Ahh Sydney… I’ve longed to visit this city for as long as I can remember.
As I wandered around the Opera House at midnight when we first arrived, I thought about why it’s taken me so long to do this trip and see these places I’ve always wanted to see. I realised that it was the idea that to do it properly and comfortably, I needed to have lots of money to spend. This I’ve since learnt, simply isn’t the case. In fact, I’d argue that you can only truly get under the skin of a city when you do as the locals do, which unless you’re visiting a super affluent neighbourhood, is usually the cheap or free stuff. Buying groceries from the farmers market, doing a coastal walk, getting the bus to Bondi beach and spending the day playing in the surf… do as the Sydneysiders do, I say!
With that in mind, I wanted to share a few tips on what to do in Sydney when you’re short on cash and short on time. I hope you find this useful if you’re visiting, and please do share any more tips if you have them, in the comments for other readers.
Where to Stay
We stayed at Base Backpackers which couldn’t have been better located or more reasonably priced. Right next to the Town Hall, this is one of the bigger hostels I’ve stayed in, but get a private room and it’s just like staying in a budget hotel. It’s really clean, you get an en-suite bathroom, and it’s really no different to staying in a Premier Inn type hotel. They do free meals (like pasta night) a couple of times a week, you get free wifi, and they always have lots of free activities going on. Sydney is extraordinarily expensive, so saving money by staying in a hostel is going to give you more to spend enjoying the city.
Getting Around Sydney
The transport in Sydney is really easy to use. Getting an Opal card (Sydney’s version of an Oyster card) is a good idea, or you can use your contactless card and pay a dollar for each journey. Pick up your Opal card from any supermarket, or 7eleven store.
Cheap Eats In Sydney
We used this article to find some cheap eats in Sydney for lunch. But for dinner, as we were on a tight budget, we made use of the hostel’s kitchen facilities and cooked chickpea and spinach curry for one evening meal, and filled tortillas with black beans, salsa, lettuce and avo for another.
Top tip for anyone on a budget – you can get a decent coffee from 7eleven for $1.
Free Things To Do In Sydney
Bondi – You can’t go to Sydney and not go to Bondi, it’s illegal. The stunning Bondi Iceberg Pools are well documented on Instagram and with good reason (they’re so pretty!). The beach is fun of course, but I really enjoyed wandering around the streets just a few roads back from the beach, wandering in and out of the lovely boutiques, stopping for coffee and green juice. I had some excellent fish and chips and ate them beachside 🙂
Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk – walking around the Iceberg pools, up and around the cove to another couple of beaches is a lovely way to get a feel for the place, get the blood pumping and do plenty of people watching/eavesdropping. Watching the surfers sure is fun too 😉
Museum of Contemporary Art – located at The Rocks, and well-worth a meander around for an hour or two.
Royal Botanical Gardens – even if you’re unlucky and have a poor weather day in Sydney (like I did), the Royal Botanical Gardens are still beautiful to wander around. In the sunshine I’m sure it must be glorious.
Sydney Opera House – enjoy a stroll around this beautiful building at sunset, take lots of pictures for the family Watsapp group and marvel at the architecture.
The Rocks – stretch your legs browsing this quaint little area and walk around Sydney’s harbour.
Manly to Spit Bridge Walk (in reverse) – Get the bus to Spit Bridge, walk the coastal track and take in the incredible views. Get the ferry back into Sydney harbour.
Do you have any other tips for how to enjoy Sydney on a budget?
Please do share them in the comments below.