When I visited Canberra recently, I decided to go via bus instead of driving myself.
Murrays and Greyhound both offer express services that run from Sydney’s Central Station to Canberra’s Jolimont Centre Bus Terminal via the Sydney Airport and back. These services are meant to be three hours and thirty minutes, about the same time as driving it yourself.
Greyhound has free wifi on a limited number of their coaches, but they do the route much less frequently, so I opted to try Murrays as they run a bus almost every hour, 24 hours a day, giving me the most options for bus times. As an added bonus, if you travel this route frequently, Murrays also have a loyalty program where you get every 6th trip free. That’s awesome and strikes me as a cheap way to get from Canberra to Sydney for cruises, especially if you need to go to the White Bay cruise terminal. Just get the bus from Canberra to Sydney Airport and then take the cruise line airport transfer shuttle to White Bay!
But, I digress…
After selecting the trip time, Murrays Coaches offer three fare types priced as below (current at the time of writing):
- Hot discount – $38.00
- Premium discount – $42.00
- Fully flexible – $46.00
Since I had to rely on the Intercity Train to get me from Lake Macquarie to Central Station, I booked the fully flexible fare. This means that if the train is late, delayed, or just doesn’t turn up, I can change my booking at no cost up to 30 minutes before the scheduled departure time (although they are pretty flexible and may accommodate your change later than that time if possible).
My train was due to arrive half an hour before the bus departure, which is plenty of time. Unfortunately, my train was delayed twice, and I didn’t get into Central Station until a few minutes after my bus departed.
Fortunately, I was able to quickly change my booking to the next bus. You can do this online or by calling Murrays customer service number. I was very impressed with the ease of change, though it wasn’t helped by the awful phone reception along the train line.
The other benefit of the flexible ticket is that if you happen to arrive early, you can change to an earlier coach. On my return trip to Sydney, it worked out better for me to get to the Jolimont Centre in Canberra about an hour earlier. I got there just as the bus before mine began boarding, so I swapped onto it and got back to Sydney an hour earlier than planned.
In Sydney, Murrays coaches operate from Pitt St, a level below the main station platform at Central Station.
It is a little confusing to find, but once you know it’s down on the lower level, and right on Pitt St (not any of the bus turn-around or drop-off areas), it’s really straight-forward.
In Canberra, you’ll find the Murrays coaches office in the Jolimont Centre on Northbourne Ave with the coaches waiting in the bays behind the centre. Access to the coaches is through the Jolimont Centre building.
Checking in is straightforward with just your name required, though they can ask for ID as well.
Once onboard, the buses feature leather seats with USB power to keep your phone or tablet going. I found that while it is powerful enough to charge an iPhone 6+ while it was in constant use, it isn’t powerful enough to charge an iPad Pro while in use. It does slow down the speed at which you use up the battery though. My guess is they must only be 1.0 amp USB sockets.
The seats are firm and compared to airline seats they are probably a similar width to a Jetstar domestic seat with legroom like a typical Qantas domestic seat. Footrests come standard, and you get one 32kg checked bag plus one small carry on bag.
I personally found them no more or less comfortable than an economy airline seat, perfectly fine for 3.5 hours, but we had terrible traffic getting out of Sydney, and the trip turned into a four hour and ten minute one. I‘ll admit, I was ready for a different seat by then!
Each seat has it’s own air conditioning and lighting controls, just like on a plane, so it’s all very familiar and helps maintain comfort during the trip.
There are seatbelts as required by law, but there are only armrests on the outsides of the seats (window and aisle) with no armrest between seats. I think this makes the seats feel a little smaller than they actually are since there is no clear divider to separate you from your neighbour, but I didn’t find it problematic.
I found that for me; the only real source of discomfort with the seats is just that, even partially slouched, my head is still well above the top of the headrest, meaning no head or neck support unless I slump way down. It’s not enough to stop me from travelling by coach again, but it would definitely increase the seat comfort level over a trip of that duration. Looking at others on the bus though it seemed that the height is suitable for most people.
All in all, it was a good trip. It runs directly without a stop, so make sure to bring a water bottle and some snacks! There is a toilet onboard so you can make a pit stop if required, just don’t expect a Macca’s run!
I found that overall, Murrays Sydney-Canberra Express coach service was a cost-effective and comfortable way to do the trip between Sydney and Canberra. It is about the same amount of time as driving the route yourself, and the terminal locations are convenient to Canberra city centre, Sydney Airport, Circular Quay Cruise Terminal, Central Station and the Sydney CBD. The baggage allowance is generous and everything is just easy, especially with a flexible ticket. Add to that the loyalty program for frequent travellers and this works out in my opinion to be one of the best ways to get between Sydney and Canberra.
Have you used Murray’s, Greyhound or another bus service on the Sydney to Canberra route? Have you used it to get on a cruise? I’d love to hear your experiences and which coach line you prefer, let me know in the comments below!