Sydney  is known as the Harbour City. It is the largest, oldest and most cosmopolitan city in Australia with an enviable reputation as one of the world's most beautiful and liveable cities. Brimming with history, nature, culture, art, fashion, cuisine, design, it is set next to miles of ocean coastline and sandy surf beaches. The city is also home to the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge, two of the most iconic structures on the planet.
Sydney has a compact city centre surrounded by sprawling suburbs, all coming together to form a vast and diverse metropolitan area.
Sydney is a vast sprawling city, and the suburbs in the city metropolitan area spread for up to 100km from the city centre. The traveller visiting the suburbs will find less crowded beaches, parks, cheaper shopping, commercial centres, cultural festivals, and hidden gems.
Sydney is a major global city and one of the most important cities for finance in the Asia-Pacific. Sydney hosted the Olympic Games of 2000, and continues to attract and host large international events. The city is surrounded by nature and national parks, which extend through the suburbs and right to the shores of the harbour.
Sydney is the oldest European settlement in Australia, having been founded as a British penal colony on 26 January 1788 (now celebrated as Australia Day, the national public holiday, with major festivities around the city and the Harbour). The settlement, commanded by Governor Arthur Phillip, was named "Sydney" after Thomas Townshend, 1st Viscount Sydney, who was the British Home Secretary at that time.
Sydney is one of the most cosmopolitan cities on the planet, with one third of its population born overseas. European settlement rapidly displaced the Aboriginal people of the Sydney area with the first colonists largely coming from England, Ireland and Scotland. The Australian goldrush in the mid 19th Century attracted many more immigrants, including a significant number of Chinese. In the early 20th century, Sydney continued to attract immigrants - mostly from the U.K. and Ireland, with the White Australia Policy preventing non-European peoples (and even Southern Europeans) from settling. Australia's immigration patterns, and consequently, that of Sydney, changed significantly after WWII, when migrants began to arrive from countries as diverse as Italy, Greece, Germany, Holland, New Zealand, Poland, Lebanon, Iraq, South Africa and the Pacific Islands. In recent decades there has been a huge surge in Asian immigration, especially from China, India, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and the Phillippines. Sydney's culture, food and general outlook reflect these varied contributions to the majority Anglo-Celtic institutions and social establishment.
Sydney is recognised worldwide for its vibrant gay community. Every year, the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is celebrated on the first weekend in March, drawing people from all over Australia and the world for the celebrations.
Sydney became the centre of the world's attention in September 2000 when the city hosted the Summer Olympics - officially announced by the IOC Chairman at the closing Ceremony to be the "the best games ever"! The Olympics saw a major building and renovation program take hold of Sydney, positioning it as one of the great world cities of the 21st century.
Sydney is comfortable for travellers to visit any time of year. The city enjoys over 300 sunny days each year.
Sydney's Western Suburbs, which lie away from the coast, tend to be hotter during the day and a little cooler during the night. They miss the afternoon sea breezes and the night-time warming effect of the ocean.
Sydney has air conditioning in all public buildings, and on some public transport. It is common to catch a bus or train without air conditioning on hot days. Carry water during summer and remember sun protection year round.
Sydney Climate and Weather information is available online at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology .
Sydney’s skyline is large and widely recognisable. Sydney also possesses a wide array of diversity of modern and old architectural style. They range from the simple Francis Greenway's Georgian buildings to Jorn Utzon’s Expressionist Sydney Opera House. Sydney also has a large amount of Victorian buildings, such as the Sydney Town Hall and the Queen Victoria Building. The most architecturally significant would be the Sydney Opera House, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, among many others. Skyscrapers in Sydney are also large and modern. Sydney Tower just rising above the rest of the Sydney skyline.
There are also pockets of architecturally significant housing dotted around Sydney's suburbs. The inner-eastern suburb of Paddington is known for its terrace houses, while several inner-west suburbs contain streets lined with so-called federation houses (built around the time of Australian federation in 1901). Probably the best preserved example of federation houses in Sydney is in the Inner West suburb of Burwood. Appian Way is a circular street built around a lawn tennis courts complete with pavilion house. The large houses are all architecturally unique and built on large expanses of land featuring old trees and lovely gardens. Further away on the lower North Shore, Castlecrag is a unique suburb, being planned by the architect Walter Burley Griffin in the 1930s.
Sydney Kingsford Smith International Airport (IATA: SYD)  is Australia's busiest airport and the main gateway to Australia. It is located 6 km from the City centre in Southern Sydney on the northern shores of Botany Bay. Sydney Airport is the oldest continually operated commercial airport anywhere in the world.
Over 35 airlines fly in and out of Sydney Airport with daily flights linking Sydney to key destinations on every continent. The Asian-Pacific transport hubs of Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok, Tokyo and Seoul have several daily flights, as do the European centres of London, Paris and Frankfurt (with stopovers in Asia). There are also non-stop flights to Dubai in the Middle East. North America is connected via Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas-Fort Worth and Vancouver. Travellers from South America can fly direct from Buenos Aires or Santiago (stopover in Auckland).
You can fly to Sydney directly from all other Australian capital cities and from many major regional airports. Otherwise, you need to fly to the state capital and transfer to a Sydney flight. Sydney can be reached within an hour and a half from Melbourne and Brisbane, 45 minutes from Canberra and just under four hours from Perth and Alice Springs
Airlines and terminals
Check which terminal you are going to.
International terminal (T1) handles all international flights and some domestic flights. Check your itinerary and flight number because check-in, connections and customs will take longer when arriving or departing from the International Terminal, even on a domestic flight. You do not need a passport when travelling domestically, just hang on to your boarding pass.
Domestic terminal 2 (T2) is the largest domestic terminal. Airlines using this terminal include Qantaslink (Qantas flights numbered 1600 and above), Aeropelican, Regional Express (Rex), Jetstar, Tiger and Virgin Australia.
Domestic terminal 3 (T3) handles Qantas domestic flights numbered from 400 to 1599, which are mostly services to larger cities and towns.
T1 (International terminal) has food and shopping both before and after immigration and security. There is an open air beer garden and bistro by check-in Bay A on the departure level. There are cafes on both departure and arrival levels. Good coffee and food can had for a reasonable price, but it is easy to buy poor overpriced coffee and food too. Departures has cheaper prices than downstairs at arrivals. There is a better and cheaper choice of food before going through security, at the large central food hall in departures. Avoid currency exchange offices (see the Currency exchange section). Two free showers for both males and females are available by check-in bay A on the departures level. There is also an open air observation deck, with the entrance next to check-in bay B on the departures level, through the bistro and up the elevator. A post office is in the check-in area, but it is only open during business hours. Post boxes are available after customs. There is a large duty free shop selling alcohol, cigarettes, perfume and electronics available when departing and arriving. There are some free Internet terminals in departures, even a few before security. There are paid Internet terminals there too and downstairs in arrivals. Trolleys cost money landside of security. Pick one up airside where they are free, or out in the carpark where they have been left by previous users.
T2 has a large food and shopping area, with a large selection of food outlets located to the right after you go through security. There are also gift shops, bookshops and some clothing stores. There are nice views over the tarmac from the eating area. There are ATMs before and after security. Everyone is able to go through security, whether travelling or not.
T3 (Qantas domestic) has a food hall with a variety of food and coffee. Nice Thai is available for around $15 or Hungry Jacks for normal prices. The food hall is airside of security, but you do not need to be a passenger to pass through. Most food and drink places and the security checkpoint close 30 minutes or so before the last departure. Don't expect to be able to get anything at all if you are arriving on a late flight. Don't expect people to be able to get to the gate to meet you on a late arrival as they will have to wait at baggage claim if you arrive after the last departure. There are Wi-Fi and Internet terminals available for $5 per hour.
Due to curfew laws, no planes arrive or depart between 11PM and 5:30AM. The domestic terminals (T2 and T3) close after the last flight has cleared (around 11PM) and reopen at 4AM - you cannot remain in the terminal. T1 (international) also closes around 11PM and reopens at 4AM - but there is small transit area with basic facilities that you can remain in if you are already in the terminal (landside). This is located on level 1 near the entrance to the train station. There are limited seats and it fills up quickly when security starts herding people out of the terminal. The last train service departs at 11:45PM.
