Sydney, the most populous Australian city and land of Finding Nemo, is a notoriusly expensive place to be a budget traveller. Luckily, there are quite a few dollar-saving tips and tricks that savvy travellers can take advantage of. Here are a few that I discovered in my time there, organized by category.
Food and Drink
Those little Turkish kebab places were my saviour in Sydney. Aside from the kebabs, pizza, and salads that are standards at these places, many of them serve incredibly cheap breakfasts. I could get a decent-sized breakfast of eggs, toast, and bacon for around $6 AUD, with cheaper options available. These places are not rare in Sydney, you won’t have any trouble happening upon one in the main areas.
Take advantage of hostel offerings
Many hostels offer things like free rice and pasta to guests. It may not be the most diverse (or healthy) diet, but it fits the budget. Also, taking part in hostel social events may mean free (or cheap) drinks, like boxed wine, or “goon.”
Happy hour all day
Many bars in Sydney’s popular spots offer all-day happy hour. If you’re not picky about what you drink, this can be a decent way to slash your spending. Drinking in Sydney can get expensive, this is a great way to increase the value of your money.
Cooking in hostel kitchens is a varied experience that really depends on the particular hostel you’re staying in. Some offer fantastic kitchens with everything you need to create a gourmet meal (OK, maybe not that far). Others have the bare essentials or will be so crowded that you just want to get in and out as quickly as possible. The good thing is that there are some pretty good grocery stores and markets around that offer decent pickings in the delis. It’s easy to pick up things like precooked quiche (something I ate a lot of) and just heat it up. This way, it doesn’t take a lot of effort to cook for yourself–if heating something up can be called cooking– and eat well.
Free Activities in Sydney
I’m a huge fan of walking tours that operate on tips. Being led around historical and culturally significant areas by a local guide is a great way to get to know any new city. In Sydney, there is a lot of this to see. I went with the I’m Free group that does tours in Sydney and Melbourne, though there are other options out there. Don’t forget to tip!
Nature and Culture
The Royal Botanic Gardens are free to visit and a beautiful spot to lie on the grass or explore the vegetation. You’ll find them to the east of Circular Quay–home of the iconic Sydney Opera House. Speaking of the Opera House, you’ll pay around $30 AUD for the cheapest shows, but can always use the bathroom for free if you want a peek at the interior.
Museums often have admission fees, but this varies and admission may be free at certain times or days. Check before you visit.
If you’re looking for free, decent wifi, head to the State Library of New South Wales. Here, you’ll find plenty of seating, outlets, and often a free art gallery exhibit to check out. When I visited, there was an exhibit covering fashion of the last 100 years.
The Pitt Street Mall is, well, a mall–of the Australian variety. It’s home to high-end shopping (and not-so-high-end) in historic and modern buildings. It’s definitely a place to go if you want to spend money. However, one of its perks is the busking that takes place on the street. Talented musicians and street performers must book timeslots in order to play here, and the result is worth experiencing.
There are lots of places to go for a run on your own, but if you’re interested in some fitness classes, there are usually a few options. Drop by a Lulu Lemon location to find out where and when free yoga classes are on offer–usually in nearby parks. Or, check out the lobby in your hostel, some may offer a variety of classes.
Bondi Beach is probably one of the most popular places in the area. If you are interested in seeing it for yourself, you can catch a (likely very crowded) public bus near Circular Quay. Remember to buy your ticket at a 7-11 or tourist information stand in advance, the buses only accept prepaid tickets.
Manly beach is another popular spot, and you can get the 30-minute Manly Ferry for $14.80 AUD return. Don’t be thrown off by the beach where the ferry docks, this is not the beach. Walk straight from the ferry to get to the main beach on the opposite side. After you’ve had some beach time, you can take a short, easy hike around Sydney Harbour National Park (no admission). The path will lead through forested area and around small bays with sandy beaches.
For a bit more hiking, you can catch the train (less than $30 AUD return for adults) to Blue Mountains National Park. There is no admission here either. Head inside the tourist information centre to get a map and some recommendations on hiking routes. You’ll get some vast views of the blue hills while wandering through forest to the (sometimes deafening) sounds of the cicadas.