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Australia > Long Distance Australian Train Journeys > Packing List - Essential Items For The JourneyStatue to Afghan camel pioneers at Alice Springs station

Long Distance Train Journeys - Packing List and Essential Items for the Journey

A guide for backpacker and budget travellers

As mentioned in the Luggage section of the Facilities page, many people will follow the suggestions on their ticket and check their larger bag or backpack in to the luggage car at the start of the journey, where it can not be accessed again until the journey is completed. It is therefore important that you remember to include all important items in the hand luggage that you will be taking into the carriage. Remember also that some of these journeys are very very long: many people are just not used to occupying their time on a train for three days in a row, so a bit of thought and pre-planning will go a long way to making your journey more enjoyable. The suggestions here are most suitable for backpackers and budget travellers travelling in the Red Class (i.e. Economy) carriages of the 'Indian Pacific', 'Ghan', or 'Overland' trains, though may be of interest to passengers in Gold and Platinum classes as well.

Ear plugs and eye-maskEssential for getting to sleep before the main carriage lights have been turned down, or for coping with a loud snorer in the seat behind you.
Inflatable PillowOr why not bring a full sized pillow, and a thin blanket? There's plenty of room on board.
Digital CameraSee the Photography page for more information. Don't forget a spare battery + spare memory card.
Mp3 player + earphonesA chance to listen to all those favorite songs, plus audio books, commentaries and TED lectures. Why not learn a new language? Three days gives you a lot of time.
Laptop or iPadPre-load with games and movies. Bring one of those adaptors that converts one earphone socket into two, so you can share the movie with the person sitting next to you.
Some Good BooksJust the chance to read 'Gone With The Wind', 'The Good Earth Trilogy', 'War and Peace', 'A Suitable Boy', or another of those epics you've always wanted to start but never had time for.
Magazines and puzzle booksAlways good to have something to dip into, as the complimentary onboard 'Outlook' magazine, whilst interesting, is unlikely to absorb your interest for three days. Share with other passengers when you've finished, and make new friends. Magazines from your home country will be of great interest to others.
Playing cards or travel-versions of board gamesYou'll find plenty of partners on these long journeys, so do bring some games with you.
Postcards or photos of homeWhen chatting with new friends in the 'Matilda Cafe', its always nice to be able to share pictures of where in the world you come from, some shots of your family, or images that make your part of the world unique.
220v AC charger with Australian plugBring chargers for all your electronic gadgets - see the Facilities page for details of where you can use them.
Sponge bagBring your favorite soap, shower gel, tooth brush and paste. You don't need a towel, as they are supplied free of charge.
Water bottleUseful to dilute your bottle of fruit cordial into. The train supplies free chilled water, and 'squash' is much cheaper and more healthy than sugar-laden fizzy canned drinks.

Young tourist in shorts walk past 'Ghan' carriagesClothing and Footwear
You are requested to wear 'neat and tidy' clothing, and footwear at all times. Thongs or flipflops are most suitable for walking about the train, and taking into the shower, but as mentioned earlier, they are 'not permissable for safety reasons'. Several guests were wearing them, however, and though it would have been quite fun to watch, I never saw any of the train staff trying to enforce this rule. I guess if you injure your toe, you just won't get compensation To be safe from censure, I'd recommend sandles when on the train. If you are going on any of the 'Whistlestop Tours' you may need sturdier footwear. You will also want a sunhat, sunglasses and sun cream, as the climate thoughout much of Australia can be extreme, and the visitor from Europe or America may find it rather over-whelming until they have a chance to acclimatise. The temperature in the carriage is kept fairly constant during the day, at about 20 degrees Celsius. During the night this may drop, so a jersey or fleece jacket will be needed. If you are wearing shorts, then a small rug wil keep your legs warm - if you don't have one you can hire one, plus inflatable neck pillow, from the buffet car, though they are not always available on every journey.

'Indian Pacific' logo and nameboard on carriage at Broken HillFood and Drink
If you have your own food, then a penknife and spoon or 'spork' will be useful. When buying tin cans, such as baked beans, I choose those with ring-pull tops, so I didn't need a separate tin-opener. You are not allowed to eat your own food in the dining car, as there are not enough seats for everyone. Instead, you must eat your own food in your own seat, and I find that the complementary towel spread across your lap will catch any crumbs that can then be shaken into a rubbish bag. These are provided at the end of the carriage. Some people bring 'Eskies' or 'Cool Boxes' to keep their food fresh. There is room for these on the luggage racks, provided that they are not too tall. There are no fridges available for 'Red Service' guests, but a suitable pre-frozen ice-pack should help to keep things cool for much of the journey. Even if you are intending to purchase the bulk of your food from the buffet car, it is a good idea to bring a small quantity of snacks, such as potato chips (crisps), biscuits, etc. The choice available at your local supermarket will be much greater than is available on board the train, and the prices will be much lower! Chilled drinking water is available on board, so why not bring a bottle of fruit cordial that can be diluted. You can get a paper cup from the dining car, or bring your own cup or empty bottle to dilute the cordial into.

'The Ghan' logo and nameboard on carriage at Alice SpringsEntertainment
Games and playing cards are always a nice thing to have on a journey. You will soon find some partners to play with. Games for two can be played at your seat, using the fold-out tables that each 'Day-Nighter Seat' has. Alternatively, if you have paid to access the lounge car, there are plenty of tables that are ideal for playing card games or small board games. The tables in the dining car are in short supply, so you are requested that during the hours of 0700 to 2200 you only use these for the consumption of food bought on the train. Presumably after that time you are quite welcome to use them for playing games and whatever else your fancy takes you to, though of course always abiding by the final train rule: 'Behaviour that may offend or disturb other guests and offensive language are not permitted', so don't get too carried away when playing Monopoly!

Buy your rail pass here:

Still keen and want to find out more? Please visit the other pages in this article:War Memorial and Court House on Argent Street in Broken Hill

  1. Introduction
  2. Tickets And Passes - Where To Buy Them
  3. On Board The Train - Seating
  4. On Board The Train - Food
  5. On Board The Train - Facilities
  6. On Board The Train - Photography
  7. On Board The Train - Ghan And Overland Differences
  8. Packing List - Essential Items For The Journey - THIS PAGE
  9. Upgrading To Better Accomodation
  10. Whistlestop Tours
  11. Station Notes
  12. Great Southern Rail Train Photo Gallery

The photographs on these pages were all taken on my recent 32,000km journey around Australia. Click any image to see a larger version. The photographs are all available for licensing in a range of sizes - please Contact Me for details.

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Orange-shirted attendant and Ghan carriages on Alice Springs railway platform.Empty red and gray Day-Nighter seats in Ghan Red Class carriage.
Women pilgrims prepare for ritual bathing on reed-covered banks of Ganges river.Passengers and seating in Indian Pacific Red Class carriage.
Indian Pacific signboard and logo on carriages at Broken Hill railroad station.Bridge on the Avienda Circumvalacion.
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