106

As an example, public transportation within the Melbourne city center is free, so one could take a free tram between Spring St and Docklands Dr:

enter image description here

The total distance (as the crow flies) between these two stops is 3.19 kilometers. Are there locations around the world where one could get farther by only utilizing free transportation?

The exact limitations are:

  • The method of transportation must be completely free of charge.
  • You cannot use any forms of self-propelled transport, such as bicycles. However you can use rickshaws or other forms of transport propelled by other humans.
  • The location where the transport is located must be publicly accessible free of charge. This excludes things like animal safaris where you pay an entrance fee, but then get to use the buses free of charge.
  • It must be available free of charge to any person regardless of citizenship, residency, age, occupation, gender or any other characteristic. This would disqualify Tallinn's public transit system, as it's only free for local residents. This likewise excludes Israel's system where transportation is free of charge for soldiers.
  • You cannot walk for more than 500 meters at a time to switch between two stops. You cannot make use of paid transportation to switch between stops.
  • Only distance as the crow flies between the two farthest stops counts, not the total distance spent within the vehicle.
  • A stop is defined as a location where you can board or exit the free method of transportation.
  • The transport must run regularly, not just as a one-off event.
  • It must be free regularly, not just during special events. E.g. in some cities public transit is free during NYE celebrations. It's okay if it's only free on weekends for example, as long as it's every weekend.
  • It's okay if you need to own a standard public transit card to use the free transport. E.g. it's okay if you need to own an Oyster card to use a given free bus in London, as long as no money is substracted from the Oyster card when you use.
  • It's okay if you need to pay a fee to receive a visa to that country or need to spend some money to fly to that country first (thanks, @vsz)
  • It's okay if the method of transportation is only free if you use a "hack" of some sort (thanks, @gparyani), as long as this hack allows for unlimited free transportation. E.g. it's okay to require one to sign-up for a free grocery store card to get access to a free bus.
  • 6
    The answer to this may be set to change significantly over time. This article kansascity.com/opinion/editorials/article237259354.html mentions that Kansas City, Denver, and Salt Lake City are all considering the idea of free public transit. There are also cities with partial free bus systems such as Manchester: tfgm.com/public-transport/bus/free-bus and Adelaide: adelaidemetro.com.au/Timetables-Maps/Special-Services/… – Greg Hewgill Jan 9 at 20:33
  • 3
    According to this (telegraph.co.uk/travel/cruises/articles/…) article it's possible to ride on ships for free. That would beat the accepted answer by far. But as it's not an official or likely possibility I just put it as a comment. – steros Jan 10 at 8:40
  • 2
    Kiruna, Sweden had a "free buses for residents" system covering the entire municipality, which means one could travel 300 km for free as a resident (may take 2 days due to timetable limitations), but this fails your 4th criterion. – gerrit Jan 10 at 9:48
  • 1
    @AlexandreAubrey if you could reasonably do it as a tourist without fearing prosecution or fines, it's okay. We have a person on Travel.SE (GScott) who did ride the ore train, so I think it's acceptable. – JonathanReez Jan 10 at 16:07
  • 1
    Do regular official yearly holidays count as special events? We have some 10 per year which are on set dates when public transport in capital is free for everybody. These are countrywide national holidays. – Gnudiff Jan 11 at 16:56

26 Answers 26

46

210km (130 miles) Bangor to Cardiff Airport in Wales

The TrawsCymru long distance bus network in Wales offers free travel on weekends.

Free every weekend, no restrictions on residency, age etc.

T2 Bangor to Aberystwyth

T1C Aberystwyth to Cardiff

T9 Cardiff to Cardiff Airport

If you really want, you could put together a much longer, convoluted trip visiting all four corners of Wales. Beautiful hills and mountains all the way.

| improve this answer | |
  • 2
    This is Welsh so I'm hesitant to correct, but is it "Traws" or "Trans"? – gerrit Jan 11 at 17:55
  • 8
    It's "Traws", Welsh for "across". – Padrig Jan 11 at 18:16
  • 3
    It looks like you can keep going from Cardiff to Cardiff Airport via the T9, adding another 5km as the crow flies (210 km vs. 205 km for Cardiff alone) – isaacg Jan 12 at 6:50
  • Accepting this answer as this is the longest option officially endorsed by the transport authority. But the train in Mauritania wins for longest distance overall. – JonathanReez Jan 20 at 17:42
111

675 km (420 miles) in Mauritania

People are apparently permitted to hop a free ride in an ore hopper on the iron-ore train between Noadhibou and Zouerate, Mauritania. Those able to pay $4 (at least in 2007) can upgrade to a seat in an actual passenger cabin.