Transfer between terminals
Transfer between domestic terminals T2 and T3 must be done on foot. Follow the signs either via the railway station underground, or across the car park.
Transfer between T1 and T2/T3 is 4 km by road, as the terminals are on opposite sides of the airport tarmac. You will have to use one of the following methods to transfer:
Between the airport and the city
Sydney Airport is 9 km from the city centre and reaching the city centre or other suburbs is easy, whether it be by suburban rail, bus or car. If you're going to the city centre the following methods are your best bet:
It is possible (but not recommended) to drive to Sydney from Brisbane or Melbourne in a full day, around 10 hours non-stop to Melbourne or 11.5 hours to Brisbane. A comfortable drive would allow two days from Melbourne or Brisbane, and three to Adelaide. The Melbourne drive is mostly dual carriageway high quality road. The same can't be said for the Brisbane drive, which while it has high quality sections, it also has some very narrow winding sections, carries high traffic volumes, and has many stoppages from roadworks.
If you are renting a car, check the daily distance allowances and any one-way charge that may apply when driving from less popular destinations to major cities. Cars may be rented at the airport and elsewhere from major rental companies, or at smaller, less conveniently located, cheaper companies.
Ride-sharing can be arranged with other travelers. You can find a wide range of carpool offers on the Internet or in hostel noticeboards, etc. Usual warnings apply.
There are tolls applicable to most motorways coming into Sydney, and not all routes accept cash. See "Tolls" section below.
Coach companies operate to Sydney from all capital cities, and many New South Wales regional centres. The Sydney coach terminal is located adjacent to Sydney Central train station in the City South. Follow the signs.
Coach travel to Sydney is usually quicker, cheaper and more frequent than train travel. Online and advance booking specials are usually available.
The New South Wales long distance train service CountryLink, (13 22 32 within Australia)  runs at least daily services to Sydney from Brisbane, Melbourne, Canberra and many regions of New South Wales including the Mid-North Coast, New England, the Central West and the Southern Highlands. It also services Broken Hill weekly. Travelling time from Melbourne and Brisbane is around 12 hours. Fares range between $30 and $100 for standard class seats, and reservations tickets can be purchased online, by phone, or at the station. The long distance trains between Melbourne and Sydney, and Brisbane and Sydney can be a less stressful alternative to driving, but they do not average particularly high speeds and take longer than flying. It is often possible to get a discount airfare around the same price or cheaper than the adult train fare.
The Indian Pacific  (13 21 47 within Australia or +61 8 8213 4592 internationally) train service runs from Perth to Sydney via Adelaide and Broken Hill. Adult fares from Perth are $1250 for a sleeper cabin and $513 for a seat. Children's fares are $805 for a sleeper cabin and $139 for a seat. The train departs from Perth on Wednesdays and arrives at Sydney on Saturdays. These fares are much higher than return plane fares to Perth, this journey is really for train journey enthusiasts who want to see the interior of Australia. It also gives you the ability to take your car on the train for an additional fee.
All long distance (Countrylink and Great Southern Railway) trains to Sydney terminate at platforms 1-3 of Sydney's Central Station in the south of the CBD area. Travellers can transfer to Cityrail trains, the light rail service to Darling Harbour, city buses, as well as taxis. It is also easy to transfer to other long distance trains and coaches. There is short term metered parking so you can meet the trains on the platform. There are ATM's, a small choice of food outlets, cafes open until late, and a railway heritage society display and bookshop in the terminal.
The Cityrail network runs services several times a day from close regional cities: Newcastle via the Central Coast (New South Wales), Goulburn via the Southern Highlands, Nowra via the South Coast and Lithgow via the Blue Mountains.
Cruise ships generally dock at the International Passenger Terminal at Circular Quay or at Barangaroo Wharf 5 at Darling Harbour.
Circular Quay is a spectacular place to dock, right by the Harbour Bridge, and you can walk off the ship into the centre of the The Rocks.
Darling Harbour passenger terminal at Barangaroo seems a little more remote when you disembark, but it is still easy walking distance to the main attractions, Wynyard Station, and Darling Harbour itself. The terminal is immediately adjacent (north) of the King St Wharf precinct, at Darling Harbour, but immigration makes sure you exit away from the water where you can't see it. Just turn right and follow the road, it is only a short walk. It is less than 15 minutes walk to the city centre and The Rocks. It is a 5 minute walk to Wynyard station.
White Bay in the Inner West is being developed as a new wharf for passenger arrivals, to replace Darling Harbour as Barangaroo is re-developed. Currently it is only used if their are already two passenger ships in the harbour. White Bay is not easy walking distance to anywhere. You could potentially walk up to Victoria Road and get a bus to the city, or you could walk over the Anzac Bridge into Darling Harbour. Expect the walk to take about an hour. Probably best to rely on the shuttle buses supplied arranged by the cruise company unless you are keen to save a few dollars.
Recently some cruises have been anchored off Taronga Zoo and the passengers tendered to shore (a sight not seen in Sydney for many years previously). If this happens to your tender will drop you at Circular Quay passenger terminal to complete immigration, etc.
By public transport
The public transport system consists of commuter rail, bus, ferry and light rail, together with a tourist oriented monorail. Combined, they can get you virtually anywhere in the metropolitan area.
Transport Infoline, ☎ 13 15 00, . 24 hours. Information on fares and route planning for all public transport in Sydney. Available online and by telephone
TripGo, . is a free iPhone, iPad & Android App that provides direction for all transport modes around Sydney, Newcastle, Blue Mountains & Woollongong. It shows cost, time and carbon output for each trip.
TransitShops, Circular Quay (cnr of Loftus & Alfred Sts), Wynyard under Wynyard Park, QVB west. Information on fares and route planning for all public transport in Sydney, all ticket sales, accepts credit cards
Public transport in Sydney is poorly integrated, so you may find that you need to purchase individual tickets to access each mode of transport unless you have a MyMulti ticket which is explained below.
If you are going to be using public transport to get around during your stay in Sydney, consider purchasing a multi-modal ticket that are valid on buses, trains, Sydney Ferries and the light rail, but not the monorail, private ferries, or special event buses. Multi-modal tickets are available in one-day or weekly varieties:
If you purchase the ticket after 3PM, you get the remainder of that day and the next 7 days. MyMulti Tickets can be purchased from 7-Eleven, some newsagents, railway stations and ferry ticket booths - but not on buses or the light rail. Family Funday Sunday Tickets can't be purchased at 7-Eleven and newsagents, but can be purchased on buses, trains and ferries.
The MyMulti-1 ticket is popular with visitors to Sydney. It allows travel to the Zoo, Manly, Bondi Beach, Watsons Bay, Darling Harbour, etc, by ferry, bus, train, and light rail for up to a week without worrying about change, ticket prices, queues or pre-pay only services.
Using the airport stations incurs a surcharge of $12. If you have a Multi ticket and arrive at the airport stations you will have to pay this to exit. If you buy a Multi ticket at an airport station this fee will be added to the price of the ticket.
Children aged 15 years and under are entitled to a discount on most public transport - the monorail being the singular exception. Matilda ferries child age is 14 years and under.
Children 3 years and under travel free (5 years and under on monorail and light rail, and 4 years and under on Matilda ferries).
On Sydney Ferries, buses, and trains, you pay for only the first child when accompanied by a parent or grandparent, the other children in the same family allowed for free. No family identification is required so anything that resembles a family unit will be able to get away with only having to pay for the first child. This is not available on light rail, Matilda and Manly Fast Ferries or the monorail.
Student and other concessions are only available to those issued with a NSW transport student identification card. This card is only issued to students enrolled and resident in NSW or the ACT. Student fares are not available on the light rail, monorail, Matilda or Manly Fast Ferries.
Seniors fares are available to anyone with an Australian Seniors Card. Accordingly, overseas visitors are not entitled to student or senior concessions.
Sydney has a vast suburban rail network operated by CityRail , covering 882 km of track and 176 stations. The train network will take passengers to most of the metropolitan area, with the exception of the north-west and northern beaches. Trains service every station in the metropolitan area at least every 30 minutes (except for the Carlingford line) Frequency is higher in the city, and major centres (Chatswood, Parramatta, Bondi Junction, etc) usually see a train every 10 minutes or so. Peak times (7AM-9:30AM and 4:30PM-7PM) have more frequent and also crowded trains, as well as some express services that skip more stations. Expect congestion around Central and Town Hall.
