How to Use 5 Sydney Buses to Create Your Own Tour

There are some routes operated by Sydney buses that are perfect for sightseeing. So if you are not much of a HOHO bus person or are travelling on a budget, then these self-guided Sydney bus tours are for you.

Sightseeing on Sydney’s Buses is a little more work than jumping on the official hop on hop off service, but it will save you money provided you are prepared to do some of the navigating yourself and you will get to see parts of the city other visitors miss!

So let’s go see if you are up for it. If you are not sure whether this is for you, then I suggest reading our thoughts on the Sydney Big Bus HOHO where we share some tips for making the best use of their tickets.

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Things to know about riding the bus in Sydney

Before we set out, it will be helpful to know a bit about how the bus system works in Sydney and who better to help you with this than Mr Sydney Expert who has been a Sydney Bus Driver for over a decade!

So let’s get some basic questions you might have out of the way.

What is the best way to pay for Sydney buses?

You can’t pay cash for a bus ride in Sydney. You will need to either use a credit or debit card with a chip on it or use Apple or Google pay on your phone. Alternatively, you can buy an Opal Card and top that up as you go.

Whether you use your own card/phone or an Opal Card the Opal system costs the same. There is a daily cap of $16.80 for all transport on the Sydney network except the airport stations. This is the maximum you will be charged for a full day of travel Monday to Friday.

On weekends, the maximum daily cap is $8.40. The weekly travel cap is $50. Once you have spent $50 the rest of your travel for the week is entirely free.

Sydney Buses 325 route in the eastern suburbs of Sydney

How much does it cost to ride the bus in Sydney?

Single bus fares are distance based. For most of the journeys here you will pay between will be $3.20 or $3.93. The longest trips, over 8 km cost $5.05.

You can check the latest Opal prices here or read all about the basics for using Opal.

How do you signal a bus to stop?

Sometimes many buses service the same stops so you need to show to the driver that you would like to board the bus. You do this by holding out your slightly raised arm.

What is the frequency of buses on different routes in Sydney?

This varies a lot, most buses will come along every 15-20 minutes and some are much more frequent than that in peak hour. However there are some routes that only operate half hourly or even hourly.

How crowded are Sydney buses during peak hours?

In the morning heading out of the CBD you will find plenty of room on the buses, likewise returning to the city in the afternoon. They get busy between 8 and 10am in the morning going into the city and 3-6pm in the afternoon going out but it’s likely you will be travelling in the opposite direction to most commuters.

Are there any apps that provide information on Sydney bus routes and schedules?

Yes, the Opal app is a good option for visitors. I also find that Google Maps does an excellent job suggesting routes and showing times for services in Sydney.

Are buses accessible for wheelchairs and strollers?

Almost all Sydney buses are equipped to dip to the curb to allow for easier boarding. This works well for prams or anyone unsteady on their feet. If you are a wheelchair user, you will need to use the buses that are marked (both on the timetables and on the front of the bus) as accessible.

90% of services are accessible, the drivers will stop the bus and open a ramp that will allow you easy entry. Once on board, there is a section at the front of the bus where the seats move up and you position yourself for travel.

Children’s strollers must be placed in this section too, however there is only space for 2 prams or wheelchair users on any bus and wheelchairs are given priority. Read more details about accessible bus travel before you board.


Five bus services that cover the HOHO Route

Using a combination of five Sydney buses, we will show you how to create your own self guided Sydney bus tour and see the city using cheap and relatively efficient public bus routes.

The 311 bus – Central Station to Millers Point in the Rocks

This service joins the western and eastern harbour foreshores bypassing Circular Quay. It’s a local bus that is mainly used by people heading to and from work, but it’s also an excellent way for visitors to get to view a slice of city life.

Woolloomooloo Sydney Australia
The Finger Wharf at Woolloomooloo longest timbered-piled wharf in the world.

With stops in The Rocks, Barangaroo, Darling Harbour, Woolloomooloo, Potts Point, Elizabeth Bay, Darlinghurst and Haymarket you can cover quite a lot of the HOHO ground for a fraction of the price.

