Wondering how to get the best out of your holiday in Sydney? We are here to share a few travel tips and hacks to help you discover your way through the Harbour City and gain a newfound appreciation for their laidback attitude without making the usual touristy song and dance about it. From the architectural marvel that is the Sydney Opera House to the majestic Blue Mountains to the relaxed and fun-filled Bondi Beach, Sydney has a lot to offer to its guests. Read along and follow the tips given below for a hassle-free holiday in this beautiful coastal metropolis!
Starting with the essentials, here's what you must know before getting to Sydney. Make sure you pack the right travel adapters.
Best Time To Visit Sydney
Spring (September to November) and Autumn (March to May)
Sydney is a coastal city that does not have to endure a harsh climate. So if you have already bought your tickets to Sydney, do not worry! Sydney is welcoming and exciting to visitors all throughout the year. If you have not bought your tickets yet, we would recommend visiting Sydney in Spring (September to November) or Autumn (March to May). The weather is pleasant for taking in the sights around the city. You can also go on day trips to nearby hotspots and find it relatively free of crowds. As this is the shoulder season, it might cost you less! Check out the Vivid Sydney festival in autumn or Sydney Underground Film Festival in spring!
Click on the icons below to see what you can expect during each month of the year in Sydney. Be it January or July, we have a whole list of fun events, festivals, activties and seasonal delicasies curated for each month of the year. Check it out!
Sydney Travel Tips 101 - A First Timer's Holy Grail
Here are some insider travel tips for having a perfect vacation in Sydney:
#1 Avoid tourist traps
If you must frequent the more famous tourist attractions like The Rocks, the Darling Harbour or the Circular Quay, make sure to keep your purse strings tight! Sure, you can go on a walkabout, see the popular attractions, and click Instagrammable pictures; but keep in mind, that the more touristy a place is, the costlier it will be, especially in terms of food and beverages. Instead, opt for a meal in the inner-city suburbs like Surry Hills or Darlinghurst.
#2 Shop but don’t drop your receipt
If you are the type to buy souvenirs from every place you visit, Sydney won’t disappoint you! From the gorgeous Australian opals to some of the finest wines in the world to the delicious Tim Tams to local handicrafts, Sydney has something for everybody. What’s more exciting is that international travellers can get a Goods and Service Tax (GST) and Wine Equalisation Tax (WET) refund at the time of return, provided that they shop at least AUD 300 worth of goods from the same business and carry the original receipt.
#3 Get ready to mingle
Staying in Sydney and paying for hotel accommodation can take a toll on your budget. While hotels do offer more privacy and services, they can cost a pretty penny. Consider staying at a hostel instead. This will not only help you save your money but let you interact with other international travellers and make you feel part of the community. You can also try Couchsurfing and live with a local family. You can get some expert guidance from an insider this way.
#4 Take a pass at Sydney
Exploring the metropolis can be more of a pleasant experience instead of a stressful expedition with a multi-attraction pass as it allows you to visit two, three, or four attractions in Sydney at a time, featuring Wild LIFE Sydney, Sydney Tower Eye and Sydney Aquarium. You can get front-of-the-line entry to these city attractions! To get the best possible deal, buy the 4 Attractions Pass. If you want to cover all of these attractions in a day, you can save Sea Life Sydney Aquarium or Sydney Tower for last as they close late.
#5 Get an Opal card
Transportation costs might cut into your budget if you take taxis or buy individual tickets for public transport. All of the city's major attractions are well-connected by the metro, trains, buses, and ferries, and getting yourself an Opal card can save you some money. The Opal, like the London Oyster card and other smart cards throughout the world, is free, assures lower rates than single tickets, and makes it a lot easier to get on and off public transportation.
#6 Beach, please
The beaches of Sydney are arguably its most appealing feature — Bondi, Manly, Coogee, Cronulla, Bronte, Balmoral, Tamarama, Freshwater, Manly. You’ll find endless beaches in Sydney. The 6km Bondi to Coogee beachside walk is a popular tourist and local pastime, and it's completely free. You can use this opportunity to explore some of Sydney's top beaches and decide which ones you'd like to revisit later—there are so many options that you will be spoilt for choices.
