A Closer Look at The Ghan Luxury Train
One of the most anticipated and the most expensive part of our Australia vacation was an overnight journey on the famous Ghan luxury train. I thought I would share our personal review and experience with you on our trip taken in February 2014. Hopefully this will assist in your travel plans should you choose to experience a ride on Great Southern Railways … The Ghan.
First, check out my short video I put together showing some of our personal pictures taken on our journey. Enjoy!
A Brief Look at The Ghan
Ideally named after Afghan Cameleers who trekked into this vast baron land over 150 years ago opening a new frontier. Today the train runs from Darwin to the north all the way down to Adelaide to the south. The full journey takes 3 days including a 2 night stay on the train and covers approximately 2970 kms in 54 hours.
In service for almost 85 years, it is known as Australia’s National Treasure!’
You also have the choice of a half trip as we did, from Alice Springs in the middle to your choice of north to Darwin or south to Adelaide. This is about a 24 hour trip with one night stay on the train.
Gold Service or Standard Red Service
After careful consideration and recommendations from our travel agent and having never experienced an overnight stay in a train cabin, we decided to treat ourselves to Gold Service. Without going into great detail about the inclusions for both, here is a simple review of our Gold Service experience and recommendations for those of you on strict budgets as we always are.
Platinum Service is also available for those individuals not budget conscious and looking for top level service. At the bottom of this article, I will include a link to Great Southern Rails official website for you to explore options, itineraries, prices and more for your convenience.
Upon our arrival at the train station after a comfortable overnight stay in Alice Springs, check in was quick, friendly and well organized as expected. Gold and Platinum customers are invited to relax and enjoy complimentary beverages in the Outback Explorer Lounge while waiting for your private cabin to open.
The lounge is comfortable and well- appointed with friendly staff always at your service!
* All your drinks, both alcohol and non- alcohol are included in this choice of service and unlimited for the duration of your journey! *
This feature is fairly new as an inclusion and I would have been very disappointed if this was not the case because of the high cost associated with a Gold Class ticket. Do keep in mind that I am comparing food, alcohol and other expenses to what they would normally cost in North America. In our one month stay in Australia, you can pretty much double what you would normally have to pay at home.
You can however, travel to Australia on a strict budget as we did, making it an affordable holiday as I will write about in future posts!
Queen Adelaide Restaurant Car
Gold Class Cabin Appointment
Cabins in this service are available for singles and couples. Singles have small appointed private cabins with shared baths. We had fold down single beds, equipped with private bath and shower. The cabin was comfortable for the two of us, however, my wife did note that for the cost and the luxury brand associated with Gold class, our view window had not been cleaned and clearly, dusting and thorough vacuuming had not been done in quite some time in and around the cabin.
Queen Adelaide Restaurant
Along with access to the Outback Lounge car, Gold and Platinum passengers enjoy first class dining in the Queen Adelaide car. Without a doubt, for us anyway, this was the highlight of our Ghan train journey!
Passengers are treated to a variety of Australian specialty dishes prepared by on board chefs. Excellent service from staff serving all meals that will leave you satisfied and happy. This was also a great opportunity to sit with, meet and enjoy the company of fellow passengers.
Red Class Passenger Car
Red Class Service
We were able to access the Red Class cars and found them to be quite comfortable with spacious and comfortable looking reclining chairs. There was also a well -appointed casual diner offering assorted snacks, light meals and beverages both alcoholic and non-alcoholic available for purchase.
You also have access to washrooms and shower facilities in this class. All in all, very comfortable for individuals traveling on a tighter budget and after our experience and taking just the 24 hour excursion, the much better choice for the fair paid for Gold service and our personal needs!
If you plan on taking the train from Alice Springs to Adelaide only as we did, then best prepare yourself for a view of pretty much nothing! This is something that I certainly wished I had researched further prior to travel. It appears that the scenery must be all to the north of Alice Springs to Darwin. This was a great disappointment for us overall and something that we were really looking forward to on this expensive train trip.
Not a kangaroo to be seen, nor 1 of the million or so wild camels roaming the land!
Who goes to Australia and doesn’t see a kangaroo! Entirely my fault and something that I would have liked our travel agent to have pointed out to us prior to booking. On our long bus trip from Ayers Rock to Alice Springs, we saw nothing new or exciting after 24 hours on the train that was different from the bus ride.
My List of Pros and Cons
Access to Outback Explorer Lounge;
Unlimited Alcoholic Beverages;
Private Well Appointed Double Sleeper Cabins;
Access to Queen Adelaide Restaurant;
Meals and service highlight of journey;
Friendly and helpful staff.
Cabin not cleaned to luxury expectations;
No access to open air or view window cars;
Very rough ride;
Scenery disappointing from Alice Springs to Adelaide;
Shuttle service to/from hotel not included for Gold Class.
So to quickly wrap things up here, if you are considering the Ghan Train and unless you are planning on taking the entire journey, and if you’re looking for spectacular scenery, I would definitely not recommend the route we embarked on. Check with an experienced travel agent who is familiar with train travel in Australia, as well as searching and reading more reviews such as on one of my favorite websites; tripadvisor.
For more complete details and information, check out the railway’s official website below.
Have you taken the Ghan? If so, what did you think? What did you like best and least? Have been on a similar train elsewhere in the world?
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“The longest stretch of perfectly straight railway track is located in Australia. It is 478 kilometers long.”
All content and opinions are that of the author and reflect my personal experience only.