GScott also mentioned this route in an answer to a prior question on where train "surfing" is legal.

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  • 7
    Looks like the train operator doesn't officially allow it though, according to the article. Otherwise a great find! – JonathanReez Jan 9 at 21:28
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    @Jonathan it looks like they say they can't do anything about it. It's not clear if it is truly a violation of a specific railroad policy or legal statute or only something they wish wouldn't happen, but it seems to be that there is no penalty. For much of Africa, that's as pretty good as you are going to get-many countries have a rather weak rule of law and rather go by local "practices". – Robert Columbia Jan 9 at 21:32
  • 6
    This Washington Post article has a lot of photos of the train. – stevevance Jan 10 at 7:42
  • 6
    There is a NatGeo documentary on this. youtube.com/watch?v=jEo-ykjmHgg And if you are from the cold countries, I doubt you would be able to do the whole journey without getting sick in the dust and the heat. – DumbCoder Jan 10 at 7:45
  • 10
    @JonathanReez Strictly speaking, your criteria don't say it has to be legal. – user253751 Jan 10 at 16:36
70

From March 2020 all public transit in Luxembourg will be free. Luxembourg is about 60km long and well served with rail lines and bus routes, so presumably the longest trip will be about 60km.

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  • 3
    Schengen to Schmett in Luxembourg is 82km and you can currently get there in 3 hours by local transport. So it might be a good contender soon, if they make it free for all. – JonathanReez Jan 10 at 3:08
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    Is Schengen in the Schengen area? – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jan 10 at 18:39
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    @Harper yes Schengen is in Luxembourg which is in the Schengen area. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schengen,_Luxembourg – Peter Green Jan 10 at 19:19
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    @Harper-ReinstateMonica The Schengen Treaty which defines the countries forming the “Schengen Area” was signed by the participating countries in a conference center located in the town of Schengen. It is named after the town. – Tonny Jan 10 at 22:14
  • 7
    @Valorum: The question specifies straight-line distance. Traveling a full circle would give you a net distance of 0 km. – Ilmari Karonen Jan 11 at 12:22
43

87 km (54 miles) from Trondheim, Norway to border shopping across the Swedish border in Storlien

The route of 108 km along the road is the longest I found searching for gratisbuss (free bus) in Swedish. It is a service offered free of charge, sponsored by the supermarket Coop Extra Storlien just across the Swedish border. It is offered two times every day, and is run by the Norwegian bus company Thorleifs bussreiser who market it as a "Free shopping trip to Sweden": Gratis handletur til Sverige. In connection to Coop Extra there is also a Systembolaget, the Swedish state owned liquor store.

Border shopping is common in Scandinavia where national regulations and currency differences make it beneficial to cross the border for cheaper shopping. Typically food and especially alcohol gets cheaper every border crossing going from Norway -> Sweden -> Denmark -> Germany.

| improve this answer | |
  • 3
    @gerrit I see that there are multiple stops in Trondheim and also along the way in for example Stjørdal but I assume it is mainly for boarding. It says the bus only stops at locations where people have booked trips from, you have to call them beforehand to make a booking. – user1884905 Jan 10 at 9:55
  • 3
    And we assume there is no requirement to actually do any shopping? – DJClayworth Jan 10 at 15:17
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    @DJClayworth Not when I made the trips, but that was some years ago. My girlfriend had an internship in Storlien and I in Trondheim. I used to take the Friday afternoon bus to Storlein and go back on Sunday. Or she would come to me. The later was more complicated as she would need 2 bookings, using only the return leg to go to Trondheim and the first part on the second booking to return. I guess that qualifies as the “hack”. – Tonny Jan 10 at 22:24
  • 2
    @DJClayworth Well, based on the available info on the website, shopping is not mentioned as a requirement. – user1884905 Jan 10 at 22:35
  • 1
    @Tonny Wow, nice to hear from someone with first hand experience! – user1884905 Jan 10 at 22:37
29