This area came to life in the 1920s and 1930s and had the highest concentration of art déco architecture in Sydney.

I would suggest you join this bus at Central and ride as far as Kings Cross Station before you jump off to explore the area. Take a wander around the back streets and check out the fab art déco buildings. 

lizabeth Bay House Potts Point
Historic property Elizabeth Bay House is also nearby and worth a detour if you have time.

Either walk down the stairs in Victoria Street to Woolloomooloo to the pier and rejoin the bus there or make your way to the stop where you got off to ride down.

Unless you have mobility problems or are travelling with a pram I suggest walking, it’s quite close and provides a contrast to the area you have just seen.

More info: We have a full page dedicated to using the 311 bus service as a sightseeing tour that will give you ideas of what you will see along the way.

When: The first bus departs central just after 6 am and the last bus at 11.10pm.
How often: Services run every 15 mins in peak hour and every 30 minutes off-peak.


The 325 bus – Walsh Bay to Watsons Bay

This bus starts at Barangaroo and heads over to Watsons Bay stopping at Kings Cross and the harbourside suburbs of Double Bay, Rose Bay and Vaucluse along the way. It is effectively the Bondi Route without stopping at Bondi Beach – but don’t worry that is easily fixed by taking a walk or bus from Watsons Bay.

Before you join this bus, consider an early morning walk around Barangaroo

Barangaroo Reserve Sydney Australia
Barangaroo Reserve is a lovely way to begin or end the day.

If you wanted to make a full day of it, you could begin at Circular Quay, walk around The Rocks and under the Bridge to Dawes Point and then continue along to the wharves at Walsh Bay to join the bus. We have a self-guided Rocks tour that will give you an idea of what you see along the way and also a pub tour if you like beer served with your history lesson.

Watsons Bay Hornby Lighthouse
The walk to Hornby Lighthouse on South Head is an easy 1-hour loop

Once you have explored Watsons Bay – by taking the lighthouse walk or having lunch at one of the local restaurants

More info: Check out our photo guide of exploring eastern Sydney using the 325 bus

When: The first bus departs central just after 6:46 am and the last bus at 11:54 pm. The full route takes about an hour.
How often: Buses run every 30 minutes.

The 389 bus – Pyrmont to Bondi Junction

A great cross-city bus that covers a lot of ground and is a good way to see the various parts of the city in a 30-45 minute journey depending on the time of day you travel. You can pick up the bus at the back of Darling Harbour near the Maritime Museum or along the route in Elizabeth St. near St James Station.

The Maritime Museum has seven galleries and many vessels to explore.

The Maritime Museum has some free areas you can visit before you start. You also pass the Powerhouse Museum, Hyde Park, Darlinghurst, Paddington, Centennial Park, before ending up in Bondi Junction.

More info: We have written a guide to the sites along the 389 route that will give you an idea of what you will see along the way.

When: The first bus leaves the Maritime Museum at Pyrmont at 5:00 am, and the last service is at 12:40 am.
How often: During the day buses run every 5-10 minutes. This is an excellent service to hop on and off because of that.


The 380 bus – Bondi Junction to Watsons Bay

Almost a shuttle service running beachgoers from Bondi Junction station to the beach and then onto Watson’s Bay.  After it leaves the beach, the bus travels along Military Road passing Dudley Page Reserve and then Diamond Bay making it a great bus to catch if you want to walk the Federation Cliff Track.

Jump off the bus at Dudley Page reserve for a fantastic view back to the city and join the Federation Cliff Walk, a walk every bit as impressive as the famous Bondi to Coogee trail.

The stairs on the Federation Cliff Walk at Vaucluse
Head down the stairs to this lesser known walk for million dollar views.

If you are all walked out stay on the bus to Watson’s Bay where you can visit the Gap lookout, Camp Cove Beach and Hornby Lighthouse.

Camp Cove Beach Watsons Bay
Camp Cove beach is a great snorkelling spot

The full journey takes 30 mins, the trip from the Junction to the beach is 12 minutes.

