Our first week in Sydney consisted of a lot of wandering around, getting lost and following google maps the weirdest ways to get back to the hostel. Although it sounds frustrating I would actually reccomend it as a method for exploring the city and finding your way around; as for us, when we ended up places by accident, we usually found something new or discovered a new way to get around. Despite Sydney being a huge city, it is almost impossible to get lost, as long as you are in the city there will be a bus, train or ferry to get you home. I would definitely advise exploring the city using public transport before booking any tourist trips or boat rides, as its quite probable that you will end up paying more and have to stick to a set schedule; rather than pay less and travel at your own pace. Again like Melbourne, most of Sydney’s streets are set out in a grid form so it is pretty easy to follow a map or directions.
Sydney’s public transport system is pretty efficient and easily accessible throughout the city and it’s suburbs. So like the Melbourne MyKi card, Sydney has its own – the Opal card; unlike the MyKi, an opal card in Sydney doesn’t cost anything to buy, you only pay for the credit amount that you top up the card with. Sydney also has a light rail, which is a sort of cross between a tram and a train which runs through the city; personally I’m not a huge fan of the light rail as it’s normally packed and stops at all traffic lights so you may swell get a bus. You are able to buy bus, train and ferry tickets still, but it usually works out more expensive; also some buses display a sign saying ‘pre-pay only’ meaning that you can only travel on that bus with an opal card. Overall it’s just quicker, cheaper and easier to get an Opal card. You can top up the card at 7/11, (which is everywhere) most city convenience stores and in the train stations using a machine. Same as with the MyKi, you tap on and tap off for every journey, if you don’t do this and think you’ll just slyly walk through the barrier, you could be issued with a $200 fine. The best thing about the Opal card is that once you have completed 8 trips in a week, you will stop being charged until it refreshes again on Monday, so you can basically go as far as you’d like for free! Just a quick tip – if you use your opal card to tap on at a train station, then don’t go anywhere and tap off, you will start being charged again. Another great thing about Sydney’s transport is that all travel on Sunday costs $2.50, so Sunday is a good day to get the ferry to Manly as you save around $5. I’ll just give you some rough examples of prices:
City Circle trains – Central, Museum, Town Hall, Circular Quay, St James, Wynyard – to travel between any of these stations will probably cost $2-$3.
Bondi Beach – To get a train to Bondi Junction and bus to Bondi beach it will probably cost overall around $6/$7.
Manly – The ferry goes from Circular Quay/Sydney Harbour, past the Opera House 7 Harbour bridge and costs around $7.50.
Northern Beaches – There are no trains to the Northern Beaches so you can catch the L90 bus from Wynyard Station and go as far as Palm Beach, this will cost around $4/$5.
Cronulla/Bundeena – I’d highly recommend Bundeena (take a snorkel)! To get here you can catch the train from Central Station (and probably other city stations) to Cronulla; once at Cronulla its about a 5-10 minute walk to the harbour where you can board the ferry to Bundeena. The ferry costs around $6.50 each way and the train around $5.
The link below is a great way to plan your trip:
Hostels in Sydney usually start from something like $25 a night upwards; in some ways you get what you pay for and in others you can just be ripped off. Starting with Base Sydney- it’s in a good central location to begin exploring the city and does offer daily and nightly activities; so this maybe a good place to start if you are travelling alone and want to meet people. However, for us as we’re travelling in a group, a week was enough, especially as when we asked to extend our stay the price had gone up to $45 a night for an 8 bed dorm – it just wasn’t worth it. In our search for a new hostel the prices were looking to be around $30-$35 a night for one that had half decent reviews and facilities. We ended up opting for Kingscross Backpackers which offered an 8 bed mixed dorm at $32 per night. Kingscross Backpackers is about a 10 minute walk from Kingscross Station and has a rooftop which comes alive in the evening.The massive downside to Kingscross is that it has NO AIR CONDITIONING, we were melting whilst being eaten alive by mosquitos. Also the bathroom and shower facilities aren’t great at Kingscross as there are limited toilets and showers, combined with a lot of stairs to climb if the ones on your floor are in use. Overall it wasn’t a bad hostel for the money but I really wasn’t keen on the area; with the government having introduced the lockout laws, Kingscross is pretty much a ghost town. People still go out there at the weekends but it’s obvious as you walk through the streets that Kingscross has been crushed by the lockout laws and is no longer there party district that it used to be.
As we couldn’t take another week of sweating we decided to book our next hostel a little bit further out of the city to save some money. This time we chose VLA Surry Hills, which is about a 5-10 minute walk from Central Station and opposite Prince Alfred Park – which offers tennis courts, basketball courts, free electric BBQ’s and an outdoor swimming pool. VLA cost us around $26 per night for a 6 bed ensuite, so was quite a big saving and they have air con in the rooms! In all VLA is great value for money and is home to a mixture of working backpackers and people who are just traveling. The only slight downside to VLA is the kitchen; it’s quite small and when there is more than about 5 people in there at peak times it can be impossible to cook. Having said that, VLA also offers a free breakfast from 7.30am – 9.30am every morning; this consists of toast, cereal, tea, coffee, milk and a range of spreads/jams. We’ve found that VLA suits us well, as we have jobs now but also like to have a drink at the weekends, VLA ensures that the courtyard area near the rooms is clear of people by 10.30pm but does allow guests to sit out in the front garden and drink until the sun comes up if they want to.