At the time of writing, all busses from Intercity Transit, the transit authority for the Olympia, Washington area are free. The longest route I can find is from Israel at Littlerock Rd to Tacoma Dome Station with bus routes 12 and 612. This is a total distance of 47.59 kilometres or 29.57 miles.

Unfortunately, further connections to Seattle and SeaTac airport are not free, so this appears to be the longest route in this area.

| improve this answer | |
  • 2
    Aren't routes 590 and 594 free too? – JonathanReez Jan 9 at 20:58
  • 3
    I didn't find the 612 Tacoma Dome stop, but you can extend a little bit with the Sound Transit Orange Line Tlink which is free. Despite adding quite a few route-miles, it only gets to 47.84 km given the orientation of the route. – jcaron Jan 10 at 9:39
24

The Staten Island Ferry in New York City is famous for being the only NYC service which is cheaper than it was in the 19th century (or at least they told me so), since it's free as of 1997. It covers a distance of 5.2 miles.

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  • 16
    You can extend this trip by a little more than a mile, thanks to the Downtown Connection shuttle bus. – phoog Jan 10 at 4:47
  • 3
    The Staten Island Ferry is also easily the best-valued tourist destination in the city—you can pay a lot of money for a Circle Line tour that travels much the same waters as the Ferry, from the south of Manhattan across New York Harbor, past the Statue of Liberty. It’s free, so it’s something I take every visiting friend or relative on. – KRyan Jan 11 at 4:31
  • 1
    @KRyan It is was a very good value tourist destination in 1977 (when it was not free, but was very cheap). – Martin Bonner supports Monica Jan 12 at 17:15
  • @phoog Aha! You've found my missing link! I was missing a way to connect the ferry to a free shuttle service for the NY Waterway which, during off-peak hours, can get you from West & Murray all the way up to 10th Ave & 65th near Central Park (with a connection at the Midtown terminal), another 4.5-ish miles. – feelinferrety Feb 10 at 8:05
  • This turns out not even to be the longest-distance free public transit on Staten Island: the Staten Island Railway is free if you avoid the two stations closest to the ferry terminal. The longest free journey is between Stapleton station and Tottenville, 19.7km as the crow flies. Stapleton does not meet OP's criteria for being close enough to the ferry terminal to walk and combine the railway and ferry journeys, though. – mlc Sep 12 at 3:53
23

Many US National Parks have established free shuttle services to alleviate automobile congestion. Most such systems are disqualified by the "access point must be free of charge" clause in the question; but there are a couple of systems I could find that have free shuttles running outside of their respective parks.

  • The free Kalispell-Glacier National Park shuttle, in Montana, runs in July and August. Between the Rosauers stop and the Cenex Hungry Horse stop (both outside of the park) is a distance of 29 km or 18 miles.

  • The Island Explorer shuttle system is associated with Acadia National Park in Maine. Acadia's transit buses stop in several locations outside of the park, and it happens that the two farthest-flung stops (Acadia Welcome Center and Bass Harbor Campground) are both outside of the park, so a park pass should not be necessary. The distance between these stops is approximately 26 km or 16 miles.

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  • 1
    Do you pay for entering US national parks? – JollyJoker Jan 10 at 8:50
  • 2
    @JollyJoker yes. – CMaster Jan 10 at 9:58
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    @CMaster as far as I have experienced it, national parks are free for people. The fee one pays on entrance is for the vehicle. I'm not sure what Jonathan Reez would make of that for the purpose of the criteria in the question. – phoog Jan 10 at 14:11
  • 2
    @phoog correct me if I'm wrong, but don't you pay a $15 fee even if you hike up to the entrance? – JonathanReez Jan 10 at 14:22
  • 2
    @JollyJoker it depends on the park. For both Acadia and Glacier, the answer is yes. Acadia is $15 and Glacier is $20: nps.gov/aboutus/entrance-fee-prices.htm – phoog Jan 10 at 15:20
18

Island Transit in Washington state, USA does not charge fares. This route from the March's Point Park and Ride to the Clinton Ferry Terminal covers about 54 miles by road, somewhat less as the crow flies because Whidbey Island is rather windy.