There are different styles and ages of trains running on the network. You may get a clean modern train, air-conditioned with comfortable seating and clear station announcements. Alternatively, you could get a train like a sauna packed in like sardines in the summer afternoon peak, with station announcements that are barely audible, if at all. Prepare yourself with a network map and a bottle of cold water, just in case.
Most train services do not stop at every station and do not travel to the furthest extent of the line. Look at the departure screens at the station concourse which indicate when the next train will arrive, it's destination, the platform it will depart from, and the stations it will stop at. Alternatively, you can also listen to announcements that will regularly play before and when a train arrives at the platform. Or if you have mobile Internet services use the Transport Info trip planner.
Outside of operating hours, between midnight (1AM on Fridays and Saturdays) and 5AM, NightRide buses run at least every hour. Any CityRail train ticket is valid for the equivalent NightRide bus except a single. If you have no ticket, you must buy a NightRide single from the driver, which is more expensive than a single for the train. NightRide buses stop at most CityRail stations and a few additional stops, but they do not travel on the same routes. If you intend catching a NightRide bus home, check the NightRide route map on the back cover of each timetable, or with the Transport Infoline. Buses can be crowded on Friday and Saturday nights.
Exercise caution whilst travelling on trains after 8pm, particularly if the carriage is mostly deserted and if travelling to greater western Sydney, as it is not uncommon for undesirables to be found on trains during these times. 99% of the time they will not cause you any more trouble other than being loud, vulgar and obnoxious, but it is best to avoid them as unwanted altercations may follow. Moving to other carriages would be a good idea. Otherwise, travel in the middle carriage with the train guard (marked with a blue light). The guard has contact with police and the driver if there is any trouble on the train.
On weekends, check for trackwork before leaving for the station; CityRail will transfer passengers to buses if lines are closed for trackwork, and the process will add at least half an hour to a typical journey. Trackwork is common on weekends and will be advertised at the station and the CityRail website for about a week before it begins. You need the same CityRail ticket for the trackwork buses as you would for the train.
If you don't have a Multi ticket, you will need to purchase a ticket a ticket for the entire journey at your origin before boarding a train. Allow a few extra minutes during peak times as ticket machines and offices are often busy, especially on Monday mornings. Simply tell the person at the ticket office your destination station, or press the correct station button on the ticket machine. The City is considered a single destination for the City Circle, Martin Place and Kings Cross Stations. Tickets are available as single, return or weekly. Fares are distance based, between $3.20 and $6.00 for a single within Sydney. Return tickets are 30% cheaper after 9am in the morning and on weekends.
Ticket offices have limited opening hours at suburban stations and outside of these hours you will need to use a ticket machine. The ticket machines accept up to $50 notes but will give only $19.90 in change (in coins) and accept only 10 coins and 6 notes. A number of ticket machines also accept Visa or Mastercard at most stations, but only if you have a PIN. Ticket offices also accept Visa or Mastercard, and allow you to have a PIN or sign. Ticket inspectors fine you $200 if you are caught on a train or platform without a ticket.
Sydney has an extensive bus network, including a some free shuttle loop buses in the Sydney CBD and Parramatta and other centres. Some buses run from distant suburbs such as those on the Northern Beaches and North West all the way to the city, but there are also shorter feeders to suburban rail stations from surrounding suburbs.
It is a good idea to plan your bus trips in advance where possible. The Sydney Buses website has a helpful trip planner feature to assist you, as well as route maps and schedules to print.
Most bus stops have timetables posted, as well as a route map for the routes servicing that bus stop.
You must flag down buses with an outstretched hand if you want them to stop for you and you must press the STOP button on board to disembark. They will not automatically stop unless they are signalled to do so.
On most buses there is nothing on the bus to tell you which stop you are approaching or which stop you are at. There are no poster maps on the bus either. If you are not sure where you are getting off, pick up or print out the timetable (found on the Sydney Buses website), which has a route map on it and watch for landmarks as you pass. Also, if you take a bus marked "Limited Stops" or "Express" (the route number will start with an L or an X), make sure that the bus stops where you want it to. Limited stops services stop only at major stops so they may make you walk around 750 metres or so if they skip your stop. However, express services can run very far from the city without stopping at all, before resuming a normal stopping pattern (express buses only operate during peak hours). All normally numbered buses stop at all stops, so missing your stop or getting off one stop early is a less serious mistake. Red Metrobuses (routes numbers starting with M) are longer route, cross city buses, running at 10-20 minute frequencies during their operational hours. These buses also have a screen displaying the next stop and onboard announcements as well. Metrobus stops usually have a name on top of the stand which easily indicates a Metrobus services the particular stop.
There are two main bus termination points in the CBD, at Wynyard and Circular Quay. These two points are separated by a one-stop commuter train trip. You will need to make this trip if connecting from buses arriving from north of the harbour bridge to buses heading east or west, or vice versa. Bus information centres are located at both Wynyard and Circular Quay.
If you don't have a Multi ticket, you can buy a single tickets or a ten trip ticket (commonly known as a "Travel Ten").
You must buy your ticket before boarding the bus if you are in the City area, Bondi Junction, Parramatta Rd, Norton Street, Anzac Parade, Military Road or on most of the limited stop services or M10,M20,M30,M40, and M50 Metrobus routes that run through the city to help buses run on time. Otherwise, you have the option to buy your ticket in advance or you can pay cash to the driver. Single and ten-trip tickets can only be bought in advance, and can't be bought on buses. You can buy as many tickets in advance as you like, and validate them as you board the bus (either dip them in the green machine on entry, or if there is no machine the driver will mark them on the front). Ten trip tickets can be used for multiple passengers in a group, simply dip the ticket once for each person in the group. Tickets can be bought in advance from 7-Eleven, some newsagents/convenience stores, train stations (ten-trip tickets only) and transit shops. Look for the yellow or purple flags outside the shop.
There are three distance based fare bands, MyBus1, MyBus2 and MyBus3, which have no relation at all to the three MyMulti zones with the same numbers. If buying a ticket for cash from the driver just state your destination. If you are buying a ticket in advance, you need to know which fare band you need. You can call the transport infoline, ask at a transit shop, check the route maps online  or on the timetable for your route, or guess. Trips under 3km are usually MyBus1, 3-6km MyBus2, and any further is a MyBus3. All trips within the Sydney CBD are a MyBus1.
Children 15 and under are half-price, and you only pay for the first child in any family group.
Drivers in non-prepay buses in may be able to give change for a $20 note, but it is best to use only coins and lower-denomination notes.
Some inner-city buses and metrobuses are GPS equipped, and you can SMS the stop number on the bus stop to 0488 898 287 (0488 TXT BUS) and, if you are lucky, you should receive a reply telling you when the next bus will arrive.
A few trunk routes run to the Eastern Suburbs and to Newtown 24 hours a day. Additional services operate late Friday and Saturday night to the Northern Beaches and to the North West.
By Sydney Ferries
At Circular Quay and Darling Harbour, each wharf has a large screen showing ferry departures and general information. Find your destination on the screen which shows when your ferry service is departing and from which wharf.
More than just a utilitarian means of transport, the ferries are a great way to see the harbourside. The best ferry excursion for visitors is from Circular Quay to Manly. Be prepared to take a stunning photograph of the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge as you leave Circular Quay.
At peak periods the Parramatta River ferries can fill to capacity, and you should ensure that you have an alternative for completing your trip. Passenger counts are strictly enforced. Peak periods are weekends around 4PM-6PM at Parramatta and Circular Quay, and school holiday weekdays 4PM-6PM at Darling Harbour (heading to Parramatta) (you are okay if you board at Circular Quay, where the ferry originates). The Manly and inner-harbour ferries can get busy, but it is very rare that they reach capacity.
If you don't have a Multi ticket, you can buy single trip tickets or ten trip tickets. There are two fare bands, MyFerry1 ($5.60/$2.80) and MyFerry2 ($7/$3.50) for trips under 10km and trips over 10km respectively. You can buy single and ten trip ferry tickets from ferry ticket machines, ferry ticket offices, and onboard the ferry. MyFerry1 will get you anywhere to the east of the Harbour Bridge except Manly, which is a MyFerry2. Ten trip tickets offer a 20% discount over single tickets. Most ferry wharves do not have a ticket machine (particularly the Inner Harbour and Eastern Suburbs wharves). Instead, you must purchase your ferry ticket onboard or on arrival at Circular Quay or Darling Harbour (located before the ticket barriers).
