Sydney on a Budget

Sydney, Australia. Home to some of the most wanderlust inspiring icons such as Bondi Beach, Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, Sydney also has well over 300 days of sunshine a year and never gets too cold. It’s easy to see why this city is such a popular spot to visit when in Aus! However for some travellers (backpackers, I’m looking at you), this location has one serious drawback. The cost. According to The Telegraph, Sydney is the 10th most expensive city in the world for travellers! However, this shouldn’t stop you from visiting, and I’ve put together my advice for saving money whilst still making the most of this beautiful place.

There are so many ways that you can save your pennies (or cents) whilst visiting Sydney! Although I only spent a couple of days there, I’d love to go back and see even more of it. Next time though, I’ll definitely be taking my own advice…

  • 1. Accommodation 

Where you stay can really make or break your Sydney trip! It is important to bare in mind that Sydney is a pricey city, and therefore hostel prices are inflated a fair amount above the Australia average! Whilst there I stayed at Sydney Harbour YHA, which whilst certainly not the cheapest option, made up for room cost in its location: right on the harbour with views overlooking the Bridge and Opera House. This meant attractions were right on my doorstep and I didn’t need to spend money travelling to visit them!

sydney harbour yha night view

This isn’t the only place worthy of staying in Sydney, with other hostels based near Bondi or Manly beaches, clustered around Central Station or sprawling into the suburbs. Think about what you want from your Sydney trip and book accordingly.

It’s also worth looking at what extras your hostel may offer to make it good value such as cheap meal nights, free breakfasts, activities such as walking tours or discounts for visiting major attractions.

If there is a group of you travelling together, it’s worth looking at other options such as Airbnb where you may be able to find an apartment for cheaper than multiple dorm beds.

  • 2. Food 

In Sydney, supermarkets and self catering are your friend. And I explicitly say supermarkets not the super handy corner shop on your road, where I was charged $15 for a tin of beans and some microwave rice (it still hurts). Unless you’re in the mood to treat yourself, stick to having lunch out rather than dinner, as many restaurants offer separate dinner menus that are a lot more expensive. It can also be worth picking cafes over formal restaurants to eat at as they can be cheaper!

When visiting the major attractions either pack your own food (a picnic on the Bondi- Coogee walk?) or head a couple of streets away from the attraction to eat, outside the area where prices are bumped up for tourist convenience.

  • 3. Seeing the sights

Sydney is a city that is easily seen on foot, with most of the major attractions out in the open to see. The Opera House can easily be walked to for all your photo dreams, or take one of the public ferries around the harbour (more on this later) to get a waterfront view of it.

Fancy seeing the Harbour Bridge? Rather than forking out $200+ for the Bridge Climb experience, walk across it for free (access on Cumberland Street via the Bridge Stairs) and treat yourself to a viewpoint by paying around $10 to head up the Pylon Lookout!

There are also loads of beautiful places to hang out for free in Sydney, soaking up the sun and the atmosphere. My top picks are:

  • Bondi Beach. Take in the graffiti artwork along the beachfront, watch the Bondi Lifeguards do their thing (they might even be filming Bondi Rescue!), see the iconic view over the Icebergs pool and finish up with the gorgeous walk from Bondi to Coogee Beach (or Bronte if you get tired (or it starts pouring rain)).
  • Royal Botanical Gardens. The gardens are on the edge of the harbour and offer beautiful flowers, trees and views across to the Opera House.
  • Manly Beach. Chill out on the seafront and watch the surfers out on the famous Manly waves, go for a swim or explore the shops in the area. Take a short walk around the Manly headland if you want somewhere away from the crowds!
  • Hyde Park. Wander around the grounds, sunbathe and picnic on the grass, admire the various monuments and fountains and of course head into the towering St Mary’s cathedral.
  • Museum of Contemporary Art. Whether it’s scorching heat or rain, sometimes you want to escape the weather outside. This gallery is right on the harbour front at Circular Quay and offers free entry, meaning you can treat yourself to a drink at the rooftop cafe!
  • Observatory Hill. Up on the hill near Sydney Observatory is plenty of open grassland with views across the Harbour Bridge and out to Western Sydney. A lovely spot for a picnic combined with walking across the Bridge!

observatory hill

There are also lots of companies in Sydney that offer free walking tours. I did one of The Rocks (where my hostel was) which was great! It allowed me to get acquainted with the local area, find out some fun facts and hear a lot of pretty intense history! Although these tours are free, the guides will ask you to pay what you think it was worth (or what you can afford) at the end. Definitely worth it in my opinion, particularly for the local knowledge the guides offer.

  • 4. Transport

As with any large city, you will probably have to use public transport to get around at some point. Although it’s available, avoid Uber and instead choose use the incredible availability of buses, trains (seriously, the trains are amazing) and ferries to get around Sydney.

When you first arrive head to somewhere you can buy an Opal card (usually a tourist information centre, major station or some corner shops). This is like an Oyster card and you load a balance onto it and use it to pay all public transport fares in the city. The minimum top up is $10 and fares vary depending on distance. The card has a daily cap of $15.80 and a weekly cap of $63.20, meaning when you reach this amount the rest of your travel within that time period is free. However my biggest tip (which I learnt on my walking tour!) is to do your big travel on Sunday, when there is a cap of $2.70. This means you can get unlimited travel for hardly anything! My recommendation is to utilise the ferry services on Sundays, or head out of the city to see what else you can explore. This page by the National Parks and Wildlife Service has some amazing recommendations!

icebergs pool bondi

Sydney is a beautiful city and definitely shouldn’t be avoided just because of its cost. Have you been to Sydney? Do you have any more money saving tips?

-Millie xox



12 thoughts on “Sydney on a Budget

  1. Okay yes I love this!! I haven’t actually been to Sydney yet (bar a three hour layover on my way to melbourne, but it hardly counts) so this is super useful for when I do eventually make it there!


  2. I have never been to Sydney before but it looks absolutely beautiful and I can definitely see the attraction! Thank you for sharing all your tips. What was your favourite part of Sydney? xx


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