Using Sydney’s Public Transport 2024

There is no need to hire a car for your time in the city. Sydney’s public transport is easy to use, and once you work out the basics, I am sure you will find it convenient. Below is your crash course on how to get around Sydney on your holiday; consider it a brief introduction to using Sydney’s public transport on your holiday.

For most people, the airport train will be your first taste of Sydney’s Public Transport network. Depending on the time you arrive, this could be a pleasant or pretty stressful experience.

Sydney airport train station
Trains leave from the domestic and international terminals to the city and suburbs.

The two stations at the airport are privately operated and, as a result, are relatively expensive. Still, the train journey is cheaper than a cab, especially if only two of you. The trip is also much faster; in busy periods, you can be in the city before you even get to the front of the taxi queue.

Have a read of our airport train tips and decide if it’s right for you.

I used to take this train every day. The trains are pretty crowded in peak hours and not for the faint-hearted. Try to get to the front or rear of the train for more space and, if you can, avoid standing right in the doorway so others can get on.

If you have a huge backpack, take it off your back – it’s the polite thing to do:-)

Sydney Trains – City, Blue Mountains & more

Sydneysiders love to complain about our rail network, and at times it can be a bit crap, but for visitors who mainly access the inner stations, it’s a great way to get around the city.

We have written a detailed guide to Using Sydney’s Opal Card especially for visitors.

Central Station Main Concourse where country and intersate trains depart
The historic hall where country trains depart at Central Station

The heart of Sydney’s train network is Central Station, located between Chinatown and Surry Hills. All trains pass through this station; it is also home to country link services that will take you into regional NSW and beyond to Melbourne, Brisbane and even Perth!

If you are planning a train trip to the Blue Mountains, you will probably depart from Central.

2 Sydney Trains at Central Train Station in Sydney
Trains at Sydney’s Central Station

The other key stations for travellers are part of the City Circle, a loop of stations that form a ring around the CBD or central business district. These stations include Central, Town Hall, Wynyard, Circular Quay, St James and Museum.

The city circle runs in both directions and is an excellent way to get from one end of town to the other if your feet give up!

The nearest City Circle Stations to main attractions are:

  • Central – Paddy’s Market, Chinatown, Surry Hills and Chippendale (Central Park complex)
  • Town Hall – QVB, Darling Harbour
  • Wynyard – Barangaroo
  • Circular Quay – Ferries, Opera House and The Rocks
  • St James – Pitt Street Mall, Hyde Park, St Mary’s Cathedral
  • Museum – Museum, Hyde Park, William Street to Darlinghurst

A train ride to one of Sydney’s suburbs like Newtown or Cronulla is also an excellent way to spend a few hours exploring a different part of the city.

Sydney Buses – Servicing all areas of Sydney

Sydney buses service most suburban areas and are the only option in many Eastern and Northern suburbs. To ride the bus require you to use an Opal card or contactless payments like Apple or Google pay or a bank/credit card with a chip. You cannot pay with cash.

325 bus Watsons Bay to Walsh Bay Sydney public transport includes over 400 bus routes
Sydney’s buses are easy to use and a great way to see the city.

If like me, you enjoy exploring places like a local, you might enjoy our detailed articles about using Sydney buses to discover different parts of the city, including a general one on using public bus routes.

The best bus routes for visitors to Sydney

I don’t own a car, and Charles is a bus driver, so we are pretty much experts at Sydney’s bus system. Check out our guides to the following routes:

Sydney Light Rail – Servicing the city, east and inner west

Sydney has three light rail lines with all stopping in the city centre.

The L1 Route – The original shiny red light rail service travels through the south of the CBD from Central Station to the Star Casino before heading to the inner west. It passes a couple of tourists spots, including the Sydney Casino, Sydney Fish Market and the Tram Sheds, an excellent destination for food lovers.

Light Rail at Circular Quay Sydney
Circular Quay light rail station

The L2 Route – This line travels from Randwick to Circular Quay. After leaving Circular Quay, the tram travels up George Street via Haymarket to Surry Hills, Moore Park, and Randwick Racecourse.

The L3 Route – Also begins at Central and travels to Kingsford.

Sydney Ferries

There is a range of public and private services operating in Sydney. Both Opal cards and credit cards are accepted, although some of the private services like the Bundeena ferry operate outside the Opal system. At least one ferry ride must be on your itinerary!

Public Ferry Services – There are eight public ferry routes in Sydney covering Manly, the eastern suburbs of Watson’s Bay and Rose Bay, harbour foreshore suburbs of Mosman, Cremorne and inner west and western suburbs ferries to Balmain and Parramatta.

Many of Sydney’s ferry’s are named after ships of the First Fleet

Private Ferry Services – Some harbour services are run by private operators, including Manly Fast Ferry and Captain Cook Cruises. Several small ferries make a fun day out for visitors wanting to escape the city for a day like the Brooklyn River Ferry, Church Point, the Central Coast and the charming Bundeena Ferry.