By Matilda and Manly Fast Ferries
Matilda and Manly Fast Ferries run a competing services against the government owned Sydney Ferries. Manly Fast Ferries runs a service between Circular Quay and Manly. Matilda Ferries runs a Darling Harbour to Circular Quay, and services around the Harbour and to Harbour Islands.
Multi tickets are not valid on these services, and they issue their own tickets.
By light rail
There's a single 7 km light rail line in Sydney  which is useful for travelling between Sydney City and western Darling Harbour, the casino, and Pyrmont, and runs from Central to Lilyfield, and an extension to Lewisham and Dulwich Hill suburban rail stations is planned.
If you don't have a Multi, tickets are distance based in two zones. You buy your ticket on the tram, there are no machines or ticket offices. If you are connecting from a Cityrail train you can buy a combined ticket directly to a tram stop. However, this is no cheaper than buying your ticket on the tram.
You can buy a day ($9) or weekly ($22) travelcard just for the light rail. The light rail is convenient for western Darling Harbour and its sights, but you will most likely use it a lot less than other forms of transport.
Some suburban train stations are easy access, with lifts to all platforms and ramps operated by station staff to allow wheelchair access to trains. Some buses have disabled access. All light rail stations have lifts and level access to the car. Station facilities and bus times are available from the transport infoline, online or by phone.
Travel times and routes
Sydney traffic is always busy, but outside of peak weekday times travelling by car is usually at least as quick as any method of public transport. Congestion can be expected on roads to the city 6:30AM-9:30AM, and roads away from the city 4:30PM-6:30PM. Allow double the normal travel time during these periods - longer if you are using motorways. Congestion is considerably worse and longer in both directions during the Friday afternoon peak. Some roads experience congestion at other times and roads heading to shopping, sports, parks and beaches can be heavily congested on weekends also - particularly on Saturday mornings and Saturday evenings. Roads around Bondi Beach and the other eastern suburbs beaches experience gridlock on summer weekends, with buses often caught in the same traffic as cars.
Roads are generally well signposted to the next major suburb or suburbs along the route. Only a handful of cross-city Metroads are signposted by number. The airport is signposted from many major routes with an aeroplane symbol.
Travel times from the city centre to the Sydney outskirts can take around 45 minutes in good traffic.
Some motorways, tunnels and bridges charge tolls.
The M5 (towards the South West and Canberra and the Eastern Distributor Motorway from the airport to the city have tolls of $3.80 and $5 respectively. You can pay in cash, and change is given at the tollbooths. There is no toll payable on the Eastern Distributor heading away from the city towards the airport.
The Harbour Bridge and Tunnel, Cross City Tunnel, Lane Cove Tunnel, M7 and the Falcon Street northbound motorway entrance only use electronic tolling and if you use these you need to decide how you will pay the toll. You can easily avoid the Lane Cove Tunnel, M7 or Falcon Street on-ramp, however, it is hard to avoid the harbour crossings if you are going to Manly, the Northern Beaches or the zoo by car.
Your choice is to have a pass or a tag.
A capital 'E' marked on the lane indicates it accepts a tag and a lower case 'e' indicates it accepts a pass.
Not paying a toll incurs a $10-$15 administration fee in additional to the toll. If you are in a rental car, the rental car company will charge an additional fee for this to your credit card.
Some rental car companies, for example Avis, supply an etag with each car, and a service fee for each day it is used. You have no option to buy your pass or tag. Others, for example Bayswater, give you an option to rent one from them for a fixed fee, and you have a choice to obtain your own pass as an alternative. Check with your rental company.
Parking your car in the City Centre in parking stations is always possible but very expensive. Expect to pay up to $70 per day or $25 per hour at some central parking lots and around $30 even with specials on weekdays. Prices generally reduce significantly on weekends however, and you may only pay $15 - $20 or so for a full day's parking. Reduced parking charges are also made for early bird parking, where you must enter and leave within prescribed times. For example you can park all day at the Opera House  for $16 provides you enter before 10AM and leave 3PM-7PM. There is no grace period, so you cannot get out even one minute before 3PM, and you will be charged the day parking rate of $42 if you are 10 seconds late. Most city parking lots offer reduced flat fees (around $15-$25) for evening and weekend parking.
Street parking in the CBD is generally only possible before 8AM and after 6:30PM. on weekdays and, even then, is almost invariably metered until 10PM at $2.20-3.30 per hour. On weekends, most parking spaces have a 4 hour limit, again metered at $1.10-2.20 per hour. All day street spots are sometimes available in the Domain/Mrs Macquarie's Chair and Hickson Road, but these spots are often taken up by commuters, and, since they are metered, an early bird deal may work out cheaper than the metered rate. Parking meters increasingly accept credit card payment, but have cash just in case. Similar prices are charged in North Sydney.
City hotels invariably charge for parking for the guests.
Parking in many major suburban centres and beaches can be a matter of spending time cruising and searching for parking spots. Usually parking within easy walking distance of these centres has a time limit restriction - often 2-3 hours. Shopping mall car parks usually have a similar restriction.
Some train stations have all day free commuter parking. At major stations, this can be full before 8AM. Smaller stations with less frequent train service tend to have better parking availability. On weekends it is easy to find a spot in the commuter parking lots. The stations with commuter parking are marked on the Cityrail maps.
Parking at some beaches, on summer weekends, can often be almost impossible. Some beaches are in suburban neighbourhoods, without large car parking facilities. Check the appropriate destination guides for more information.
Parking fines in Sydney are $88 if you exceed the allowed parking time or don't pay the fee in a legitimate parking space. Reloading the meter or moving your car within the same parking zone will not get you out of a fine. Parking in a no stopping zone will cost you more. If you park illegally and wait with your car, you may find you have the licence place photographed and fined before you have the chance to move on - don't expect a warning. If you park illegally in a disabled spot, the fine is $441. If you do get fined for exceeding time, you will not be fined again the same day so you might as well enjoy your parking spot.
Clearways are no-stopping zones on main roads during peak periods, marked with clearway signs and a broken yellow line on the kerb. Fines will be around $400 to reclaim your car after it is towed away. Clearways also offer parking opportunities if you want to park just after 10AM.
Sydney driving speeds
Speed limits can change frequently, even on the same main road. Speed limits drop for areas of pedestrian activity, schools, as well as driving conditions. Every road in Sydney has a signposted speed limit, and in every case you will need to read the signs, as you cannot tell the speed limit just by looking at the road. The speed limit is usually 50km/h on residential streets, 60km/h to 80km/h on main roads, and sometimes higher on freeways or freeway sections.
Some speed limits vary throughout the day. School speed zones (40 km/h) are enforced 8AM-9:30AM and 2:30PM-4PM on school days. Some have flashing lights, some just a sign. It is up to you to check the time and know if it is a school day or not. Some other roads have variable speed limits that drop during busy traffic times. Variable speed limits also drop for road maintenance. These areas are signposted, and you need to read and obey the signposted speed. Speed cameras monitor school zones, and enforce variable speed limits. For example, if there are roadworks in the Lane Cove Tunnel, the variable speed will drop, and the speed camera in the tunnel will enforce the lower speed. There are plenty of warning and reminder signs along the way.
Taxis are a convenient way to get around Sydney. They can also be the only transport option available to some locations late at night when the trains and regular buses stop.
It is usually easy enough to flag a taxi down at the kerb in the CBD, or catch one at taxi ranks located in most suburban centres. The availability of a taxi is indicated by an illuminated "taxi" sign positioned on top of the vehicle. If the light is on, it is available for hire; if the light is off, the cab is occupied. You can also book a taxi by calling one of the taxi companies or booking online.
