What you need to know when planning a trip to the nation's hotspot.
Australia’s largest city, Sydney, is a mecca for tourists from every corner of the globe - including its own backyard. Between September 2014 and September 2015, Sydney greeted 9.2 million overnight domestic visitors and 3.1 million overnight international visitors and those numbers are only going to increase.
With its vibrant and bustling city, beautiful harbour, pristine beaches, iconic structures and favourable weather, it's little wonder so many millions flock its way for either a holiday, catch up with family or a business venture.
When in town, spend time in the city with the Harbour Bridge, Sydney Tower Eye, Opera House and Targona Zoo in your sights and explore the restaurants and small bars, filled with world-recognised cuisines and tipples. Venture out from the bustle to comb the beaches up and down the coast or head inland for a hike signature snap and Aboriginal tour through the Blue Mountains.
Whatever your itinerary, this Sydney travel guide will help you get to Sydney and see, eat and experience everything you need to make your journey a memorable one.
Planning your trip
Location: East coast of New South Wales
Closest airport: Sydney Kingsford Smith
Closest train station/s: Sydney International and Domestic Terminals
Weather: Sydney follows the four seasons, experiencing a mild winter (July - August) of 9-16℃ and warm summers (December - February) of 17-26℃. Each month enjoys an average of 20 sunny days with rainfall being heaviest during late summer (January - March) as well as in June.
Top 10 must see: Harbour Bridge, Opera House, Sydney Tower, Sydney Zoo (Taronga Zoo), The Rocks, Blue Mountains, Bondi Beach, Sydney Observatory, Darling Harbour / Barangaroo, Pitt Street Mall
Are you covered? Insure yourself for your trip in case something goes wrong.
Sydney is easily accessed by plane, train or road from other cities around Australia and by plane and cruise for international travellers.
Sydney’s main international and domestic airport is Sydney Kingsford Smith, which is 8km south of the city centre. Flights from major Australian cities are frequent, with the majority of domestic visitors travelling to and from Melbourne, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Adelaide and Perth.
Internationally, popular departure points for Sydney include Auckland, Singapore, Hong Kong, Dubai and Los Angeles.
Domestically, cheap flights can be found in conjunction with sales or with budget carriers such as Jetstar and Tiger Air. Otherwise, flights prices are quite consistent, though they do increase during peak periods such as weekends and public and school holidays.
Internationally, the lowest season to fly to Australia is from mid-April to June when the weather begins to cool. Generally, flights can be booked up to 12 months in advance and are recommended to cash in on cheaper flights before demand brings up the price.
Cheaper airlines to book flights with include Jetstar, AirAsia, Scoot, China Eastern and China Southern. Booking engines like Expedia, Wotif and Helloworld can also be useful to find the cheapest flight available on the dates you require.
Book cheap flights to Sydney
Getting there: How to travel by plane, train and road to Sydney
Here are further details on how to get to Sydney via various modes of transport.
Getting to and from the airport by public transport
Sydney Airport is connected to the city centre via Sydney Train’s Airport Link service. Trains from Terminals 1 and 2 run approximately every 10 minutes and takes 13 minutes to arrive in the city. The main train station is Central Station, although this route does include all of the City Circle stations.
Ticketing and Opal cards
Paper tickets to the CBD can be purchased at the counter for $17.40 (one way, adult). You can also purchase an Opal card, which is an electronic transport card that you can top up at stations and various outlets like news agencies. When you tap it at the beginning and end of your journey on any public train, bus or tram, it will automatically deduct your fare fee. Opal card fares are cheaper than paper ticket fares with the cost of a ticket from any of the airport stations to the city centre being $15.76.
The Opal card is available to purchase at any airport train station and requires you to place an initial load amount which you can use toward your journey. Refunds on any unused amount can be made by filling in a request form, however refunds can only be credited to Australian bank accounts linked to Australian addresses. Your Opal card, including its balance, never expires, so you can keep your card for future use.
Bus 400 operates through Sydney Airport, stopping at Terminals 1 and 3 and travelling through Bondi Junction and to Burwood. It runs approximately every 20 minutes and does not pass by the city centre.
