Backpacking – Melbourne to Sydney

How to get there…

It was time to move on to Sydney and again, shockingly enough, we didn’t have a plan or any idea about where to start. Realising this a few days before we planned to travel to Sydney, we decided to pop back into Base Melbourne and see if they were able to get us a cheaper deal in Base Sydney for the first week. The travel rep was really helpful and managed to get us all in the same room for a week for $35 per night for an 8 bed dorm. This still sounded quite expensive to us but we just assumed it was because all hostels in Sydney must be this price. Something which we later found out isn’t true; there’s nothing special about Base Sydney for it to be so expensive, the only major selling point about Base is it’s location – close to Darling Harbour, The Queen Victoria Building and Town Hall Station (there’s also a 7/11 right next door).

So after booking somewhere to stay in Sydney, we then began to think about how we would get there and spend the least amount of money doing so. We looked at Greyhound and other bus services which took approx. 12 hours from Melbourne and cost around $130 dollars each; then we considered getting the train, which was quicker but seemed much more expensive. Finally we looked into flying, as I asked one of the reps in STA St Kilda and he recommended that although you may save a bit of money by getting the bus, it’s much quicker and easier to fly. He also advised that rather than book through Flight Centre or STA, we would get a much better deal booking online. Following his advice combined with our own research on various times and fares, we decided to grab a healthy burger from Grill’d and book our flight. The cheapest airline that repeatedly showed up was Jetstar, with prices at around $80-$100 for a one way flight to Sydney; however after a bit of research we realised that Jetstar is basically the Australian equivalent of RyanAir and we would be charged extra for baggage. Although we didn’t go for Jetstar, the flight is literally an hour long so if you’re really on a tight budget I can’t see that it would be too bad. Virgin Australia seemed to be the second cheapest, coming up at around $155 each with a $7 booking fee from an Australian debit or credit card; having weighed up our options, we decided to book with them. The price included seat selection, one 7kg carry on bag,one 20kg checked bag, a snack and onboard wifi entertainment from your mobile device/laptop/tablet (there was a selection of films and TV programmes – shock we all watched Friends).

The final thing on our ‘to do’ list was to arrange transport to Melbourne Airport from The Ritz. We were aware that you can get a train to and from the airport, however the nearest train station was about a 20 minute walk for us, so we ruled that out early on as our backpacks had nearly killed us walking from Base to the Ritz earlier in the week. Wanting to save as much money as possible we also didn’t consider getting a taxi, although it probably wouldn’t have been too expensive if we had split it between the four of us. However, the cheapest and easiest solution seemed to be the bus, there are a number of airport shuttle buses from St Kilda to Melbourne, the most popular is Skybus; there is also Frankston and Peninsula, Ballarat, Starbus etc. We went for Starbus as it picked up from just around the corner from The Ritz, outside Quest on St Kilda road; the transfer cost around $25 each and on reflection definitely wasn’t the cheapest but probably was the most convenient.

At the airport…

The Starbus picked us up on time and the journey took about 45 minutes, the driver dropped us off right outside the departures terminal and we headed on up to drop our backpacks off. We had already checked in online and reserved our seats, so we had all printed off our boarding passes at the hostel and brought them with us. We made our way up the escalator and straight in front was a entire section dedicated to Virgin Australia. On the way to the bag drop we noticed that people seemed to be using machines to print their baggage labels; we had a look and realised that we had to scan our boarding passes, print and attach our own baggage labels to save time. The process was pretty straight forward and there were directions of how to attach the labels correctly; once this was done we moved on over to the desk and finally got rid of our heavy backpacks, the whole thing probably only took about 20 minutes. We were all quite hungry and hadn’t thought to bring any snacks so we decide to go and get some food before the flight, there are a few food places and shops in departures but we assumed that there would be more choice once we went through security and to the gate. We assumed wrong, not thinking that this is a domestic flight and not an international one, we got through to the gate to see a few small coffee shops and some vending machines. We were all too hungry to care about the prices so spent approx $12 each on a sandwich and drink. The wait didn’t seem too long as the gate had tv’s, (playing shit Australian soaps) and a number of plug sockets to charge our phones.


The flight…

Boarding was on time and the plane seemed tiny compared to the jumbo jet we were last on when we landed in Australia 2 weeks before.Having said that, the plane and seats were plenty big enough for a 1/ 1 and a half hour flight. Also remember that a domestic flight is going to be much more bumpy in a smaller plane than a long haul one! The onboard service was good and we were all buzzing when we were told that the plane had its own wifi and we were able to watch films and TV to pass the time. The flight went really quickly and before long we had touched down in Sydney; the sun was shining and we were so excited to be somewhere new.

Arriving in Sydney…

On arriving in Sydney around 5.30pm, we took the ten minute walk to baggage claim where our bags arrived promptly from the plane. Following baggage claim, we contacted Base Sydney as we thought that it was the same scenario as Base Melbourne (we call them, they give us a code for the bus – we get on for free). However when we called and asked, the receptionists seemed confused and were unable to direct us to where we needed to go to be picked up. After asking a few questions and calling them back, I was informed that although we were given a code, we still needed to pay the driver $15 each cash and Base would reimburse us when we got to the hostel. Luckily we had some cash so this wasn’t too much of a problem but it would have been better if we had known that this was the process. Base were still unable to direct us to the bus stand so we asked airport staff who directed us out of arrivals and left, about a 5 minute walk. When we got there another staff member assured us that we were in the right place. The bus took around 15 minutes to come and after loading our own bags onto the trailer (bus drivers in Australia don’t like to help too much with your bags) we were on our way. The journey took about 30-40 minutes and we were fascinated by our new surroundings. The driver dropped us off right outside Base on Kent Street and it didn’t feel like we’d traveled all the way from Melbourne. The check in queue wasn’t too long as we had arrived in the evening; the staff seemed quite friendly and we were relaxing on our bunk beds in no time. After a quick lie down, we went to explore our new home; downstairs in the basement we found the laundry room ($4 for a wash), a large kitchen with tables chairs and a foozball table. There were toilets/showers on every floor, by reception were sofas and chairs around the corner from the travel and work desks. Adjacent to reception was a large door leading through to the ‘Scary Canary’, the bar next door. We went outside and asked the doorman where the nearest supermarket was, he directed us up Park Street where we found a Woolworth’s and a Maccas about a 5 minute walk away.


Overall Tips…

  • Ask around for other travelers’ advice
  • If you’re not on a strict budget – Fly
  • Book flights online to get the best deal
  • If you don’t know anything about where you’re going – DON’T PANIC – no one does until they get there
  • Shop around but don’t leave it too late as flight prices do change
  • Pick up as many free City Guides/ maps as you can from your hostel
  • Book a hostel in a central location for your first week – to get your bearings
  • If you don’t know or aren’t sure – ASK
  • Explore the city yourself a little bit before booking any tours

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