Beware the 3PM change over and the Friday evening rush. It can be almost impossible to get a taxi 2:30PM-3:15PM. It is just as difficult 2:30AM-3:30AM, as almost all of the drivers change over their shifts at the same time. They are similarly scarce on a Friday and Saturday evenings. Booking in advance is no guarantee, as these jobs are simply offered electronically to drivers, who may or may not accept the job. It is easily possible to wait an hour or more for a taxi booked 24 hours in advance on a Friday and Saturday evening. Ringing the taxi company back and complaining will often help (if the operators can relate to your problem, they have the ability to offer a taxi driver an incentive to take your fare). Cancelling your job and ringing another taxi company in frustration never helps as the taxi companies have handover systems that have seen your job handed over if another company had more capacity. You will just end up at the back of the queue again. Evenings other than Friday and Saturday are usually fine.
During busy times, some unscrupulous drivers may try to leave the door locked and ask where you are going through the window and drive off if the destination is too close or not on their way home, even though this is illegal. If you can, get in before you tell them your destination - by law, they have to take you.
There are two meter rates: a day rate (rate 1) with a flag fall of $3.30, a distance rate of $1.99/km, a "waiting" rate of $0.85/min, and a booking fee of $2.50; and a night rate (rate 2 - applicable to journeys commenced between 10PM-6AM), which adds a 20% surcharge to the distance rate. You can check the rate your taxi is using by looking for a 1 or a 2 next to the current charge: if it is set to 2, it is using the night rate. The so called "waiting" rate is charged whenever the speed drops below 25km/h. For trips in congested traffic, it is possible for large amounts of the trip to be charged at the "waiting" rate. All Sydney taxis are metered and taxi drivers will charge the metered rate, adding the charges for tolls manually. Silver Service taxis are more luxurious vehicles, but they are charged at the same rate as standard taxis.
Taxis accept all major credit cards. They charge an extra 10% on top of the fare for this.
Passengers are required to pay all tolls for their trip. In addition, passengers who are taken north over the Harbour Bridge, for which there is no toll, are required to pay the driver's southbound toll for the return into the city (Time of day tolling applies, and the toll varies between $2.50 and $4). Drivers will usually take the toll roads unless you ask them not to. If you are unsure why they are asking for an amount above that shown on the meter, just ask.
Passengers have the right to control the air conditioning and the radio so ask the driver. Whilst most taxi drivers behave acceptably, there have been reported incidences of taxi drivers behaving inappropriately towards women: it is always safer to sit in the back of the car.
Tipping is not required or generally expected. However, rounding up a taxi fare to the next dollar (or five or ten dollars, depending on the base fare) is fairly common. On the other hand, if the driver rounds the fare down to the nearest dollar, accept with grace.
If you are a fit and experienced urban cyclist, used to riding on multi-lane roads in heavy traffic, then just get on your bike. Cyclists are permitted just about everywhere on Sydney's roads, except for of some freeway tunnels where bicycle signs will usually direct you to the alternative route. Kerbside lanes are often narrow, so ride assertively, be seen, and take the full lane when you know there is insufficient room to be passed. Bikes are permitted in bus lanes (like the city streets), but not bus only lanes (like the harbour bridge, and T-ways).
The city centre is not particularly cyclist friendly traffic-wise. It is not flat either - you can expect regular hills but no marathon uphill climbs. The weather is, however, usually good for cycling.
If you are looking for a quieter ride, a number of quiet on-road and shared pedestrian/cycle paths are available, but can be hard to find. A good place to start is at Sydney Olympic Park where you can get your cycle legs on the extensive off-road trails; then, if you want to, you can follow off-road/quiet road trails out to Parramatta or following the Cooks River to Botany Bay in Southern Sydney. The Harbour Bridge has a dedicated cycle lane, suitable for all ages, but as soon as you get off the bridge you are back onto urban streets in Milsons Point.
The Bourke St cycleway is a newly opened north-south route in the the City East and a cruisy place to cycle between Woolloomooloo, Darlinghurst and Surry Hills. Lots of shade and cafes to break the trip. Some other separated cycleways have opened in the City centre, but they are yet to form a cohesive network, and your trip may easily end up on a busy and unforgiving city road if you haven't planned well in advance.
Other cycleways are often just converted footpaths, so be on the lookout for bollards, street signs, roots and branches strategically placed across cycle paths - as well as pedestrians. If cycling at night ensure you have lights bright enough to light your path.
It is illegal to ride bicycles on footpaths unless cycling with children under 12. In reality this is fairly weakly enforced out in the suburbs, but it is common for people to be fined for cycling through pedestrian malls in the city like Pitt St Mall or Martin Place. Out in the suburbs you can often follow quiet streets, and hop onto the footpath for a short stretch if things get too hairy. Bicycle helmets are required by law, as are lights and reflectors at night.
Bicycles can be taken on all Cityrail trains, but a child fare should be paid if any part of the journey is made before 9AM or after 3:30PM on weekdays. In the city centre during the evening peak you will be lucky to fit your bike onto a train. Check trackwork schedules on weekends , when buses replace trains and make taking bicycles more challenging.
Bike hire is available in many locations in Sydney. Unfortunately, bike hire for two bikes for a day usually costs more than hiring a small car and petrol for the day (around $50 per bike). However, for shorter periods some places may be reasonably priced (for example Sydney Olympic Park) charges $15 per hour. Also, you have to consider the additional cost if the bikes are stolen or damaged. However, they are much easier to park, are greener and can be more fun. See the district articles for bike hire listings.
If you just want to have a ride, most bicycle user groups around Sydney organise weekend rides for various levels of fitness. There is usually no charge to join in.
Museums and galleries
Some of Sydney's museums are free to enter including the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the Museum of Contemporary Art. You may be charged to enter certain exhibitions. Sydney Museums generally do not have 'free days' that you can find in other parts of the world but some historic houses may be free on certain public holidays, though tend to attract large crowds.
Or see one of the smaller chic Art Galleries in East Sydney.
and just out of Sydney, the
In the wild
Sydney's large natural harbour was the reason that the original penal settlement was established in the area, near what is now known as Circular Quay. It is now well developed, with skyscrapers, highrises, and houses all around its shores, but it is still very beautiful.
The harbour is served by ferry services that transport passengers around the harbour. An excellent way to see both the harbour and Sydney attractions is to take a ferry east from Circular Quay to Taronga Zoo or Manly or west under the Harbour Bridge towards Parramatta. These are reasonably priced and a favourite for tourists. If time is short, for a shorter route, the ferry between Circular Quay and Darling Harbour will let you ride under the Harbour Bridge and see the central part of the harbour.
Catch a ferry from Circular Quay to Manly. Before returning to the Sydney CBD, walk from the Manly ferry wharf along the Manly Corso to famous Manly Beach. A great day, afternoon or evening out at a fraction of the price of a commercial harbour cruise.
You can take a cruise on Sydney Harbour. There are many cruises to choose from and they depart from Darling Harbour or Circular Quay. For a bigger adrenalin rush, try the jet boats that zip around the harbour  at breakneck speeds.
Sydney Harbour can be viewed from the city or from on of the many walks next to it, most of which are easily accessible by ferry or bus.
The world famous Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race begins every year on Boxing Day, on Sydney Harbour. Thousands of spectator craft take to the water to farewell the yachts as they set off on their grueling journey to Hobart. Seaworthy craft can follow the yachts through the Sydney Heads into the open ocean. You can also see the race from a harbour vantage point like Watsons Bay. where you can see them sail towards you across the harbour, and then cross to the gap to see them sail down the coast.
You can visit the Harbour Islands by ferry or water taxi.
Swing by the Royal Botanic Gardens  and the Art Gallery of New South Wales  on the edge of the gardens. While you're in the area visit Mrs Macquarie's Chair for a picture postcard view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House in one picture. You may have to compete with the numerous wedding couples on weekends.
Far from being confined to the inland areas, Aboriginal people extensively occupied the Sydney area prior to the arrival of European settlers.
Kayak and Canoe
Sydney's Waterways offer great canoeing and kayaking, and you can explore Sydney's bushland, history, and exclusive waterfront properties. There are lots of places to hire them from, or to even go on a guided tour.
The primary domestic tournaments, contested between Australian state teams, are the Sheffield Shield (first-class), Ford Ranger Cup (one-day) and KFC Big Bash (Twenty20): they are usually sparsely attended and so are much cheaper to attend than internationals. Some one-day and Twenty20 matches are played at ANZ Stadium at Olympic Park rather than at the SCG, but the cavernous stadium is far inferior to the grand old ground if you really want to get a feel for cricket culture. Australia's professional soccer tournament, the A-League, runs over the summer and struggles to attract a great deal of public enthusiasm; Sydney's team is Sydney FC, which plays out of the Sydney Football Stadium.