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  • 2
    About 56 km (35 miles) as the crow flies. – jcaron Jan 10 at 9:20
  • Depends if the crow – ThomasRedstone Jan 10 at 23:04
16

170 km free trips from St. Petersburg to Finland (and back)

As advertised on classifieds service and elsewhere.

Those trips are genuinely free and available regularly for anyone who has finnish visa.

The rationale is that they are going to (ab)use your free per-person customs limit. I.e. import some goods free of customs charge. But it's legal and free for you as a traveller.

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  • 2
    @JonathanReez perhaps so, but route flexibility is not one of conditions. I think they will always happily accept you for the ride back, though. – alamar Jan 10 at 16:26
  • 1
    Good point about the ride back. Could be an interesting way to travel to Russia :) – JonathanReez Jan 10 at 16:29
  • 1
    Is it really legal though? The per-person custom limits are usually for private/personal use. – poizan42 Jan 12 at 10:59
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    @poizan42 I'm pretty sure that the drivers of those trips are the experts on both customs laws as well as established practices. – alamar Jan 12 at 19:10
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    "For example, when a cousin of the bride arrives as a wedding guest, they cannot bring in alcohol for their cousin’s wedding and alcohol brought in cannot be served as thanks to volunteers helping out at the wedding; neither can a person bring in alcohol to their friends." -- whoa, that's officially fascist. – alamar Jan 20 at 19:39
13

I posted the answer below before I saw the condition: It must be available free of charge to any person regardless of citizenship, residency, age, occupation, gender or any other characteristic. Sorry. I still like the idea though. :)


874 miles in the UK, from Land's End (south-west corner of England) to John o'Groats (northern tip of Scotland) ... but only if you're over 60

This is the furthest that can be travelled in mainland Britain, and therefore is famous for long-distance challenges. The Wikipedia page for the journey includes reference to the journey time by public transport, although the page assumes that the train can be taken for part of the journey. Bus services run to both Land's End and John o'Groats though, and there are no "islands" of bus services in the UK which do not interconnect to other bus services, so it certainly is possible to travel that distance solely by bus.

That matters, because people over 60 in the UK can travel for free on buses. In England and Wales there is the Older person's bus pass. Scotland has its own equivalent scheme. The traveller would need both of these passes to carry out their journey, but both passes are free.

956 miles in the UK, from Land's End (south-west corner of England) to Lerwick (Shetland Isles) ... but only if you're over 60 AND you live in Shetland, Orkney or the Western Isles of Scotland

The free travel scheme for Scotland has a further provision. Quoting from the website:

Cardholders living in Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles receive two free return ferry journeys each year to the Scottish mainland.

The furthest ferry journey available here is to Lerwick in Shetland. Shetland does not have a bus service on the island, so your public transport adventure ends here.

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  • 11
    OP explicitly said it must be available to anyone regardless of age... – poizan42 Jan 10 at 11:21
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    Concessionary free bus travel is available for people over state pension age in England. For Scotland and Wales the qualifying age is 60. There are also different arrangements for London residents over 60 on all public transport. The concession only applies within the country of main residence and some border areas. – David Marshall Jan 10 at 12:50
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    Even if the age limit wasn't a disqualifying issue, these passes seem to be available only to residents of the UK. – I'm with Monica Jan 11 at 8:22
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    The Scottish scheme does not give free travel to residents of England and the English scheme does not give free travel to residents of Scotland, so one individual can't go from Land's End in England to John o'Groats in Scotland for free. – John MacLeod Jan 14 at 19:52
10

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kootenay_Lake_Ferry (9 km, claims to be "longest free scenic ferry in the world"):

The Kootenay Lake Ferry is a ferry across the Kootenay Lake in British Columbia, Canada. It operates between Balfour, on the west side of the lake, and Kootenay Bay, on the east side. It is the longest free scenic ferry in the world.

