Sydney Travel Guide: Everything You Need to Know Before You Go

Embracing sunshine 300 days of a year, Sydney, the Harbour City, draws travelers in with its vibrant energy and captivating climate. Sydney is also Australia’s biggest city! Glamorous harbour attractions, sandy beaches, modern and historical districts, and smiley Aussies greeting you, “G’day mate!” at every turn…what’s not to like?

Instead of just goofing around the most busy Aussie city and missing out on all the well-deserved fun, why not read through this Sydney Travel Guide to better prepare for a perfect journey? From visas applications and weather tips to the most exciting festivals and events, with our basic Sydney guide, you’ll find all the vital information here before you set out on the trip!

Visa Application

Before going to Australia, be sure to check what kind of tourist visa you’ll need (check out this efficient Visa Finder). Only Australian and New Zealand citizens can enter Australia visa-free.

If you hold a US visa, you may find it easier to get your Australian visa online. Are you from an Asian country like Singapore and the Philippines? Check your required supporting documents with your local embassy.

Sydney Airport

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Sydney airport—also known as Kingsford Smith Airport—is the biggest airport in Australia, located 8 kilometers away from the city center. There are three terminals, with Terminal 1 as the international terminal.

What are the easy ways to reach Sydney center? For the fastest and most convenient method, choose the Airport Link train that will take you to the city in only 13 minutes. To use this service, you’ll need to purchase an Opal Card from the station, Relay or WH Smith first.

A more budget-friendly way (save AU$ 14!) is to take the bus route 400, then transfer to train to the center. We shall remind you that it takes around 1.5 to 2 hours for the entire journey. You can find the bus stop at Terminal 1 and 3. Get off at the bus stop “Coward St nr Bourke Rd, Mascot” then walk to the Mascot train station to take the train.


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Bear in mind that Australia is at the Southern Hemisphere, so our typical summer months are their winter months. Sydney, in general, enjoys a gentle winter and warm summer, perfect for most outdoor activities around the year. As for humidity, it’s usually dry in spring but humid in late summer.

  • Summer (December to February): It is the best time for beach bums to visit. The average temperature is around 26°C, although there could be a few days that climb up to over 40°C! There can also be the risk of bushfire caused by hot wind, so pay attention to the weather reports or the signs at national park entrances to see if there is a “total fire ban”.
  • Autumn (March to May): The mildest time of the year, with the temperature around 14.6 – 22.2°C. Expect the crisp and fresh air.
  • Winter (June to August): Take an umbrella with you as you might experience some rain falls during this season, especially in June. The weather is generally cool, between 10 to 17°C.  
  • Spring (September to November): It is the sunniest and driest season, which means great timing for a Sydney vacation. People normally start flocking to beaches from October or November. Average temperatures range from 11 to 23°C.

Voltage for Devices

Expect these type of outlets (image via Maksym Kozlenko, Wikimedia Commons)

We know just how important all your gadgets and appliances are, from hair dryers and phone chargers to electric razors! Make sure to bring a Voltage Converter or Power Adaptor that fits a Type I socket.

Australia uses a three-hole socket that has a voltage of 230V and 50Hz. It’ll be easy to find converters from your local electronic shop within Asia, Africa, or Europe.

Where to Stay

If you’re not so sure what’s the best choice for a comfortable stay in Sydney, check out our fleshed out accommodations article, “Best Places to Stay in Sydney For Your Budget and Style”. No matter you’re a budget traveler, a couple, or a family, we make sure you’ll find the most suitable option.

Tax Refund Scheme

Australian dollars (image via Shutterstock)

Good news, shoppers! You can claim a tax refund if you purchase more than AU$ 300 in one store. When you’re in the airport ready to leave the country, remember to carry the goods as hand luggage for inspection by the Australian Border Force.  If the goods are restrained from hand luggage for security reasons, then take them to the ABF office before checking in. It is located at Arrivals level of Terminal 1.

Wi-Fi and SIM Cards

Free Wi-Fi spots are available all across Sydney. You can find them in public spaces such as subway, restaurants, coffee shops, fast food, bars and pubs, and even Bondi beach! Check out the Free Wi-Fi map here when you desperately need to connect to the internet.

If you prefer to stay connected all the time instead, buy a SIM card. The three main local telecom providers are Optus, Telstra, and Vodafone. You can purchase it on KKday in advance for a more seamless journey (delivery only available for addresses in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau):

How to Get Around

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To take public transportation in Sydney, buying an Opal Card is a must! You can purchase one easily in many places like newsagents, post offices, convenience stores, and supermarkets. The Opal card gives you access to trains, buses, ferries, and light rail. Remember to tap on and tap off each time so you won’t get fined.

Pro-tip: Use the Trip Planner on Transport for NSW website to know the best route to get from one destination to the other.

Sydney’s Major Events

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Of course, it’s already widely known that Sydney hosts plenty of phenomenal events to impress all locals and visitors, no matter which season it is. Be it festival, cultural events, or parades, Sydney ensures that you can have it all. Here are some outstanding events in a year that make the city shine even brighter:

Sydney Festival (January 9 – 27, 2019)

Established since 1977, Sydney Festival is an annual arts festival that lasts for three weeks in January. This summer event is brimming with eclectic theaters, dance, music, circus, visual arts and talks led by world-class artists and designers. Around this time, the whole city is brought to life by free outdoor concerts and street parties. It’s really hard not to get out from the house and participate in the all the artistic activities across the city!

Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras (February 15 – March 3, 2019)

It’s not just a one-day LGBT parade, but a three-week grand carnival! The Mardi Gras Parade per se is one of the three biggest LGBT parades in the whole world. The parade takes place at Oxford Street, the most famous gay street in Sydney. Prepare to be overwhelmed by the cheerful crowd marching in colorful and extravagant costumes, celebrating the diversity of gender and different identities.

On top of that, the festival hosts multiple parties, workshops, music events, and all sort of entertainment programs for people to engage in and understand the community. Keep your eyes peeled for the latest update of the festival happening this February!

Vivid Sydney (Late May – Mid June, 2019)

Vivid Sydney in each winter shed a different light on the cityscape, transforming the ordinary spaces and architectures into magical spectacles of light. With the technology of projection mapping, the iconic landmarks become a giant canvas for mesmerizing light arts. Moreover, plenty of interactive light installations around the city will catch you off guard with its mesmerizing beauty. Sydney does know how to turn the dark cold winter around, right?

Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race (December 25, 2019 – January 2, 2020)

Driving the yachts that cut through strong winds and rough waves, numerous yacht professionals brave through this most respect ocean races in the world. Join thousands of spectators on the cliff tops and waterfront as the racers put their courage and endurance to test.

The race starts from Sydney Harbour and ends at Hobart in Tasmania, 628 sea miles long in total. If you’re looking for a unique way to pass Christmas and New Year, then this thrilling summer event is definitely worth a thought!

Sydney New Year’s Eve (December 31, 2019)

What better way to ring in a new year than celebrating it in Sydney, the New Year’s Eve capital of the world? As the first big city in the world to countdown to a new year, Sydney offers the most eye-opening fireworks display with the iconic Harbour Bridge, Opera House and Sydney Tower in the backdrop. To gape at the extraordinary fireworks, be sure to reach the viewing areas like Mrs. Macquaries, The Rocks, or Royal Botanic Garden as early as possible. Don’t forget to slap on some sunscreen!

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