An aerial view of Sydney

Sydney: know before you go

travel tips

Sydney is a city with many faces. It’s the most populous city in Australia, home to almost 5.3 million people. It's also one of Australia's biggest tourist destinations, attracting over 6 million visitors every year.

From the iconic Harbour Bridge to the Opera House and Bondi Beach, there are plenty of reasons you need to add Sydney to your travel bucket list!

But first, we want to share a few things that we think you should know before you visit.

Fishburn ferry in front of Sydney Opera House

1. Public transport is a fantastic way to see the city

It surprises many visitors that Sydney has an efficient public transport system. While it will never take the top spot from the Swiss, In the areas most frequented on a vacation, there is regular and affordable transport on offer

Commuter ferries are a great way to explore the harbour. Jump on one for at least a couple of trips. We recommend Manly and Watson's Bay at a minimum. Try to time at least one of these trips for sunset. Arriving back at Circular Quay as the sun sets behind the Harbour Bridge is priceless.

Sydney also has an extensive bus network, with buses running frequently in all directions throughout the day. The major routes of interest to visitors are Circular Quay to Bondi and the Eastern Beaches or Town Hall to Newtown.

You can also jump on a train for a day trip to the Blue Mountains and be there in under 2 hours for less than $10 return on the weekend.

Tip: Travel all day on weekends for just $8.15 per day - even as far as the Mountains

Sydney CBD from the Harbour Bridge Pylon lookout

2. Winters can get cold in Sydney

The blue skies you see in tourism images of Sydney will have you think it's always warm and sunny here. Sadly, that is not so! Being in the southern hemisphere, we experience winter in the middle of the year.

Many visitors are surprised when they arrive in July to find we are in the middle of winter with temperatures ranging from 8°-17°c (47°-63°F). Alternatively, in summer, it's not uncommon to have a string of days well over 35°c and humidity of 65% and above. While Sydney is a great destination any time of year, if you want to enjoy the beach lifestyle, plan to visit between October and April.

Chinatown in Sydney, Australia

3. Sydney is a multicultural city with a great variety of food

The city has an incredibly diverse culture, something that makes this cosmopolitan metropolis so unique. It's not uncommon to hear five different languages on a short walk around town. With them, immigrants have bought the best of their cultures, especially when it comes to food. So, when you visit Sydney, be sure to bring a healthy appetite.

Take some time to venture to the edges of the city to discover some of the best representations of food from almost every culture in the world, particularly Asia. Don't miss Thai Town in Campbell Street Haymarket, Korea Town in Pitt Street near Museum Station, and many regional Chinese cuisines on offer in Chinatown. Venture to Harris Park for Indian food and Haberfield for Italian.

A walkway leading up to Sydney Harbour

4. Pack your most comfortable walking shoes because this is a city to explore on foot

While the public transport is good, plan to spend a good part of your day exploring on foot. There are harbour walks, gardens, beaches and inner-city villages that are best seen from the pavement.

We recommend the new Sydney Harbour Foreshore walk, an 11km almost entirely flat walk from Woolloomooloo Wharf to the Anzac Bridge, as a must for visitors. It travels through the Royal Botanic Gardens, past the Sydney Opera House, under the Harbour Bridge and through the new Barangaroo precinct, Darling Harbour and Pyrmont Bay. This 2-3 hour walk is a perfect people-watching experience and takes in major cities' major sites.

You should also consider the Manly to Spit Bridge Walk or Bondi to Coogee coastal walk.

The Sydney Greeters

5. The easiest way to meet a local is to book a free Sydney Greeter to show you around

The Sydney Greeter Service is part of the International Greeter Association and the best way to meet a local on a short visit to Sydney. A "Greeter" is a local who volunteers to show their favourite parts of the city to visitors. You meet up and spend 2-4 hours together chatting and discovering things about the city you will probably not find alone.

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Paula Morgan

Author - Paula Morgan

Paula has been sharing her love of Sydney on her destination site Sydney Expert for the last decade. She has recently launched Australia Your Way to share her love of the rest of the country.

Last Updated October 9, 2021

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