Also https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_public_transport has some relevant pointers.

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9

Another cool one, as it crosses an international border:

Since September 1st 2018 all buses in Dunkirk, France, run by DK'bus are free. This includes line 20, which has a terminus at Gare d'Adinkerque in Belgium (aka. De Panne Station).

The longest journey I could find on this network is 46.665km long, from "Gare d'Adinkerque" to "Grand Fort-Philippe Flaque aux Espagnols". It takes just over 2 hours, and has 2 transfers.

On one end, at Adinkerque, the network connects with the (non-free) Belgian Coast Tram, which at 67km in length, is considered the longest tram line in the world. The bus stop is located at the De Panne Railway Station which has regular trains.

On the other end, at Grand Fort-Philippe, the network is close to Calais, whose buses also became free on the 21st of December 2019. Unfortunately the two networks don't seem to be connected, so it is not possible to go from Dunkirk to Calais for free using public transport.

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  • It looks like there is much more than 500m between the DK'bus network (Dunkerque) and the SITAC network (Calais) :( – dolmen Jan 21 at 10:43
  • @dolmen Yes, but the longest journey I gave is entirely without DK'bus network, and I do end with "Unfortunately the two networks don't seem to be connected". – mcarton Jan 21 at 10:46
  • I was a bit surprised that the two networks are so close and yet unconnected (although the normal way to go from Dunkirk to Calais would be train, someone living on the edge of one network and working on the edge of the other network can't apparently take the bus to work without a really long detour :() – mcarton Jan 21 at 10:48
8

Not exactly public transportation, but if you do a free Viking Line membership then you can take a free ferry from Kapellskär (north of Stockholm) to Mariehamn, Åland Islands (Finland) and back, a distance of around 80km each direction.

Seems like it now costs 20 SEK (2 Euro), so not free anymore

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  • 2
    How many times per year can you take this ferry for free? Just once as a bonus for signing up? – JonathanReez Jan 10 at 15:41
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    As much as you want, they make money from selling tax free goods on-board (tobacco and bc alcohol mainly) , food and beverages – Rsf Jan 10 at 20:01
  • That's a great answer then. Could you just add a link to the page showing that it is indeed free? I couldn't find it in the link within your post. – JonathanReez Jan 10 at 20:16
  • Unfortunately not, there is no prices page and since viking line are a private company they can change the prices. But it had been free for the lasts years – Rsf Jan 11 at 7:49
  • 1
    While Viking Line cruises can indeed be nearly free (and in my experience they hand out coupons for actual free cruises quite liberally), I couldn't really find a ticket that would actually be zero-cost without a coupon. Searching on their Swedish site, I did manage to find a Kapellskär-Mariehamn day cruise sold for 20 SEK (slightly under 2€; note that this particular route seems to be temporarily out of service until 7 Feb 2020) to Viking Club members, which is practically free, but not actually so. – Ilmari Karonen Jan 11 at 12:56
7

13.16 miles one-way on the Boston MBTA

During the Tobin Bridge/Chelsea Curves Rehabilitation Project, which will last until late 2020, all inbound buses on the Silver Line 3 (SL3) are free. The Silver Line bus lets off in South Station, which has free transfers to the Red Line of the subway. The most distant stop on the subway is Braintree, resulting in 13.16 miles of travel as the crow flies.

Here's a map.

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7

Hitchhiking: 1000s of km

I can't believe this hasn't been mentioned yet, but I've traveled across Europe completely free by hitchhiking. Seems to meet all the limitations of the question. In my experience, if you stick to the main routes and you acquaint yourself with the hitchhiking customs of the country you're in (see hitchwiki.org) this can be quite reliable.