Sydney has a huge amount of green space, much of it beside the sparkling harbour or ocean, so walking is a great way to experience the city's parks, reserves and remnant bushland. There are also great walks through the more built-up areas, allowing you to check out the city's modern architecture and its colonial heritage. The following are just a few of the better-known routes.
Sydney has three indoor ice skating centres in the suburbs. The closest to the city centre is:
But there are two others near Canterbury station and next to Norwest in North West Sydney.
Sydney has three theatres which show major international productions, the Capitol Theatre in Haymarket, the Theatre Royal under the MLC Centre in the CBD and the Lyric Theatre in Star City in Pyrmont Bay. Usually one of the latest theatre blockbusters will be on show at these theatres. Slightly more on the cutting edge, with more locally produced drama can be found at the Sydney Theatre Company, in Walsh Bay in The Rocks, or occasionally at the Opera House Drama Theatre. Similar productions are often on at the Seymour Centre next to Sydney University just off Broadway on City Road. Smaller theatres, some with lesser known performers, featuring new and local writers can be harder to find. Try the Belvoir St Theatre in Surry Hills in City East, or the Newtown Theatre in the Inner West. Amateur theatre, especially musical theatre, proliferates in Sydney, with over 30 amateur musical theatre companies providing a fun night of theatre for around $20 per ticket in the suburbs. Check the Riverside Theatre in Parramatta, the Zenith Theatre in Chatswood on the Lower North Shore, or the Sutherland Entertainment Centre in Sutherland.
For classical music fans, the Sydney Symphony Orchestra plays at the Opera House and at  Angel Place Recital Hall . If the Sydney Symphony aren't playing, the Recital Hall may have other performances of interest. Conservatorium of Music often hosts performances on a smaller scale. .
Opera Australia perform at the Opera House in the City Centre.
A handy guide for performing arts in Sydney is the Spectrum liftout, which you'll find in the Sydney Morning Herald's voluminous Saturday edition. It contains reviews and features on all things cultural, as well as fairly comprehensive listings towards the back.
Sydney has mainstream movies showing on multi-screen cinema complexes all around Sydney, including the City Centre and Moore Park. The two main operators are Event Cinemas http://www.eventcinemas.com.au] and Hoyts .
For arthouse, or more obscure movies, try the Chauvel, Verona and Academy Twin cinemas on Oxford Street in the City East, or the Dendy near the Opera House in the City Centre or in Newtown, or Cinema Paris at the Entertainment Quarter at Fox Studios at Moore Park in the City East.
Many of the larger cinema complexes offer premium seating and services for a premium price.
There is one drive-in movie left open in Sydney, at Blacktown in the Outer West.
The IMAX Theatre, which provides a movie experience with the largest cinema screens in the southern hemisphere in Darling Harbour.
Sydney is home to a number of major and minor festivals and calendar events each year. Listed chronologically these are:
You can take language classes, join a cafe book group, learn to draw, sign up for historical or foodie walks, or take computer or business classes at City of Sydney Library, where you can sign up to borrow books or just read magazines in their café as well.
See the Sydney District Pages for things to buy in the City, and other Sydney districts.
Most stores will accept VISA/Mastercard credit cards, and only a few take only cash. American Express is generally accepted only at larger stores.
As with the rest of Australia, currency exchange offices operate in a free market, and the small convenient exchange booth you pass on George Street, by the Opera House or at the airport can charge 15% or more over the best rate you can obtain elsewhere. As always, check rates and commission carefully. Know today's rate and be prepared to walk away if the amount of money they calculate isn't what you would expect. Banks typically offer much better rates, but are only open business hours on weekdays.
You may find it better to pay by credit card and use ATM withdrawals and have the certainty of getting the rate and fees provided by your bank.
Main department stores and speciality stores open around 9am and close around 6pm, staying open until 9pm on Thursday. On Sunday expect them to open around 10am in the suburbs, and around 11am in the city centre, and to close at 5pm. There are a few locations where you will find shops opening a little later, such as Darling Harbour which is open until 9pm every weeknight.
Large supermarkets will be open from 6am until midnight.
Many convenience stores, fast-food restaurants and petrol stations within the Sydney metro area are open 24 hours a day.
Banks will usually only open weekdays, with only an occasional branch opening Saturday morning. Travel agents (not including booking agents in tourist areas) close on Sundays.
Those quintessential Aussie souvenirs - stuffed koalas and kangaroos, various "Australiana" knick-knacks - can be found in any souvenir store around the city, as well as in airport shops. Authentic Aboriginal/indigenous arts and crafts, such as traditional paintings, hand-made didgeridoos, are expensive, and the range in Sydney is much smaller than in Alice Springs. For those who only wish to take home a replica, as a memento of their trip to Australia, head to Paddy's Markets  in the Haymarket area of the southern end of the city. The markets also sell a huge range of souvenirs at much better prices than regular souvenir stores. Dollar shops (see "Food and Essentials" below) also sell souvenirs at bargain-basement prices, albeit at a much reduced quality.
Australia's unique style and creativity means Sydney is developing on the international fashion circuit, as designs from Australians such as Wayne Cooper, Collette Dinnigan, Akira Isogawa, Lisa Ho, Oroton and Easton Pearson are seen around the globe. In fact, around 60 Australian labels are currently exporting their designs to boutiques and department stores in Asia, Europe and the United States.
The greatest concentration of clothing and accessories stores are to be found in the northern half of the CBD, starting from the Town Hall precinct, neat the Queen Victoria Building.
Food and essentials
Prices are inflated in convenience stores and in tourist areas, and it is worth seeking out the supermarkets - even in the city centre. The main Supermarket Chains in Sydney are Woolworths , Coles , Franklins  and Aldi . See the local guides for locations.
Sydney postcards are least expensive at post offices (AUD 0.75), where you can buy stamps from as well. Convenience and souvenir stores may sell a wider range of (more expensive) postcards, but generally they do not sell stamps. An overseas stamp for a postcard costs AUD 1.60 .
Prices in Sydney's restaurants vary. Breakfast at a standard cafe (food plus plus a a coffee or juice) can cost anywhere up to $20 for a full English breakfast or other substantial meal. A main meal in a mid-range restaurant is around $25 - $35. Upper mid-range averages around $35 - $45. At the real top-end places a dinner for two with wine can run up to $400-500 and beyond.
For the more budget-conscious, Sydney's multicultural demography means plenty of quality ethnic cuisine for cheap prices, particular Asian restaurants. Many restaurants particularly in the city will also offer "lunch specials". For example, a good Korean "set lunch" can be found for less than $15. A bowl of noodles in Chinatown will run you $8 or $9. Some Thai curry with rice at any of the many restaurants all over Sydney will cost about $10.
Newtown in Sydney's inner-west (approx 4km from the CBD) is renowned for its inexpensive cafes and restaurants on King St, in particular Thai food. It is highly popular among students from the nearby Sydney University.
For an Asian bent, head to Chinatown for authentic Asian cheap eats. As well as restaurants, there are numerous food courts scattered throughout Chinatown packed with Asian eateries where the rock bottom priced food (but no less tasty) can be found. Plonk down at a laminate table shoulder to shoulder with hungry locals for some bubble tea and a sizzing plate of delicious Asian food. If you have a little money to spend, yum cha (dim sum) for lunch at one of the many Cantonese restaurants around Sydney is a regular ritual for many Sydney siders. Yum cha can be had in Chinatown (avoid the touristy al fresco places on Dixon St, go to East Ocean or Marigold instead), the city (Zilver, Sky Phoenix and others) and most urban centres around Sydney. Expect queues on weekends and brusque service all days - it's all part of the charm of yum cha. Some yum cha restaurants have now abandoned the trolleys, and instead give you a menu to tick your items which will be brought to your table. Some only have trolleys for specials or on weekends.
Cafés serving breakfast start opening at 6AM and breakfast is usually served until 11AM, or occasionally all day. Orders for lunch start at about noon and continue until about 3PM. Many cafes will start closing late afternoon, although a few may remain open for dinner.