If you’re willing to lengthen your journey, a bus and train combination can save you up to $11.30 using an Opal card. The breakdown of this is: Take a bus from Sydney Airport to Laycock Street, Mascot ($2.10, 14mins), walk to station (2 minutes) then take a train from Mascot Station to Central Station ($2.36, 8 minutes). Trains depart from Mascot to the city approximately 7 minutes. This makes your total journey cost $4.46.
Getting to and from the airport by private shuttle / coach
Various private shuttles and coaches are available from the airport to your hotel or a location in the city. You can choose to pre-book these online or purchase tickets for them at their respective information desks at the airport. Do your research early as sometimes pre-booking discounts can apply. Certain Sydney hotels may offer complimentary shuttle services from the airport to the hotel, check with the hotel about this if you are unsure.
Some airport shuttles that operate out of the airport include Redy2Go, Airport Connect, EasyGo and Airbus Sydney. Generally the cost of the transfer is around $16 per adult for prebooked services. Discounts may apply for round trips.
Getting to and from the airport by road
Sydney airport is not short of car hire options with car rentals desks located on the arrivals level of both terminals. You can pre-book your car hire online by clicking the links below, or you can talk to and choose your rental company upon arrival.
Car rental companies available at the airport include Avis, Hertz, Europcar, Budget, Thrifty and Redspot. To save you time, you can visit their sites direct to see what options are available for your trip.
Hired a campervan?
Sydney Backpacker Transport offers a shuttle service from the airport to major campervan sites. Pick up from Domestic Terminal is $20 plus $5 per extra person (not including a $6 pick up from terminal tax, if required). Pick up from the International Terminal is $25 plus $5 per extra person (not including the pick up from terminal tax, if required). When travelling in a larger group, this option could save you a fair bit.
Car hire essentials
READ MORE: Top car hire deals online
READ MORE: Compare car rental insurance
Sydney Airport parking
Sydney Airport has four areas for airport parking. Three are located close to the domestic terminals (T2-T3), one is located at the international terminal (T1) and the last is further away but can be accessed via a free shuttle service.
|Parking length||Short term||Short term||Long term||Long term||Long term|
|Terminal access||5 minute walk||5 minute walk||8 minute walk||5 minute walk||Shuttle access|
|Cost (drive-up rate)||From $8 (0-30 minutes) to $59.50 (3 to 24 hours)||From $8 (0-30 minutes) to $59.50 (3 to 24 hours)||$48 per day, $45 per day after||From $31 per day||Budget|
How can I get airport parking for less?
While all of the parking options above do not need to be booked beforehand, an online booking may save you more. Longer stays in the terminal (Emu Blu) can also save you as the longer you stay, the less per day you’ll pay.
Getting to and from the airport by taxi and Uber
Taxi ranks can be found outside each terminal and are obliged to accept all fares, large or small, from the airport. Taxis are not allowed to pick you up from anywhere aside from these designated ranks. As a general estimate, a taxi to the city centre should cost $45-55 one-way. A $4.10 airport toll is also payable by passengers on top of the fare.
Taxis can be hailed or pre-booked.
Ubers are not considered taxis in Sydney and therefore cannot be picked up from the taxi rank. They are allowed to drive you to the airport (stopping in the public drop-off section, not the taxi section).
Travelling by train
Interstate trains to Sydney’s Central Station run from major cities including Newcastle, Melbourne, Brisbane and Canberra.
Train fares to Sydney can be more expensive than flights with a one-way trip from Melbourne to Sydney starting at $130.26 for adults. The commute time is also much longer than flights, however this option can be worth your while if you have a DiscoveryPass for multiple journeys within a set period of time. Discounts on fares also occur during shoulder and low seasons.
Travelling by road
Sydney can be accessed by road with drives from Melbourne or Brisbane being quite popular. The drive to Melbourne is approximately 8.5 hours non-stop and from Brisbane, 11.5 hours. Highways and motorways connect these cities to Melbourne.
