Three days in Sydney, and I only paid for one attraction. I think that has to be pretty good going.
BUDGET TIP 1: ACCOMMODATION
One of the most expensive parts of a city break is often the accommodation. Cities like Sydney are stuffed full of fancy hotels, and you could end up spending hundreds of dollars a night on a luxury pad.
Fortunately, Australia is also backpacker central, which means that Sydney is also full of budget hostels. True, you won’t get your super-cheap South-East Asia prices here, but it’s possible to find decent hostels for under $30pn. And because there are so many backpackers here, hostels are a great way to meet people and a good central base to explore the city.
The other lovely thing about Sydney is that you don’t have to stay in the city centre. Ok, so that’s true everywhere, but in a city that prides itself on its beaches and many bay views, there are plenty of neighbourhoods just a hop, skip and jump from the beach, while still being within easy reach of the city centre. Manly and Bondai are perhaps the most famous two, but it’s worth checking out sites like AirBnB to see if you can find somewhere with a sea view and a short ferry trip to the city centre.
BUDGET TIP 2: WANDER FOR FREE
Like so many cities, Sydney is a wonderful place to wander – particularly on cooler days!
The picture-postcard view of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge doesn’t cost a penny. I loved just wandering around the harbour, people-watching and taking in one of the most famous views in the world. Talk about a Kodak moment! (Actually, do Kodak moments still exist? Or did they disappear along with Kodak film cameras? Is there a digital equivalent? Who knows?!) I also enjoyed watching all of the couples having their wedding photos taken on the steps of the Opera House. Because let’s face it: who doesn’t enjoy being nosy at weddings – especially when you’ve never met the bride and groom!
One of my favourite views of the harbour, where you can see both the Opera House and Harbour Bridge in the same view, is from the Botanic Gardens. Just around the corner from the Opera House, the Botanic Gardens are also free to wander around. Watch children riding the little toy train (or join in!), soak up the beautiful colours of exotic plants, or check out the hundreds of bats you’ll see snoozing upside-down in the trees. Then if you head down through the gardens to Mrs Macquarie’s Point, you can look back across the harbour to one of my favourite views in the whole city.
Other free places to wander into include:
- The Art Gallery of New South Wales
- The Rocks (area under the south side of the Harbour Bridge)
- The Rocks Discovery Centre
- Luna Park
BUDGET TIP 3: WALK ACROSS SYDNEY HARBOUR BRIDGE
If you look closely at the top curve of Sydney Harbour Bridge, you’ll see little bands of people walking across it. By all accounts, this is an exhilerating experience, but you don’t get to spend any time on the other side of the bridge, and your pace is dictated by the rest of the group. It also costs $200.
However, you can walk across the normal level of the bridge for absolutely free.
There are a few advantages to this. Firstly, it means you’re free to wander at your own pace, snapping as many pictures as you want of the stunning Sydney Harbour and the boats that flit back and forth across it on sunny days. Secondly, when you get to North Sydney on the other side, you’ll have time to see the city outline from across the bay, and to wander around the vintage funfair, Luna Park, while you’re. Thirdly, on the other side of the bridge is a delicious little cake shop, only about 100 metres on from the bridge steps. Their pastries are amazing!
BUDGET TIP 4: PUBLIC TRANSPORT
Sydney is a great place to take advantage of public transport.
To begin with: there’s plenty of it. (Coming from rural northern England, that isn’t exactly something I’m used to…) It’s also fairly easy to navigate and not too expensive. (There’s also an open top bus that loops around the city, with a hop-on-hop-off ticket.)
And of course, if you’re heading out to Bondai or Manly to explore some of Sydney’s beaches, you can take a public ferry. These leave from Sydney Harbour (nestled right between the Opera House and Harbour Bridge), which means that as the boat heads off towards its destination, you get incredible views from on the water, of the Harbour Bridge, the Opera House, and Mrs Macquarie’s Point.
BUDGET TIP 5: A DAY AT THE BEACH
The best way to chill out without spending a penny is to have a day on the beach. Beware, though – on weekends and public holidays, Bondai and Manly beaches can get pretty full! Best to do your relaxing on a weekday, and soak up the sun in a bit more peace.
Have you been to Sydney? What are your budgeting tips for the city?