It was more than years ago when I first flew to Sydney, Australia, and my first impression was that wow, what an expensive destination!
But having gone back there just a few months ago made me realize that apart from a lower exchange rate now (than when I first went), the major difference is that I’ve done more research.
On this blogpost, I’ll share with you some ways you can make your trip to Sydney (and other parts of New South Wales) more cost effective.
1. Take The Airport Link (Train) or Airport Shuttle (Van) To The City.
Taking a train or van will save you a lot more than taking a cab to the city. A train costs a little bit more than the van (about AUD 2-4 more) but we prefer it over van because it’s a lot more spacious, and it’s faster. It took us only 23 minutes from the airport to Wynyard Station, which was the nearest station to our hotel. The advantage of vans though, is that they can drop you off directly to your hotel (depends where you’re staying, so just inquire to be sure).
2. Pick A Hotel Near The Train Station.
This seems to be our style for every country we go to where car is not an option (either too expensive, or public transportation is more efficient, or it’s right-hand drive). Sure, it can be a bit more expensive than staying far from the city, but if the commute going to the city is expensive as well, then you might have to do some calculation and see just how little you’ll save. It’s important to remind you that time is golden when you travel, too. If you’re not staying for long and you’re going around the city everyday, maybe it’s best to just stay within the city AND near public transportation.
3. Get an OPAL Card. An OPAL card is a smartcard ticketing system for public transport services in the greater Sydney area (New South Wales). It is valid on all buses, rails, light rails, and government ferry services in the following areas: Sydney, Central Coast, Hunter Region, Blue Mountains, Southern Highlands, and Illawara areas. Instead of buying a ticket every single time you’re going on a journey, you load your card (minimum is AUS $10) and just use it until you need to reload it again. Now, WHY should you get this? There many benefits but here are my faves:
a) On Sundays, it’s AUS $ 2.50 RIDE ALL YOU CAN, EVERYWHERE YOU CAN. As long as OPAL is available at your chosen destination, no matter how far it is (say Blue Mountains or Central Coast for example), you only pay AUS $2.50! We arrived on a Sunday so we did not get to go far, but we took a train from Wynyard Station to somewhere in the city, and we were charged the normal fare (because it did not reach $2.50). From there, we took a ferry from Luna Park back to Central and were surprised the Opal only charged us $.15! That’s like PHP 5.00! That’s when we realized it was the amount needed to make it $2.50. Our train ride going home from there was FREE!
b) Complete 8 trips from Mondays to Fridays (no matter how short, and no matter how cheap the ride), and you get the rest of your trips for the week for FREE! We went to Blue Mountains, which is at least 2 hours away, for FREE because of this bonus! So, to minimize your costs, we figured that the best way to do Sydney is to arrive on a Sunday, get an Opal card, go around the city and you only spend a maximum of $2.50! On Monday, start exploring the city. Once you’re done with your 8 trips, head for farther destinations like Blue Mountains at no cost. PS: See that pic above? I had $2.13 left for the week, but I did not need to reload anymore because it was charging me NOTHING for my trips!
c) You can only be charged a maximum of $15 per day, and $60 per week.
d) You don’t have to line up at ticket booths anymore. It’s touch and go! When you run out, reload. There are many reloading outlets everywhere, including convenience stores like 7/11.
EXTRA TIP: If you need to go somewhere far and the train ride is expensive, go on off-peak times. It’s best to consult the people at the stations and ask for a copy of the train schedule. For farther routes like Blue Mountains for example, train rides are cheaper when you leave early morning. If I remember correctly, the 05:30 AM schedule was priced at $5.81 per person per way versus the regular rate of $8.30 per way (which starts at 07:30 AM, I think).
4. Take advantage of the FREE Tour. We didn’t really have time for THIS ONE, but it surely looks interesting. Will try it next time. Please note though, that these people live on tips. Do not let them work then go home with nothing at all.
5. Try Bus 555 to get around the Central Business District. Since we stayed at the Central Business District, one of the stops at George Street was a walk away from our hotel, so we took it and went down at the Opera House area. There’s a bus that arrives at each stop every 10 minutes. To learn more about the route and schedule, click HERE.