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  • 5
    I don't think this qualifies, because the transport is not regularly scheduled. – Dave Tweed Jan 11 at 15:24
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    I think "The transport must run regularly, not just as a one-off event." rules out private cars that happen to be going in your direction. – Dave Tweed Jan 11 at 21:04
  • 1
    That's great out of the box thinking. I think it's acceptable and I've done it myself :) – JonathanReez Jan 12 at 1:32
  • 1
    @DaveTweed I agree this answer is a bit of an edge case, but it's not easy to define a rule that excludes hitchhiking but does not exclude some of the other answers or potential answers here. It's a continuous scale, and the usefulness of this answer depends on what you want to use the answers for. – JanKanis Jan 12 at 15:51
  • 1
    Cars from which you can ask a hike run regularly. It's not the same car, but neither is it the same physical vehicle on a bus or train line. – JanKanis Jan 12 at 15:54
5

Casino shuttles

Many gambling casinos offer free shuttle buses from nearby cities.

I'm not going to try to search for the longest such trip, but I know that at one time, the trip from Philadelphia, PA to Atlantic City, NJ was either free or "effectively free" (fare was offset by casino credits). That's a trip of about 60 miles (100 km).

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  • 2
    Fare offset by casino credits is only free if you visit the casino. – gerrit Jan 11 at 17:52
  • Similarly, IKEA often offers this kind of shuttle, e.g., in Oslo which is a ~15km trip. – user1834164 Jan 24 at 15:33
4

Hm .. Halle (Germany, Saxony-Anhalt) comes to my mind - you can start in the north - e.g. Line 3 ffom Trotha, travel right through Halle's city center - end end up in Bad Duerrenberg

enter image description here

You just have to switch in Halle's center to Line 5.

The whole length is about 50km - I'm not certain about actual distance as the crow flies .. But the head mayor of Halle has announced to make public transit cost free - only when actually checking it is not free yet .. and I cant find any hint about when they will enable cost free

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3

The most magical, and genuinely free, option would be the 5.7 miles from the gates of Magic Kingdom to Disney's All-Star Movies Resort.

  1. Ferry to the Transportation and Ticket Center.
  2. Monorail to Epcot.
  3. Bus to Disney's Boardwalk Resort
  4. Friendship Boat to International Gateway
  5. Disney Skyliner to Disney's Hollywood Studios
  6. Bus to Disney's All-Star Movies Resort.

-or-

  1. Bus from Magic Kingdom to Disney's All-Start Movies Resort. (But what fun would that be? :)

This seems to be the most free option since it's not publicly funded or subsidized.*

No park ticket required. No hotel stay required.

*RCID is 'publicly' funded exclusively by the Walt Disney Company.

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  • 6
    My guess on the DV (it wasn't me) is that 5.7 miles isn't even close to the "longest" distance, since there are already quite a few answers considerably longer than that. – Darrel Hoffman Jan 10 at 17:25
  • 1
    @DarrelHoffman yeah, but location, location, location. Marituana is not the happiest place on earth! – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jan 10 at 18:45
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    I didn't DV either, but isn't this free trip also taking you to places where they're expecting you'll give them bunches of money? – Dronz Jan 10 at 19:27
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    I think it is really sad that whole generations of people have all their fairy tales forced into a prefabricated look by one company. Please realize that happiness does not depend on company looks, however hard the people work. Nature is still better in my view. – Willeke Jan 11 at 16:35
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    Perhaps this distance is not among the longest simply because ... it's a small world after all – Hagen von Eitzen Jan 11 at 22:00
2

Since you include 'Hacks', would rafting the length of a river be considered for this? Rivers run regularly, across large distances, and many world wide do not have restrictions on if you can be on them. I do not know the longest which is unregulated however.

I tried to have a more creative answer on this one.

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  • 2
    Rafts are self propelled, which goes against one of the conditions – JonathanReez Jan 10 at 20:51
  • 1
    A simple flotation device with no propellant or energy, it just goes with the flow of the river – AlbinoRhino Jan 10 at 20:52
  • 2
    You still need to own that device then, which isn't free. – JonathanReez Jan 10 at 20:58
  • 2
    On you can just float yourself down without a raft, but that's clearly against the spirit of the question. – gerrit Jan 11 at 17:56
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    This feels like it fits. I've rafted down rivers in Northern Thailand on rafts of bamboo, lashed together with bamboo leaves. You neither buy nor rent the raft, but the ride is free since you're performing a service, delivering the bamboo for people downriver to use as construction materials. – Dewi Morgan Jan 12 at 22:10
2

on planet (spaceship) earth, a free ride is available across the solar system/galaxy/universe, distance traveled depends on when you board (are born) and when you get off (when you die).