#7 Stay on the outskirts
Sydney is a large metropolis with well-connected public transportation. You should have little trouble getting around thanks to the trains, buses, ferries, and light rail. However, Sydney is becoming costlier, even for a short trip, so lodging a few kilometres outside of the city is a fantastic way to cut down costs. Simply pick a location along a train line, preferably a couple of stops away from the Central Station which makes your transportation time less than half an hour.
#8 Don’t put too much money on your Opal
Most train stations, as well as retail chains and convenience stores, sell free Opal cards with the option of adding funds for your transport costs. We recommend that you don’t top them up with too much money. While you could always add extra money to the card as and when needed, getting your unused balance reimbursed is next to impossible for foreigners. To claim a refund, you must have an Australian address and a bank account in Australia. Instead, plan your journey, check out fare estimates, and top up your balance by downloading the Opal Travel app on your phone.
#9 Join a walking tour
There are a number of fantastic places to find a guided walking tour in Sydney. It's a great opportunity to learn about the city's history and culture while also getting some insider pointers from a resident. Like walking tours in Europe, you join your group at a specified rendezvous point and stroll for about 2-3 hours, with a few breaks in between to rest your feet. Remember to wear sturdy but comfortable shoes.
#10 Go to the local markets
There are several wonderful markets to visit in Sydney. It's easy to lose track of time browsing and shopping at Glebe Markets, Paddington Markets, the fish market, Bondi Farmers Market, the flower market, and a slew of seasonal markets. We recommend Paddington Markets, especially the farmers market! You can locate some authentic Australian trinkets like the didgeridoo or buy some cheap plush koalas, emu meat jerky, and kangaroo leather items or bottle openers to gift your loved ones.
#11 Between the devil and the deep blue ocean
The harbour's gorgeous blue water may appear to be quite appealing, but beware of the dangers lurking within! Whether there are rip-tides or stingrays, being beset by one can be hazardous. Always swim between the nets and with caution. The majority of Sydney's beaches are patrolled by lifeguards who place flags in the water for you to swim between. You should not swim outside of the red and yellow flags to avoid shark-infested waters. Do not swim under the influence and risk drowning.
Best Time to Visit Sydney
#12 Use mobile apps for rideshares
Although hiring a taxi is great for privacy, you can be charged exorbitant rates. If you do not mind sharing your cab with strangers, using mobile apps like Didi, Ola or Uber can save you tons of money. Carpooling also helps save the environment and with companies like Ola offering you discounted prices regularly, it’s a win-win situation. Plus you save some time that would have been spent waiting for trains.
#13 Climb the blue mountains on Sunday
One of the loveliest places to visit in Sydney is the Blue Mountains National Park, which is only a short train ride from the city. Ride the train on a Saturday or Sunday to avail the weekend cap on your Opal card. A day trip to the Blue Mountains lets you become one with creation. You can marvel at the natural beauty, admire the rocky outcrops, trek through the forest, and relax in the waterfalls. Save money and enjoy the scenery, what’s not to like?
#14 Apply sunscreen
Do not forget your sunscreen if you burn or tan easily and don’t want to look like a tomato. Although Sydney has more or less moderate weather, due to its unique weather conditions it receives the sun almost all year round. If you plan to walk around Sydney or spend a day lazing around one of its gorgeous beaches, apply sunscreen liberally before going out.
#15 Don’t drink and walk
Lockout rules besieged Sydney's citizens to combat alcohol-fueled violence. In other countries, walking along the beach with a beer in hand is a completely natural and pleasant way to view the sunset. However, you might be fined on the spot in Australia if you do. Public places like beaches, parks, and transportation are generally declared alcohol-free zones. It’s better to drink at bars or inside your rooms.
