The Adelaide public transport system, like most other networks in Australia’s capital cities, is unique but easy to navigate.
The system takes commuters via bus, train and tram to all parts of the city.
When I first moved to Adelaide, there were a lot of things I had to learn about taking public transport.
I figured out how to buy and recharge a metroCARD (which can be used to pay for using the network), and also quickly discovered that buses don’t always arrive every 15 minutes like they’re supposed to.
I’ve created this complete guide to using public transport in Adelaide to make it easier for commuters – especially those who are visiting the city for the first time – to understand the system.
Paying for fares
Can I travel for free?
There are specific services that allow for free travel aboard Adelaide public transport, but they are limited (keep scrolling to see which bus, train and trams services this applies to).
Unless otherwise specified, you need to pay a fare to use these services.
Adelaide Metro officers regularly travel aboard trains, buses and trams to make sure commuters have paid.
The standard fine for not paying is $220, with a maximum penalty of $1250 for each offence.
Only children under five years of age can travel free at all times.
How do I pay?
Unlike some of Australia’s other capital cities, passengers still have the option of paying cash to use Adelaide’s public transport network – however, it’s much easier to purchase a metroCARD.
Commuters can buy 28-Day, 14-Day, 3-Day Visitor, and Regular metroCARD passes.
The regular card costs $5 and will require an extra $5 minimum of credit to get you started, but there are savings to be made for regular commuters by utilising the other options.
Click each of the links to visit the Adelaide Metro website to find out more details.
If you’re not interested in a metroCARD, or have already bought one but don’t have it with you when you go to use public transport in Adelaide, you can pay using cash or debit card to buy a single trip ticket.
These tickets can be transferred to bus, train or tram services within two hours from when it was validated.
Do students and seniors get discount?
Student and seniors concession card holders do get discounted rates for using public transport in Adelaide, however they have to provide photo identification if requested by an Adelaide Metro officer.
According to the Adelaide Metro website, to be eligible for concession, commuters must be able to produce a Transport Concession Card, available through the Department for Communities and Social Inclusion, or a valid student card issued by their educational institution.
Similarly, seniors card holders travel free before 7am, 9am to 3pm and after 7pm weekdays, and all-day Saturday, Sunday and public holidays.
Can I bring my bike aboard public transport?
Bikes are only permitted to be brought aboard train services – they are not permitted on buses or trams.
They can be carried free aboard trains on weekdays from 9am and 3pm, and after 6pm, and on weekends when space is available.
Outside of these times, the commuter will be required to pay a peak concession fare.
Passengers can also secure their bikes via new ‘bike cages’ that have been rolled out across interchanges right across Adelaide, with more information detailed here.
Modes of transport
There are hundreds of bus routes in Adelaide, which will take you virtually anywhere you need to go.
Typically, they’re clean, air-conditioned, and comfortable to travel on.
Many services will run from as early as 4.30am, and usually cease operations around midnight.
Buses are meant to arrive every 15 minutes, but this can vary greatly, especially if you’re catching one from the CBD.
From my own experiences, it’s typical to not see your desired bus for 30 minutes, only to then have two arrive one after the other.
There are two free ‘City Loop’ buses routes that do trips around the CBD.
The ‘Green’ service, which comprises buses 98A and 98C, runs seven days a week every 30 minutes.
The ‘Red’ service, which uses buses 99A and 99C, also runs every 30 minutes, but is only available on weekdays.
These two routes will take you along some of Adelaide’s most popular city streets, including North Terrace and King William Street, but only run until 7.15pm from Monday-Thursday, and 9.15pm on Friday.
You have to pay to use all other services.
There are five train lines that branch out from Adelaide Railway Station on North Terrace: Belair, Gawler, Grange, Seaford and Outer Harbor.
Belair and Seaford take you south – the first towards the Adelaide Hills, the second towards the beach – while Grange heads straight west in the direction of the coast.
Gawler travels directly north, while Outer Harbor heads more north west.
The State Government has already electrified the Seaford line, and is in the process of installing the necessary infrastructure to do the same with the remaining diesel lines, which will make them quieter, faster and more comfortable for commuters.
Train services typically start at around 4.30am and don’t usually run past midnight, so if you’re having a late night out in the city then you’d better consider planning an alternative mode of transport to get you home.
The only time you’ll be able to ride the trains for free are when there are big sporting events being held at Adelaide Oval (such as AFL matches, or the Adelaide Test match), but the State Government has flagged possibly removing this concession in the future.
And if you’re thinking of trying to sneak on without paying, you may want to think again – there are onboard officers who will check your MetroCard, or ticket, to ensure you’ve paid.
There are two key tram lines in Adelaide that will take you to and from North Terrace in the CBD and Glenelg Beach, and also from the Adelaide Entertainment Centre on Port Road to North Terrace.
The trams never used to run along the east end of North Terrace, but an extension that was completed in 2018 has since made this possible, and enables the service to stretch all the way to the Adelaide Botanic Gardens.
The services run from around 6am to midnight each day, and you will need to pay a fare for the most part.
The only free trips are between South Terrace, the Entertainment Centre, the Botanic Gardens and Festival Plaza, and the entire length of Glenelg’s main thoroughfare, Jetty Road.
The O-Bahn is a unique part of the Adelaide public transport network, and is best described as a guided busway that delivers passengers to and from Adelaide’s eastern suburbs and the CBD.
Three main interchanges are located at Tea Tree Plaza, Paradise and Klemzig.
The service operates along a 12km guided concrete track, enabling a quick commute into the CBD as the buses can travel at 100 km/h.
The line enters the CBD by travelling under Rundle Park and Rymill Park.
Because there are no train lines servicing Adelaide’s north eastern suburbs, the O-Bahn is the quickest and most direct mode of transport into the city.
The fares are no different to Adelaide’s other modes of public transport.