Australia often gets a reputation for being an expensive country to travel to. And indeed, it can be expensive to travel to Australia from the United States or Europe, or even from certain places in Asia. On top of that, Sydney has the third-highest cost of living in the world. But don’t let that stop you from visiting the Land Down Under, it is possible to see this city on a budget!
Sydney (which is not the capital of Australia, for those of you who may have thought otherwise!) is Australia’s oldest and largest city, often considered one of the most livable cities in the world, and former host of the 2000 Summer Olympics. But for all its reputation, Sydney doesn’t have to break the budget. Here are some free or cheap activities that you can do during your trip:
Many cities offer a hop-on, hop-off tour bus these days, and they’re definitely advantageous in some places, since they let you get around to all the sights easily…but that’s definitely unnecessary in Sydney, which offers a free shuttle bus around the city. The 555 will take you around the city and its Central Business District…and past most of the well-known landmarks, including the Sydney Opera House, Australian Museum, and Chinatown. Sure you might have to be your own tour guide, but then again, who can hear the tour guide on poor-quality bus speakers anyway?
Free City Tour
Another way to see many of the sights of the city and to hear some information about them is by taking a free tour. While not technically free (usually you’re expected to pay at least something to the tour guide as a tip), these can be a cheaper way to take a tour of the city, and rather than shelling out a lot of money upfront for a tour that may or may not be good, you can decide how much you think the tour was worth.
Cheaper Museums and Historical Sights
The Australian Museum and Australian National Maritime Museum are both good choices for museums to tell you about the country’s history. The former costs AU$15 for adults, and the latter costs AU$7 for adults. While not too expensive, these may still not be options for some budget travelers. You might decide to head out to The Rocks, where you can learn about the Aboriginal culture and heritage of the area for free.
If none of those options sound particularly appealing, you might rather visit the Nicholson Museum and State Library, which offers some free exhibits, or head out on the ferry to Cockatoo Island and live the history—the island was originally a prison and industrial shipyard. The island is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and besides its historical value, it offers great views back over the harbor.
Walk Across the Sydney Harbor Bridge
If you want to climb the Sydney Harbor Bridge, it’s going to set you back quite a bit of money. You might be wavering on that decision though—budget travel versus unique life experience? Then check out the Harbor Bridge on the show Awesome Adventures, and you might think it’s definitely a bucket list thing. (Note: to watch Hulu outside the US, you may need to set up a VPN first.)
But you could just walk across the bridge for free instead. You’ll still get the spectacular views of those high above you, albeit from a lower vantage point, and you won’t break the bank while doing it. If you’re really curious to know what everything looks like from higher up, visit the Pylon Lookout for cheap. It’ll bring you 87m above sea-level, giving you the bird’s-eye view that you were looking for.
Take a Stroll
Sydney’s beaches, although sometimes crowded, are fantastic—and they’re free. If you have a few days in Sydney, think about taking a day on the beach to swim, relax, and find some delicious seafood. Then again, if you’re travelling during the summer months in the northern hemisphere, remember that these are the winter months in Australia and the rest of the southern hemisphere! You can still take a walk along the beach, of course, but swimming may be less appealing… Still, walking from Bondi to Congee is considered one of the best walks, and it’s well worth it to see the landscapes even during the winter months.
If you enjoy walking but aren’t too interested in the beach, your other option would be the Royal National Park. The price per vehicle is nominal, but know that it’s also free on foot. You’ll have to travel a little to get to the park so it may not be the best option for those on a time-crunch, but it does offer some spectacular beachfront-scenery and great walks.
Places to Eat
Sydney restaurants will often set you back a fair amount of money. Instead of shelling out money that might be better spent on museums, why not take a picnic out to the Botanical Gardens and eat with a view of the Sydney Opera House in the background? If you’re looking to eat in a restaurant, seafood or food from Southeast Asia can be found in abundance. I could tell you all about different restaurants, but you’re better off checking out Urbanlist’s list of 50 Cheap Eats in Sydney. They list something for everyone.
Probably the most quirky choice available is crab-racing, which you can participate in for only AU$2-3 at the Friend in Hand pub. And yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like. Or head down to Darling Harbor, which holds a once-weekly fireworks show during most of the year. Or if theatre is your thing, head on over to Stables Theatres, which offers a pay-what-you-can show every Monday.
Hopefully these choices will give you some options for how to maximize your time in Sydney while minimizing the amount spent. Not only does Sydney offer you the chance to say you’ve been to a whole new continent, but it is also a unique and magnificent city in and of itself. You’ll have a fantastic time exploring while you’re there, but that doesn’t mean you need to spend all your souvenir money on museums and touristic activities. Bring something fun home for grandma as well.
About Guest Writer
Hi, I’m Jess. I’m never in one place for very long. My parents were travelers before I was born. Even in the womb, I was able to travel all over the place! Boy, did things NOT change as I grew older!
Knowing there’s more to the world than the bubble I live in made me want to travel even further. Traveling is my drug and I’m addicted. Please, no intervention! 🙂