You can use your Opal card to pay for rides on the Manly Fast Ferry and Captain Cook Cruises, but the trip will not count towards your daily travel cap or weekly cap. It has recently been announced that the Manly Fast Ferry will soon be added to the Opal travel cap so check this if you are planning on traveling to and from Manly.

Check out my thoughts on the best ferry rides for visitors to Sydney.

Rideshare Services and Taxis

Rideshare services are legal in Sydney. I am a big fan and have had many positive experiences using them in Sydney. I took about three trips a week on average over the last year, so I have been in enough to have formed an opinion; all drivers have been overwhelmingly courteous, and they are now my first choice when calling for a ride.

New rideshare services are beginning all the time. The most recent ones are Ola and Didi. Sign up, and you usually get a code offering you a couple of free rides – use them all and save yourself some cash. Ola seems to have all but disappeared to stick with Uber or Didi for the best experience

You can now use any of these rideshare services from Sydney Airport – there are designated pick up areas at both the International and Domestic terminals that are well signposted.

Check out our guide to using Sydney Airport, which includes details of all the airport’s transport options.

Silver Service Taxis – Book online or download the free app

There are several taxi companies in Sydney, some service the city and others work in smaller areas. Silver is my personal favourite mainly because they answer the phone quickly, the taxis are clean and best of all they turn up!

It’s worth noting the secure ranks that operate at night if you are travelling alone. These run from 8 pm until 3.30am on Friday and Saturday nights. The most useful ones are:

  • Darling Harbour, Northern end of Lime Street
  • The Rocks, Northern side of Alfred Street – Circular Quay
  • The Rocks, corner of Argyle and Harrington Streets
  • Chifley Square, corner of Hunter and Phillip Street
  • World Square, Eastern side of George Street between Liverpool Street and Goulburn Stree

Water Taxis

H20 Sydney Water Taxis – Sometimes the quickest way to get from one side of the city to the other is by water taxi – Balmain to Mosman, for example, is going to take you ages any other way. They can be pretty cost-effective for groups.

Car rental

Bayswater Car Rental – An excellent value company with reasonable rates and a convenient city location. I have rented from Bayswater (also known as no birds); it has always been problem-free.

Transport Apps and websites

Sydney Trip Planner – Trip planner can be reached via the web or phone 131500. This all in one site will help you find the best way to get from A to B. The site also lists track work and service interruptions, which are frequent in Sydney on the weekends.

Tripview – The paid version of this app is the one I use every day as it lets you save your most used journeys.

I love the free global transport app Citymapper that I think works well in Sydney. It is probably the best option for visitors as it assumes less knowledge of Sydney than most of the other apps and is free.

Got questions about using public transport in Sydney? Head over to our friendly Sydney Expert Facebook group and we will be happy to help.

27 thoughts on “Using Sydney’s Public Transport 2024”

  1. Hi, this is my first time to Sydney, I plan to buy an Opal card in Airport. Not sure if I can cash back unused dollar value (after 4 days) when I leave Sydney

  2. Hi Ricky Unfortunately you cannot easily get a refund on the card. You can fill in a form to get money refunded but it is paid to an Australian bank account and address to do this. See this page for more details.

    If you are not sure how much to load you can use the fare estimator on the Opal site or send me an email with your itinerary and I will try to work out the best amount for you to load.

  3. Hi, I will be visiting Sydney in this May, so would it be better to online-purchase the opal card in advance or just purchase the card upon arrival in the WH Smith Sydney International Airport store?

  4. Hi Carmen No need to purchase in advance – just buy it at WH Smith if you don’t want to put a lot of credit on it or the Airport train station counter f you are happy to load it with $35 minimum.

  5. Hi just a bit more info on the opal card…..opal gold for seniors has to be applied for online 2 weeks or 3 before your arrival…it gets sent in the post after receiving your application. Quite ridiculous me-thinks.