Getting around Sydney
Sydney’s public transport network includes buses, trains and trams. All of these are linked to the electronic Opal card system.
Sydney’s train network
Sydney’s train network is extensive and covers the city as well as regional areas. A map of the network can be found below.
Map of Sydney's train network
Sydney’s bus and tram network
Sydney’s bus network services many of the same locations as the rail network. It also includes areas that the rail network does not extend to. See here for bus routes and timetables.
The CBD’s bus network can be found below:
Map of the Sydney CBD bus network
Taxis and Ubers
The city is not short of taxis or ubers. Taxis can be hailed off the street or booked direct. Ubers need to be booked, which you can do through the website or app.
Uber charges the following rates:
uberX (low-cost Uber) and Assist: Base fare $2.50, distance $1.45/km, time $0.40 per minute (Both distance and time charges are calculated to create the total. Min fare of $8, cancellation charges apply).
UberBLACK: Base fare $10, distance $2.90/km, time $1 per minute (Both distance and time charges are calculated to create the total. Min fare of $25, cancellation charges apply).
UberLUX: Base fare $20, distance $4.50/km, time $1 per minute (Both distance and time charges are calculated to create the total. Min fare of $30, cancellation charges apply).
UberSUV: Base fare $20, distance $4.50/km, time $1 per minute (Both distance and time charges are calculated to create the total. Min fare of $30, cancellation charges apply).
UberTAXI: This is charged at standard taxi metre rates, including a 5% service fee and $2 booking fee.
Taxi charges are as follows:.
Peak rate (6am-9:50pm): Flag fall $3.60, distance rate $2.19/km
Off peak rate (10pm-5:59am): Flag fall $3.60, distance rate $2.63/km
Late peak rate (10pm-5:59am on Friday and Saturday): Flag fall $6.10, distance rate $2.63
Booking fees for all fares is $2.50 and waiting time is charged at $0.94/min.
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Sydney offers accommodation throughout its CBD and beyond from budget to luxury options. Choose to either stay in the thick of it with accommodation in the city centre, or venture a little further to the beaches of Bondi, the wharf at Woolloomooloo or over the Harbour Bridge into North Sydney.
Below we’ve included sites that offer accommodation for various budgets. Most are competitive, so it’s worth comparing them to see which is currently offering the best deal. You can also visit our Where to book hotels online in Australia guide for further options.
|Prices from||What to expect||Our top picks|
|$21pp/pn (dorm bed)||Shared accommodation in an 8-bed mixed dorm.|
Double and privates available.
|$189 p/n||3-4 star hotels within walking distance|
from the city CBD.
|$255 p/n||Low-rise and high-rise apartments and apart-hotels|
within walking distance of the city CBD.
Homestays are also available for less.
|$290 p/n||5-star luxury hotels|
Search for more Sydney accommodation:
Sydney’s attractions range from the city’s landmarks like the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, to world-famous city-skirt locations like Bondi Beach and Taronga Zoo. Here are our personal top five picks you have to seen when in town.
1. Sydney Harbour Bridge
2. Sydney Opera House
3. Sydney’s beaches
4. The Rocks
5. Sydney Zoo / Taronga Zoo
Skydiving experiences in Sydney
Book top Sydney tours and experiences
Annual Sydney Events
Events you might like to attend during your stay in Sydney include:
- Sydney Film Festival. Showcasing some of the best films of the year from around the world, Sydney Film Festival is the longest running film festival in the world. It’s a 12-day event with screenings held at various venues throughout Sydney. It is typically held around June annually.
- Sydney Comedy Festival. Each year Sydney Comedy Festival gets bigger and bigger. Established in 2004, the festival features comedians from the world over and runs for a month during April and May.
- Sydney’s New Year’s Eve Fireworks. Being one of the first countries to celebrate the New Year, Sydney’s Fireworks are hotly watched world over. They are also spectacular, with kids’ fireworks at 9pm and the midnight fireworks lighting up the sky in a 12-minute display from various firing points across the Harbour Bridge.
