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An Insider Guide to Mastering Sydney’s Public Transport

Sydney is a big, sprawling city – great for exploring but slightly daunting to navigate if you’re from out of town. Luckily it’s well serviced by public transport and with a little bit of guidance you’ll be making your way from A to B with ease.  

Airport Connections

Sydney Airport sits 8km south of the CBD, a distance which is covered in just 13 minutes on the city’s well-connected rail service. Trains leave around every 10 minutes from both the international and domestic terminals and tickets are available at the station, setting you back just under $18 per adult and $15 per child. The train takes a loop through all the main stations in the city, including Central, Town Hall, Wynyard and Circular Quay. If you’re travelling as part of a larger group, an airport shuttle or taxi might prove the cheaper option, with shuttle prices starting at $15 per person and an average taxi to the city costing around $50. Remember that taxis charge by time and distance here in Sydney so if you arrive during peak hour the cost will be a lot more.

Opal Cards

If you’re planning on making your way around the city using public transport you should purchase one of these. Similar to London’s Oyster Cards, these are tap on, tap off cards you can recharge with funds as needed. They work on all Sydney’s modes of public transport – trains, buses, ferries and trams. As well as simply being easier than buying an individual ticket every time you ride, fares on Opal are slightly cheaper and you can ride on any express or pre-paid only service. Cards can be bought and topped up at most train stations, newsagencies and convenience stores. For a full list of retailers, click here.  

Main Transport Hubs

Central Station is Sydney’s biggest transport hub, offering trains, trams and buses in every direction. It’s a big place and can be confusing to navigate so don’t be shy in asking one of the staff for assistance. Trains to the airport always depart from Platform 23, trains to the eastern suburbs leave from Platform 24 and trains to North Sydney and beyond depart from Platform 16. Town Hall, Wynyard and Martin Place are other major train stations in the city and all become very busy at peak hour. For buses, there’s a major hub servicing north shore routes (North Sydney, Mosman, Manly) on Carrington Street above Wynyard Station and a number of major stops along Elizabeth Street for buses heading south and east. If you need help working out which bus to catch, there are a number of apps which will help you plan your journey and provide real-time information on upcoming services. If you’re only in town for a few days, Trip View Lite is the best free option.

Sydney Ferries

If you’re staying in the city, Sydney’s ferries are the most pleasant way to journey around and across Sydney Harbour. All services can be accessed from Circular Quay and will take you across the harbour to Manly (note that the 20 minute fast ferry is privately owned and operated so you won’t be able to use your Opal Card – take the 30 minute Sydney Ferry instead), out east to Rose Bay and Watson’s Bay, and to famous Cockatoo Island, which sits in the middle of the harbour.

Bondi Beach

Sydney’s most famous beach is usually on the list of places to visit when you’re in town. If you’re staying in the city, the easiest way to reach the sand is by jumping on the 333 bus which picks up passengers from Circular Quay and at key stops along Elizabeth Street. The service is pre-pay only (make sure you have your Opal) and express, meaning the whole route takes an easy 35 minutes.  

Off-peak Travel

Sydney’s public transport is at its most convenient outside of peak hours. You’re much more likely to get a seat, fares are cheaper and everything seems easier to navigate when you’re not surrounded by hordes of harried people making their way to or from work. Peak hours are between 7-9am and 4-6:30pm on weekdays so, where possible, plan your movements outside these hours.

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