Getting Around Sydney on a Budget
When traveling around Sydney, it’s rather useful to invest in what’s called an Opal Card. This operates in a similar way to London’s Oyster Card in that you can top your Opal Card up with however much money you want, whenever you want, and then use this to travel around on various forms of public transport; including buses, ferries, trains and even the light rail. The Opal Card isn’t just valid in central Sydney either; it can also be used in several regions surrounding Sydney, including the Southern Highlands, Central Coast, Blue Mountains and more. This makes it the perfect method of payment for getting around Sydney on a budget!
There are two different forms of trains in Sydney – traditional trains and then the light rail. Ordinary trains run from 4 am until 12 am every day, and there are stations located at regular intervals all over the city. Each station has a ticket kiosk that is open 24 hours a day so you can purchase tickets anytime. The light rail operates four times an hour at 15-minute intervals, operating for 24 hours on one of the routes on the central line while operating between 6 am, and 12 am on an alternative central line route.
Buses run for 24 hours a day around Sydney, which is very useful! However, you must pre-pay for your ticket, you can’t buy one on board the bus. There are several ticket kiosks located around the city where you can purchase a bus ticket from, and then use anytime.
Quite handily, there is also an airport link available that runs around every ten minutes from the airport to various locations across the city within the City Circle bus routes. The airport link buses are in use from 5 am until 12 am every single day.
Other ways to get around the city include by foot, by bike, and by taxi. Taxis can be hailed from the curb (although can be pricey) and bikes can be hired around the city at a range of tourist stops and from some hotels too.
To find more information about purchasing tickets and getting around the Sydney, you can visit this incredibly useful website here: http://www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/explore/getting-around/public-transport
Budget Accommodation in Sydney
Being such a popular city for tourists, there are so many different places to stay all over the city; from hostels to hotels and campervans to apartments. However, it’s quite easy to stay in Sydney on a budget, as long as you do your research and look in the right places before your trip. Let’s go over a few different options, depending on your price range.
There is the opportunity to rent from people in Sydney, using the popular rental app AirBnB. Prices do vary considerably depending on where in the city you’re choosing to stay. If you’re looking to stay right in the city center, you can expect to pay between $38-$100 a night; prices that sit at the top end of the scale for anyone travelling on a budget. However, these aren’t just tiny bedrooms to stay in; these are rooms in glamorous apartments overlooking the Sydney Opera House and the white, sandy beaches. One even gives you the option to rent a luxury yacht located on the Sydney Harbour, at the top end of the price scale. Move a little further out of the city center and more to the borders of Sydney, and you can expect the price to drop to as little as $23 a night. Here are some ideas of where to stay cheap in Sydney.
If it’s a private room you’re after, this Harbour side room is the best room you will get that’s close to central Sydney while not costing an extortionate amount. You can stay here for $73 a night depending on when you try to book. While most of the room is taken up by the cozy bed, the location of the room will definitely make up for that!
If you’re travelling with a partner or a friend, you’re going to be after a room big enough to house the both of you comfortably. This room is located close to one of Sydney’s main shopping malls as well as the university, and will cost you from $59 a night to stay. There’s some great transportation links in close proximity to this property too.
Travelling with your family, or maybe a group of friends? It could be worth renting out an entire house or apartment, although you should definitely look away from the city centre if you’re travelling to Sydney on a budget, as rooms here will be far more affordable. You can rent out the entire floor of this stylish loft above a popular art studio for $144 a night. The loft is located in a vibrant part of Sydney that’s buzzing with activity – there’s always something to do!
If you’re not up for the self-catered experience, it’s probably better for you to opt for a hotel to stay in rather than renting somewhere from a site like AirBnB. There are plenty of cheap hotels in Sydney to choose from scattered all over the city; again, these vary in price depending whether or not you’re located in the outskirts or the centre of the city.
Sydney Wattle Hotel, Darlinghurst, ***
From $91 per night
From just $91 a night you can stay in the Sydney Wattle Hotel, with convenient direct links to the airport. The hotel is in the ‘Gay Capital’ of Sydney, located close to a lot of tourist attractions such as bars, clubs and pubs that can be enjoyed by all. Nearby is Oxford Street where you can go and watch a fabulous ‘diva show – it’s always worth going along to see one of these!
Grand Hotel, Sydney, ***
From $107 per night
For $107 a night you can stay in the Grand Hotel, located close to Sydney’s Central Business District. If you’re travelling to Sydney on a budget, you’ll notice that the amenities around here are pretty pricy in comparison to some of the cheaper places you had in mind, but hey, you can have one night of luxury right? And with great transport links, you’re never too far away from somewhere cheaper. Don’t forget to top up your Opal Card!
