AustraliaOceaniaSydneyTravel Tips

How to Get Around Sydney Without Breaking a Sweat!

Compared to Melbourne, Sydney may be a little trickier to navigate. But that’s no reason to stop you from making the most of your trip to Australia’s massive capital (READ: 5-day Sydney Itinerary)! When it comes to getting around Sydney, public transport serves both locals and travelers alike. However, its expansive network can prove to be stressful for some. Discover Emerald City’s iconic harbour attractions or immerse yourself in the vibrant art scene and nightlife without getting lost—don’t worry, we’re here to ‘walk’ you through it. 

Here’s our ultimate Sydney transportation guide!

Before you go: Purchase an Opal Card

Opal Card with Sydney Opera House in the background (Image via Beau Giles, Flickr)

Arrive in Sydney Airport (SYD) and pick up this quintessential card

Trains, busses, and heck, even ferries! You can ride ‘em all by purchasing an Opal card from various outlets, namely Newslink or WH Smith bookshops at the Sydney Airport Terminals. To top up later, just look for the Opal symbol at your nearest post offices, convenience stores, and supermarkets.

  • Cost: A$10 for adult cards, A$5 for child cards. Each top-up requires a minimum of A$35 at the airport. Adult and child (4-15) tickets are readily available at retailers around the city, and single-trip tickets are also available.
  • Official website

Traveling from Sydney Airport

Sydney Airport (SYD)

The airport is just the start of your public transportation adventure in Sydney! Make your way to your CBD accommodation via these 3 options and check in (READ: Sydney: Where To Stay for Your Budget and Style). For the sake of comparison, the costs will be estimated fare to Central Station, located between Chinatown and Surry Hills, which is the heart of the city and highly accessible for all.

By Train

It’s easy to see the train stations right after landing from your flight. Head to the northern end of the terminal on the arrivals level for the International Station. Spot the Domestic Terminal between terminal 2 and 3. Then ride the T8 Airport South Line train.

  • Schedule: runs around 10-15 minutes. A ride to CBD takes over 15 minutes
  • Route: Check out the official train map
  • Average Cost: ~A$15.20 to Central Station
  • Duration: 13 minutes

By Bus

To shuffle between Sydney Domestic Airport and Sydney International Airport, board a route 400 or 420 regular bus, or a 420N night bus. Just look out for these buses from Terminal 1 International and Terminal 3 Domestic Terminals. Schedules vary daily, so check them out here.

  • Schedule: subject to daily changes, type in your route and check the timetables here
  • Average Cost: Check out the fares here. Take note that prepaid Opal credits are required

By Shared Transfer

For those arriving late at night, traveling with several family members and kids, or carrying heavy luggages, book a shared transfer to accommodate a tight schedule. It’ll go straight to your hotel in CBD, too!

Getting Around Sydney

Now onto the more exciting part! Take a quick look at these options as we detail some pros and cons, as well as super convenient attractions for each.

By Train

Take the City Circle train around around CBD!

Sydney’s underground railway, City Circle, will take you on a loop from and to Central Station. With this service, you can get anywhere you wish to go throughout CBD—even to natural destinations like Blue Mountains (a great day tour just outside the city).

  • Schedule: 4:00am to around midnight on most train lines. For inquiries, there are information kiosks at Central and Circular Quay stations
  • Route: Check out the official train map
  • Average Cost: All stations have ticket vending machines available 24/7. Using an Opal Card, the cost depends on kilometers traveled and peak hours. Check out the fares here

Sightseeing Tips:

Go to the nearest station to connect to another train (like King’s Cross) or within walking distance to your chosen attraction.

  • Central: Paddy’s Market, Chinatown, Surry Hills and Chippendale (Central Park complex), Blue Mountains
  • Town Hall: QVB, Darling Harbour
  • Wynyard: Barangaroo
  • Circular Quay: Ferries, Opera House and The Rocks
  • St James: Pitt Street Mall, Hyde Park, St Mary’s Cathedral
  • Museum: Museum, Hyde Park, William Street to Darlinghurst
  • Eastern Suburbs Rail Extension: Bondi Beach junction

By Bus

Route 380: Public buses in Sydney (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

For more out of town adventures, Sydney’s public buses are your best bet. It’s also better than the train in terms of getting to see the city sights outside your window. Be warned, however, that they are notorious for not arriving on time (and for being seriously crowded!) due to high demand in recent years. Plus, they are not famed for their comfort.

REMINDER: Don’t forget to tap twice on the Opal reader in the front of the bus—once when you board, and another before you get off. Unless you wanna be charged extra for a trip.

  • Schedule, Route and Costs: subject to daily changes, type in your route and check the timetables here. Using an Opal Card, the cost depends on kilometers traveled and peak hours. Check out the fares here
  • Alternative option: For an open-air, hop on hop off bus experience from CBD to Bondi Beach, book your Sydney & Bondi Explorer Pass 24 or 48-hour Explorer Pass here

Sightseeing Tips:

Here are some of the best bus routes from Sydney to various popular destinations:

  • Route L90: Palm Beach
  • Route 325: Circular Quay – Watson’s Bay
  • Route 389: Pyrmont – North Bondi (Route 333 or 380 to head back to town)
  • Route 155: Manly Wharf to Church Point.
  • Route 229: Milson’s Point via Beauty Point to Balmoral Heights.

By Ferry

Are you a believer of the saying ‘The journey is the destination’? Wanna explore Circular Quay in the most scenic way possible? Then a Sydney ferry ride is just the thing for you! Head to the Sydney Ferry wharves, which have a green and white F symbol. Take note that all 8 routes depart from and end at Circular Quay except for F4, which passes through.

  • Schedule and Costs: subject to daily changes, type in your route and check the timetables here. Using an Opal Card, the cost depends on kilometers traveled and peak hours. Check out the fares here
  • Route: Check out the official map here

Sightseeing Tips:

  • F1: Manly
  • F2: Taronga Zoo
  • F3: Parramatta River
  • F4: Cross Harbour
  • F5: Neutral Bay
  • F6: Mosman Bay
  • F7: Double Bay
  • F8: Cockatoo Island

By Taxi

This option is only recommended for those who prefer not to take public transportation, wish to avoid crowds, and don’t mind shelling out extra dollars to get from point A to B. Metered taxis can be found at every corner of CBD. But shifts change during 3pm and 3am; in that case, the popular ride-sharing app, Uber, may come in handy!

Options:

  • Here’s a list from  the NSW Taxi Council

Average Cost:

  • ~A$3.60, with a A$2.50 surcharge after 10pm on a Friday and Saturday until 6am the following morning. During weekdays, the standard becomes A$2.19 per kilometer, with an additional surcharge of 20% between 10pm and 6am

Tourist Tips for Getting Around:

  • Purchase a SIM Card so you can check transportation routes and schedules, and stay in touch with your family and friends
  • Use this very handy Trip Planner made by the NSW government to find out the best route from one destination to the other

Now that you’re prepared to take on Sydney, read up on our other guides and craft your perfect itinerary!

What you might need for your trip to Sydney:

Other detailed Sydney city guides and listicles: