If you are not much of a HOHO bus person or are travelling on a budget, then our self guided Sydney bus tour is for you. It’s more work than jumping on the 24 or 48-hour hop on hop off service, but it will save you money provided you are prepared to do some of the navigating yourself.
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.
The best bus routes to explore Sydney on a budget
Using a combination of 4 Sydney buses, we will show you how to see the city using cheap and relatively efficient public bus routes. The Opal card has a daily cap of $16.10, and this is the maximum you will be charged on your Opal card for a full day of travel Monday to Saturday. On Sundays, the maximum daily cap is $2.80. The weekly cap is $50. Once you have spent $50 the rest of your travel for the week is entirely free.
Single bus fares for most of the journeys here will be $2.24 or $3.73 depending on this distance.
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 its also an excellent way for visitors to get to view a slice of city life.
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.
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 deco buildings. This area came to life in the 1920s and 1930s and had the highest concentration of art deco architecture in Sydney.
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
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.
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 great 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 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 at the famous Bondi to Coogee trail.
If you are all walked on stay on the bus to Watson’s Bay where you can visit the Gap lookout, Camp Cove Beach and Hornby Lighthouse.
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 article.
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.
Bonus Bus – The 441 – Art Gallery of NSW to Birchgrove (Art Gallery to QVB)
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.
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.
It is also the quickest way to get from here or the Art Gallery 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.
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