Restaurants usually open for dinner around 5PM-6PM and while there are exceptions (usually concentrated in areas with active nightlife), last orders for dinner are typically taken around 10PM. Restaurants in business areas open for lunch as well. It is common for restaurants in suburban locations to sometimes be closed on Sunday, Monday or Tuesday nights.
It is more expensive to get a sit down meal in the evening, than it is for lunch.
Just about every suburb in Sydney has a restaurant or two, a cafe or coffee shop, and a place that sells takeaway food.
However, there are are a number of places in Sydney where you can window shop through many restaurants and make your choice.
All of Darling Harbour is like this, there are restaurants of every variety all along the waterfront. East Circular Quay in the City Centre is similar, along with the International Passenger Terminal on the west of Circular Quay - however many of the restaurants in this area are expensive and loved more for the view than the quality of the food. There are (pricey) exceptions, such as Cafe Sydney, Aria and Sailors Thai.
In the east of the city, Victoria Street in Darlinghurst and Crown Street in Surry Hills (between Oxford and Cleveland Streets) has a large range of funky cafes, small bars, pubs, patisseries and restaurants. Darlinghurst and Surry Hills has it all, from cheap Asian take-aways to high end restaurants. Many trendy restaurants in this area don't take bookings; often you wait at the bar for a table. These suburbs are popular with hipsters, yuppies and the gay community.
Just east of the city is Woolloomooloo Wharf which boasts a fantastic view across the harbour and several upscale restaurants, including excellent steak, Chinese, Italian and seafood restaurants. Perfect for lunch on a sunny day.
King Street, Newtown, centered on the railway station, has a constantly changing selection of good value restaurants, pubs, cafes and bars. You can find many various types of cuisine here; mainly cheap Thai, but also Vietnamese, Italian, Turkish, Japanese and modern Australian. This area isn't touristy, but popular with students from the nearby Sydney University. The area has its own alternative style, which makes for great people watching.
On the Lower North Shore Willoughby Road at Crows Nest, has honest and consistently good Indian, Japanese, Thai, steak, a handful of small bars. Military Road through Cremorne and Neutral Bay have a smattering of decent restaurants, mostly Japanese. Kirribilli has a few nice cafes and restaurants, and a short after dinner stroll will take you by some of the best views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Parramatta, to the west, has an eating strip, many with alfresco options. Harris Park nearby is Sydney's Little India with a good number of very affordable, authentic Indian restaurants.
In the North West district, Castle Hill has many restaurants on Terminus St as well as at "The Piazza" which is adjacent to Castle Towers shopping centre and features a pleasant, lively atmosphere with a fountain in the centre of the ring of restaurants.
Sydney is also home to some of the world's best restaurants.
If you are wanting to try Sydney's finest rated restaurants during your visit, make a booking well in advance at Quay in the The Rocks; Tetsuya’s, Est in the City Centre; Marque in the City East or Pier in the Eastern Suburbs.
Neil Perry is one of Sydney's celebrity chefs, and runs Rockpool at The Rocks. He also has the Rockpool Bar and Grill in the city, not far from Circular Quay, with Spice Temple downstairs.
If you want to splurge on the location make an advance booking at Forty One, on the forty first floor of Chifley Tower in the City Centre but be aware the food may not live up to its price-tag (sadly as at 2010, Forty One has closed for good), or Guillaume at Bennelong Restaurant in the Opera House. You may be lucky on a weekday and get a walk-up table at one of the restaurants in Campbells Cove in the The Rocks.
If you want to have fine dining away from the central Sydney, try Jonah's in the far Northern Beaches - go for lunch, the view is stunning. Alternative, Berowra Waters Inn is an experience unlike any other and a top pick for devouring excellent European / Modern Australian cooking overlooking a natural bushland waterway in northern Sydney. (You will need to arrange a car, or, for the jet set, take a sea plane!)
Thanks to Sydney's (or rather, Australia's) multicultural mix, "modern Australian" is usually characterised by a fusion of cuisines. Think entrees spiced with a Thai-inspired chilli dressing, mains with a hint of a Chinese-style ginger-based marinade or sunny Tuscan flavours- all in the same menu. Many of Australia's celebrity chefs are of ethnic backgrounds, and many have trained overseas, bringing with them a world of experience back home.
Alternatively, many CBD pubs offer $6 to $10 steak "meal deals", provided that you also order a particular alcoholic drink at the same time. You can also go to Phillip's Foote  at The Rocks to cook your own steak on a BBQ.
For those who are after authentic multicultural culinary experiences, there are unique "food districts" scattered around the greater city. The range of food available is huge and isn't necessarily expensive. It is usually possible to find a restaurant of any nationality, specialising in almost any cuisine.
Many of the areas mentioned above also sell produce related to the original nationality of the locals. CityRail also has a section for eating your way round Sydney by train. Organised by each train line, you will find a range of places to eat out often within easy walking distance of stations .
Take away food in Sydney can be as cheap as buying the ingredients and making it yourself, and many stores specialise in take-away food. There will usually be a picnic table, park or beach nearby to eat whatever you can select. Quintessential Aussie takeaways include the meat pie (minced beef with gravy sauce in a crusty pastry shell), sausage roll (sausage mince in a puff pastry casing), usually topped generously with tomato sauce/ketchup, and fish and chips (inherited from the British to be sure but loved by all Australians).
Most restaurants will do take-away food as well, but almost certainly at a premium to the cost of buying food from a take-away. Outside of the city an occasional restaurant may offer a 10% discount for take-away.
Vegetarian and special diets
Vegetarians are well catered for. Every restaurant will usually have at least one vegetarian dish. Indian retaurants can be relied upon to provide a wider selection. Maya Sweets on Cleveland St is a must visit for vegetarians and Wafu does Japanese with lots of vegan and vegetarian options. The trendy East Sydney and Inner West suburbs have many choices, Cabramatta in the western suburbs have many Asian Buddhist cuisine resturants that are vegan and vegetarian.
There is an awareness of gluten-free and dairy-free diets in Sydney, and again the more trendier inner city suburbs are more likely to cater for these diets.
It seems every weekend, there is a food festival on in one of the suburbs of Sydney. Usually the idea is that restaurants take part, providing smaller portions of their signature dishes around $7-$12 a plate.
The largest good festival, the Sydney International Food Festival,  which showcases Sydney's food culture is in October, which includes the night noodle markets operating in Hyde Park in the City Centre
The general rule on tipping in Australia is that it is not compulsory and generally not expected. This remains true for most cafes, and for counter service in Sydney. However for a full service restaurant in a tourist areas and mid to higher end restaurants a tip would be expected by the waitstaff. However, most Australians will still not tip, and you should feel free to follow their lead should you wish to. Some snootier waiters may raise an eyebrow, but nobody will follow you or give you a hard time. Otherwise a 10% tip added to the bill or rounding the bill up to the nearest $10, $20 or $50 to a maximum of 10% (depending on the size of the bill!) will usually meet their expectations. They may be expecting a little more if you have an American accent, as they are well aware of what Americans tip at home.
Australians are casual. While most people make an effort to dress up for fancier restaurants, there is no requirement and both restaurants and diners alike are relaxed about dress standards. There are no restaurants in Sydney that require jackets for men for instance, and jeans (nice - no holes) are common in even the most expensive and posh Sydney restaurants. Wear what you feel comfortable in.
Sydney has an enormous number of places to drink and party. A limited number of venues have 24-hour licenses, however the majority close before 3AM and some as early as 11PM, particularly if there are nearby residents.
Busy venues will have door staff checking photo identification to determine that you are over 18. Admission is also commonly refused to those who seem visibly drunk. More popular venues have discriminatory door practices, the most common of which is refusing entry to groups of men who are not accompanied by women. Some pubs and most clubs will admit children accompanied by adults as long as they don't approach the bar or enter an area where there is gambling. Check with staff at the venue. Some pubs don't provide a nice environment for children some nights.
Many places have at least a basic dress code, enforced all hours in the city, and usually after 7pm in the suburbs. For most generic pubs, men should wear closed toe shoes (not running sneakers), full-length pants, and a shirt with sleeves (not a singlet). For clubs, men should don neat business-style shoes. In almost all cases, women can dress more freely, but a small number of places require closed shoes or dressy sandals or high heels.
