Sydney has an extensive public transport system that includes trains, buses, ferries and light rail. Recently a new electronic ticketing system called Opal has been introduced to provide one ticket to use across all these types of transport. The Opal card is used for travel on all trains, most ferries, buses and light rail. It is not for you on the Fast Ferries.
What follows is my attempt to simplify all the Opal information out there and answer some fundamental questions I have been asked to date. I have been using the card since April 2015, and this is my understanding of the system and how it works. I will update this page regularly should I find out anything new. I am married to a NSW Bus driver so have constantly been bombarding him with questions and as a result, I am pretty confident that I have covered all the basics a visitor to Sydney will need to know.
This is not meant to provide comprehensive information for local users with complex questions. In these cases, I suggest you consult the official Opal website. However if you are on a short trip to Sydney read on…. this should cover enough of the basics to get you sorted.
Opal is a ‘pay-as-you-go’ system as opposed to a timed system, so you only pay when you catch a train or bus or ferry. There are rewards for frequent travel and daily caps on fare that can save regular users and even visitors on short trips some $$$
*Travel caps do not include access to airport terminal stations.
Opal cards must be purchased from retail outlets or online. You can find a full list of these here.
The main locations for visitors to purchase cards include:
Sydney Airport – You can purchase Opal cards at Newslink or WH Smith book shops at either terminal. There is talk of selling them at the Airport stations but this has not happened yet as far as I know.
Near City Train stations – You cannot buy cards at train stations although most will have a newsagent or convenience store nearby where you can. You can now load credit onto your card using machines at most major stations.
Newsagents and convenience Stores – Many news agencies and many convenience stores such as 7Eleven and EzyMart located around the city and suburbs also sell the cards. You will see an Opal sticker in the window of places who provide cards or top ups.
The Opal card the card is free when you load a minimum amount of onto the card. The minimum cost is $10 for adult cards, $5 for child cards (other types are not available yet). There is no fee for the card itself; all of the minimum top-up is available for travel. Subsequent top-ups can be made in $10 increments. If you choose to buy your card online the minimum credit is $40. You can set up auto top-ups for cards registered online.
You don’t have to register your card if you buy it from a retailer. If you buy your card online then it is registered at the time you order it. If you buy your card from a retailer you can also log in and register your card on the opal website if you wish to. Registering you card means that your travel is recorded however it means you can keep track of your balance and trips online. Another benefit is that if you lose your card you can have it cancelled and the credit replaced. It really just depends on how comfortable you are sharing your privacy.
Sydney’s public transport is free for children under 4 years of age. Students aged 4-15 can buy a half-fare ticket as can people aged 16 and over who are residents of Australia and full-time students. If you are over 16 years and a student in another country you must buy an adult ticket.
Opal cards for Australian seniors or Centrelink pension concession holders are not yet available. Paper tickets may be purchased or an adult Opal card must be used.
In New South Wales, international students are not entitled to a student concession on public transport unless they purchase a quarterly ticket through their institution.
If you are found to be travelling with the wrong ticket you will be fined $200.
NSW seniors and pensioners are entitled to order a Gold Opal card from the Opal website. Cards are also available for other Australian seniors using a special application form. These cannot be purchased at convenience stores. International seniors are not entitled to concession fares. A Gold card can take 2 weeks to arrive so make sure you order it in advance.
When working out how quickly you will earn your 8 journey travel reward the following definitions, taken directly from the Opal website might help.
*60 minutes applies to all services except the Sydney Ferries Manly service where the standard transfer time is 130 minutes from tap on.
Watch for future posts in coming weeks on various Opal scenarios for tourists using Opal in Sydney
Copyright 2016 Sydney Expert