How To Get Around Sydney On A Budget

How To Get Around Sydney On A Budget Image | East Coast Tours Australia

Getting around Sydney is super straightforward thanks to the city's cheap and reliable transport system. It's a good thing, too, because there's a whole lot for visitors to see and do - all the way from Bondi Beach to the Blue Mountains!

This simple guide will help you travel through the city with ease and tick off your entire Sydney bucket list without breaking the bank.

Sydney is the perfect place to begin your Australian adventure. From the dreamy eastern suburbs packed with surf-friendly beaches, sunrise swimmers, and sea-side yoga classes, to the breathtaking harbour views sitting slap-bang in the city centre, Sydney has a little bit of everything. And a great, inexpensive public transport system means it’s incredibly easy to get wherever you're going without relying on a car or a hefty budget.

Take the bus down to Bronte Beach for a day of fun in the sun, hop onboard a ferry and sail out to Luna Park to enjoy thrilling rides and attractions, or let the light rail lead you to the harbour’s famous fish markets. Wherever you're headed, there's a well-priced way to get there!

If you’re coming from Sydney airport, check out our handy guide on all your options for getting into the city.

Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney, New South Wales

How to get around Sydney

For many city-dwellers, the most obvious option for travelling through Sydney is probably booking a taxi on an app like Uber or Didi, but fares can be pricey - especially at peak times. A more convenient, budget-friendly way of getting around Sydney is making use of its many public transport options. From buses and trains to the light rail and the ferry, there are plenty of options to take you swiftly through the city.

To make sure you’re taking the best public transport route, there are a number of apps and websites that can help you plan your journey through Sydney.

Transport for NSW’s Trip Planner and the app Citymapper are great for helping users plan their trips in accordance with live updates on Sydney's public transport times. If you’re loyal to Google or Apple Maps, fret not. Either navigation app will help you get where you need to go.

Bondi Icebergs pool in Bondi, Sydney, New South Wales at sunrise

Sydney Buses

If you’re taking public transport around Sydney, buses are likely what you’ll use the most from day-to-day.

Stretching all the way from central Sydney to the outer suburbs, a lot of the buses run 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so if you need to get somewhere across the city, there’s almost definitely a bus that can get you there. While more central bus routes come as frequently as every 10-15 minutes, buses passing through quieter areas can be a little less regular, so make sure to check the bus times in advance!

How to pay on Sydney Buses

You can pay for your bus trip using an Opal Card or contactless payment on your credit card, debit card, or your digital wallet on devices like smartphones or smartwatches. You can buy an Opal Card at Sydney Airport, online, or at Opal retailers like newsagents and convenience stores.

Onboard every bus, there are card readers that travellers must tap with their card or device when getting on and getting off to record the length of your trip. Be sure to use the same card tapping off as you did tapping on, or you could be subject to an additional charge!

Individual bus fares can range from $2.24 to $5.33 depending on how far you’re travelling and at what time. If you plan on hopping on and off buses throughout your stay in Sydney, you’ll be glad to hear that there are travel caps on Opal fares, so you’ll never pay more than $17.90 per day or $50 per week.

Transport for NSW bus operating in Sydney

Express buses

When you’re planning your travel or waiting at the bus stop, keep an eye out for buses that have the letter ‘L’ or ‘X’ in front of their route number. These are express buses that skip certain bus stops. Double check your navigation app or trip planner, or ask the bus driver, to make sure that the bus route will take you where you need to go.

Night Buses

There are plenty of buses that run 24/7, so you’ll never find yourself stranded around Sydney after a late night. Just check bus stop schedules or your navigation app of choice for the most up-to-date information on night bus times.

The entrance to Luna Park in Sydney, New South Wales

Sydney rail services

You can also get across Sydney - and beyond - by rail. While the light rail service can take you anywhere you need to go across central Sydney, you can venture even further with ease via Sydney’s train and metro services. If you’re planning a day out to the Blue Mountains, Newcastle, or Wollongong, NSW’s intercity trains will get you there in no time at all. Not far enough for you? Regional trains departing from Sydney can get you as far as Melbourne, Canberra, or even Brisbane

Unlike Sydney buses, Sydney train services rarely run overnight. Most trains will stop running between midnight and 4.30am. But, if you’re worried about getting stranded overnight, don’t be! Night bus services are typically set up to replace train services that stop overnight.

