Next morning the landscape metamorphoses into rolling countryside (63 hours) with cows, sheep and fields of wheat. This is Western Australia and the environmental quarantine team board the train, collecting any food brought from another state.
The train finally pulls into East Perth station around 9 a.m. on Thursday, 66 and a half hours after leaving Sydney. Many of the passengers look punch-drunk; some look like they haven’t yet regained their land legs and I’m feeling a little like an inmate taking the first tentative steps after a period of incarceration. The journey may not have been a joy, but at least I now know how big Australia really is.
If You Go
Ordinary return train fares are expensive; i.e: Sydney to Perth seat only is AUD$ 1,026 or US$ 819. However, you can get a Great Southern Rail Pass (GSRP) for an absolute bargain. It costs AUD$ 590 adult (US$ 471), AUD$ 450 for students, for six months unlimited travel on the southern network, but only if you are a non-Australian national.
You don’t have to buy the GSRP before you travel. Get it from Sydney Central station (and many others), but take your passport. Even better, if you cross the road from Sydney station and join the Youth Hostel Association (YHA) for AUD$ 35 (US$ 28), you can get a AUD$ 140 (US$ 112) discount on the travel pass. Buying the pass in Australia is most likely cheaper than if you buy it at home.
The YHA membership also saved me about AUD$ 70 (US$ 56) over five weeks on discounted trips and accommodations. In total, I slept eight nights on the train, at an average of AUD$ 45 (US$ 36) per night accommodation. This meant that my ticket was virtually free!
Great Southern Railway
Youth Hostel Association Australia