5 Budget Tips To Make Your Trip To Sydney And Its Surrounds The Best Ever


Syahirah Mazlan •  Jan 26, 2023

So you want to travel to Sydney, but you’re a little concerned about blowing a hole through your pocket - especially with the cost of travelling being increasingly expensive. ? Fret not, though, we’ve summed up some helpful tips to make your dollars go further in Sydney and its surrounds! 

Follow us on Telegram for the latest updates: https://bit.ly/3LnFN1F

1. The best parts of Sydney are of great value!

Sydney is a destination that offers so much and some of the  joys of the city is how much there is to do that won’t break the bank. It mostly lies in the great outdoors, where Sydney’s array of beaches and national parks are easily accessible. The city centre is also home to popular attractions like the fireworks at Darling Harbour, museums and galleries that will keep you entertained, rain or shine! Explore the Ground of Alexandria, one of the most popular and Instagrammable streets in the city and find ever-changing attractions, coffee shops, market places and much more.

Credit: Destination NSW

Sydney has about 40 ocean beaches for you to choose from, and yes, all free for you to spend the day at! The Eastern Beaches run south from Bondi and are easily accessed by bus. The Northern Beaches are further from downtown - do swim between the flags so the lifesavers can keep an eye on you. Sydney's smaller harbour-front beaches such as Watsons Bay and Shark Beach offer calmer water, which is great for your kiddos and less confident swimmers. 

Royal Botanic Garden. Credit: Destination NSW

Since you’re in the area, drop by the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, which features gorgeous greenery from around the world set against the unforgettable harbour backdrop! We’d suggest heading to Mrs Macquaries Point for the best photo vantage point to capture Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge in one photo!

Credit: @rbgsydney for Instagram

You have to check out the Calyx, located within the gardens, which features one of the largest green walls in the southern hemisphere, a cafe, shopping and temporary exhibitions (some of which are free!). 

Credit: @sydneyoperahouse for Instagram

Afterwards, walk towards the Sydney Opera House, only 5 minutes away! It has been recently refurbished and is a prominent historical icon in Sydney. The building tested the boundaries of engineering, construction, and design throughout its construction. Therefore, when the Opera House opened in 1973, it changed Australia's image and ignited a new era of cultural discovery.  If you want to see what goes behind the production of every show in the theatre, sign up for the informative 2.5-hour backstage tour of the theatre, rehearsal spaces and insiders by the guides that takes place every morning at 7am! 

Credit: @mca_australia for Instagram

There are plenty of free museums and galleries for you to check out if you’re an art aficionado or simply looking for an indoor activity - learn Aboriginal history at the Rocks Discovery Museum, or check out Australian art at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Some of these museums and galleries offer free guided tours as well! We recommend you visit the Art Gallery of NSW. Although entry into the main exhibition is paid, the temporary exhibitions are FREE of charge. There are plenty to see at the temporary exhibitions so don’t pass up this chance to save some money on your trip!

Credit: Paddington Markets. Credit: Destination NSW

Of course, another prominent feature of an Aussie vacation you absolutely can’t miss out is their farmers’ markets. If you’re looking to go vintage shopping, Paddington Markets is your best bet - there’s over 150 stalls so be prepared to shop till you drop!  Famous markets such as Carriageworks Farmers Market and Cambridge Markets EQ offer fresh produce which are sustainably grown; if you’re cooking, you could purchase your groceries here as well ?

#HHWTip: Do note that farmers’ markets mostly run on the weekends, so get all your shopping done here to make time for other parts of your itinerary. For instance, if you’re planning to head outside of the city to the surroundings, it’s best to do it on a weekday since there are lesser crowds - so more time and space to enjoy the best of what New South Wales has to offer ?

Credit: @annevbl on Instagram

If you’re looking for more IG-worthy spots, consider adding Angel Place to your Sydney travel bucket - it’s a discreet CBD alleyway that features one of the city’s most interesting art installations: a host of empty birdcages. It’s tucked away between the hustle and bustle of George and Pitt Street - don’t miss it! It’s a nice breather from city life as well. Afterwards, if you’re hungry, walk around the CBD area - there are plenty of halal food options that await such as Neptune Palace Restaurant (Chinese-Malaysian cuisine) and more!

2. The Opal card is your best friend

Convenience and affordability - are two things any tourist love whenever they travel, and getting the Opal card will give you just that. For the uninitiated, the Opal card is a free public transport card that you load value onto so you can travel conveniently on all public transport systems (train, bus, ferries, and light rail) in Sydney and its surroundings, such as the Blue Mountains, Central Coast, the Hunter Valley and the Illawarra - which is a great option if you’re making a day trip out of Sydney ?

