Whenever I’m abroad and mention that I live in Sydney, most people excitedly exclaim “Oh, I would love to go there!”.
I can totally understand their reaction – it’s a quintessential Australian city featuring the beaches, bars, and beauty that give it the famous laid back Aussie seaside atmosphere.
There is one thing that deters many foreigners from visiting – it seems expensive, but I’ve been here for almost 2 years now and I’ve discovered the ins-and-outs of doing Sydney for cheap. It is possible!
Here are my 7 recommendations for seeing this city on a budget.
1. Stay near Central Station
The hotels near Circular Quay are going to be by far the most expensive. Stay near Central (there are budget hotels and backpackers galore) to get the best bang for your buck.
This will also be the best way for you to get around as Central Station (hence its name) will get you anywhere in the city by train or bus. The public transport system here is pretty good. Whatever you do, don’t rent a car! The roads are overcrowded and navigating the city roads will leave you feeling lost and helpless.
2. GET CHEAP FOOD AROUND HAYMARKET
Haymarket is a much less touristy area than Circular Quay or Darling Harbour. Stick to the streets around Paddy’s Market and Chinatown for some of the best inexpensive cuisines including Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Spanish, Greek, Lebanese, and more. Your best bet is to choose a place that looks the busiest – you know it will be good.
3. Walk out to Mrs Macquaries Point for the best views of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge
No need to do a harbour cruise to get the best views of these amazing sights! Walk through the Botanic Gardens and along the foreshore to get to Mrs Macquaries Point. The harbour views are incredible and it will cost you nothing.
If you’re looking for some more spectacular views of the harbour, see my recommendations for coastal walks in Sydney Harbour National Park.
4. Walk along the Harbour Bridge from The Rocks to Milsons Point
Not only will you get some fab views of the city and Opera House, you’ll save the loads of cash by not doing the bridge climb tour! If you still want to get up higher for the view, you can walk up the Pylon on the south side for about $13.
On the south end of the bridge is The Rocks, full of sandstone buildings and quaint bars. Harts Pub and Lord Nelsons Brewery are the best places to stop for a local craft beer, but maybe just one as the prices in this area will burn a hole in your wallet.
Milsons Point sits at the north end of the bridge. If you didn’t grab a beer and some pub grub in The Rocks, you can do so here in the town centre, then spend some time wandering along the waterfront park underneath the bridge.
5. Get a bus or ferry to the beach
One of Sydney’s best-selling points is that there are numerous beaches within an easy reach of the city! Catch a bus from Central station to the famous Bondi, or catch the ferry from Circular Quay to Manly for a day of relaxing on the beach. Both of these areas are lined with restaurants, bars, and surf shops, and if people watching is your thing then you’ll be forever entertained. The beaches can get insanely busy on a sunny summer weekend day so try to visit on a weekday if possible.
6. enjoy free museums and galleries
The Art Gallery of New South Wales and The Museum of Contemporary Art both have free sections to wander through. You can also visit Government House, or head to the National Maritime Museum which has free entry on the first Thursday of every month.
7. Explore the trendy suburbs of Surry Hills and Newtown
Spend a few hours or even a whole day exploring the hipster suburbs of Surry Hills and Newtown. You’re bound to find some amazing street art, boutique stores, and countless cafes. People watching is an essential activity – sit down with a coffee and watch the fascinating types that inhabit the area.
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