Brisbane Australia Travel Guide

Brisbane has perfect weather and unbelievable natural beauty. It truly is a must-see city for any traveler coming to Australia. The gorgeous city is wedged between the Pacific Ocean and many rich national parks. Brisbane is also the capital of Queensland as well as the third largest city in Australia. It is full of culture, art, food, and history perfect for any traveler young or old.

Best Time of Year to Visit Brisbane

Autumn in the Southern Hemisphere—March to May—seems to be the best time of year to visit Brisbane. You will find temperatures in the high 50's and mid-80's. There is also very little rainfall in autumn.

Tip: Brisbane has a subtropical climate and sees an average of eight+ hours of sun per day. Be sure to pack (and use) lots of sunscreen.

Weather in Brisbane

The weather in Brisbane, one of the best tourist destinations in Australia

Winter (June to August)

A very popular time to visit due to very mild temperatures and lots of dry days. Hotels tend to be booked solid during this time. Temperatures are still very cool during this time so you may not want to be swimming or surfing. Nights are cold so be sure to pack a jacket.

Spring (September to November)

Similar to Winter, Spring in Brisbane is very popular as the weather is very nice in the spring. Hotels in September are very hard to come by due to the popular month-long arts celebration: Brisbane Festival. This festival is a great thing to have on your bucket list but be sure to arrange your accommodations well in advance.

Summer (December to early March)

Also known as Brisbane's wet and humid season you may not be doing too much outdoor activity during this time. But, there are some pros to visiting the city during the summer season. Great deals on airfare and hotel room are easy to come by and the city won't seem very crowded. The summertime is also a great time to visit the Gold Coast, a strip of beaches extremely close to Brisbane.

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Do You Need a Visa to Visit Australia?

Yes, travelers from other countries (with the exception of New Zealanders) will need a Visa to enter Australia. This website makes it extremely easy to find and apply for the correct Australian visa before you arrive. The most common Australian holiday tourist visa is the Electronic Travel Authority (subclass 601) and although it is technically free to apply for it online you will have to pay an online application service charge of AUD$20. This visa allows you to stay for up to 3 months. When I applied for its approval time was only 24 hours.

Best Brisbane Airport

The primary international airport is 20 km (12 miles) north-east of Brisbane city center is appropriately called Brisbane Airport (code: BNE). The large airport services 30+ airlines with a choice of 50 domestic and around 30 international destinations.

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Brisbane Airport to Brisbane City Center

You have a couple of options if you find yourself trying to get from Brisbane Airport to your hotel or hostel in the city center.

Airtrain

Connecting the airport to the city in around 30 minutes, the Airtrain leaves every fifteen minutes during peak times. Trains start between 5 AM-6 AM with the last train departing the city to the airport around 9 PM and the airport to the city around 10 PM. You'll find a number of stops including Central, South Bank, Fortitude Valley, and Roma Street stations. Tickets are very reasonable, adults pay $18.50 one way or $35 for a full roundtrip. You can purchase tickets at Airtrain stations or online up to a week before your travel. Purchasing online comes with the added bonus of a 15% discount for both one-way or return. But do note you must be departing from the airport for the discount to apply.
Find out more on the AirTrain website.

Con-x-ion

This service provides transfers via shuttle bus to Brisbane City accommodation and to the Gold Coast. The fare is a bit more than Airtrain with Adults paying $20/$36 (one way/return) to Brisbane City, and $49/$92 (one way/return) to the Gold Coast. If you choose this approach definitely buy your tickets ahead of time. Although do be aware Con-x-ion has a strict no refund policy. Travel time varies greatly, anywhere from 20 minutes to a full hour. How long the trip takes depends on the number of passengers aboard the bus and traffic.
More information can be found on their website.

Taxi

A good option for getting into the City for two travelers or more is to share the cost of a taxi to Brisbane Central. You shouldn't pay more than $35, make sure you ask for the set price before the taxi driver takes off. Communicate to the driver how many people you are traveling with and ask if there are any additional fees for extra people or luggage. This will help you avoid sudden price hikes for 'hidden fees'. When traveling in the opposite direction, from the city center to the airport, I suggest trying to grab a taxi with a local. Many taxi drivers take advantage of foreigners with ridiculous rates.

Public transportation

The absolutely cheapest way to get into the city, you can use Brisbane's public transportation for around $4 only. As with any cheap option, this one is a bit more difficult, but even novice travelers will be able to do this. Just listen carefully and if you get lost as for help, Australians are very friendly.

