The Ghan is one of the great train journeys of the world, taking you from Adelaide north to Darwin, or vice versa. It is a 48 hour trip with stops of a few hours each in Alice Springs and Katherine. Whether your taking a year down under or just a short vacation through the outback, taking the Ghan is going to make your trip unforgettable.
Here are a few things that you need to know before going on the Ghan.
1. Pronounciation. The word "Ghan" does not rhyme with "on". It is actually pronounced Ghan, as in the Afghan cameleers who take camels into uncharted and life threatening deserts, to explore an area. Now you know how to pronounce it, so don't screw it up because Australian love correcting people.
2. Station location. This one should be a no brainer, but it is not. We showed up at the Adelaide Railway Station ticket booth looking to check in. Her confused look should have been enough to make it obvious I was in the wrong place. After a back and forth and some advice from her coworkers behind the glass window, we were found to be in the wrong station.
Go to Keswick Station. Even better yet, get a shuttle or a taxi to take you there.
3. Stops along the way. You can make as many stops along the way as you like, just complete your trip within 60 days and your good as gold. You don't have to buy new tickets for each stretch of the way. This makes the Ghan more competitive than the Greyhound Bus service. Don't fly either, that's just a waste of time and you won't see wnything in between.
4. There is a social hierarchy and your not on top. That is if you are in a red class day nighter seat, as most backpackers are. To further reinforce this fact, they have named the other classes after metal: gold and platinum class. While your not even classed as rusted steel, just the color red. That's right, you'll be traveling in what I like to call "the working mans rail car".
As well, there is a dining car and other amenities that you cant use unless you are in the upper class of cars. Even if you have money to spend on over priced train food, being in the red class you can't get in. You get to "hang out" in the cafeteria with the other lower class people and to get to a modern style lounge with power points, you have to pay $10 to $15.
5. Showers onboard. They have actual showers and they also provide towels, soap and shampoo so you have no more excuses for smelling bad.
The only disconcerting part of the bathroom, for all its showering glory, is the questionable flushing power of its toilet. I wouldn't trust it to handle a big meal, so plan ahead.
6. B.Y.O. Food. Some places say you can only bring food related to special dietary requirements, and while I'd like to think Tim Tams fit this category I just wasn't sure. That is, I wasn't sure until I saw the food other passengers brought onboard the train with them.
Apparently as the rule stands you can bring food on the Ghan, just not hot food. So stock up on Tim Tams and Snickers, because your in for a bumpy ride.
7. The Ghan is a bumpy ride. Even in the lounge car that I paid extra for. In fact, I would say it is even bumpier in this car than in my day/nighter seat.
8. Bring something to do. 48 hours is a lot of time to stare out a window, so bring a computer, your knitting supplies, a typewriter and spare paper or whatever else you can bring to occupy some down time. Your going to have lots of time.
9. I finally found a use for the Snuggie. Thats right, having a Snuggie would have been a huge bonus on this train trip, and I didn't have one. When will I learn the benefits of the Snuggie for travel.
The Ghan is an amazing journey and it is a destination in and of itself. For more information and photos from the Ghan, check out All Ways Australia.com.
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