While we have worked with backpackers a lot over the years, it’s been quite a while since we have been backpacking ourselves and we have not been backpacking in Sydney so today we have reached out to some experts who have backpacked in our fair city recently for their advice.
They cover the best hostels and a bunch of cheap but fabulous things to do in Sydney. We hope these tips will help you save some money and have a great time on your trip.
- Some basics for backpacking in Sydney
- Money saving tips for your trip to Sydney
- Best things for Backpackers to do in Sydney
- Backpackers favourite places to stay in Sydney
Some basics for backpacking in Sydney
Backpacker Costs in Sydney
Sydney is well known as being one of the more expensive cities to visit so it is good to have a basic idea of the costs before you arrive so you can sort out your budget.
Cost of a dorm room: $28-$35 per night
Airport transfer: Train $18 Bus hack $8
Weekly transport (Opal card): $30-60 depending on where you stay in Sydney
Cheap meals: Coffee and toast: $6 Asian lunchbox: $8-10 Pub dinner: $15
Beers: Happy hour $5 regular pub price: $8-9
Ideally, you will have at least $60 a day to get by on in Sydney and a fun stay will cost you closer to $100 or more. Many longer staying travellers move from hostels to share accommodation pretty quickly to keep costs down.
Visas for visiting Sydney
Unless you are a kiwi cousin, you will need a visa to visit Sydney. There are a few options, but the main ones for short term visitors are the e-visitor, for EU citizens and the Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) for other nationalities. Both allow stays of up to 90 days.
If you wish to stay longer, or you are from a country not covered by the first two options you can apply for a standard Visitor visa which allows for stays of up to one year. You can access the list of eligible countries here.
I recommend you visit the Home Affairs website to determine which visa best suits your need. There is no need to apply via an external agency, particularly if they have additional fees. Often your travel agent can help with an ETA or E-visa application. E-visitor and Visitor visas are free only the Electronic Travel Authority has a fee ($20).
Working Holiday visas
Some visitors aged 18-30 can apply for permission to work during their visit. If you hold a passport from one of the select countries listed you can work for one year in Australia. Find more details and apply via the Home Affairs website.
So that’s enough from us, what did our backpacking bloggers have to say about saving money on your trip to Sydney without missing out on the good stuff?
Money saving tips for your trip to Sydney
Learn how to take advantage of Sydney’s public transport caps.
Nitha, who writes at The Trailing Mom managed to get her head around the Opal card and public transport in Sydney and offers her advice.
“Sydney is a hot destination for backpackers, and even though the living expenses in Sydney are on the higher side, backpacking is not uncommon here. With a little bit of planning and understanding of the services available, you can cover the top attractions in Sydney pretty easily by public transport.
Sydney’s public transport system is well organised and user-friendly. It consists of a network of trains, buses, ferries and light rail. Ticketing is by a smart system called Opal which seems complicated by really is not. You can add value to you Opal card and then use it to tap on & tap off at any public transport in the network.
The Opal Card offers amazing travel benefits among them; the Sunday Travel Cap is the most beneficial. On Sundays, you have unlimited access to Sydney public transport services for a maximum of AUD 2.70 per person. That means you can comfortably travel all day on Sydney trains, buses, light rail and ferry services for just 2.70 AUD which is an absolute bargain.
There are a bunch of fantastic day trip locations in Sydney that are entirely accessible via public transport including the Blue Mountains, the South Coast towns of Wollongong and Kiama and even Newcastle 2 hours north.”
You can follow Nitha on Pinterest to see more of her travels.
Find the best spots for cheap drinks
We asked Sydney based blogger Holly from THATraveller to share her favourite local places for bargain drinks. Holly is based on the Northern Beaches when she is not off exploring the world, so her tips are perfect for that day trip to Manly.
“Just along the shore from the ferry, Manly’s Corso transforms into the perfect hub for nightlife on the beaches. From pubs to nightclubs, to quaint eateries with cocktails to-die-for, there’s something for everyone.
If you’re like me, you love a good bargain – and if you’re a backpacker, Manly is very kind to you. The Bavarian Bier Cafe on Manly Wharf lets you enjoy the best of Germany, a whole sausage menu and crispy beers. Mondays are the days for hospitality workers and those with working visas, so if you show your RSA card, you can get happy-hour prices all night!
