Although Sydney is a large sprawling city, many of the city’s major attractions are walking distance or easily reached on public transport.
The city can be incredibly busy though around peak commuter times in the mornings and evenings though so take care travelling with small children.
Getting around Sydney
Walking around Sydney
The CBD is mostly flat and easily walkable. Central Station to Circular Quay will take you 30-40 minutes on foot.
**Note the free shuttle bus that used to operate on a loop from Central Station to Circular Quay via Elizabeth and George Streets is now closed due to the extensive light rail project works – see more below!**
Walking distance from Circular Quay to Darling Harbour is approximately 30 minutes down Pitt Street.
Big Bus Sydney offers commentary tours of the CBD and to Bondi at 34 different stops including all the major Sydney attractions. The Sydney hop-on-hop-off bus is a great way to get from A to B and learn some more about the city as you’re going.
You can pre-order your tickets here (cheaper than buying them on the day).
Sydney Public Transport
Sydney has a very comprehensive network of buses, trains and ferries which are complemented by light rail services, taxis, water taxis and private hire companies.
Visitors to Sydney should get themselves set up with an Opal Card – a Smart Card you top up for use on trains, buses, ferries and light rail around Sydney. The card is free to order online or you can buy one from a station or convenience store in Sydney when you arrive. You will need to top it up in advance then tap in/out every time you use public transport.
Tickets are needed for children aged 4 to 15 years. 16+ can get a concession rate with a student card. Fares are calculated on distance travelled for all modes of transport.
Sydney City Rail Trains
The City Circle loop will take you around the CBD area with stops at Central, Town Hall, Wynyard, Circular Quay, St James and Museum.
Sydney Light Rail
Transdev operates the light rail network connecting Central Station, Capitol Square, Paddy’s Market, Exhibition Centre, Convention, Pyrmont Bay, The Star, John Street Square, Sydney Fish Market, Wentworth Park, Glebe, Jubilee Park, Rozelle Bay and Lilyfield. Central to Lilyfield travel time is around 25 minutes, with services every 15 minutes.
New Sydney Light Rail (Tram)
Due to open in 2018, the city has seen a huge overhaul and disruption to its normal public transport systems over the past three years during construction. The new tram line will take passengers from Circular Quay to Randwick and Kensington. We will update this section once the tram is up and running!
Harbour City Ferries
A unique part of Sydney is its comprehensive ferry network. Ferries leave from the terminal at Circular Quay and travel to many of the city’s popular tourist destinations including Taronga Zoo, Kirribilli, Neutral Bay, Mosman and Rose Bay. Longer services also run north to Manly and west along the Parramatta River – these cost a little more. Ferries use the Opal Card.
There is also a private service, the Manly Fast Ferry, that operates from Circular Quay to Manly in just 18 minutes!
Metered taxis can be hailed from the street, taken from predesignated taxi stands throughout the city or pre-booked. Download the 13Cabs app to be able to easily book a taxi from your phone.
Getting from Sydney International Airport to the city centre
Most overseas visitors arrive into Sydney via Sydney International Airport (SYD) located 8km south of the city. To get from Sydney airport to central Sydney:
- Take the Sydney Airport Link Train which takes less than 15 minutes, running every 10 minutes. Adults are $17.90; Child/Youth (4 to 15 years) $14.40; Under 4 free. You can pay for the Airport Link using your Opal Card.
- Catch an Uber – By the time you’ve paid for the whole family this could well be your cheaper option than Airport Link.
- You may prefer the comfort and convenience when travelling as a family of using a pre-paid airport service like Go Sydney Shuttle.
Hiring a Car in Sydney
Due to the extortionate cost and lack of available parking in the CBD, including at many Sydney hotels, we’d recommend only hiring a car if you are planning on doing day trips out of central Sydney. Cars are easy to hire from the airport or there are several depots spotted throughout the city.
Driving in Australia is on the left side of the road, right-hand drive vehicles. Hire cars may be manual or automatic transmission, so check this when booking. Sydney has a number of tollways to be aware of; your hire car company will explain how these are charged to you.
Take me back to the Sydney City Guide.
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