6. Visit the Grocery and Bring Your Own Water. Supermarkets like Woolworths Supermarket makes for a worthy visit for me! I love how Sydney has such diverse (and healthy) food! You can get ready-made meals here at cheaper prices. Of course, you can always do convenience stores and fast food chains, too (and eat them a la picnic style at the parks to up the experience!). But…Sydney is known as a food haven. It has everything on its plate for ANY kind of diet. Vegetarians like me rejoice here! So make sure to spend on restaurants every so often! Oh, and we heard the weekend markets are must visits, too! PS: Bring a bottle with you, too. There are fountains in some of the parks so you can refill your bottle. Water can be quite pricey in many establishments.
7. Visit Museums. Australia has a lot of museums, and some of the nicest ones have free areas. Two museums I really liked (and had free sections, apparently) were Museum of Contemporary Art and Art Gallery NSW. They charge for special exhibits, though. Art Gallery NSW’s European Collection is a must see! For more FREE MUSEUMS, check THIS out. If you like contemporary art, you might also want to look up on White Rabbit Gallery.
8. Go for million dollar views sans the heavy costs. Who says you need to pay A LOT to see Sydney’s skyline? Check out THIS BLOGPOST which really helped us a lot when we visited Sydney. We visited spots 1, 2, 3, 10, and 11 and were not disappointed. Many people try the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb and get rewarded with beautiful views of the city, but if you are not yet willing to spend that much for that kind of activity, they say Sydney Harbour Bridge Pylon Lookout is a good alternative. At $9.50/person, you get similar views as the climb. But then the climb isn’t really about the views, is it? If you feel like it’s a once-in-a-lifetime adventure you must not miss, by all means, go and do it!:)
9. Walk, Walk, Walk. Australia is most beautiful when explored on foot…and the bonus is that it saves you money, too! We did one of the coastal walks (Bondi Beach – starting from Bondi Icebergs to Coogee, though we stopped halfway, at Mark’s Park, because we had to another park to watch the birds at sunset) and loved it. We will definitely do more when we go back. Other must-dos would be bushwalking (basically an Australian term for hiking/ trekking), and exploring the city parks. My top picks would be walking from the bat area in Centennial Park and exiting at the lake at sunset and you’re guaranteed a jungle feel without leaving the city! You can also explore the many areas of the Royal Botanic Gardens, have lunch at their cafe while resting, then walk all the way to Mrs. Macquarie’s Point for beautiful city views.
10. Save your receipts for Tax Refund in the airport. Tax refund rules vary for every country/city so it’s best to research on your particular airport for exiting Australia when you arrive in Australia. For Kingsford Smith International Airport (aka Sydney International Airport), there’s a tax refund table after the immigration area and just before the departure gates. Go there and bring your official receipts WITH the goods. They check both the receipt and the item/s on the receipt, so make sure you don’t check-in those goods if you need a refund. Meals and services (like spas, haircut, etc) are not legible for tax refund.
1. There’s a LONELY PLANET store at the Kingsford Smith International Airport. Go and take a peek!!!
2. Follow these accounts on Instagram to get updated on events: @sydney, @cityofsydney, @australia. I learned about the Lanterns of Terracotta Warriors exhibit at Dawes Point for the Chinese New Year Festival through @cityofsydney’s account, and we were able to catch its last day! You can also pick up those free brochures you see on airports, hotels, restaurants, malls, tourism centers, etc. Some of the brochures have discount coupons for tours, transfers, restaurants, etc.
3. Some places are still best explored when you have a car such as Hunter Valley and Port Stephens. If you are comfortable with right-hand driving, I would still suggest that you rent a car for a day or two. Otherwise, join a tour.
4. When you board a train, check if you’ve boarded the quiet cart. We were not aware of this and did not see the sign (the sign is usually posted on both ends of that particular cart). Thankfully, my husband and I were just generally quiet. But when I asked him something and we began talking, the lady behind us got mad. Hihi. So to save you some scolding, please take note of this.
5. While they stamp on your passport when you enter Australia, they DO NOT stamp on it when you exit…unless you request. So go and tell the immigration officer to please/ kindly stamp on your passport.
Hope these tips help you on your trip! Hopefully, I can blog more about our wonderful trip at the land down under. For now, safe travels everyone! Happy Weekend!:)