Getting started in Sydney – travel tips

Sydney - The capital that isn't a capital

What’s not to like about Sydney? It’s got bright lights, big iconic architecture, it’s a modern exciting city, and is blessed with a gorgeous harbour and surf beaches.

The city of Sydney itself was established as a British colony in 1789, but the area has an extremely long history of Aboriginal settlement. The temperate climate and harbour waters rich with fish and shellfish made it an attractive area for the native Aboriginal people.

Today it’s a funky, fun and festive metropolitan city that has much to see, do and experience. Don’t be scared to explore by foot as some of the most unique shops and cafes, or bars, can be found in those back streets just off the main thoroughfare.

Contrary to popular opinion, Sydney however, is not the capital of Australia. In the formative years the colonists in Melbourne and Sydney could not stop arguing about who should be the capital so Canberra was settled as being in the middle. Many people mistake Sydney as being the capital because it is the most populous city in Australia and the main one that most travellers will arrive to.

Before leaving

We recommend you head to the Travel Safe (https://www.sydney.com/travel-information/travel-alerts) web site for up to date information on travel restrictions or warnings – here you’ll find the latest covid news and any travel news that’s specific to Sydney.

Arriving at the airport

When you arrive at any Australian airport, your first stop will be immigration and customs clearance. You can always ask the airline staff or border officials in the arrivals area if you need help. A clearance officer will check your travel document and visa, and once cleared, you will be able to collect your luggage and go through customs.

We can not stress enough however you MUST bring no food in to Australia. There is absolutely no excuse of “I did not know”. You will be hit with an instant fine for almost any type of food or untreated wood or animal products. The Australian biosphere is very unique and Australian customs fight hard to keep out things like fruit flys and other bugs.

Getting into the City

Sydney Airport is only 13 minutes away from the city by train. The Airport Link is a super a fast and convenient way to reach the city and suburbs even with your bags. Trains leave the airport about every 10 minutes so there is no stress of trying to run and catch one and “usually” they are not too busy. If you walk to the northern end of the terminal from the arrivals floor you’ll find the station.

By taxi it’ll take you about 25-30 minutes if there are no traffic jams. Expect to pay between $AUD45 – 60, again depending on the traffic situation. And something perturbingly Australia is expect to have to make loads of small talk with the cab driver. Another strangely Australian thing is that if you are the only one in the cab you are expected to sit in the front seat and chat with the driver – everyone is very relaxed and friendly in Australia.

If you want to see a little of the city on your way in, then you could always take the 420 bus from either terminal 1 or terminal 3, but you’ll need to first buy an Opal Transit Card. Bus stops are right outside the front door.

Transport in the city

Getting an Opal Transit Card is in fact the best way to get around Sydney once you are in town also. Commuting on the public transport network (and actually a little further afield like the Blue Mountains, up and down the central coast, Hunter Valley, Illawarra and the Southern Highlands) is actually super easy. You can purchase and top up an Opal Card  at the airport on arrival, news stands, post offices, mini markets, and supermarkets – you just have to look for the Opal symbol. Topping up is easy – you can top it up as needed at any of the thousands of locations that offer this service – again just look for the symbol!

Quick bucket list of travel things to do in Sydney

What to do in Sydney? There is sooooo much to do in Sydney! Let’s start with a little list of cheap local things to do:

  • Hyde Park – Chocker block (Aussie word for full) of museums and galleries.
  • Sydney Eye Tower – this is a short stroll from Hyde Park, with outrageous 360 degree views of the city.
  • Australia Square Building – Splash out and catch a cocktail on the 47th floor for more stunning vistas
  • George Street – Wander China town and the very very cool Paddy’s Markets.
  • Darling Harbour – just a short walk from George Street, home to Crown Casino, Hard Rock Cafe, Madam Tussauds and Sea Life Aquarium.
  • Take a ferry – from Cicular Quay to Taronga Zoo which is Sydneys famous island zoo
  • Bondi Beach – Iconically ‘Everything Sydney’ –  take a train or a bus to Bondi Junction and from here you take buss 333 to Bondi Beach. The Bondi Beach Walk is a beautiful 2 hour suburban coastal walkway to Coogee Beach and totally worth doing

A quick hop skip and jump from Sydney

Or using you Opal Transit Card there are also lots of things to explore just in the wider parts of Sydney away from the main downtown area:

  • Surrey Hills – loads of really nice bars and restaurants for relaxed lunches and dinners, or just drinks with travel friends.
  • Newtown – Newtown is a vibrant and diverse neighbourhood that is always buzzing with activity. You can find indie bookshops and thrift stores, for those that just have to shop but need to save themselves some money while travelling. Newtown also has loads of hip bars and eateries with great multicultural cuisine options.
  • The Northern Beaches – You can take a bus to Palm Beach for a more relaxing coastal day
  • The Hunter Valley – this is the home of wineries, breweries, cheese and chocolate factories. Grab a group and head out to Hunter Valley, maybe hire bikes out there, and have some crazy fun!

Travelling further a field

If you are spending any time in Sydney you really need to be venturing a little further afield also and exploring the Blue Mountains, Port Stephens and Jervis Bay. Check out these day trips, which one from the U.Crew can book for you at special pre-travel rates..

Trips to get you here

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