#16 Tip on tipping
Servers in restaurants and bars are paid a living wage, so you do not need to set aside a certain percentage of the bill as a tip for the waitstaff. While tipping may not be considered customary in Sydney, tipping for great service is also acceptable. You may tip whatever amount you wish or up to 10% of your bill.
Tips For Saving Money On Transportation In Sydney
Sydneysiders enjoy great public transportation services, vis-a-vis trains, trams, ferries, taxis, and buses. Here are some tips that can your transportation costs to a fraction:
- Get an Opal Card with an initial top-up of 10 bucks to avail of cheaper fares.
- Plan for longer or more expensive routes like a ferry to the Manly Bay on weekends to benefit greatly from the weekend transport discount. This way, you only pay a predetermined capped amount no matter how many times you travel during the weekend.
- If you're taking the train, begin your journey outside of rush hour. Your fares will be reduced by 30% if you do so. On weekdays, peak hours are typically 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
- Expect to get charged with an additional fare for station access if you board the train at either the Domestic or International Airport stations. Combine your rail trip with either bus number 350 or 420, both of which go to domestic and international airports, to avoid paying this surcharge. If you're flying into Sydney International Airport, the bus stop will be on your right as you exit the terminal, not too far from where the coach buses arrive.
- Use ride-sharing taxi-cab services like Ola or Uber.
- Sydney is a relatively compact city, so you can traverse it on foot. Keep plenty of buffer time to adjust for the time you spend walking and plan your outings accordingly.
Tips For Saving Money On Eating In Sydney
We know saving money is important to keep to your budget. Having said that, you should not completely avoid the Sydney food scene. Follow these tips to save money and partake in the global cuisine of Sydney:
- Eat during the happy hour to get great discounts from bars and restaurants in and around Sydney. Download The Happiest Hour to keep track of these deals. You might also bookmark the Facebook pages of restaurants to learn of the latest offers.
- If you fancy a drink with your meal, try out the Bring Your Own (BYO) restaurants in Sydney. Plenty of restaurants in Darlinghurst, New Town, Surrey Hill and the like give you the option of bringing your own bottle for a little fee and sometimes even for free. So you can buy whatever dish that you would like to eat AND get your booze from outside to save money.
- Try Asian cuisine at any of the numerous Asian food joints in Sydney. Visit Chinatown for cheap but lip-smacking delicacies like Banh mi, Kung Pao chicken or sushi.
- Some hostels offer a common kitchen space to cook your own meals. Buy groceries from retail chains like Woolworths or Coles at night to get them at reduced rates.
- If you are someone who needs coffee to go through the day, download the Hey You app for promotional offers and regular discounts at local cafes.
- Buy fresh and cheap seafood from the Sydney Fish Market, go to the nearest Aldi’s to buy other ingredients and head to one of the numerous public parks in and around Sydney. Take advantage of the bbq facilities. Tada! You are ready for an Australian-style barbie.
More Tips To Save Money In Sydney
Take a look at the following tips for travelling in Sydney on a budget:
- Take a self-guided walking tour to explore The Rocks to see Sydney’s historic buildings of the colonial era.
- Enjoy the views of the Bondi Icebergs Pool from the coastal walk without having to pay for it. Click an Instaworthy picture while you are there.
- Have a picnic at the beach or go on a romantic stroll through the Royal Botanic Gardens.
- Get a dose of Australian culture at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Art Gallery of NSW, Chau Chak Wing Museum, along with a host of others. Most museum entries are free.
- Take a reusable water bottle along on your Sydney trip. Tap water in Sydney is drinkable and perfectly safe, so you can save the money you would otherwise spend on drinking water.
- Take a walk across the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge for spectacular vistas of the city, especially the Sydney Opera House.
- Plan ahead of time and book your flight tickets early to get the best deals possible. Buy tickets to big-city attractions online to get better rates. Booking your accommodations early is also a great idea, as you not only get discounts, but it will also help your chances for visa approvals.