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  • 2
    Mostly, distances on earth are measured relative to earth. So staying in the same place on earth generally isn't considered travelling even if we take into account that we've changed position relative to other planets in the universe. – JJJ Jan 12 at 22:07
  • @JJ for Transparency and Monica you can find sources that use the word 'travel' when describing what the earth is doing in space. quora.com/… answers.com/Q/… answers.com/Q/How_fast_does_Earth_travel_through_space – user99790 Jan 12 at 22:12
2

Summit County, CO has a nice, free bus system (https://summitcountyco.gov/586/Transit-Summit-Stage) that runs between the towns and various ski resorts in the area. With just a quick check, I think Arapahoe Basin to Copper Mountain is the longest distance at just under 29km as the crow flies.

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2

Between Sunbury & Pakenham, prior to 07:00

These two Melbourne suburbs have a "As the Cocky Flies" distance of 86.8km between them (Cocky Flies, Geoscience Australia tool)

I am aware of much larger distances in other answers, but given that the OP gave an example in Melbourne, I provide what I believe is the longest example in Melbourne.

The exact conditions are described in the Victorian Fares and Ticketing Manual (warning - heavy reading), but are also summarised in the Early Bird train travel section of Metropolitan Fares. My summary follows:

  • You should exit the system before 07:00am, but they give 15 minutes grace
  • You must use an operational Myki card, and it must have positive balance [uncertain if a zero balance qualifies]. No money is subtracted upon exit.
  • The trip must be less than 2 hours (from touch-on to touch-off)
  • Only between electric train stations (not V/Line)
  • There's a transfer at Flinders St station, but this is about 200m or less to walk to change platforms (which meets the under 500m condition)
  • About the 2 hour limit
    • You can't do it directly on most days (weekday morning 04:32 - 06:51, 2h19m, other days are similar)
    • ... but you can sidestep the issue by tagging out at Flinders St, then back in, when you transfer. That makes two trips before 07:15, each less than 2 hours.
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2

All buses in Park city Utah are free. One route goes as far as Kimball Junction and it's roughly 8 miles away.

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2

As a NSW Pensioner I get two free trips on trainlink NSW. So I can take a train and bus from the Queensland Border to the Victorian Border for free. To be truthful I think this is the situation in all Australian states, a person can travel from state border to border. So for a Western Australian they can go from the bottom of WA to the Top of WA which would possibly make it Australia’s longest FREE Journey.

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  • Interesting, but it doesn't meet the fourth condition "regardless of... age" – Arthur's Pass Sep 11 at 19:31
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Just under 300 million kilometers

According to former physicist David Sims:

The longest straight line that can be fit into an ellipse fitted to Earth’s orbit is... 299,195,741,400 meters

I think this meets all your criteria except for boarding and exiting, but you might be able to hack those depending on your spiritual beliefs.

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  • Whoops, just realized @user99790 beat me to this cheeky answer! – rkagerer Jan 21 at 7:59
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    Good reason to delete it, in my view neither qualifies. – Willeke Jan 21 at 9:05
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1200 km from Brest to Nice, France.

French Railways company idTGV used to have a scheme allowing you to travel for free if in exchange you run some entertainment aboard the train during 2/3 of the time. Around 80% of users offered music, but other options included magic tricks or osteopathy. The scheme was called "voyageur acteur".

Why it might not qualify:

  • you need a change in Paris between two train stations, more than 500m. There are lots of free options but it needs some thinking. You might want to restrict the traveled length to Paris - Nice if changing in Paris is not allowable.
  • the scheme ran for several years around 2010, but is not in place anymore.
  • you can be considered "working" aboard the train, so it's more a barter than a free ride.
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