  6. Hi All. I live in South Africa and can recommend downloading the app ‘Offline maps and Navigation’ (not available on iPhone/iPad) before embarking on any travels, including Australia. After downloading the app, download the countries offered in the app you intend visiting before leaving and ensure the main cities are included. If works offline and is similar to Google Maps, but without using data. This is great if you embark on a walking or self-drive excursion – it indicates the time of arrival and also the speed limit while you are driving!
    We chose a hotel just opposite Central Station (for convenience of catching the Sydney Airport Link with 2 large suitcases and a trolly suitcase) and found it a relatively comfortable walk to Darling Harbour, the Rocks and Opera House. We enjoyed a lovely (reasonably priced) ham&cheese croissant breakfast with flat white coffee included @Oliver Brown Belgian Chocolate Cafe on Quay St. Paddy’s Markets (and the food court upstairs) is also worth a visit, as well as the Queen Victoria Building with its lovely interior – and a fresh juice at one of the cafe’s inside.
    When visiting the Botanical Gardens, take a small packet of fresh almonds or other nuts/seeds to feed the cockatoos – they are so tame and will sit on your shoulder or arm and eat out of your hand. Also look up into the trees for the huge fruit bats hanging from the branches. For bird-lovers, take a small pair of binoculars – you will be glad!
    We did not buy Opal Cards, but at the end of our 3-night stay did a day-trip on the Hop-on Hop-off bus (be sure to take a pair of earphones when you enter the bus at the front so that you can recognise the different landmarks) – it was well worth it to visit the areas further afield like Bondi Beach. Remember the sunscreen and hat!
    The Sydney Fish Market was a bit of a disappointment, but maybe we were just not in the mood. So try it and form your own opinion.
    Thank you for well put-together info on Sydney and surrounds.

  7. Hi there, seek for advice. My family and I (9 people) will be in Sydney in November for 5 days. in our itinerary Bluemountain, Bondi Beach, Featherdale zoo so which type of card i should buy. thank you

  8. Hi Lin you will all need Opal cards if you are planning to take Public Transport. Feel free to message me or join our group for specific information.

  9. Hi
    Please advise.
    I arrive on 6 November 2019 for 4 days staying at George Street,Haymarket
    On 7 November 2019 I need to be at Royal Alfred Hospital at 1pm.

    Please suggest transport I can use to the hospital and to return to George Street.

    I also require suggestion for return economical transport to the airport.


  10. Hi Raymond This is a really easy short trip. Choose one of the following buses, 423/426/428/L23/L28. You can join the bus on George Street near Central Station mostly likely from Stand M. The trip takes 34 minutes.

  11. Hi! Best and cheapest way for 2 people to get to the rocks area from the airport?

    Also, best and cheapest way to get to Hillsong Hills campus from the rocks area?

    Thanks so much! Very helpful site 🙂

  12. Google maps in Sydney has transport information and might be the best way to work out the route to Hillsong as it will depend on the time of day. The Rocks is easily reached by train from the airport. Get off at Circular Quay if in a hotel on George Street and Wynyard for the Shangri la or Quay Apartments.

  13. Hi,
    Love your site! Find it very educational and informative.
    We are seniors (73 n 76 yo) from the Philippines and will be visiting Sydney for the first time on Nov 24 till Dec 4.
    What is the best option for us to get to our hotel from the Sydney Int’l airport to Bayswater Sydney hotel? We are arriving 10am Nov 24, 2019.
    Also, is it more economical for us to buy the package tour offers for City bus tour and ferry cruise tours rather than taking d public transports on our own? Will highly appreciate your reply. Thank you.

  14. Hi Romy, Your hotel is a good 10 minute walk from Kings Cross Station so given the cost of two train tickets I would probably suggest a shuttle or rideshare service. If you are travelling on a budget then get an Opal card and load $30 on it and use public transport to explore the harbour and the city. You can take buses or trains to most of the main sites. If you like using the HOHO bus for them commentary I have written a post on Sydney’s bus with some tips to make the most of your time here We have also written a similar guide to using public transport to cover a similar route

  15. Hi Paula, great guide to Sydney’s public transport. Just a friendly suggestion, it may help to link through to your Opal Card “How-To” from this page, as I didn’t realise you had it on another page when I was looking for it. Or maybe I just missed it here. Either way, thanks for the info!

  16. Your site is very helpful. I am trying to confirm train times from Central Station to Gosford on the Central Coast & Newcastle Line for New Year’s Eve after the show ends (either 10 pm or 1 am). All the online schedules show no trains. I cannot seem to find the schedule for New Year’s Eve. Do you know where I can find that?

  17. Hi, I am glad to find your site, the info is great. Would you mind suggesting any suitable transport which I could take from the airport if I wish to travel to ANZ stadium for an event??

  18. Hi CHaerin, Glad you found it helpful – I suggest you jump on the train to Central Station and change to an Olympic Park Station. For large events, they have dedicated trains to Olympic Park. Otherwise, you take a train to Lidcombe and change to the Olympic Park train. It’s much more straightforward than it sounds.

  19. Hi, this article is very useful for first timers to Sydney. Would like to ask if the train and bus services open as usual on xmas and boxing days? Thank you

  20. Hi Ping, Public transport is available every day of the year. On Xmas day and Boxing day they use the Sunday or Public Holiday timetable which sees fewer services per hour but you will still be able to find plenty of ways to get around.

  21. Hi there, thanks for the reply. May I ask if the public transport to places like hunter valley follows the same as what you have suggested? And if opal card is used or separate tickets need to be purchased? Thank you.

Comments are closed.