- Try going to the Opera House in Sydney during the weekdays and ask if they have leftover tickets, you might stumble upon a pretty great steal if you are lucky. You can also try your luck at the Opera House Ballot for $20 tickets per head, if chosen you can buy two tickets for yourself and a loved one. If you want to watch performances other than an opera, go to Sydney Opera House’s website at 12 pm each day to buy tickets at $21 for one.
Top 10 Things To Do in Sydney
I'm sure you have your itinerary all sorted, but here are my top 10 favourites in Sydney . If any of these are missing from your itinerary, make sure you squeeze them in! There are a few recommended tours for each attraction, so if you haven't grabbed tickets as yet, now would be a great time.
1Sydney Opera House
The gleaming white shells of the Sydney Opera House contrast with the bright blue waters of the Sydney Harbor. It appears futuristic and yet naturalistic like a remnant of an ancient shell from another age!Do more than marvel on your Sydney trip, go on a Sydney Opera House tour and get an insider’s view of the venue.
With around 1.5 million visits every year, the Taronga Zoo is one of the best places to sight in Australia. Taronga Zoo tickets offers a wide variety of experiences like Tiger Trek, Elephant Trail, Serpentarium ,Explore iconic and unknown Australian fauna and much more. Their vision is to secure an intact future for wildlife and people.
3Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb
Sydney Harbour Bridge is the world’s tallest steel arch structure and overlooks the arbour Bridge, also known as the ‘Coathanger’, has become an iconic symbol of Australia. Pack your backpack and get ready to experience one of the most thrilling adventures in all of Sydney.
5Sydney Tower Eye
Standing tall at 250 meters, the Sydney Tower Eye is the tallest building in Sydney and has an observation deck that offers breathtaking views of the surrounding locales such as Harbour Bridge, Opera House, and Darling Harbour, the Sydney Tower Eye is an architectural marvel that features on every tourist's itinerary.
6Sydney Harbour Cruises
A majestic boat will take you on a leisurely trip over the magical waters of Sydney Harbour as you marvel at the beautiful sights the city has to offer. A cruise works double duty by not only giving you a tour of the harbour but also acquaints you with the city's famous landmarks in general.
9Featherdale Wildlife Park
The Featherdale Wildlife Park in Sydney is counted amongst the most popular attractions in New South Wales. Here, you can see all of Australia’s most iconic species such as koalas, kangaroos, pythons, monitor lizards, Tasmanian Devils, and even the elegant Cassowary.
10Blue Mountains Day Trip
Located 80 kilometers west of Sydney, the Blue Mountains region of New South Wales is an Australian highlight, to say the least. This national park is particularly famous for its abundance in botanical and cultural elements, making it a must in your day trips from Sydney.
Stay away from—or at least be on high alert in—higher-crime neighborhoods, including Kings Cross, Redfern, Cabramatta, Fairfield, Campbelltown, Blacktown, Fairfield, Liverpool, Parramatta, and Penrith. Instead, stay in Sydney's safer areas, such as Bondi Beach, City Center, and Lavender Bay
- Everyone needs an Opal.
- But much of the city is easily walkable.
- Ferries really are a thing here.
- Leave plenty of time to get places.
You should plan to spend around AU$201 ($143) per day on your vacation in Sydney, which is the average daily price based on the expenses of other visitors. Past travelers have spent, on average, AU$48 ($34) on meals for one day and AU$18 ($13) on local transportation.
- Take a walk around the world famous Sydney Opera House.
- Admire Sydney's icon, the stunning Sydney Harbour Bridge.
- Take a guided tour of the Royal Botanical Gardens
Overall, 58.0% of the population spoke English only, and 34.8% spoke a non-English language, compared with 57.3% and 37.4% respectively for Greater Sydney
September to November: The spring season (September to November) is the driest and ideal for outdoor exploration activities as well as activities like bushwalking and cycling. This is a good time to avoid crowds and enjoy a pleasant weather and the cost of travelling to Sydney during spring is also comparatively lower.
It is considered impolite to ask a direct question about a person's salary or wealth. Inquiring about someone's weight or age is also highly inappropriate in many situations. Spitting in public is rude. If there is a line for something, always queue and wait for your turn.