For cocktail lovers, In Situ and The Hold are the perfect place for you. Located in its own little enclave from Manly Corso, the two along with Donny’s Bar are rated some of the Northern Beaches best spots for specialised cocktails and live music; and even better, they have Happy Hour;
- Donny’s Bar- 2 for 1 Cocktails, $5 House Wine/Beer/Spirits
- In Situ – $12 cocktails, $6 House Beer/Wine
- The Hold – $5 Beer/Wine/Spirits and Tequila Tuesdays!
For a taste of local live bands, Henry’s (previously Moonshine) is one of the most well-known destinations for both backpackers and regulars. Not only this, it’s located on the top floor of the historic Hotel Steyne – Manly’s largest and most renowned pub.
Now let’s say you’ve had a good go of Happy Hour on the weekend and it’s time for a bit of dancing. Where to go? The Ivanhoe Hotel is the place to be if you don’t mind a little bit of *pushin’ and shovin’*, the lines can be long, but it’s probably the most exclusive area around that’s dedicated to having a dancefloor. Otherwise Sugarlounge and it’s underground Brooklyn Bar give you a little mix of both worlds – did someone say Brazilian Night..?!”
Hunt down some cheap eats.
Danielle from Live in 10 Countries has some helpful tips about making your food budget stretch a little further. She also has a great article on Working Holiday visas that may be helpful.
Take a free walking tour
Wendy from The Nomadic Vegan is a fan of free walking tours, as are we.
“There are free tours running in Sydney every day, rain or shine, and if you join the “I’m Free” walking tour you don’t even need to book in advance. You can just turn up at the meeting point and look for the guide, who will be wearing a bright green shirt.
This company offers tours of downtown Sydney that start from Town Hall Square daily at 10:30 am and 2:30 pm, that give a good introduction to Sydney, as well as a tour of the Rocks district that start at 6 pm at Cadman’s Cottage. The Rocks tour is an excellent way to learn more about the history of colonial Sydney.
Your guide will also be a great source of local info and can give you tips on where to find the best bars and restaurants in Sydney.”
If you are vegan I recommend you take a look at Wendy’s list of the best Vegan dining options in Sydney on her website.
You might also like to check out our posts on Sydney Greeters, a volunteer organisation in Sydney who offer free 3 hour tours with a local.
Best things for Backpackers to do in Sydney
Don’t miss Sydney’s two scenic coastal tracks
Seeing the Sydney NYE fireworks for free at Mrs Macquarie’s Chair
Lots of backpackers arrive in Sydney just before New Year’s Eve with no plans and no idea of the best free options. Alex Trembath from the blog Career Gappers went along to the NYE backpacker hotspots and shared his experience.
“There are many reasons why December is a great time for backpacking in Sydney, not least the opportunity to see the legendary New Year’s Eve firework display. With over a million people competing for views around the harbour, however, finding a good free vantage point can be difficult.
We saw the display from Mrs Macquarie’s Chair – which we’d heard was the best free spot – and we were not disappointed. The grassy peninsula juts out to the east of the harbour, offering a pristine view of the Opera House, and bridge.
To secure a place you need to get there early. We arrived shortly after 6 am, and within an hour the queue was over 10,000 deep (the maximum capacity is 14,000). We spent most of the morning queueing, but it was infinitely worth it for the spectacle later. Bring some games and a picnic, and you’ll be fine! Don’t try and bring drinks in though, as they’ll probably be confiscated.
At 9 pm there is a smaller firework display for families. Many people leave after that, so by midnight, it’s a lot less crowded. All that’s left is to enjoy the main show.” Read all of Alex’s 16 tips for enjoying the Sydney fireworks show from this fabulous spot.
You can also follow Alex on Facebook to stay up to date with his travels.
If you are planning on being in town for NYE, then you might also like to check out ‘mega list’ of the best ways to celebrate NYE in Sydney. It covers everything free vantage points to dance parties, harbour cruises and big budget splurges.
Explore Sydney’s Inner Western Suburbs
Laura from Escapes Etc is in Sydney on a working holiday which has given her plenty of time to get to know the place, and she wants you to go west!
“While Sydney’s beautiful harbour may be the place to tick an iconic site off your bucket list, don’t be afraid to delve into the suburbs. Sydney’s Inner West is teaming with bars, boutiques, coffee and Aussie culture. If you’re visiting on the weekend and are looking for some retail therapy, be sure to find some pre-loved treasures at the famous Glebe market.
