and there’s roadkill baking outside… You get the idea.
There’s also wifi on every bus, for free! Rejoice, you can save that three gig of data for your insta stories and can scroll to your heart’s content. We watched so many episodes of Friends, it was great. You also don’t have to worry about your phone battery running out, there’s a USB charging port per seat.
Plus there’s a toilet on board every bus and a water fountain. Which means no more drop loos or bush breaks and you can stay hydrated for free. Take a reusable steel bottle and hey, you’re saving the environment too. Winner.
There are a lot of stops on the Greyhound Australia map, over 250 (that’s a lot of sightseeing) – with heaps of places you probably would have just driven straight through. When planning our trip, we took the time to look into every point on the map and decide where we’d like to stop and explore. We’re all guilty of rushing from point A to point B so route planning and researching the places you wouldn’t normally stay is a great way to break up the journey and visit more of the country.
As stated in the disclaimer, we’ve been travelling using the 15-day Whimit passes. A Whimit pass is…
‘…the ultimate travel pass, allowing you passage on Australia’s most extensive coach network-in any route, and in any direction, for your chosen amount of time. There is no other travel option in Australia that gives you the flexibility Whimit gives you. With over 250 stops, both on and off the beaten track, you have the freedom to do as much, go as far and be as adventurous as you want. The only thing you really need to do is ask yourself, ‘how many days will I Whimit?’Greyhound Australia
There are six options when it comes to Whimit passes, 15-day pass, 30-day pass, 60-day pass, 90-day pass, 120-day pass and 365-day pass. These all vary in price (naturally) and give full access to all stops – up or down – day or night. The works.
This is in comparison to the Hop on Hop off passes – these only allow you to travel one way, once you’ve gone up you can’t come down (and vice versa).
Yes, obviously with the van we had more flexibility in terms of timing and being able to go off route if we chose. So if you’re known for last-minute decisions, then renting or buying a van in Australia is probably worth your while. However, if you’re a serial planner (like us) choosing your route with a bit of guidance from Greyhound allows you to see something different.
It’s also worth mentioning you can catch overnight buses with Greyhound. If you’re an experienced driver around Australia, you’ll know that one of the first things you learn is to not drive at dusk or dawn. Especially in rural areas. This is because the kangaroos, wallabies etc. are active in these periods. If you’re going to hit a roo and potentially write off your car (if it’s a bigg’un) it will probably be in these time frames.
This meant a lot of the time we were forced to drive between certain hours. Catching the bus means you can jump on after a full day sightseeing, sleep overnight, then have the full next day to keep going. That’s obviously easier said than done so we’ll get to our top tips to overnight travel a bit later on!
One last thing to mention on this point – Greyhound Australia travels around all mainland states – the only place you’d need to hire a car for is Tasmania.
Another big factor is accommodation. If you’re travelling around in a camper the chances are you’re not going to be staying in hostels. While rocking up at campsites is usually relatively easy, if you’re planning on grabbing a Greyhound coach, booking in advance is crucial. A lot of the backpacker hostels get booked up fairly quickly and hotels can be a lot more expensive. As we said before, a little forward planning can go a long way, especially if you’re like us and prefer finding discounts and deals.
Greyhound also offer great accommodation packages with both Base and YHA hostels. These are two of the most well known and popular backpackers in Australia. You can check out all their deals here.
In the van vs. bus debate, it really boils down to caravan parks versus hostels. Most young backpackers will probably choose hostel life to meet other people, go out etc. however, for a couple of introverts that only drink on special occasions we prefer our own space. Private rooms in hostels can be reasonable if you shop around, we’ve also found motels and some hotels around a 15-minute walk out of whichever centre you’re staying in will usually be around the same price as a backpackers in the middle of town.
As mentioned, if you take the overnight buses this doubles up as your accommodation. There are hotels that also let you pay a day rate, this means you can shower, repack etc. without paying the full fare of an overnight price. A good site to check is Dayuse.com.
Let’s talk turkey (sort of). These are obviously not going to be cheap tickets, you are after all getting transport up the coast and covering some serious ground! Ok here goes…
The 15-day Whimit pass is $329 per person. Convert that back to GBP and that’s (roughly) £180 for 15 days of unlimited travel. That’s around the price of a return flight to somewhere pretty far away from the UK and you could probably fit that distance in the east coast of Australia.
To give you an idea of what that gets you in Australia, the cheapest flights we could find from Brisbane to the Whitsundays were $130 per person alone.
Then remember you’ll be saving (roughly) say $40 – $60 for two nights accommodation (more if you’ve booked private rooms/hotels etc.) if you do two overnight trips during those 15 days. Taking everything into account it all becomes very reasonable.
Please note this is rough estimate…
So say you have the 15-day pass, you have to sleep somewhere for 14 nights. Then if you spend – on average – $30 a night for 12 nights (two nights on overnight coaches) that’s $360 plus your $329 on the ticket itself and you’ve got $689 or $45 a day (approx.) not counting activities, food etc.
Plus this gets cheaper the longer the Whimit pass you buy!
That’s cheaper than renting a camper, paying for petrol and campgrounds. Take a generic camper quote, it’s between $20 – $50 a day to rent a camper (not including all the 0 excess extras they add on after) plus on average $25 for a campground. So that’s anywhere between $45 and $75 a day, then you have to factor in petrol. Petrol is the kicker because you travel so many miles, you have to budget enough to get from A to B.