Credit: @jaden_n_sienna for Instagram

While it’s a free card, the minimum cost to top up is $10 for adults, and $5 for children (children under 4 years old ride for free!). To get an Opal Card, you can purchase them online or pick one up at any convenience store or supermarket (over 2000 retailers in Sydney sells them!) If you need to top up or check your balance, you can use the Opal Travel App to help you out and head on to any Opal top-up machines in any selected train, light rail stations, or ferry wharves in the Opal Card network. No worries, though, every time you tap out, your balance will be displayed on the screen of the card reader. 

#HHWTip: Note that some small retailers may have credit card fees for purchases under a certain amount of between $10 to $20. You can avoid these by simply loading/topping your card above the amount.

Central Station. Credit: @stblitzen for Instagram

Still not convinced? Here are some benefits. First, with the Daily Travel Cap, you will never pay more than $16.80 daily as you travel on trains, buses, ferries, and light rail trains. Children will never pay more than $8.50 a day ?Here’s another hack to make every dollar worthwhile - if you travel all day on the weekends and public holidays, you’ll never pay more than $8.40 for adults and $4.20 a day for children! Great discounts, isn’t it? ?

Secondly, Opal fares are also capped each week (Mon to Sun) at $60 for adults and $30 for children. After eight paid journeys using the card, you will qualify to travel for FREE for the rest of the week. You will also receive a 30% discount when you travel during off-peak times! The off-peak fares apply to Metro, Train, and Bus services too which are available everyday no matter when you visit. On top of that, kids under the age of 4 travel for FREE! ?

Credit: @solotravellinggirls for Instagram

Thirdly, after your Sydney trip, you can choose to get a refund! Just complete a form and return your card to Transport for NSW. Or why not just keep it? There’s always something new to see in Sydney anyway ? Another best friend you should have while in Sydney is the Opal Card website - which covers everything you need to know about Opal cards!

3. Navigate around Sydney and beyond with their comprehensive public transportation system!

Credit: @transportfornsw for Instagram

Of course, now that you have your Opal card, you need to use Sydney’s comprehensive public transportation system! You can get to any popular attractions by public transport! For instance, the Town Hall Railway Station is mere minutes away from the Queen Victoria Building (QVB) Shopping Centre and the Darling Harbour - easy for you to get all your shopping done ?From Town Hall, you can switch over to the T4 line and take an 11-minute ride to Bondi Beach for the IG-worthy shot of the ocean pools ?The iconic Sydney Opera house is also on the line; catch the train to the Circular Quay station! 

Credit: @sydneyfishmarket for Instagram

Feeling peckish? Take the L1 Route on the Light Rail, which passes by Sydney Fish Market, for all your scrumptious seafood cravings ? If you’re out and about exploring Sydney’s nightlife, you don’t have to worry about missing the last train. It runs from 5 am to midnight! But if you’re catching the fireworks on New Years’ Eve, again, you don’t have to worry: you can find a bus or NightRide bus. Some bus routes operate 24 hours for 7 days a week, while the NightRide buses operate from 12 a.m. to 4:30 a.m. to replace the closed Sydney Trains services during this time before the Sydney Trains reopen (reword here). 

Credit: @transportfornsw for Instagram

You should add at least one ferry trip to your itinerary! If you love chasing picturesque views, take the F4 ferry to Darling Harbour from Circular Quay, which lasts about 20 minutes. It takes you under the Sydney Harbour Bridge and around the Sydney Opera House, often via the gourmet village of Balmain, with its endless cafés and restaurants. And at Darling Harbour, there’s loads of fun family attractions to check out such as SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium (known for their Turtle Encounter and Glass Bottom Boat Experience), Madame Tussauds, WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo and more. 

#HHWTip: Choose from a range of pass discounts and combos and get discounts of up to 50% when you combine your SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium ticket with Madame Tussauds Sydney, WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo, and Sydney Tower Eye tickets.

Credit: @rashays for Instagram

Not to mention a variety of halal food available as well such as Lal Qila (Pakistani cuisine), Rashays at Harbourside Shopping Centre (Western), and even ​​Killiney Kopitiam Darling Quarter (for those a little homesick ?).

#HHWTip: Many of these malls in Darling Harbour are nearby praying spots such as Sydney CBD Mosque and ICC Sydney! 

Sydney CBD Mosque

Address: 1/56-60 Erskine St, Sydney NSW 2000

Opening hours: 12PM-6PM (weekdays); closed on weekends

ICC Sydney

Address: 14 Darling Dr, Sydney NSW 2000

Opening hours: 7AM-7PM daily


#HHWTip: Looking for accommodation? Check out Crowne Plaza Darling Harbour. It’s only 4 minutes walking distance from Town Hall station. Plus, it’s near halal food and mosques as well! It’s also perfect for families since they offer spacious and interconnecting rooms.

