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A Field Guide To Public Transport In Brisbane

Brisbane is a compact city, easily navigable by foot but sometimes those feet are tired. Thankfully, we have a great Brisbane public transport network that will take you to many of the attractions, events and destinations you want to see.

Brisbane Public Transport - Old fashioned Brisbane pre-20th century tram heading to Paddington, with local young men aboard.

Like most public transport, it can be confusing. Trains, buses and ferries are operated by the Brisbane City Council or State Government though a few are run independently. In general, the Translink website covers most travel options including journey planners and fares but sometimes the information is a little hard to find. As a daily user of the Brisbane Public Transport the network, I’ve pulled all the information into one place for easy reference.

If you have a specific transport question, leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to answer it.



The first thing you’re going to need if you’re in Brisbane for more than a day, is a Go Card.

Two Brisbane public transport Go Cards resting on a map of Brisbane

You may think you don’t need one and will just buy a paper ticket. I’m here to tell you that public transport in Qld is the most expensive in Australia. When you see the difference in price between a paper ticket and a Go Card, you’ll want to get your hands on a card. Not only are the fares cheaper, but Brisbane and SE Qld have an integrated ticketing system that allows you to transfer between rides so you can get to your destination. After 8 trips, all subsequent trips in the week (Mon – Sun) are half price.

Tip: You need to touch on at the start AND off at the end of each journey, even if you are transferring otherwise you’ll be charged extra. Here’s how to touch on and off

You can buy a Go Card at almost all 7-Elevens, some convenience stores, newsagents or at train stations. You can also buy one at the Visitor information Centre in the Queen St Mall. Add value or ‘Top Up’ your Go Card at most of these places. There’s a deposit but that’s refundable. Concession options are available but the evidence requirements are fairly stringent. Don’t forget to download the Translink App which has real time information and can be searched by route or stop.

Tip: if you’re staying longer than a few weeks, register your Go Card online so you can organise auto top up.



Images of Brisbane buses including the City Glider, City Loop and a general bus

Brisbane has a huge bus network. You can hop back and forth across the river to South Bank and the Cultural Centre, over to edgy West End for a coffee and down to hip New Farm for some shopping and bar hopping.

Buses mainly travel on Elizabeth, Adelaide and Ann Streets in the City. There are also high frequency bus stations underneath King George Square and the Myer Centre and at the Cultural Centre at South Bank. Visit translink.com.au for specific route information

City Gliders – Go Card only (no paper tix)
These two high frequency services that are great for visitors. With limited stops and pre-paid ticketing, you can get from A-B fast. They run approximately every 10 minutes so it’s never long to wait.

Blue City Glider 60 – travels between West End and Tenneriffe via South Bank, the city and Fortitude Valley (‘the Valley’).
Maroon City Glider 61 – travels between Stones Corner and Ashgrove via South Bank and the city.

Tip: if you’re heading to a sporting event or concert at The Gabba or Suncorp Stadium (Lang Park), the Maroon City Glider is the bus for you.

Loop Bus – free
Jump on a City Loop bus running clockwise and counter-clockwise around the edge of the CBD. Relax in air conditioning, press your nose against the window and take in the surrounds. Catch a bus to Spring Hill to see the convict era windmill. Buses run continuously from 8.30am – 6pm Monday to Friday and take around 15 minutes to do a loop. There are two centrally located stops on the different routes in Ann St on King George Square and, on Queen St opposite the GPO. Look for the red or yellow bus stops. More Info: Free Loop Bus



The train network will take you all over SE Qld including the Gold Coast. Many stations connect with the bus network. Routes and maps are based on the standardised colour coding system used the world over and are easy to decipher. The most popular stations close to attractions are South Bank, South Brisbane, Roma St. Central and Fortitude Valley. Visit translink.com.au for specific route information

Airtrain – Go Card + paper tix
Airtrain is the quickest and cheapest way to get from the Brisbane Airport (domestic or international) to Brisbane City (Central) or the Gold Coast. Trains depart outside Arrivals from 5am – 10pm, 7 days a week. Buy tickets at the station or online beforehand for a small discount. It’s not cheap but it’s 1/3 of the price of a taxi. Gold Coast stations are not within walking distance of hotels, beaches or tourists attractions so you’ll need to catch a local bus or pre-organise a door to door connection via the website. More Info: Airtrain

Tip: Buy a Go Card at the Airtrain Station so you can use immediately upon arrival in the city, coast or suburbs.