More info: Read more about this area and get instructions for the walks on this Watsons Bay walk guide

When: The first bus that travels to Watsons Bay leaves Bondi Beach at Bondi Junction Station at 8:23 am and the last one at 7:55 pm
How often: Buses run every 30 minutes during the week and 20 minutes on weekends.


I have included this service because if you have worn yourself out exploring the city this bus is the quickest way to get to Mrs Macquarie Point – a spot no one should miss.

Mrs Macquaries Chair Sydney Botanic Garden
Mrs Macquarie’s “Chair” is actually a rocky ledge.

Not so much for the chair but for the view from this spot, which you have probably already seen on countless travel ads and postcards.

Postcard view Sydney from Mrs Macquarie's Point
The view from Mrs Macquaries Point

It is also the quickest way to get from here or the Art Gallery of NSW to the Queen Victoria Building at Town Hall. While I usually walk this route, if your time is limited, then it’s a good option. Also great for anyone with mobility issues.

More info: The bus takes about 10 minutes to reach the gallery and then heads down to Mrs Macquaries Point before looping back to the QVB.

When: The first to the Art Gallery from the QVB leaves at 10:19 am, and the last one is at 4:39 pm
How often: Services run approximately every 30 minutes.


A map of all these routes and the HOHO Bus

The map has several layers so you can turn off the buses you are not taking and just see the one you are. Each route is colour coded. The numbered markers are the official HOHO stops. Click on the map to open the large Google map.

Do you have a question about planning your own Sydney bus tour? Head over to Facebook and join our Sydney Expert Facebook Group, where you can get quick answers from friendly locals happy to share their advice!

12 thoughts on “How to Use 5 Sydney Buses to Create Your Own Tour”

  1. I think it is part of the experience to try to use local transport to explore a new city whenever possible, rather than just be spoonfed with a guided tour – unless you are short of time, of course, when you just want to see as much as possible in the time available. Hoping I can make good use of this really helpful and detailed guide in the next couple of years!

  2. Wow, that’s so great to have information like this in order to take advantage of public transport. It’s such a good way to sightsee while being easy on the wallet. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  3. This is a great guide. We hate doing the hop on hop off buses, they’re so expensive and you are stuck to going on their routes or only for certain days. We much prefer doing things ourselves even if we do have to money for a tour. The public transport in Sydney is great too so its very easy to get around, we did a very similar trip around all on public transport and we walked a hell of a lot too!

  4. This is such a detailed guide. My husband just got back from a trip to Australia but only had a half day in Sydney. I was so jealous that he saw the Opera House. A self guided bus tour seems like a great way to explore the city on your own schedule.

  5. When I was younger I to a Cairns to Sydney bus trip and then spent a week cruising around Sydney by bus. I can’t believe all of the things that I missed. I wish I had this guide back then. Really well done.

  6. This is a fantastic guide. I haven’t been on a tourist bus in ages and wouldn’t mind getting on one of these ones.
    The 380 bus/shuttle route for Bondi Junction to Watsons Bay sounds like a great one. I like a bus ride that also has great views and I also would like to walk the famous Bondi to Coogee trail.

  7. As someone who’s never been to Sydney, this guide is such a good inspiration to go and check it out. I’m surprised by the variation in different beaches here, and I’m loving the view of the city from Prymont. I’m sure that view is equally amazing at night?? The self-guided tour idea is awesome and one I’d be interested in. That’s also very cool that they cap spending on the Opal card. American cities should do that, too!

  8. I used to explore several cities in India on HOHO buses. But haven’t done so in a while as they generally take one to the crowded, most visited mediocre destinations and wait for no one. This self-guide Sydney bus tour of yours will be really helpful for people like me. Great compilation.

  9. I’ve lived in Sydney for 25 years and im so hopeless with the bus system in the city. If its too far from the city circle train lines then not going haha.. thanks for sharing. I havent seen the Elizabeth Bay house yet but would love to check out.

  10. These tourist buses are awesome man! These are so cool because they take you all the must sees of Sydney. You just refreshed my Australia memories.

  11. i wish i would read this post before my visit to Sydney – it would make my life easier. Anyway it will be useful for next visit.

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