The Three Sisters. Credit: Unsplash

You might think that heading to the outdoors means having to drive and pay parking fees, but that’s not true! NSW TrainLink Intercity trains travel from and to Sydney at least every hour from Central Station and takes about 2 hours to reach the top of the Blue Mountains at Katoomba Station. It’s cheaper to take the train during off-peak times with a 30% discount (i.e. before 6.30am or after 10am on weekdays) too! The return peak runs between 3 to 7pm. 

If you do intend to head during the weekends, the return fare is set by the Opal weekend travel cap of $8.40 per day. Since it’s easily accessible and reasonably priced, there are more people on the trains (and in the mountains), which means there may be little to no seats on the way home! 

4. Walk to enjoy the best of what Sydney’s nature has to offer

From easy breezy coastal walks to half-day bush hikes and multi-day expeditions, Sydney is truly blessed with many different walking paths for everyone, and the most important part - many of them are FREE! 

Bondi coastal walk. Destination NSW

One of the best walks to take that’s beginner-friendly is the Bondi to Coogee walk. Taking about 2 to 3 hours, this scenic 6km coastal walk is popular for a good reason - the coastline is spectacular from every direction, plus there are many gorgeous sights you can’t miss on the route. Gordons Bay is a good place to swim and snorkel as it’s less crowded! There are several ocean pools and local swimming spots along the way, such as the IG-worthy Bronte Pool (which is one of the iconic sights to see when you’re in Sydney!) and Congee’s rock pools, Giles Bath - don’t forget to bring swimwear! While you’re there, check out the women's only McIver's Ladies Baths, Australia's last remaining women's-only seawater pool! 

Credit: @judsta for Instagram

#HHWTip: Note that the Bondi pool is closed on Thursday mornings for cleaning and will usually re-open by 10am. You have to pay a small fee of $9 for adults and $6 for children under 12 years old to swim in the ocean pool. If you’re coming with your family (i.e. 2 adults and up to 3 children), you can enjoy a discounted fee of $25 for all. 

Credit: @funkypiesbondicafe for Instagram

After a day by the waterside, there are plenty of food options for you to fuel up! Fret not, there are halal options such as kebabs, Portuguese-style barbeques and vegan pies for you to dig too! ? There are numerous cafes along the route as well - you can try their excellent coffee; it’s an Aussie specialty anyway!

  • Sabbaba Bondi Beach

Cuisine: Middle Eastern

Halal status: Halal meats and ingredients used

Address: 152-162 Campbell Parade, Bondi Beach NSW 2026

Opening hours: Mon-Tues, Thurs-Fri, Sun: 11AM-10PM, Wed, Sat: 11AM-9PM

Facebook | Instagram

  • Ogalo City Bondi

Cuisine: Portuguese-style barbecue

Halal status: Halal-certified (by the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils)

Address: 2/235 Bondi Rd, Bondi NSW 2026

Opening hours: Sun-Wed: 11AM-7.30PM, Thu-Sat: 11AM-8PM

Website | Facebook | Instagram

  • Funky Pies

Halal status: Fully vegan menu

Address: 2/144-148 Glenayr Ave, Bondi Beach NSW 2026, Australia

Opening hours: Monday to Friday, 8.30am - 8.30pm, Saturday and Sunday, 10am - 8.30pm

Contact No: +61 451 944 404

Website | Facebook | Instagram

#HHWTip: If you’re looking for a more exciting dining experience, why not head to the supermarkets and prepare your own meals in your apartment accommodation? You’ll find plenty of halal-certified butcheries and meats in Australia where you can get the best cuts! It’s also a good way to save money because you can use these ingredients to prepare more than one meal.

Credit: @reganmaryt for Instagram

Alternatively, if you want a shorter walk that still offers you scenic views but not too far from the city, try the Bradleys Head to Chowder Bay walk. This 4km walk takes about 2-3 hours, but you wouldn’t even notice when you capture the Sydney Harbour panoramic views. Start the track near Taronga Zoo, and make your way around the coast to Chowder Bay. The weaving trail is either a boardwalk or dusty, leafy path, and you might be lucky to spot curious water dragons along the way. 

Credit: @kaiceapitts for Instagram

While walking, you’ll have extraordinary views of the harbour and Sydney Opera House, as well as South Head, Rose Bay, Shark Island and Bradleys Head. Once you reach Clifton Gardens Reserve, you can sit and watch the boats go by from the little kiosk by the beach. We’d suggest you pack some food from Sydney’s CBD for when you’re tracking on this path! 

#HHWTip: Why not sign up for a free walking tour? You’ll get to know more about the history behind iconic monuments, plus you’ll be able to learn tips on how to enjoy Sydney to the fullest from a local! Give the guide a tip at the end of the tour based on how much the tour was worth to you! 