A tank of gas in our Hiace got us 500km (ish) and that cost us $80 a time – in the time we owned the van we worked out (again, roughly) that it cost us $20 a day. So that could be an extra $300 for 15 days worth of fuel.
We should also mention that we bought our van outright – because we wanted to see the west coast – and we did nine months of travel on and off. So based on owning our van for that amount of time and the money we paid for it – it works out at $21 a day plus $20 for petrol. However, we did have to spend a fair whack on the rego, vehicle license fee, repairs, services, insurance, roadside assist, excess (when Dan reversed into someone) etc. we also sold it on for a similar price.
So all in all, it works out at around the same price and is definitely less stress to just hop on a bus and watch Netflix!
If you’ve still got a few reservations or questions on the Greyhound buses we did some research using various forums and using the Greyhound FAQ page to answer three of the most basic and frequent questions. Hopefully, this will help you get started…
What’s it like to ride a Greyhound Bus
Honestly, it’s easy. You book (video on how below) – choose your seat – turn up on the day – chuck your luggage in the hold (two items under 20kg plus one back for the bus) – sit back and relax all the way to your destination. The usual crowd is younger backpackers however we’ve seen/met elderly couples, friends in their 50s, infants and young ones so it really is for everyone.
It’s not like some awful party bus, like a holiday transfer in Magaluf, every journey we’ve been on everyone has been respectful and quiet. It’s easy to plug in and while away the hours with a book or film. The seats are genuinely comfortable and there’s more leg room than we first anticipated.
The overhead bins are narrow, we’d suggest packing a canvas bag with the essentials or a small backpack to stow under your seat. If you take too much on it won’t be a comfortable ride and your luggage is perfectly safe below. If you need more help our top tips and perfect packing list is at the bottom of this post!
We’ve also had some great drivers – Kev was our favourite who kept us entertained with riddles, anecdotes and jokes all the way up from Hervey Bay to Bundaberg. Now you don’t get Kev if you’re travelling in a van!
Where in Australia can the bus take you?
As we touched on earlier, Greyhound Australia currently operates in all mainland states meaning Tasmania is the only place you can’t use your Whimit pass. So that’s all the main hot spots, Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane, Cairns, Darwin and Broome in WA are all covered.
The east coast of Australia is known for its main city hubs and tourist sights. With Greyhound you can visit the likes of Melbourne, Sydney and Byron Bay as well as head up and island hop around Fraser, Whitsundays, Magnetic, Dunk, Green and Fitzroy islands. You can travel inland and up to Alice Springs to book a tour to Uluru then head further up to Darwin to see the jumping crocodiles. Or of course, tick a once in a lifetime experience off the list and go and snorkel, dive or sail around the Great Barrier Reef. The choices with Whimit at endless!
The map is quite extensive and covers areas you wouldn’t have thought of stopping. You can read our full itinerary here.
How does booking work? What kind of ticket should I book?
Booking your Whimit travel is simple, take a look at the video we made on how to book through the Greyhound website…
If you want to change your seat you can do so (if there’s availability) by:
- Clicking on trip details
- Next to your seat number hitting the ‘change’ button
- Deselect your current seat and select the seat you’d like to sit in
- Hit ‘save changes’
- Easy! If you need more detailed instructions or screenshots on this, visit the Greyhound website here
As for which ticket you should book, that depends on your travel plans and your budget. We’re not licensed or experienced enough to help make this decision however the Whimit passes have been super flexible and we’ve really enjoyed being able to travel both up and down the country.
TOP TIPS & PACKING LIST
- It is essential you wear your seatbelt. We don’t say this to be a square but A, y’know safety and B, if the police pull the bus over it’s you that has to pay the $400 fee. If you fail to pay and they’ve taken down your passport number then you aren’t leaving the country until the money is paid!
- If you know you get travel sick, try and book your seats in the first couple of rows. Being able to see out that front window makes a big difference. If you’re further back in the bus, try and look out of the opposite window or to the furthest point out of your own window. Ginger tablets (around $7 from chemists) also help with travel sickness. Alternatively, you can buy travel sickness bands (around $15) which sit on pressure points to help alleviate the symptoms.
- When on an overnight bus make sure you pack warm clothing as well as a neck pillow to help support a natural sleep and an eye-mask. Listening to meditation apps can also help with unnatural surroundings (sitting rather than lying!).
- Pack your own food. A lot of the stops are servos with fast food or snack bites. Making up sandwiches isn’t only cheaper but healthier and won’t leave you feeling rubbish for the rest of your trip. Remember also there’s no hot food on board.
Remember to only take the essentials on the bus, otherwise, you’ll have heaps of stuff and no leg room. Our bus packing list consists of:
- Water bottle – refillable (good to stay hydrated and great for the planet)
- Headphones, headphone splitter (if you’ve got the same taste in TV shows/music)
- Entertainment – books, phone etc.
- Charging cable – all buses are fitted with USB charging points so you’ll never have a dead battery
- Warm clothes for an overnight journey, a light jumper & socks if you’re sensitive to air-con
- Neck pillow, eye-mask, earplugs for an overnight journey
- Snacks – small and easy snacks (preferably without a strong smell)
That’s it. Easy!
We’d love to hear your experiences, feel free to comment below.
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