What is first time travel to Sydney like? It's exquisite... and expensive!
Our amazing, around the world trip originally began with a dream of saving enough frequent flyer points to go to Australia. We were originally aiming for Hawaii but as our points collecting skills improved, we focused on an entirely new destination. Bit by bit our trip evolved but we never lost sight of our main goal - Australia! We wanted to travel to Sydney.
With only 8 days in Australia, we debated how to make best use of our time. We had heard that we could cover the main sights in just a few days and we strongly considered driving up the coast. In the end, we decided to base ourselves in Sydney for the duration of our trip. We wanted to get a good feel for the city and, after a trip with a lot of 24 hour visits, it would be nice to mix things up and stay in the same region and the same time zone for a little bit longer.
I soon learned that travel Sydney has a reputation for being an expensive city so I did considerable research to learn what is free and value priced. Happily, there are several world class museums and galleries that are absolutely free, along with a lot of value priced attractions. For instance, I found out that tours of the Opera House were $35 but performances started at just $25 - you can guess what we're going to try out!
Leaving to Chance:
We have pre-arranged activities scheduled about every other day, leaving us with lots of free time to explore on our own. We have a list of things we're interested in checking out but we want to have a more relaxing pace than we experienced earlier in trip.
We have a couple of dilemmas we'll need to sort out on the ground. They include figuring out the Sydney public transportation system (our guidebooks seem out of sync with more current blogs - not sure who has better information.) The other is trying to get some work done. Yes, this is a blogging adventure - where and when are we going to take the time to get caught up on work?
Hopefully we'll find some! All indications are pointing to one very expensive destination. We are varying our accommodations, trying two different hostels and two different hotels to get better a sense for budget choices.
Splurges and Souvenirs:
Finally we have plans to pick up a souvenir! Ryan is after a "Crocodile Dundee" style hat, which will serve as both souvenir AND splurge! Otherwise, we're sure just being in Sydney will be splurge enough.
Sooo.... How Did It Go?
Sydney may just be the most beautiful city I've ever seen - and it was certainly the most expensive! All my usual budget tips and savings tricks were put to the test as we struggled to stay on track. Ah, but beautiful it was! I've never seen such a vibrant downtown and it made me wistful that Ottawa wasn't more active and exciting on the weekends.
Falling in Love with Sydney
In Sydney we experienced a little bit of everything. We had arts, culture, science, nature, urban, rural, architecture, history, and more but some of our favourite moments were connecting with friends. We had a wonderful afternoon and lunch with Jo from Frugal First Class Travel, who has contributed two wonderful guest posts to our site. True to form, Jo showed us a side of Sydney that was "Beyond Bondi Beach" and we had such a lovely time catching up in person.
I also had the chance to connect with another blogger and we had a fantastic evening of cocktails and art at the New South Wales Art Gallery (hint: it's free, open late on Wednesday, has special programming, and features signature cocktails!). Our night of bonding continued with nachos and a 24 hour pancake house!
There is so much to do in Sydney that you will never get bored. It's true that you can see the main sights - like the harbour and the opera house in a few days. But even after 8 days we felt there was still so much left on our list, so much more we wish we could see. We went to four beaches, an aquarium, and art gallery, a wildlife centre, did walking tours, visited botanical gardens, took in a performance at the opera house and we still had more to explore!
Hard Lessons Learned About Transportation
We had several comedic fiascoes with the Sydney taxi drivers who didn't have a clear layout of the city. In a few cases we had to give them directions and we had only been in the city for a day! Lesson learned: Bring along some GPS coordinates!
We also had some public transit snafus with our Multipass. The Multipass covers transportation on buses, trains, light rail, and ferries and is divided into zones. It's best to buy yours from a transit office (as opposed to a corner store) for the most comprehensive advice about what each zone covers (yep, there's a long story we'll save for another day). And if you are buying a Zone 2 ticket just for the included airport transportation, think again! Sydney airport's public transit is privately run and we were forced to pay an additional $12 each when we exited the public train! An airport shuttle bus is likely cheaper than your public train ticket PLUS the $12 private fee. (2021 update: No doubt Sydney's transportation costs and schedules have changed over the years since we visited. Research more here!)
Budget Busting Grub
Food was a frustrating challenge in Sydney. We had the best meal of our trip in Sydney -thanks to Jo, who brought us to an incredible restaurant! - but we kept running into brick walls when it came to everyday eating.
Our usual budget friendly tricks failed us. Check out farmers markets? With a croissant costing $4, we only stayed 20 minutes. Go to the grocery stores? Not for half a loaf of banana bread at $11. What about fast food? A 'dinner' at Hungry Jack cost $20. We realized that wages are higher in Australia than they are in Canada, so while these costs would be reasonable for local residents, prices were easily double or triple what they are in Canada. I had counted on restaurants being expensive but I hadn't expected our usual sneaky tips to fail us.
We absolutely loved Sydney, so much so that we could even see ourselves living there. We can't wait to share more of our experiences with you and show you everything that makes Sydney such an exciting destination. And, yes, we'll be sharing every possible value lesson we learned along the way to help make your future trip more affordable as well!
Previous stop: Singapore
Next stop: San Francisco
BIG Hostel, Small Prices: A Review of Sydney's BIG Hostel
Sydney's Best Western Hotel Stellar
Our 5 Favourite Freebies in Sydney
Discovering Sydney's Shelly Beach
Making Furry Friends at Featherdale Wildlife Park
YHA The Rock: Is This The Best Hostel in the World?
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