Brisbane City Hopper Ferry - part of the old ferry fleet

Brisbane is a river city so it makes sense that ferries are part of the public transport fleet. With blue skies and sparkling waters, it’s a relaxed option to get you from point A to point B and take in some of the sights along the way. More Info: Brisbane Ferries

City Cat – Go Card + paper tix
Ask anyone who has visited Brisbane for any length of time and they’ll tell you about the high-speed, high frequency City Cats that traverse the length of the inner city Brisbane River. It’s possible to travel in one journey from Queensland University, down past the city hot spots, under the Story Bridge, on to New Farm and all the way down to Hamilton Reach, just near the Gateway Bridge.

Tip: The one way journey along the whole City Cat route takes longer than you think! Allow 1.5 hours – there are lots of stops.

Cross River – Go Card + paper tix
There are three regular small ferries that travel back and forth across the river, between locations. Bulimba to Tenneriffe, Eagle St (City) to Thornton St (Story Bridge) & Norman Park to New Farm (New Farm Park & The Powerhouse entertainment complex)

City Hopper – free
These cute little ferries ply the Brisbane River in the CBD.  They shuttle people back and forth to popular destinations such as South Bank and Kangaroo Point on a non stop basis. Take the opportunity to view the city from the Brisbane River, a powerful force of nature that dominates the lives of those who live in the river city. More Info: City Hopper



Brisbane City Cycles docked in their stations, awaiting rental

City Cycle – credit card required (no Go Card)
City Cycle is a comparatively cheap option for those who have the energy and leg muscles to traverse the hills of Brisbane. You only need to glance at the names of the suburbs to get an inkling of the terrain. Spring Hill, Red Hill, Highgate Hill, Bowen Hills…

You need to subscribe in advance for a modest fee which will then give you access to the bike hire stations dotted all over the inner city and popular tourist locations such as South Bank and West End. In Qld you must wear a bike helmet when riding. Many (but not all) City Cycle bikes have a complimentary helmet stored in the bike basket. Use the bike for less than 30 minutes at no extra cost, use it for more than 30 minutes and there is an additional small fee.  More Info: City Cycle

Tips: To avoid the additional fee, simply use the bike for less than 30 minutes, check it in to a station and collect a new bike.


So there you have it. A round-up of how to get around on Brisbane Public Transport using paid and free public transport options. I urge you to download the Translink App. Don’t forget, if you have any questions, leave a comment and I’ll do my best to answer.

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12 comments… add one
  • Lee February 10, 2016, 9:39 am

    Great post! If I’m out that way I know where to look for advice on transport. Wish Perth had an airport train.

    • Fiona Ryan February 10, 2016, 6:19 pm

      Thanks Lee. Brisbane has a big urban sprawl so gosh, we needed it!

  • Maria February 10, 2016, 10:21 am

    AWESOME post for my new students Fiona!!!!

    • Fiona Ryan February 10, 2016, 6:19 pm

      Hi Maria – I’m glad to be of service! More Brisbane posts coming soon and also, an e-book.

  • Tandy I Lavender and Lime February 10, 2016, 2:07 pm

    Such an informative post. It’s fantastic that you have some free public transport 😀

    • Fiona Ryan February 10, 2016, 6:20 pm

      Thanks. I’ve used public transport all over the world and for the most part, it’s easy to get the hang of but there’s nothing like the advice of a local!

  • Pamela Hayward February 10, 2016, 3:50 pm

    As someone moving to Brisbane shortly this is great. Thank you. I caught the city cat last year (from Hawthorne to the city) when I volunteered at the BWF and found it a delightful way to travel. Love your blogs, Fiona.

    • Fiona Ryan February 10, 2016, 6:21 pm

      I’m glad to be of service. You’ll be travelling like a local soon enough. Thanks for your words of encouragement.

  • The Hipsterette February 10, 2016, 9:11 pm

    A GoCard is essential for all public transport commuters! I wish Brisbane public transport was cheaper!

    • Fiona Ryan February 11, 2016, 7:30 pm

      I know. So expensive! And talk at present of doing away with the free trips. I hope not.

  • Elizabeth March 11, 2016, 9:25 am

    Very cool! I have been back 4 years now and still don’t have a go card! Oops time to get one 🙂
    Liz xx

    • Fiona Ryan April 5, 2016, 8:17 am

      Public transport is already pricey but ridiculous without a Go Card. Better get one so you aren’t bankrupted!

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