Many pubs are called hotels, but only very few can ever offer you a place to sleep. Hotel pubs are usually found on a street corner with at least one ground-floor bar, and are usually a few floors high (though not all floors may be open to the public).
Entry charges for live music or DJs are usual and range from $5 to $30 depending on clientèle. Entry charges are rare if you're going into a pub for a drink.
There is a taxi shift change at 3AM, and it is notoriously difficult to catch a taxi anywhere between 2:30AM and 3:30AM. Also beware that there is currently a government enforced lockout at many establishments between 2 and 5AM - which means that you need to stay inside or you won't be able to get back in - even if you go out for a cigarette (smoking is illegal inside). Ask the bouncers or some locals if you're unsure and they will tell you which places are affected by the lockout and which aren't.
Some types of nightlife are concentrated in particular areas:
There are many great nightclubs in Sydney, unfortunately they are very spread out so it would be a good idea to get an idea of were you want to go. Check guides in Friday's newspapers, or the free guides available in music stores and youth clothing stores.
Most bars and clubs in Sydney will simply return your change, and no tip is expected. Some more upmarket bars will return your change on a tray. Most Sydneysiders will simply collect the change from the tray, however feel free to leave the coins on the tray if you would like to tip. Working out a percentage of the drink cost, or tip per drink is never required.
If you are travelling on business, there may be business style accommodation near to where you are working, and there is usually no need to stay in the city. There are options around the commercial areas at the airport in Southern Sydney, around Macquarie Park in the North West, and at Parramatta.
If you are travelling with a car, then finding a place to park, and getting into and out of the city can be a hassle. The Hume Highway in Sydney's South West has the standard roadside motels where you can park by your room, with the service station or fast food outlet next door.
If you are into camping, the closest camping to the city centre is on the Cockatoo Island in the harbour. You can pitch a tent in Lane Cove National Park, less than 10km from the city centre, and a train station around 750m from the closest train station.
If you are into the beach, the Manly and Bondi are the two obvious places to consider. From Manly 25 minutes on the ferry has you right in the centre of Sydney. Some of the lesser known suburbs have accommodation options. Cronulla has beachfront accommodation, facilities and is the only beachside suburb of Sydney with a train station (45 minutes from downtown).
Sydney has a wide range of backpackers' hostels - popular districts for these include the southern half of the CBD and Haymarket, Glebe and Kings Cross, the Eastern Suburbs (Bondi, Coogee) and the Northern Beaches (Manly).
You find many mid-range accommodation providers within the CBD (mostly in the southern Haymarket end), and within a short distance of the city by public transport, including in North Sydney, the Inner West and the North Shore. Sometimes a cheaper motel style accommodation can be obtained on the roads leading into Sydney, particular in South Western Sydney
There are luxurious hotels that can be found all over Sydney. The most expensive hotels are generally located in the CBD and the Rocks district, near the business hub of Sydney, close to many restaurants, often featuring spectacular harbour views. Some other high quality hotels are located in Darling Harbour. You may check the list below for specific locations.
Please visit one of the various Sydney districts described in the Districts section above to see the accommodation listings.
Serviced, short-term apartments are widely available throughout Sydney and are available for stays as short as one night. Amenities typically include kitchen, washer and dryer, and separate bedrooms. A range of properties exist from budget to five-star.
Please visit one of the various Sydney districts described in the Districts section above to see the accommodation listings.
The Australia-wide emergency number is 000, with the ambulance service, fire department and police being available through this number.
Be on the lookout for the usual big city petty crime problems. Lock your car, and keep valuables safe or hidden. People begging may ask for money or cigarettes, but they are generally harmless. They will often make up the usual stories about needing a train fare etc. Simply say "Sorry, no" and they will usually leave you alone.
Sydney has some of the violent crime issues that plague major cities, however, in general, no special precautions are required visiting the typical tourist areas during the day.
Most assaults in Sydney take place in or near pubs and nightclubs at night, and involve alcohol. Most involve young males as perpetrators and victims. Most robberies occur in nearby quiet laneways, or parks close to pubs and nightclubs at night. The most common perpetrators or robberies are drug addicts. For this reason, take care around King Cross, The Rocks, Oxford St, and the George St Cinema District, especially late at night on Fridays and Saturday nights. Avoid Redfern station late at night. Even changing trains at night is best done at Central rather than Redfern. Women should take extra care at bars and keep an alert companion at hand, especially in the central hostel area, and take precautions against spiked drinks.
Some areas Sydney have a reputation, generally gained by news reports of motorcycle and other gang related violence. However, if you want to venture out into these areas during the day, there is no exceptional risk. If you're planning to head way off the tourist trail to some suburban pub or nightclub for a night out, seek some local advice. It may be a nice pub, but it pays to be informed. Areas around railway stations tend to be hang-outs for youth gangs in Western Sydney, particularly on Friday and Saturday night. Stay in company, and don't engage.
Public transport after dark
After 9PM, smaller outer suburban stations can be very quiet, and many are totally unstaffed after this time. The trains can also be empty when they get towards the end of the line at this time. Don't expect a taxi to be waiting at every station--only the major ones will have a well patronised taxi rank.
Travel in the carriage closest to the guard's compartment, which is marked with a blue light on the outside of the train. Drunk people are common on trains late at night, particularly on Friday and Saturday nights. If you ever feel concerned for your safety on any Cityrail train, you can call 1800 657 926 to speak with Cityrail security, then can sometimes arrange for a transit patrol to board the train and provide assistance. It is generally more advisable to seek assistance from the guard however as Transit Officers are few and far between. In more modern trains, you can press the button in the entry area to speak with the guard. Every train station has an orange emergency help point monitored by CCTV that connects to Cityrail security, usually towards the centre of the platform.
Nightride buses, which replace trains after midnight, can arrange for a taxi to meet you when you get off. Ask the driver.
If you are going to the beach, take the same precautions as you do anywhere in Australia. See Beach going.
The biggest thing to remember when swimming at any Sydney beach is swim between the yellow and red flags. These flags are places by the lifeguards and indicate the safest place to swim at the beach away from dangerous currents.
Sydney has no really dangerous jellyfish. Bluebottles (Portugese Man-Of-War) are blueish-purple stingers that hit the Sydney beaches a couple of days every summer, when the wind direction is right. They have an air-bladder that floats on the water, and stinging tenticles. Often the air-bladder can be no bigger than a coin. You will see the evidence of them with their air-bags washed up on the beach if they are present. They can give a painful sting - even when on the beach - but it won't keep everyone out of the water. Apply a heat pack if you can, or ice, or salt water. The best way to remove the pain is to run the affected area under the hottest water you can stand. Vinegar is useless. Sometimes small transparent jellyfish appear in the harbour and estuaries. You can usually avoid any groups of them, but they are mostly harmless. More rarely larger purple jellyfish are in the harbour and other estuaries. If you see these in the estuaries, best to stay out of their way. Probably more of an issue to water skiers than to swimmers.
Sydney ocean beaches all have shark mesh nets around 100 metres out to sea, and are regularly patrolled by air for sharks. A shark alarm will sound if any are sighted, and you should get out of the water. The risk of shark attack swimming on a patrolled beach between the flags is virtually nil. Shark attacks are rare on Sydney beaches, but they have occurred, although there have been no fatal attacks for 45 years. Advice is to avoid swimming in murky water after storms, or at dusk or at dawn, and to swim in the netted enclosures within the harbour and other estuaries.
Take note of the general issues regarding staying safe in Australia.
If you need an ambulance, call 000.
Medical centres with general practicioners are available for minor ailments without an appointment around the city and suburbs. Expect to wait around an hour or so to see a doctor. Upfront charges are usually around $50 for a standard consultation, and most centres accept credit cards. Many medical centres remain open until 10PM or so, and a few remain open 24-hours. Those with an Australian Medicare card will find many medical centres in Sydney that "bulk-bill".
Most hospitals in Sydney have emergency departments, but check before attending as some do not. Those emergency departments are open 24-hours. See the Australia article for more details on health charges.
Many pharmacies stay open after normal business hours, often in proximity to medical centres, and there are a few that stay open 24-hours. You can call +61 2 9467 7100 to find the location of your closest after hours pharmacy.
See the Sydney district guides for local information, or the Australia guide for broader options.
There are a number of good one or two day trips from Sydney:
Or if you are moving on: