By Public Transportation
State Transit operates the city’s buses and the ferry network; Sydney Trains runs the urban and suburban trains; and Sydney Ferries runs the public passenger ferries. Some private bus lines operate buses in the outer suburbs. In addition, a light rail line runs between Central Station and Wentworth Park in Pyrmont. Transport (tel. 131 500) is a one-stop search engine for bus, train, and ferry timetables. Public transit fares are subject to change, so the prices given should act only as a guide.
To pay public transit fares, you'll need an Opal Card — a smartcard ticket that you keep and add value to. Adult and child (4-15) tickets are readily available at retailers around the city, and single-trip tickets are also available. The Opal travel caps mean that adults won't pay more than A$15 a day, A$7.50 for children, no matter how much they travel or how many modes of transportation they use.
By Public Bus — Buses are frequent and reliable and cover a wide area of metropolitan Sydney. The minimum fare (which covers most short hops in the city) is A$2.10 for a 3 km (1 1/2-mile) “section.” The farther you go, the cheaper each section is. For example, the 44 km (27-mile) trip to Palm Beach, way past Manly, costs A$4.60. Sections are marked on bus-stand signs, but if you’re confused or in doubt, ask the bus driver.
Most buses bound for the northern suburbs, including night buses to Manly and the bus to Taronga Zoo, leave from Wynyard Park on Carrington Street, behind the Wynyard train station on George Street. Buses to the southern beaches, such as Bondi and Bronte, and the western and eastern suburbs leave from Circular Quay. Buses to Balmain leave from behind the QVB.
Buses run from 4:30am to around midnight during the week, less frequently on weekends and holidays. Some night buses to outer suburbs run throughout the night. You can buy single tickets onboard.
By Sightseeing Bus — Bright red open-top Sydney Explorer buses operate daily, traveling a circuit that takes in 26 places of interest. These include the Sydney Opera House, the Royal Botanic Gardens, the State Library, Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair, the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Kings Cross, Elizabeth Bay House, the QVB, Sydney Tower, the Australian Museum, Chinatown, Darling Harbour, and The Rocks. Bus stops are identified by a distinctive red sign. The interval between services is about 15 to 20 minutes, and you can board the bus at any stop along the route. The first departure from Alfred St., (near the corner of Pitt St.), at Circular Quay is at 8:30am, and the last service will return you to Circular Quay at 7:30pm.
The Bondi Explorer operates every day, traveling a 30 km (19-mile) circuit around the eastern harborside bays and coastal beaches. The 10 stops along the way include Chinatown, Sydney Tower, Double Bay, Rose Bay, Bondi Beach, North Bondi, and Paddington’s Oxford Street. The interval between the hop-on-hop-off services is around 30 minutes. The first departure is from Central Station (Stop A at Eddy Avenue) at 9:30am. Tickets cost A$45 for adults, A$25 for children 5 to 16, and A$120 for a family of four for 24 hours, or A$65 adults, A$40 children and A$180 families for 48 hours. If you stay on the bus, the full circuit of each tour will take around 90 minutes. When planning your itinerary, remember that some attractions, such as museums, close at 5pm. Buy tickets onboard the bus. Call tel. 02/9567 8400 for more details.
By Ferry — The best way to get a taste of a city that revolves around its harbor is to jump aboard a ferry. The main ferry terminal is at Circular Quay. For ferry information, call tel. 131 500, check out www.transportnsw.info, info, or visit the ferry information office opposite Wharf 4. One-way trips within the inner harbor (virtually everywhere except Manly) cost A$5.74 for adults and A$2.87 for children ages 4 to 15. Kids under 4 travel free.
The ferry to Manly takes 30 minutes and costs A$7.18 for adults and A$3.59 for children. It leaves from Wharf 3. Ferries run from 6am to midnight. There is also a privately run fast ferry that runs to Manly from Circular Quay, which takes 18 minutes. The Manly Fast Ferry (tel. 02/9583 1199) uses its own ticketing system and turnstiles and departs from Wharf 6 at Circular Quay. Tickets cost A$7.70 adults and $5.10 kids, one way. The first ferry leaves Circular Quay at 6:30am and the last at 9pm; the last fast ferry departs Manly at 9:30pm. Ferries operate as every 10-30 minutes or so, depending on the hour. The fast ferry also goes to Darling Harbour, Pyrmont Bay, and North Sydney.
By Train — Sydney’s publicly owned train system is a good news/bad news way to get around. The good news is that it can be a cheap and relatively efficient way to see the city; the bad news is that the system is limited. Many tourist areas—including Manly, Bondi Beach, and Darling Harbour—are not connected to the network. Though trains tend to run regularly, the timetable is unreliable. And many carriages aren’t air-conditioned, so it can be really hot in summer.
Trips less than 10 km (6 miles) cost A$3.38 for adults and A$1.69 for children during peak hours, but cost 30% less during off-peak hours. Peak hours may vary by station, but are usually from 6am-9am and 4pm-6:30pm.
By Light Rail — A system of trams runs on a route that traverses a 12.7 km (7 1/2-mile) track between Central Station and Dulwich Hill. It provides good access to Chinatown, Paddy’s Markets, Darling Harbour, the Star City casino, and the Sydney Fish Markets. The trams run every 10-15 minutes. The one-way fare is A$2.10 to A$3.50 for adults and A$1.05 to A$1.75 for children 4 to 15, depending on distance. Contact Sydney Light Rail (tel. 131 500) for details.
Several taxi companies serve the city center and suburbs. All journeys are metered. If you cross either way on the Harbour Bridge or through the Harbour Tunnel, it will cost a few extra dollars (depending on the time of day). An extra 10% will be added if you pay by credit card.
Taxis line up at stands in the city, such as those opposite Circular Quay and Central Station. They are also frequently found in front of hotels. A yellow light on top of the cab means it’s vacant. Cabs can be hard to get on Friday and Saturday nights and between 2pm and 3pm every day, when cabbies are changing shifts after 12 hours on the road. Passengers must wear seatbelts in the front and back seats. The Point to Point Transport (taxis, hire car, rideshare) Complaints Hotline (tel. 1800/648 478 in Australia) deals with problem taxi drivers. Taxis are licensed to carry four people. The main taxi companies are 13CABS (tel. 13 2227); Silver Service Fleet (tel. 02/9020 2000); RSL Cabs (tel. 02/9581 1111); Legion Cabs (tel. 131 451); Premier Cabs (tel. 131 017); and St. George Cabs (tel. 132 166).
By Water Taxi
Water Taxis operate 24 hours a day and are a quick, convenient way to get to waterfront restaurants, harbor attractions, and some suburbs. They can also be chartered for private cruises. Fares for a direct transfer are based on an initial flag-fall for the hire of the vessel and then a charge per person traveling. Fares for a harbor jaunt are usually around A$15 per person. On most transfers, the more people traveling, the lower the fare per person. The main operators are Yellow Water Taxis (tel. 1800/326 822) and Water Taxis Combined (tel. 02/9555 8888).
Traffic restrictions, parking, and congestion can make getting around by car frustrating, but if you plan to visit some of the outer suburbs or take excursions elsewhere in New South Wales, then renting a car will give you more flexibility. The National Roads and Motorists’ Association (NRMA) is the New South Wales auto club; for emergency breakdown service, call tel. 13 11 11.
Tolls apply for some roads, including the Cross City Tunnel and Sydney Harbour Bridge; increasingly you must go through automatic toll booths using a prepaid electronic tag called an E-Tag. If you are hiring a car, you may be provided with an E-Tag, but make sure you ask about how you pay. Drivers without E-Tags have 2 days to pay; call the Roads and Maritime Authority (tel. 132 213) within 2 days for details on your payment options.
Car-rental agencies in Sydney include Avis, 200 William St., Kings Cross (tel. 13 63 33 in Australia or (02) 9246 4600); Budget, 93 William St., Kings Cross (tel. 13 27 27 in Australia or 02/8255 9600); Europcar, 100 William St., Kings Cross (tel. 13 13 90 in Australia or (02) 8255 9070); Hertz, corner of William and Riley streets, Kings Cross (tel. 13 30 39 in Australia or 02/9360 6621); and Thrifty, 75 William St., Kings Cross (tel. 13 61 39 in Australian or 02/8374 6177). All also have desks at the airport. One of the best-value operations is Bayswater Car Rental, 180 William St., Kings Cross (tel. 02/9360 3622), which has small cars from around A$30 a day, sometimes less. A good option is to compare prices and book discounted vehicles through Vroom, Vroom, Vroom.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.