Secret routes: The cheapest ways to get to airports in Australia

Sydney's most expensive train track

Train passengers are spending $17 to travel between Sydney Airport and the CBD, lining state government coffers by more than $1 million a week.

When you have to fly, you have to pay. Big time.

And we're not talking airfares. In Australia, getting to the airport costs a packet. A recent survey found the price of a taxi to the airports in Perth, Melbourne and Sydney to be among the highest in the world

In fact, it's possible for the trip to the airport to be more expensive than the budget airline fare to your final destination, given the occasional eye-catching specials flung online by rival carriers.

Not that designated airport public transport is much cheaper. Fares for airport buses and trains are always multiples of standard public transport fares, as if the airport is located in Narnia or on the far side of Saturn, rather than being a point on the city map.

However, there are ways around this expense. If you're travelling light, are not in a hurry and don't need the gold-plated comforts of taxis or dedicated services, you can get to the airport via regular public transport and often save enough to cover lunch when you get there. 

Here's how, using each city's CBD as the starting point.

SYDNEY

Taxi from CBD to airport: About $50.

Airport train from CBD: $16.40.

Cheapskate option: Catch an Eastern Suburbs and Illawarra line train from Central, Town Hall or Martin Place stations to the end of the line at Bondi Junction. From the Bondi Junction Interchange take a route 400 bus towards Burwood. This bus drops off at both the Domestic and International terminals at Sydney Airport.

The 400 runs from 5am to 11pm every day, departing about every 20 minutes. There's one catch - between 7am and 7pm weekdays, you must buy a pre-paid ticket before boarding the bus.

The cheapskate fare? $8.40 ($3.80 train fare plus $4.60 bus fare).

MELBOURNE

Taxi from CBD to airport: About $50.

Skybus from CBD: $18.

Cheapskate option: Take a Craigieburn line train from any CBD train station and get off at Broadmeadows. Walk out of the station to the bus bays and catch the route 901 bus to Melbourne Airport. 

The 901 operates 5am to midnight weekdays, 6am to midnight Saturdays and 7am to 9.30pm on Sundays. It terminates next to Terminal 1 (used by Qantas and Jetstar), from where you can walk to the international and other domestic terminals.

The route's frequency is every 15 minutes on weekdays and half-hourly at weekends. You need a $6 Myki public transport card to use the service (and any public transport in Melbourne). These can be bought from train stations, various retail outlets and on board buses.

The cheapskate fare? $6.06 weekdays, $6 weekends.

BRISBANE

Taxi from CBD to airport: About $45.

Airtrain from CBD: $16.50.

Cheapskate option: Catch a train from Brisbane Central Station to Toombul, on the Shorncliffe and Caboolture lines. At the bus interchange, hop aboard the route 590 bus towards Garden City. This runs half-hourly from 6.30am to 7.30pm weekdays and from 8am to 7.30pm at weekends.

It's a ten-minute trip to the Skygate shopping centre next to the airport, from where the free orange TBus shuttles to the Domestic and International Terminals between 6.40am to 6.20pm on week days (from 8.40am at weekends).

The cheapskate fare? $7.20, or $4.91 using a Translink Go Card.

PERTH

Taxi from CBD to airport: About $40.

CONNECT shuttle bus from CBD: $15.

Cheapskate option: There are two choices here – either jump aboard a route 40 bus from the Esplanade Busport, or a route 37 bus from stop 10121 near the corner of St Georges Terrace and William Street. Each runs half-hourly from about 6am to 11.30pm. Both routes terminate at Perth Airport's Domestic Terminal, from where you can catch the regular free shuttle bus to the International Terminal.

The cheapskate fare? $4.40, or $3.74 using Transperth's SmartRider card.

ADELAIDE

Taxi from CBD to airport: About $20.

Northern Flyer shuttle bus from CBD: $10.

Cheapskate option: As Adelaide Airport is 5km west of the CBD, you could walk it in an hour or so if you had a light backpack. However, Adelaide Metro's J1 and J2 bus routes present a less tiring airport-bound option, operating 5am to 11pm daily. These buses can be caught from several stops along the south side of Grenfell and Currie Streets in the CBD; the most central is Stop V2 at 37 Currie St.

The cheapskate fare? $5.10, down to a mere $3.39 on the local Metro Card.

DARWIN

Taxi from CBD to airport: About $30.

Darwin Airport Shuttle from CBD: $16.

Cheapskate option: Slightly tricky, but with patience it can be done. First, catch the route 4 bus from the downtown Darwin Bus Interchange to the Casuarina Bus Interchange. From here, transfer to the number 3 bus. Running between five and seven times a day between 6.30am and 6.30pm, this route deviates to a stop on Charles Eaton Drive, just 500 metres from the airport terminal. Though you'd have to be a dedicated penny-pincher to go for this roundabout option.

The cheapskate fare? $3.

CANBERRA

Taxi from CBD to airport: About $30.

Airport Express shuttle bus from CBD: $12.

Cheapskate option: Officially there is no regular public transport route to Canberra Airport, but there is an easy weekday-only alternative. From the City Bus Station in the CBD, catch one of the half-hourly route 10 or 737 buses in the direction of Fairbairn Park. From about 6.30am to 4pm, as they pass Canberra Airport, these buses leave the main road for a loop through Brindabella Business Park. Get off at the stop after the bus rounds the top end of Brindabella Circuit, and it's an easy 500 metre walk to the airport entrance.

The cheapskate fare? $4.50, or $2.84 on the local MyWay smartcard. Cheap as!

HOBART

Taxi from CBD to airport: About $40.

Airporter shuttle bus from CBD: $17.

Cheapskate option: Now this is challenging. There is no regular bus route to Hobart Airport and there isn't even one that drops you close by. The nearest option is to catch an infrequent 665 or 668 bus from Hobart City Interchange to the bus stop located in an industrial zone at 1066 Cambridge Road, Cambridge. From here, it's a one-hour, 5km walk along Kennedy Drive and Holyman Avenue to the airport terminal. Only for die-hard budgeting backpackers carrying a light load on a sunny day.

The cheapskate fare? $4.20, or $3.36 on Metro Tasmania's Greencard.

Bon voyage, cheapskate travellers!

Do you have any tips on cheaper ways to get to the airport? Post your comments below.

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