All in all you can never really tell what a hostel will be like until you stay there, it completely depends on your individual preferences and situation. If you’re not on a budget and just want to have a good time look at Base, Bounce, Wake Up, YHA Railway, Maze Backpackers and 790 on George. If you’re working, maybe look into somewhere close to public transport but slightly out of the City, VLA Surry Hills or VLA Glebe.
FOOD! One of the most important points, which it seems people are normally quite vague on when writing articles or blogs. Not to worry, I’m going to make this quite easy to read. Below I’m going to list common food and drinks with their average price in Sydney – obviously this can vary depending on where you are, but I just want to give you an idea of how much you can expect to pay.
Can of soft drink – at a convenience store or 7/11 around $3/$4, at a stall outside a train station or market $1.
Bar of Chocolate – Cadburys share bar $5/$6, normal chocolate bar $2/$3. WARNING – Cadburys is not the same here!
Bag of Crisps – $2/$4 for a medium to large bag. I’d recommend the honey soy chicken flavour!
Bottle of water – at convenience store or 7/11 $2-$3, at a stall or market $1-$2. In a supermarket, 80 cents for a big bottle.
Coffee – at 7/11 $1, in most shops and coffee stands $3-$4.
Fast Food – Macca’s, KFC and Hungry Jacks usually cost around $10-$12 for a medium meal – depending on what you go for.
Bacon & Egg Roll + a coffee – Most coffee shops and cafes will offer a breakfast deal; usually a bacon and egg roll with a coffee for around $7/$8. Subway also do a similar breakfast deal for $6.
Chinese – Most Chinese restaurants and vendors will offer a hot takeaway box – normally ‘2 choices plus rice’ for around $8/$9.
Pub Food – Pub meals are quite similar to English pub food and usually cost from $10-$20, depending on if you choose something from the specials board or not.
Pub Drinks – Large coke/ lemonade – $4, pint of beer – $8/$9 bottle of beer – $7/$9, glass of wine – $8/$9, spirt and mixer $8/$10. (Most pubs do offer deals and happy hours with $12 jugs of beer or $5 beers and wines.)
Salads/Sandwiches – All around the city you will find takeaway salad bars which offer a healthy takeaway alternative. For a medium salad box, sandwich or wrap its usually $8/$10. I’d reccommend ‘Bondi Fresh’ at Bondi Beach – if you go around 6 0r 7 in the evening they start to sell off all wraps, sandwiches and salads at 2 for $10! I wouldn’t bother with pre packaged sandwiches etc; they don’t usually do ‘meal deals’ like at home and an average sandwich costs about $6.
So those are a few common examples of costs; if you are going out for meal in the evening and having a couple of drinks, expect to spend around $20-$40. Next I’m going to talk about food shopping; what you can get for your $$$$ and where to go.
- Never shop at a 7/11 or convenience store if you want something other than coffee or an Opal top up.
- Always buy alcohol from a ‘liquor mart’ rather than a ‘bottle shop’ in a pub as it’s much cheaper. If you’re on a budget, the only supermarket that sells alcohol in the actual shop is ALDI – $2 bottles of wine, $8 boxes of goon and $15 packs of beer!
- I’ve ranked the supermarkets on how I think they compare in England – I’d put Woolworths as a CO OP/ Sainsbury’s, Coles as a Tesco/Asda and Aldi just as good old Aldi.
- Everyday essentials in Aldi (because I love it there):
-Milk – $2.50
-Bread – $1/$2
-12 Eggs – $3/$4
-Rice – $1/$2
-Pasta – $1/$2
-Baked Beans – $1
-Cereal – $3/$5
-Pasta/Curry Sauce – $1/$2
-Cheese – $4/$5
-4 pack of noodles – $1.20
-Large pack of chicken – $7/$8
-Common fruit & veg – $3/$5 per kilo
- If you aren’t near an Aldi and end up shopping in Woolworths or Coles then expect to add $1 or $2 to most food items. Coles & Woolworths do a great hot food section – $8 for a whole stuffed chicken.
- Buy a cool bag! Every supermarket sells them at the checkout for around $2.50 – everyone at your hostel will have one.
- Get some plastic storage tubs – $2/$4 depending on where you shop. These are so useful for packed lunches if you’re working, going on day trips or for leftovers – if you’re portion sizes are way off.
- You don’t have to pay for plastic bags here! Only in Aldi, approx 15 cents for a bag for life.
- For things like cheap work clothes, home and electricals, go to Target or Kmart. I’ve compared these to being like an Asda Walmart.
- For anything like gifts,souvenirs or construction work clothing it’s Paddy’s Market all the way!
I think I’ve covered the essentials for an introduction to Sydney, in the next post I’ll go into things to see and do in and around the city!