  • From the airport, ride the T-bus to Skygate also known as Airport Village. This is free of charge. Be careful boarding, only some of the T-buses go to the Airport Village with many more running express. only going between domestic and international. Simply ask the bus driver which type of bus this is, they will be happy to help.

  • Once you have been dropped off at Skygate, wait there. A Translink bus 590 will take you to Toombul Shopping Centre (It should be only 2 stops).

  • At Toombul Shopping Centre there are many trains to take into the city.

As I said before, this approach costs under $4 when using a go card and traveling in off-peak hours. You can also buy single tickets but it is more expensive. Purchase a go card at any Airtran station for $30—$10 of this is a deposit the other $20 is usable fare. You cannot purchase the go card at the Airport Village or from a driver.

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Is Uber Available in Brisbane?

Yes! Life is so much easier when you can use Uber and Brisbane has Uber drivers everywhere. Ubers can also pick you up from the airport, with a cost of AUD $30 - $50.

If you've never used Uber before you can use this link to get $2 off each of your first 3 Uber rides. Use code 'tessaj350ue' to sign up.
Details: https://www.uber.com/invite/tessaj350ue

How to Get Around Brisbane

Taxi’s in Brisbane

An abundance of taxis are available throughout Brisbane that can take you anywhere. But, taxis are expensive in Brisbane. The airport to the city can cost between $50-60. Taxi's beyond the central city can easily reach $100 or more. The two major companies are Yellow Cabs and Black & White Cabs. Hailing a taxi is easy, look for their roof light to be light indicating the taxi is empty. You should know that in some areas they are not allowed to stop. All cabs accept cash or credit/debit cards. Cabs have GPS inside but I suggest talking with the driver about your destination before departing, just to make sure they are willing to go there. Between midnight-5:30 AM on Friday/Saturday nights, all taxis traveling from CBD and Fortitude Valley have a Flat Fare, or a fixed price for any destination. You have to pay this Flat Fare before entering the taxi.

Exploring Brisbane on foot

This was my favorite way to explore the city by far. Brisbane is an outstanding city for walking and you will find no problems exploring like this. Especially around the CBD (central business district). If you are exploring beyond the CBD, sights quickly become very spread out and you will want to consider other ways to get around.

Biking Brisbane

Brisbane is loaded with many cycling paths along the river making it easier than ever to see the sights from the seat of a bike. Additionally, Brisbane's City Council recently introduced CityCycle. A service offering bicycles for hire at different stations around the city. You will recognize it as many big cities around the world have adopted similar programs. Tourists, in particular, can register to use a bike for a 24-hour period costing only $2. You can also rent for the week for only $11. As with other programs of this nature you have 30 minutes of usage with the package, any additional time (with the same bike) will apply fees. As long as you keep docking old bikes and pulling out new ones every 30 minutes you can ride free all day. You should know that you have to wear a helmet anytime you are on a bike. It is the law and is heavily enforced, carrying a $120 fine for anyone caught without. Unfortunately, very few stations offer them.

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Brisbane Public Transport

Brisbane has three main public transport options: ferries, buses, and trains. They are all used by the same ticketing system, TransLink. Not only does this make life easier but it also means you can transfers for free between any of the three different transport modes. The easiest way to use the public transport system is by grabbing a Brisbane Go-Card when you first arrive. I explain more about this service below.

Why you need a Brisbane Go-Card

If you are spending a good amount of time in Brisbane get a ‘Go-Card’.

If you are spending a good amount of time in Brisbane get a ‘Go-Card’.

Like other big cities, London's Oyster Card, Hong Kong Octopus Card, Brisbane has a contactless smart card called the 'Go-Card' to make traveling on all forms of public transport very easy. You can purchase one of these cards from ticket vending machines, staff at train stations, select newstands, and convenience stores. The initial cost is set at $30—$10 of this is a deposit the other $20 is usable fare.

To use the Brisbane Go-Card you simply tap them on go card machines as you board buses/ferries or on external panels on train platforms. You will also need to 'tap out' as you exit so be sure to have them handy. Your fare is deducted as you touch-on and touch-off and using the card ensures you don't have to figure out complicated zones. The trip is also discounted, fares are reduced by 30%, and if you are really zipping around the city, after 8 journeys (during a Monday to Sunday week) your fare is half-price until Sunday.