If street art is more your thing, then Newtown and Enmore are fantastic places to head. Wander along King Street for boutiques and quirky shops and duck down any side road for the street art. You’ll also find a vast array of bars and cafes here, making it a great spot any time of the day.”
You can follow Laura on Instagram to see more the fun she is having in Sydney
If you want to take her advice and explore Newtown and Enmore checkout our self-guided Inner West street art walk.
Take a good look at Glebe
Marijs from Rooftop Antics is another who loves the inner west.
“Where is the best suburbs for backpackers to set up camp in Sydney? Let me introduce you to Glebe.
Located in one of the inner west pockets, Glebe is a great neighbourhood to choose as a base for your Sydney exploration. This green pocket of Sydney is most famous for its markets, offering the best second hand and artisan clothing of the city. But it has so much more! Locals love living in the suburbs due to its great selection of coffee and international and affordable
cuisine. Glebe Point Road is filled with high-quality food and the best part? You can walk through the whole suburbs, no car needed when you live in Glebe! You can even walk to Broadway, one of Sydney’s best malls, and all the way into the CBD.
If you’re being extra lazy and don’t want to go for the prettiest stroll past the Fishmarket you can take the light rail to Darling Harbour and Central. While the train might not be around the corner,
the suburb is excellently connected with lots of direct busses straight to Coogee beach or the CBD. My favourite part of Glebe? Blackwattle Bay! This beautiful park with a view of the city and the Anzac Bridge makes me feel lucky to visit Sydney. The perfect spot to round up everyone from the hostel and have a picnic. Did I mention the epic group of dogs that takes there walks here?”
Follow her travels around Australia for more great tips.
Hit up some of Sydney’s local Breweries
Alicia from Alicia Overseas hails from England but now calls Sydney home, when she is not backpacking the globe that is 🙂
Spend some time on a Harbour Island
Crystal from Castaway with Crystal suggests a visit to one of the harbour’s most historic islands.
Explore the Blue Mountains
Anna who writes at AnnaSherchand.com about her travels to over 37 countries shares our love of the Blue Mountains and thinks that even solo travellers should head up to explore the area.
“While you are in Sydney, don’t miss out on the Blue Mountains. It is the national park area that expands west of Sydney. It is famously known for its dramatic scenery, massive forests, refreshing waterfalls, steep cliffs, and villages with guesthouses, galleries and gardens. Katoomba is the main town in the mountains and a good place to start exploring the region.
Following are the things you can solo or with others.
1. See the Three Sisters from Echo Point
2. Watch the sunsets from Cahill’s Lookout
3. Go on Scenic skyway for dramatic views
4. Go to Katoomba Falls
5. Explore the Blue Mountains Botanical Garden
6. Try out one of the cozy cafes for hot soup or drink (I recommend true to the bean)
For some more adventures, challenge yourself to hike/climb Lincoln’s rock, Ruined Castle, or Hanging rock.”
We have a bunch of content on the site to help you follow some of Anna’s tips. I suggest you start with How to plan a trip to the Blue Mountains.
Backpackers favourite places to stay in Sydney
Railway YHA Central Station Sydney
Wake Up on Pitt Street
Bryony from Coasting Australia is an old hand at backpacking; in fact, these days she also backpacks with her family in tow and has written a guide to the hostels for families.
Sydney Capsule Hotel
Kylie from Between England and Iowa spent some time in a capsule hotel and decided they are perfect for those who want a little more privacy than a hostel!
“The Capsule Hotel in Sydney is an accommodation option halfway between a hostel and a budget hotel, located on George Street. For those that are used to sleeping in a hostel, the Capsule Hotel gives you an extra layer of privacy.
Each ‘bunk’ has a solid door (with keycard access) and walls. There are multiple charging outlets and power points, lights, a small safe and a mirror. I loved the way I could chill out in my ‘pod’ with the lights on, without the worry of disturbing other people in the room.
I had somewhere private to change, and I could leave stuff on my bed without the fear of things going missing. The keycard also opened a large locker which matched the number on the capsule. There is plenty of space to store luggage, and the lockers come complete with a rail and clothes hangers!
The Capsule Hotel is still similar to a hostel in the sense that there is around 16 individual ‘capsules’ in a room, shared bathrooms and communal kitchen space. They are also not soundproof, so expect to still hear a little bit of talking, alarm clocks and noisy ladders!”
Read her full review of what it’s like to stay in a capsule hotel or follow her on Instagram @englandandiowa
Sydney Harbour YHA