How to pay on Sydney Trains

Local train fares in Sydney can range from $2.80 to $9.84, while light rail fares range from $2.24 to $5.33, depending on peak hours and distances. Like the city's bus services, Sydney’s train and light rail fares meet daily and weekly caps with Opal, so you’ll never spend more than $17.90 per day of $50 per week on these services.

If you’re travelling cross-country by train, you’ll be looking at higher prices, but booking online and off-peak can help you narrow down more budget-friendly train fares. Regional train tickets can be booked at the train station or on Transport for NSW’s website.

Backpacker using Sydney's Light Rail

Sydney Ferries

If you’re planning a trip to or from Manly, Double Bay, Watsons Bay, Neutral Bay, or Taronga Zoo, why not hitch a ride on the ferry? No need to book in advance, just rock up to your nearest ferry port - whether it’s Circular Quay or Barangaroo - tap your card, and take a seat onboard. The best part is, you’ll get the chance to snap some Insta-worthy pics in front of the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge while you’re on your trip! 

How much is the ferry in Sydney?

Sydney ferry fares range from $6.79 to $8.49 depending on how far you’re sailing. Just like other public transport services like the bus or the train, you can pay for your ferry trip with either an Opal card or a contactless card. Just tap on at the port you’re boarding from and tap off when you disembark. It couldn’t be easier!

Ferry leaving from a harbour in central Sydney, New South Wales

Is it worth better to use an Opal Card in Sydney?

Some Sydneysiders will insist that getting an Opal Card is worth getting your hands on - and for some travellers it is. But in most instances, you’ll be wind up spending the same amount of money using your regular debit card, credit card, or smart device. Tapping on and off of public transport with your personal payment cards will charge you the exact same fare as that of an Adult Opal Card. You’ll also get to enjoy the same off-peak discounts and fare caps.

Having an Opal Card comes in handy if you’re entitled to concession fares. People entitled to concession fares on NSW public transport include:

  • Children aged 15 and under

  • Full time students aged 16 and older

  • Eligible primary, secondary and tertiary school students

  • Eligible trainees or apprentices

  • Seniors and pensioners

  • Asylum seekers

  • People with disabilities

  • Current and former Transport for NSW employees

You can find out more about concession fares on the Transport for NSW website.

If you decide that an Opal Card is for you, you’ll be glad to know that they’re free! However, there is a minimum top-up charge of $20 for a regular adult card or $10 for a concession card. Once you've got your Opal Card or contactless payment method sorted, you're ready to make use of public transport in Sydney, and explore the world-renowned city without spending too much cash!

Train station in Sydney, New South Wales

Does Sydney have Lime bikes?

Yes! Like many major cities, Sydney offers Lime bikes to locals and visitors who want to get to their specific destination without waiting around for a bus or train, but want to stick to a budget - or get some exercise! There are hundreds of Lime bikes lining the streets of Sydney ready to be picked up. Just keep your eyes peeled, or check out the map on the Lime app to find the closest bike to you.

There are a few ground rules if you're taking one of the public e-bikes for a spin, though. For example, you must be over 18 to use one, you must abide by NSW laws and wear a helmet at all times, and you must not have alcohol in your system. Users can only ride Lime bikes within a certain boundary in Sydney, so be sure to double check on the Lime bike app to see if you can cycle to your destination.

How much do Lime Bikes cost?

The Lime app is free to download on your smartphone, and it generally costs $1 to unlock a bike. The cost of taking a Lime bike to your destination depends on how far you're travelling and where you're based. The app charges a per-minute rate to ride and will calculate your trip fare before you commit to the journey.

Check out our ultimate backpackers guide to Sydney for all the best things to do in one of the world’s most famous cities!

Backpacker renting a Lime Bike in Sydney

Planning to launch your East Coast tour from Sydney? Check out our jam-packed itineraries designed to make your travel dreams a reality!

Chat to one of our friendly travel experts at any time to answer all of your East Coast questions before you set off on your Australian adventure!

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