Adelaide is an easy city to get around – we argue that it’s Australia’s most walkable city. But sometimes you need to hop on to a bus or train for those adventures out in different areas. It’s relatively simple to get around Adelaide, as the transport authority Adelaide Metro allows for many different options for travel. Here, I break it down so you know the most effective ways to use it for your Adelaide travel, as well as revealing a simple hack to ensure you never miss your bus!

  1. We have top-up cards, but it’s not essential to get one

metroCARDs are the cards used across all modes of Adelaide transport – bus, train and tram. They’re blue cards for adults, cost $5 from the information centre in Adelaide Railway Station or selected outlets, and can be loaded with credit at either the station, most tram stops, actually on any tram or train, or selected newsagents and convenience stores (sometimes you can spot a small flag advertising sales/top-ups). The minimum load is $5. You can’t top them up on buses.

If you’re only in Adelaide for a day, as many travellers can be, then getting a card is probably not necessary. You can buy single tickets, or a 3-day Visitor’s Pass (see below). However, any longer and it’s worth considering because fares are calculated cheaper off a metroCARD than they are by using a single ticket.

  1. Single tickets are useful for short stays

If you’re not in Adelaide for long, single tickets are your friend. There are a few different kinds with changing prices, depending on what time of day you travel. Extra information can be found on the Adelaide Metro website, but below is what you need to know.

Singletrip: your standard ticket. There’s Peak (before 9.01am and after 3pm weekdays/all day Saturday), and Interpeak (between 9.01am and 3pm/all day Sunday and public holidays). These are valid for two hours after validation and can be used on all modes of transport.

Standard prices apply, and they’re placed alongside metroCARD prices here for comparison… you can see why the longer you stay, the more beneficial it is to get a card!

Peak Interpeak
Singletrip ticket $5.60 $3.70
metroCARD $3.77 $2.07

Then you also have:

Daytrip: unlimited travel on all modes of transport until 4.30am the following day. You can buy these on buses, machines and the Adelaide Railway Station’s information centre. Cost: $10.60

3-Day Visitor Pass: unlimited travel on all modes of transport for three consecutive days. You can only buy this from the Adelaide Railway Station’s information centre. Cost: $25

I think the 3-Day pass is a pretty good deal if you know you might go out to Port Adelaide one day, Penfolds Magill Estate the next day, and Hahndorf on another… or Glenelg Beach, or Henley Beach, the list could go on! It means you don’t have to worry about only staying less than two hours to make the most from your ticket, and you can take your time exploring!

A special edition metroCARD featuring the famous Rundle Mall pig sculptures.
  1. The payment method for a ticket varies

I’m a big believer in always having cash with you – although Australia is becoming more of a cashless society, it’s important to have cash back-up for your cards. In Adelaide transport’s case, there are times you can’t use a card!

For topping up metroCARDs at newsagents and convenience stores, you can use either cash or card. Topping them up on a machine, whether at the station, tram stops or on the tram/train, is different – only coins or card – no notes.

Buying single tickets on the bus – cash only, no card.

Note: if you’re buying a ticket on a bus, you’re expected to have exact change, or close to it. A bus driver won’t have change for a $20 or higher and expect some grumpiness if you try giving them any notes. Coins are better.

  1. Students and concession card holders (eg Seniors cards) get cheaper fares

Student metroCARDs (purchased with valid ID) are a different colour and allow fares as cheap as $1 for students across the transport network. For those with a Seniors card in any Australian state or territory, interpeak prices apply at peak times, while in interpeak travel is free. You still have to scan your Seniors card when boarding.

  1. We’re friendly to our transport drivers

Adelaide is a friendly city, and we tend to impart that friendliness when using public transport by greeting our drivers and thanking them for the ride. You don’t see this as much in other Australian cities but on buses in Adelaide you can expect people to wave goodbye to the drivers even from the middle door! It’s important to pay them respect even if they are running late – everyone has their bad days.

6. Trams in the city are free, as well as the 98 and 99 city loops

Yep, that’s right – trams all the way to the Botanic Garden or Entertainment Centre terminuses, as well as to South Terrace on the Glenelg line are free. You must have a validated ticket all the way to Glenelg beach. Across the city and North Adelaide, the 98A and 98C loops are great for a ride around (A for anticlockwise, and C for clockwise), while for just the city it’s the 99A and 99C buses. Extra information on the Adelaide Metro website is here.

And then there’s a hack that I’ve even revealed to locals!

Log onto the Adelaide Metro website, and you can look for your bus particular route in the searches. Once you determine the direction of travel, you click that, then find the stop number you’re waiting at. It’ll open a page with real-time arrivals, and also when it’s meant to arrive – so you know for sure that it IS running eight minutes late and it’s not just you wondering (see screenshot).

The hack is knowing the stop code, and on all bus stops it’s displayed on a white sticker with a five-digit number on it (see photo). So you keep the link open on your phone and just edit the last five numbers of the link for whatever bus stop you’re at to determine when your next bus will actually arrive! How easy is that?


Something else worth adding: if you’re a collector of these mementos, or you may be returning to Adelaide one day, keep it! The cards don’t ever expire, so you can reload them. You can’t refund them to get your $5 back… but you could always on-sell it or give it to someone else so it doesn’t end up in landfill.

Overall, travelling in Adelaide on public transport is a great experience. We have clean transport, and the trams and trains are very effective. Buses could be better in terms of punctuality, but they still run efficiently and frequently across all areas of the city. For the service you get, Adelaide’s public transport is very affordable and is an easy way to get to key areas of our wonderful city! We effectively use public transport as part of our food tour The F Factor within the city centre, and we also take travellers out to areas such as Henley Beach on request during a private tour.

Flamboyant forever,


Missed the last post? Get the lowdown on our events for 2019’s Pride Month.

Get social with us: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Pinterest | LinkedIn | TripAdvisor | Google


  1. Tuan Kiet

    Hi! I am Kiet, I from Vietnam and I am studying in Adelaide, I have living here for 5 months and I feel everything is very difficult for me to get use to Adelaide so I decide to making a website that help some student study aboard to get use to the life in Adelaide. Can you give me some advice or what information should I put in my website.

    • Katina

      Hi Kiet!

      That’s great that you want to create a website for students in Adelaide! For a website like that, consider things like transport options, cool spots to eat, what you can get into for free, etc. I think you should consider what you have found difficult to find out and have that stuff on there as well.

      If you haven’t found it already, consider looking at the Study Adelaide website as they are there to help students settle into the city!

      Thanks for reading,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>