The good news is the Brisbane Go-Card will save you between .50-$1 on each journey. The bad news is getting a refund for any unused money left on the card and your initial deposit is annoyingly difficult. If you bought the card with a credit card you have to apply to have the money returned by check or by transfer to an Australian bank account. I know, so stupid. But, if you bought the card with cash it is much easier! Simply grab a refund at any train station, including the airport train station.

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Getting Around Brisbane by Train

Most train lines in Brisbane are long journeys, traveling from one end of the suburbs to the other. But, all trains make stops at Roma Street, Central, Fortitude Valley, and Bowen Hills regardless of their ultimate destination. There are also Interurban services you can use to take to the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast. Trains begin running around 6 AM and run till around midnight. On Friday and Saturday nights they do run later, and on Sundays, they do stop service earlier.

Getting Around Brisbane by Ferry

You can't journey around Brisbane without seeing a CityFerries or CityCats. They have synonymous with the city and I highly recommend hopping on one since they are fantastic ways to tour Brisbane. CityCats are high-speed catamarans and one of the most popular methods for sightseeing tourists. They make stops at South Bank and the city center. CityFerries are more traditional ferries with shorter routes and more frequent stops. Tourists are less likely to use these since most riverside destinations are more easily accessible from the faster CityCats.

You should know: CityHopper, a free hop on and hop off ferry service that runs every 30 minutes. The ferry operates from 6 AM to midnight and runs seven days a week. The route covers the inner city reach of the Brisbane River. Look for the CityHopper's distinctive red color and hopping kangaroo logo.

Getting Around Brisbane by Bus

Brisbane's network of bus routes is quite extensive. All the buses have a digital display with a route number and upcoming destinations. Inner Brisbane City is well serviced by these buses. The most popular routes run from 6 AM to 11 PM.

Tourists should take note of a couple of great bus lines:

  • Brisbane City Loop: A free bus service that travels in both directions around the CBD. Service runs on weekdays only, from 7 AM–5:50 PM with buses arriving every ten minutes. Look for the distinctive red CBD bus stop.

  • Spring Hill Loop: Another free bus this one has distinctive yellow bus stops. Buses arrive every 10 minutes and service runs between 8 AM and 6 PM.

  • CitySights: A paid service run by the Brisbane City Council this bus is not covered by go-cards. A day pass is $35 which also includes CityCat travel. The buses are a hop-on, hop-off service to the most popular sights and attractions in Brisbane.

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Best Things To Do in Brisbane

Hotels in Brisbane

Like any big city, Brisbane has a number of hotel options for any price range. In addition to hotels, there are also numerous hostels for younger travelers or self-contained apartments ready to be rented to tourists even visiting for a short 3-day trip.

As for specific recommendations…

When we visited Brisbane we stayed at Capri, by Fraiser. The location was fabulous, very close all of CBD best sights and the rooms were modern and well furnished. We booked the hotel via Hotel Tonight, an app that I love!

If you’ve never used HotelTonight I encourage you to check it out. The app is incredible for booking amazing hotel deals tonight (like the name of the app suggests) and beyond. I’ve used it for booking deals up to a week or two before. Use my promo code TETORRENTE and you'll get $25 off your first booking. Download the app here.
*Bookings must be made on the app with a room charge of at least $135 USD (excluding taxes and fees).

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More Tips for Brisbane

  • Currency is the Australia Dollar

  • The most common spoken language in Brisbane is English

  • Brisbane is in the Australian Eastern Standard Time (GMT plus 10 hours)

  • Daylight Savings is not observed throughout Queensland

  • Tipping is optional in Australia. If you are very happy with the service in a restaurant or cafe you can leave an additional 10% but it is not expected. A few dollars to porters, bellhops, and taxi drivers is appreciated.

  • Pack (and use) sunscreen! Brisbane has a subtropical climate and sees an average of eight+ hours of sun per day.

Final Thoughts

Planning a trip to Australia in general, can be overwhelming. Everyone has an opinion on this beautiful location and you may be frozen and unable to plan anything. Rest assured that no matter what you choose to do in Australia or where you choose to stay in Australia you're going to have a beautiful time. 

One last thing... even though researching ahead of time is great, I definitely recommend bringing an Australian travel guide along with you. Here are some of the travel guides I used during my trip...

Also, a super common question I get is: What camera do I use for my travels. The body is a Nikon D5600 and I use the kit lens and a Sigma wide-angle lens which I am genuinely obsessed with.

My full list of travel gear, that I take on every trip can be found here.

And of course, if you have any questions DO NOT hesitate to reach out to me via Instagram, Twitter, or just shoot me an email (tessajuliette at gmail dot com). 

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