- City2Surf and the Sydney Morning Herald Half Marathon. Sydney attracts thousands to its prestigious marathons and fun run. The 14km City2Surf occurs during August and attracts professionals and run-runners alike to race or walk from the city down to Bondi Beach. For the more professional running, the 21.1km Sydney Morning Herald Half Marathon sports a route that takes you for a tour of Sydney’s most iconic sights. It is often held in May.
Sydney's best restaurants
- Gowings Bar and Grill. Meat lovers will love Gowings, which serves numerous meat cuts cooked to your liking. It also offers a Wall Street Pig (full pig off the spit) with a mandatory booking for a minimum of 10 guests. 49 Market Street, Sydney
- Lucios. This high-quality, authentic pizzeria is a local favourite. The setting is casual chic and the pizza is melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness. 47 Windsor Street, Paddington
- Quay. Welcome to one of Australia’s most highly acclaimed restaurants. With views of Sydney Harbour in your sights and Peter Gilmore behind the menu, Quay is not just a luxurious meal, it’s an immersive experience. Upper Level, Overseas Passenger Terminal, The Rocks
- Red Lantern. Those craving cuisine can satiate their hunger at Red Lantern. Helmed by famous chef Luke Nguyen and regarded as the most awarded Vietnamese restaurant in the world, there’s little reason not to book at table to this out-of-this-world experience. 60 Riley Street, Darlinghurst
- Rockpool Bar + Grill. The scene is set: you’re inside a 1930s Emil Sodersteen-designed American-style art deco room and then the delicious smells of meat on the grill hit your nostrils. You’re hooked. You could only be at Neil Perry’s Rockpool Bar + Grill and your future is looking oh-so bright. 66 Hunter Street, Sydney
- Tetsuya’s. At $200+ for an alcohol-free degustation, Tetsuya's is not for the everyday meal, though if you wish to mark an occasion or are wishing to splurge on your holiday then it is the place to do it. The venue describes itself as a “high temple of gastronomy” and why not? It is one of the world’s best restaurants after all. You'll need to book well in advance. 529 Kent Street, Sydney
- Aria. With a Saturday night waitlist that’s measured in weeks, a trip to Aria requires weeks, if not months of prebooking. The star of the night is the eight-course tasting menu, brought to you by world class chef, Matt Moran. 1 Macquarie Street, East Circular Quay
Where to eat: the best of the rest
When’s the best time to visit Sydney?
Sydney follows the four seasons with winters being quite mild, dropping as low as 9℃, and summers averaging a maximum of 26℃ - though summers have been known to include the odd heatwave with temperatures soaring up to 40℃+.
Unless you’re planning for a beach holiday, in which case summer is the best month to visit, weather is perhaps less of a consideration than peak periods. These come during the school holidays, generally December-January, over the Easter, June/July and September/October.
Where to go next?
Day-Weekend trips from Sydney
Slightly longer trips can also be made to the Snowy Mountains for ski and snowboard activities, to Port Macquarie and Port Stephens for a relaxing port and coastal experience or the Canberra to visit the Parliament House, The Australian War Memorial and more than a handful of museums and galleries.
Longer trips from Sydney
Spending longer in Australia but not sure where your next port of call should be after Sydney? While many cities can be accessed from here by plane, popular options include:
Brisbane: A hodgepodge of arts and culture, Brisbane is the underrated Australian city that relishes in an upcoming bar scene, a heavy arts and culture scene and some beautiful coastal environments, including Stradebroke Island and Moreton Bay.
Melbourne: A mecca for artists and foodies, Melbourne prides itself in its more laid-back and youthful atmosphere. Small bars litter its China Town and gastronomic adventures about at every turn. Ride its famous tram network, explore the markets off St Kilda Beach and lose yourself inside its many museums.
Gold Coast: If you’re craving the sun and the surf, head up to the Gold Coast. It's a playground for the senses with a seemingly endless stretch of beach amidst a colourful night culture of clubs and entertainment.
Browse hot Sydney hotels at last-minute prices
Book last minute stays at bargain prices at lastminute.com.au.