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Sydney Travel Tips: 9 tips first time Sydney travellers must know

Opal card makes travelling around easier

Sydney’s Opal card is a public transport payment card that you simply hover over sensors to pay. Hop on and off with ease without needing to deal with change and calculating fares before you board.

When some trains come every 30 minutes, you really don’t want to miss it by a few minutes because you were fiddling with change at the ticket machine.

You can get an Opal card at most convenient stores. The Opal card is free to use, but the minimum top-up fee is $10 at a time. You can use the Opal card on trains, buses, ferries and on the light rail.

Things close a lot earlier than what you’re use to

Shops close a lot earlier in Australia. Don’t be surprised if shopping malls close at 7:30 pm and even restaurants close at 9:30pm.

I honestly don’t know why that is, but it was a shock to the system for me on my first visit. Pubs and bars also close surprisingly early at midnight or 3am in certain areas in Sydney. So if you want to get some shopping done, then you better do it early.

The operation hours of most things in Australia reminds me of the UK back in the early 00’s. Yup, almost nothing is open at night.

You need sunscreen no matter what time of the year it is

It might be obvious to bring the sunscreen with you if you visit in summer, but don’t forget to bring it for all other times as well. The UV rays are just as harsh, even if the temperature doesn’t feel like it.

The sun is super harsh here. I think many people who haven’t been to Australia don’t realise the UV rays that hit earth are not created equally.

Bring it, buy it and most definitely use it!

Take the ferry

Sydney has a few ferries that go to either attractions and neighbourhoods. It’s not a tourist gimmick and it provides a brilliant way to see the harbour for a very low price.

My advice is to take the ferries a few time at different times of the day to really appreciate the beauty of the harbour, the opera house and the Sydney bridge.

If you were planning on taking the cruise around the harbour. Don’t. Just take the ferry with your Opal card and you get the same views. You might not get the meal with your ticket, but the amount you save can buy you a better meal in the city.

Visit the art galleries, they’re free

Sydney is a hub of culture, which is surprising, considering it’s such a new country. But the city is home to a lot of art, and some of the art galleries are free to enter. So why not go and soak up some culture!?

I know many other cities don’t have free entry or limited free entry, but Sydney has permanent free entry at the Museum of contemporary Art and the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Get a pre-paid data card (avoid Optus)

The free wi-fi in the main city hotspots aren’t too bad, but Sydney is a lot more than just the urban areas. That’s why you need a pre-paid data card if you visit. Don’t think you can rely on free wifi when you’re out because once you leave the heart of the city, wifi hotspots are far and nowhere in between.

Head into Coles, or Woolworths and you’ll find a rack of gift cards and SIM cards near the tills. Avoid getting a SIM with Optus, because I have had 3 bad experience with them where credit just went poof. gone.


The public transport exists, it’s just not fast or frequent

The public transport network is pretty good. It covers most areas you will want to go, but the frequency of the service leaves a lot to be desired.

My advice is to give yourself a lot of time to get from A to B, because it can take a surprisingly long time to just move around the city area.

You can download the app TripeView Lite to know exactly when your transport is coming and it also provide status updates in real time so you always know when a delay is happening.

The slang is going to not make sense for the first 5 minutes

Aussie slang is not going to make much sense to you the first time you hear it, and if people mistake you for a local then you’re going to hear quite a lot of it.

But don’t worry, 90% of Aussie slang is just abbreviating and shortening words to make them end in ‘o’ or ‘a’.

McDonalds = Maccas

Afternoon = Arvo

Ambulance = Ambo

You get the idea.

Bondi Beach is not the only beach in Sydney

Yes, I know. Bondi beach is world famous and you might have also watched Bondi Beach Rescue once or twice before, BUT it’s super crowded.

And in all honesty, I think it’s a little overrated. It’s one of those spots that you should go just to tell people you’ve been, but it’s definitely not the best beach to actually relax, swim, surf and do beach stuff on.

So once you take a few holiday snaps at Bondi, head over to any of the other beaches instead.

Other resources you should check out

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