Kirketon Hotel, Darlinghurst Road, ****
From $105 per night
Kirketon Hotel is a very nice hotel for the very small cost you have to pay of around $105 a night. Surrounded by a vast range of bars, clubs and restaurants this is a great hotel for people who like to go out and experience the nightlife in different cities. Drinks can be expensive so make sure you get down to the bar for happy hour!
One of the most affordable ways to stay in any city while on a budget is to stay in a hostel. Hostels cost far less money than hotels, and are also a great way to meet fellow travellers and make new friends too! There’s lots of hostels in Sydney as it’s a very popular place for students on gap years to visit, and often a hostel is a popular option for them.
Chilli Blue Backpackers, Kings Cross
From $17 per night, per person
For as little as $17 a night you can stay slap bang in the centre of Sydney, if you choose to stay in a dorm with other people. This is incredibly cheap for someone looking to stay in Sydney on a budget. The hostel also offers a lot of free amenities, such as breakfast and wifi, which is a plus!
From $20 per night, per person
One of the most popular hostels to stay in on a budget is Asylum, because it’s just a two minute walk from the Sydney Opera House, one of the most popular places to visit in Australia. You can stay here for just $20 a night, and for a room in the centre of the city, that’s not a bad price at all! It also looks like a pretty cool place to meet fun, like-minded people if that’s your bag.
Central Perk, Sydney
From $20 per night, per person
Surrounded by convenient transportation links around the city and also directly to the airport, Central Perk is located in the very centre of Sydney, with major attractions such as the Sea Life Aquarium, Hyde Park and the Australian Museum just a few minutes walk away from the hostel. Costs start from $20 a night, which for central Sydney is an incredible price, particularly for someone travelling on a budget.
Eating & Drinking on a Budget in Sydney
When traveling abroad, finding good food and drink is a necessity – particularly if the culinary dishes in the country you’re visiting are far different from the food and drink you’d experience at home! You don’t go to Spain and not try paella and sangria! In a similar manner, you need to experience the best dining experiences your budget can afford while staying in Sydney. Here are the best places to visit and get a cheap but delicious meal while in Sydney.
The Milk Bar by Cafe Ish, Redfern
Price Range: Cheap
The Milk Bar is the perfect spot for breakfast, lunch or even brunch! Open from 6:30 am on weekdays, and 8 am on weekends and staying open until 5 pm, the cafe serves a variety of milkshakes and dairy dishes for breakfast, along with some more substantial burgers and chicken wings for lunch and early dinners. As for their puddings, well, the tarts, cream pies, milkshakes, and sundaes are just to die for. You can expect to spend around $20 here, depending on how big your appetite is!
Dumplings and Beer, Potts Point
Price Range: Cheap
Dumplings and Beer is a very affordable restaurant. While their specialty is definitely dumplings and beer, the restaurant does also offer some other delicacies, such as pulled pork buns and wine – some great alternatives! The restaurant is incredibly small, so much so that if you blinked as you walked past you might miss out – however, it is definitely worth the visit to soothe those hunger pains.
Mr. Crackles Carryout, Darlinghurst
Price Range: Very Cheap
Mr. Crackles Carryout is another great little place to stop for lunch. The average spend here is around $10 which is incredibly cheap and great news for travelers who are eating in Sydney on a budget. For that price you can grab yourself a variety of delicious hotdogs, rolls, buns and sandwiches.
The Traditional Chip Shop, Bondi Junction
Price Range: Very Cheap
This is the perfect place to grab a classic dish that is appreciated all over the world – fish and chips! The menu is a little more extensive than that of course, offering battered sausages, fish cakes, and pies too, but everything tastes a little different than it would in the UK because the fish in Sydney are completely different to the fish we have access to in the UK – meaning you’ll have the classic fish and chips dish but with an Australian twist! You won’t break the bank visiting here either; as everything on the menu is relatively cheap, making it the perfect place to eat on a budget in Sydney!
Al Aseel, West Sydney
Price Range: Cheap
Al Aseel is a Lebanese restaurant in the West of Sydney city center that offers a range of delicious yet cheap dishes for those who are eating on a budget in Sydney. For a three-course meal featuring a variety of kebabs, beans, meats and grilled dishes, you can expect to pay between $20-$50, which isn’t bad for a proper dinner!
The Burger Project, Sydney
Price Range: Very Cheap
This burger joint is definitely a must when it comes to dinner. The restaurant has an urban, warehouse style vibe and serves up typical burger bar style dishes – overstacked, juicy burgers, greasy wings, pork crackling and frothy milkshakes. You really do get your money’s worth though – you can spend about $10-$20 here and leave feeling full enough for the rest of the week!
