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Brisbane from South Bank

The Grumpy Traveller’s Guide to Brisbane

Have you been to Brisbane, Australia? No? Then you should.

Getting there and Getting around …

Brisbane has a great airport (nice looking International and domestic terminals), so do not forget to check their website. However, arriving at Brisbane means that you are still a little way off from the city and unless you know how to or have someone pick you up from the airport, getting to the city can be challenging unless you know the best and easiest route and that is not very obvious. I arrived at the airport from Christchurch, New Zealand and was looking for a shuttle service. Should tell you that there is a shuttle service but that only goes to elite hotels, and will not drop you to say a backpacker or a motel (where at least I was supposed to go). The lady in the counter did tell me that there was a train service, and mumbled the name of a station, tried to be as helpful as she could, but actually fact wise, left a lot unsaid, in terms of how good actually the train-ferry-bus integrated public transportation system is in Brisbane. I went up to the level (for some strange reason, in Brisbane, every office and shopping mall I have visited, they do not seem to have “ground floor”, the “ground floor” seems to start from the third storey, take that!) to catch a train, and when I told the street name near where I wanted to go, the ticket office clerk handed me an expensive train ticket to Gold Coast (certainly the most desirable destination in this part of the world for vactioneers), but er … I wanted to go to Brisbane, at a place called Herston, not too far from the CBD. Then I suspected that she directed me to the wrong station, and I got off (accidentally, purely by way of reading the excellent route map posted in the train door/walls), and got off at the right station but the very kind and helpful station officer misguided me. He told me I could walk with my heavy suitcases “roughly a couple of kilometres” to reach my destination. Which, turned out to be about five kilometres of walk through up and down weavy streets of Brisbane crossing busy street signals hauling 20 kilos of packed suitcase and more on your shoulders.

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An underground busway in Herston station, Brisbane

One card that rules them all …

The translink go card in Brisbane links your bus, trains, ferry, and is just amazing. The buses in Brisbane not only run on time, they have special bus ways (underground tunnels dug througout the city) that safely carries the bus; the bus stations in the city are air conditioned and sound proof. Best of the best. Should check them out. The fares are dirt cheap.

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An underground bus stop in the city: perfectly quiet, spotlessly clean. Amazing, just amazing!

Yes, Victoria, there is such as a thing as free river cruise! It is in Brisbane!

They have this “red ferry” (Brisbane city hopper ferry) — a little slow (and that’s a good thing, trust me), where you can hop on and hop off all day long. You do not need to purchase a ticket for that, free for you, and it ambly cruises along the Brisbane River, and you slowly take in all of the city and everything along the bank. The experience is ethereal and you’d like to carry your camera with you. Do it. It won’t cost you anything and you get to see some of the most spectacular river life and bridges and sight seeing on the way. Don’t miss it.

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Brisbane city sights aboard the Red Ferry (City Explorer), all for free!

Eating out ….

Brisbane is a great city, and I am sure there are great places to eat and drink, but I did not find them. I am yet to find one that is truly great (readers, I need help to locate some). That said, I found in general, coffee in Brisbane is great (even a gas station/petrol pump coffee tastes really good) , and I found a decent chocolatier in the South Bank (South Bank is reputedly the food Mecca of Brisbane). I tried out various places in a neighbourhood called Fortitude Valley famous for their smaller Chinatown. But I will not recommend that place at all. Too bad, too pricey. Stay away from that place if you can, there are far better places in comparison if you can venture out to their Central Business District, which is about twenty minutes (roughly two kilometre stretch) walking distance.

Thou won’t be distracted by wifi here …

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A very common experience of writing to Medium when writing from Brisbane, :-)
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A Nepalese Pagoda in the South Bank, heart of CBD, Brisbane.

Sightseeing ….

Many, many things. You will be spoilt for your choice. Do not miss the Koala Park, the Southbank, the CBD tour, and river cruise. Even if you do not head out to the Gold Coast, there is so much to see and do, it will need another article to do justice to it.

In summary …

  • Great city! Absolutely love it (except for its Wifi access, oh well!)
  • The best public transport system in the planet (or very close to it). Period. You cannot beat it.
  • Weatherwise, very hot and humid most part of the year but very well organised, so it should not daunt you as they have plenty of trees, shades, and well designed walkways, and busways, so they care for you.
  • Food is generally very expensive and for most part you will be able to get by unless you are fussy and food is your thing. Be prepared to have your own grocery (if possible and if you can cook), and you cannot afford to be too fussy about these things if you are in Brisbane.
  • Great coffee and chocolate, and I am sure there are pockets of great food joints and restaurants, but I am yet to find one to my satisfaction. There is not a single Indian place in the Central Business district so that should tell you something about the variety of food available here (other than Far Eastern, Japanese, Chinese, and fake Middle Eastern food). That said, I found Papparich restaurant in the Myer Centre quite nice, and most Mall based food courts, are, well, as good as they go. Not my thing.
  • Wifi is forgettable. You have to forgive this city for its poor wifi coverage. Well, at least, there is one thing to grump about, and one thing not to rave about in a city that is otherwise the best in the world in my eyes, :-)

Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Environmental Health at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand. Also in:

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