Blue Mountains. Destination NSW

For those going hiking with their kids, the Fairfax Heritage Walking Track at Blackheath, which takes about 30 to 45 minutes, is a gentle trail that won’t get you breaking a sweat. You’ll start at the National Parks Visitors Centre, near Govetts Leap Lookout, the 1.8km trail meanders through eucalypt and heath forests towards jaw-dropping views across the Grose Valley! The trail is also wheelchair accessible and suitable for your kids’ bikes (P.S. you can rent your bicycles at any of these places in Sydney and bring them up the mountains via train!). 

Credit: @deepka.ratra for Instagram

Looking for something a little more challenging? Check out the award-winning Grand Canyon Track! One of the most popular day walks in the Blue Mountains, the 6.3km track joins Neates Glen to Evans Lookout with its panoramic views across the Grose Valley! There’s even a surprising tunnel that your kids will love along the way! Save some money by packing some lunch or snacks and spend some time sitting on a stepping stone by the creek! It will take 3 to 4 hours to complete the track, so pace yourself and don’t forget to bring plenty of water to stay hydrated!

#HHWTip: Before you go for your hiking adventure, we recommend downloading the NSW National Park app! It has everything you need for your trip to the surroundings - the best hiking spots suited to your capabilities, fun things to do like a local, maps to keep you on track and more! 

5. The fun doesn’t end - explore beyond Sydney (free activities included!)

Credit: Destination NSW

We’ve shown you in the first 4 points that you’ll never run out of things to do in Sydney, but it’s worth setting aside time to explore New South Wales! ? Get a change of scenery from the city and explore the Blue Mountains, one of the world’s UNESCO World Heritage sites, from one of the most famed viewpoints, Echo Point Lookout, to see the Three Sisters rock formation, as well as Lincoln’s Rock (Wentworth Falls), Boars Head (Katoomba), and Pulpit Rock (Blackheath). Oh, did we mention - these are all FREE for you to see! 

#HHWTip: If you’re bringing your kids, we recommend taking the Hop On Hop Off (HOHO), which allows you to hop on, hop-off all day to see most of the Blue Mountains in your own time! It’s a great choice since you and your family might struggle to keep up on a group tour! You can book your tickets on local tour agents or third-party platforms such as Klook. 

Credit: Destination NSW

While the BridgeClimb at the magnificent Sydney Harbour Bridge is truly worth an experience, you can consider exploring the bridge on foot! Stairs and elevators climb up the bridge from both shores, leading to a footpath on the eastern side (the western side is a bike path). Here’s a tip: take the train to Milsons Point, then walk back towards the city; you’ll thank us for the breathtaking views of the skyline and harbour vistas. Alternatively, you could walk along the pedestrian bridge from one side of Sydney Harbour to the other to take in the sights and views of the city.

Credit: @bluemountainsbg on Instagram

There’s still more for you to check out - if you’re a big nature lover, head to Blue Mountains Botanic Garden! It’s the only botanic garden in a World Heritage area! Take a walk amongst gorgeous flora and fauna, and breathe in the crisp mountain air - you can’t get this in the city anyway.And yup, you got that right, it’s free! If you’re wondering when’s the best time to head up, come between Spring to Fall (October to April). If you want to head up during winter (May-July), bundle up - expect cold temperatures! You might be able to see snow. ?

If you’re still up for an adventure, why not head up to the dolphin capital of Australia, Port Stephens (2.5 hours drive from Sydney), which is home to more than 90 bottlenose dolphins! While a dolphin-watching cruise is the easiest way to encounter dolphins, you can also spot them for FREE from the shore as they come very close to the beach ? There’s also other unique experiences to try that you can’t get at the city such as snorkelling among  adorable sharks and rays at Irukandji Shark & Ray Encounters, sand boarding at Stockton Sand Dunes. 

Stockton Sand Dunes, Porth Stephens. Credit: Destination NSW

#HHWTip: We suggest a tour at Stockton Sand Dunes! Plus, there’s so much activities to do here such as camel riding and sand boarding! There’s also free things to do such as seasonal whale watching from Birubi Lookout (May to November), going for a dip at Birubi Beach or simply basking in sunset views from the dunes. 

Koala Sanctuary Port Stephens, One Mile. Credit: Destination NSW

Looking for more free activities? Go for a short hike on Tomaree Head Summit for unforgettable picturesque ocean views across Port Stephens and Zenith Beach nearby  ? Or head to Tilligerry Habitat, particularly known to be a favourite spot for koalas in the region! It’s free to visit, too ?

Feeling hungry? Head on to Nelson Bay, as there are multiple halal food options for you to dig into, such as The Only Place Indian Restaurant, Taj Tandoori Indian Restaurant, Bay Brother’s Kebab and Mod Thai. Nelson Bay is only a 6-minute drive from Port Stephens! 

Who says Sydney and New South Wales can’t be explored (and enjoyed) on a budget? The best experiences ultimately are the priceless ones ?

This article is brought to you by Destination NSW.