Price Range: Very Cheap
This is a Greek restaurant that is incredibly popular and often has a mile long queue leading down the street. However, join that queue, because the food on offer here is worth it. For just $13, you can get a drink, some chips and a classic Greek gyro – a soft pitta filled with thick, tender pieces of meat, chips, salad and tzatziki. An absolute delicacy for an absolute bargain.
If you want to go out for drinks, it’s relatively hard to do this on a budget. You’ll find that drinks in Sydney are pretty expensive compared to other places in the world. A pint of beer will cost you around $10 (yes, really!) while a cocktail will cost you around $15. Alcohol is definitely a luxury here if you’re traveling on a budget but there are some places to visit that are cheaper than others. Here are some of the best options for cheap nightlife in Sydney for those staying on the cheap.
Price Range: Fairly Cheap
You can spend as little as $10 on a cocktail at this quirky bar in central Sydney, which is good for someone trying to experience Sydney nightlife on a budget. Open from 6pm until 11pm on Mondays to Wednesdays and with extended hours until 1am for the rest of the week, you should definitely pop in for a drink.
Magic Millions Bar, The Corso
Price Range: Fairly Cheap
Nightlife in Sydney on a budget can be difficult when everywhere makes such delicious drinks you want to buy them all, and Magic Millions Bar is no exception to this! Open from 9am until 2am you can make a visit for some lunch time mimosas, or go along in the evening for something a little stronger, overlooking the sea.
Cheap or Free Attractions in Sydney
When heading to Sydney on a budget, you might feel like it’s a bit of a struggle to do anything fun, as everyone who visits the city wants to splash their cash going to the most famous attractions that Sydney has to offer; namely, the Sydney Opera House and the world famous aquarium! However, there are plenty of things to do that won’t cost you a penny and will definitely make for a cheaper trip that’s just as fun and cultured! Here are some of the top Sydney attractions that you can visit cheap or free.
Art Gallery of New South Wales
One of the most prestigious art galleries in Australia allows people to walk through its doors for absolutely free, taking in some breathtaking pieces of artwork. Every Wednesday, the gallery does a film night or invites a guest speaker in, so it’s worth checking the schedule before hand: www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au
Bronte Park is perfect for a pleasant stroll through in the Australian sunshine. However, if you don’t mind spending a small amount of cash (less than $10) you can hire out one of the public BBQ’s and have a nice picnic with friends or family. Get everyone to bring a BBQ component to split the cost and keep it cheap!
While you obviously have to pay for anything that you want to buy, the Paddington Markets are lovely just to take a gentle meander through to do some window shopping, either alone or with a companion- another great free thing to do in the city!
Luna Park is a Coney Island-esque park that is free entry so you can stroll through the fairground free of charge. However, if you want to take a go on any of the rides, you can expect to pay out $10 for each one! If you just want experience the atmosphere and take some touristy photos, you don’t have to spend a penny, making this another great attraction in Sydney while on a budget.
Royal Botanic Gardens
While you do have to pay for some aspects of the Royal Botanic Gardens, there are some free guided tours available at different time slots throughout the day. You can also access the gardens for free to have picnics among the various tropical plants, which makes a lovely setting and makes some great photo opportunities too.
Bondi to Coogee Walk
If you’re feeling fit and full of energy, it’s always a good idea to take the coastline walk from Bondi to Coogee, a long walk along some of Sydney’s most famous and iconic beach fronts, coastal lines, and open shores. Bring your camera for some great photo opportunities and bring your binoculars to look out for active sea life in the distance- particularly whales. This is totally free, so a great activity if you’re staying in Sydney on a budget.
The Opera Bar has an open terrace where musicians perform live every single evening- and you can go along to watch them, for absolutely free! You will find some gems here, and maybe even discover some new talent that you fall in love with.
Final Top Tips for Visiting Sydney on a Budget
Sydney is undeniably one of the most expensive cities to visit in the world, but if you follow our tips, then you can easily make the trip on a budget. Remember:
- Invest in an Opal Card. This will help you to only pay for travel around the city that you need and will allow you to save money on trips across the city.
- Don’t take taxis! They’re more costly than the light rail or a bus, which both run almost all of the time and can be paid for with your Opal Card.
- Don’t stay in central Sydney if you want to save money on accommodation. Staying a little further out of Sydney will save you more than you might think.
- Consider staying in a hostel in Sydney over a hotel or an apartment to help save money.
- If staying in a hostel, it’s worthwhile considering staying in a dorm shared with other people, as these rooms cost less than private rooms.
- Don’t opt to eat at large chain restaurants. See what hidden gems you can find down side alleys and street corners, as these will charge a lot less for their food- there’s plenty of them in Sydney!
- You don’t have to pay to do fun things. There is so much to do for absolutely free in Sydney, even if it’s just exploring coves, whale watching or spending a day in one of the many parks or at the beach; there is still plenty of ways to have fun and enjoy your time in the city.