How to Travel Sydney on a Budget and Save Costs

How to Travel Sydney on a Budget and Save Costs

Sydney may be an expensive city, but seeing its best bits doesn’t have to involve breaking the bank. Here's a guide to exploring Sydney on a tight budget.

Sydney is the most populous city in Australia and the state capital of New South Wales. Established in 1788 as the site of the first British colony in Australia, it is usually the first port of call on many travellers’ itinerary to the country. Brimming with history, Sydney is set next to miles of sandy surf beaches, as well as home to two of the most iconic structures on Earth: the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

The downside of being one of the major cities in the world is cost. Many travellers (such as myself) will discover after spending a few days in the city that staying and playing in Sydney can be expensive and exorbitant. Furthermore, the situation isn’t helped by the strong Aussie dollar at the moment.

Nonetheless, I have discovered that it is still possible to explore the city on a budget. For starters, consider the things to do, including many of Sydney’s main attractions, that are completely free. Ultimately, the key to stretching the dollar in Sydney is being smart about the means of getting around the city and discovering the alternatives to the pricey tours.

Also read: Best of Sydney Attractions, Transport, Stay, and Food Guide

Sydney’s Free Attractions

**The best things in life are free (most of the time)**

It’s an expensive city, but seeing Sydney’s best bits doesn’t have to involve breaking the piggy bank. In fact, the city’s best attractions are absolutely free (for those that do cost money, it is often less than the price of a train ticket).

sydney budget travel

The distinctive roof of the Sydney Opera House.

1. Sydney Opera House

Completed in 1973, it is one of the great iconic buildings of the 20th century and one of the most famous performing art centres in the world. While the performances in the main halls do not come cheap, enjoying the view of the harbour and the Sydney Harbour Bridge, as well as soaking in the pre-show atmosphere is definitely free. If budget permits, I highly recommend the Sydney Opera House Essential Tour (tip: book online for a 10% discount off the AUD37.00 / SGD38.10 standard tour ticket).

2. Sydney Harbour Bridge

Driving across Harbour Bridge, more affectionately known as the coat-hanger, the charges are between AUD2.50 to AUD4.00 (approx. SGD2.65 to 4.25) Walk across and you won’t be charged a cent! I love the leisurely walk across the bridge as I can enjoy some of the best views of Sydney along the way. For those keen to discover about the history and construction of the bridge, I suggest a visit to the Harbour Bridge Pylon Lookout located in the South East Pylon (admission at AUD15.00 / SGD15.45).

Also read: Experience Sydney at Sydney Harbour Bridge

3. Royal Botanic Gardens

Founded on the site of the first farm on the Australian continent, the Royal Botanic Gardens is the most central of the major botanical gardens open to the public in Sydney. Specimens collected from Botany Bay in 1770, pre-settlement trees, wildlife including flying foxes and white ibis as well one million preserved plants in the Herbarium can be seen, absolutely free.

4. Art Gallery of New South Wales

Established in 1897, this is the most important public gallery in Sydney. The light and modern Art Gallery of New South Wales has galleries dedicated to Aboriginal, Asian and Torres Strait Islander art, as well as contemporary art exhibitions. Admission is free to the general exhibition space but a fee may be charged for special exhibitions held occasionally.

5. Customs House

Built where the Eora tribe are thought to have first witnessed the landing of the British settlers/convicts on Australian soil in 1788, the Customs House is a welcoming area for visitors. It is now home to the City of Sydney Library and a number of cafés. The ground floor of the building houses a 4.2m x 9.5m scale model of Sydney, viewed through a glass floor.

Getting around Sydney

One of the keys to stretching the dollar in Sydney is being smart about the means of getting around the city.

Transport options in Sydney are many and varied. The easiest way of getting around Sydney is on the public transport comprising of buses, trains, monorails and Sydney ferries. I am able to reach every conceivable corner of the city using one or a combination of the public transport available. The Transport website has been extremely useful in helping me to plan a trip around Sydney.

Sydney Ferries is a great way of cruising the Sydney Harbour.

**Stick to public transport**

Sydney works on a public transport fare structure known as MyZone. MyZone simplifies an otherwise complex fare system and makes it easier to travel on the public transport network. If I am thinking of using the public transport extensively for a day, a MyMulti Day Pass, offering me unlimited ferry, train and bus travel throughout Greater Sydney, is a fantastic bargain.

1. Sydney Ferries

Having operated on Sydney Harbour and its related waterways since 1875, a ride on one of the green and gold Sydney Ferries is going to be a highlight of your trip. There isn’t a need to shell out a handful to enjoy the spectacular harbour of Sydney on one of the pricey harbour cruises. The same sights can be had for pennies on the Sydney Ferries!

All Sydney Ferries services arrive and depart from Circular Quay. Any of the destinations are well worth a trip and there are lots of remarkable ones to choose from. My favourite ferry journeys are the ones heading to Manly and Taronga Zoo.

2. CityRail

A visit to the Blue Mountains is a must do item for me. Instead of a costly coach tour to the Blue Mountains, swap it with a train ride on the CityRail. Like any other modern cities, Sydney is served by an extensive rail network and services that are fairly reliable. For less than AUD50 (approx. SGD53), I am able to get a 1-Day ExplorerLink ticket from Central Station to Katoomba that combines a return train pass with the Explorer Bus, which heads to 29 attractions in the greater Blue Mountains area (Leura and Katoomba).

3. Bus

Sydney Buses are able to reach all the major tourist attractions around the city including Bondi Beach, Manly, The Rocks and Sydney Opera House. A free shuttle bus (Route 555) operates in a very convenient circle around the city and will connect to most other transport. The shuttle operates every 20 minutes between 9.30am and 3.30pm on weekdays (until 9pm on Thursday nights) and between 9.30am and 6pm on weekends.

Also read: The Coast Track – That Epic Hike You Must Do In Sydney

Contributed by Oblique / Travel.

About Author

Wilson Tan

Born and bred in the suburbs of Singapore, Wilson has enjoyed traveling to different cities around the world and to explore the unknown. A self-professed not-so-prolific writer (his first love remains photography), his dream is to visit every country in the world.


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