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Sydney Harbour Bridge | © paul bica/Flickr https://flic.kr/p/8fm1cc
Sydney Harbour Bridge | © paul bica/Flickr https://flic.kr/p/8fm1cc

The Ultimate Backpacker's Guide To Sydney, Australia

Picture of Paris Donnatella Callan
Updated: 17 November 2017

Home to the world-famous Bondi Beach, Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge, Sydney truly balances lifestyle with culture. With endless activities, sights to see and things to do, it comes as no surprise that backpackers are in abundance throughout the city. Check out our backpacker’s ultimate guide to Sydney.

Overview

Sydney is the capital of New South Wales, Australia. It is home to just over five million people, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2016, making it the most populated city on the continent. The city surrounds Sydney Harbour, the world’s largest natural harbour, and boasts a thriving business sector, impressive architecture, a budding art scene and deep cultural and historical significance.

Home to Australian indigenous communities for over 30,000 years, Sydney was also the first European settlement in Australia, which is referred to today as the First Fleet in 1788

Although Sydney is undoubtedly one of the most expensive cities in the world (per SkyNews.com and News.com.au) – rivalling top contenders such as New York and London – the city does have much to offer on a budget. This is why Sydney welcomes a wealth of backpackers annually and proves as a great springboard to explore the rest of Australia and neighbouring Oceanian countries.

Visas

Backpackers will need a visa to enter Australia, regardless of length of stay or type of trip. Visit the Australian Department of Immigration to explore visa options and download brochures and application forms. Both 90-day tourist visas and working holiday visas are available.

Transport

Transport around Sydney is pretty easy to hack. The city and some surrounding suburbs can be accessed via the underground train system. Buses are also readily available and are ideal when moving around suburbs outside of the city. Ferries are the go-to for exploring nearby harbour islands or for reaching the likes of Manly or Milsons Point.

A train from Sydney International Airport to the city takes less than 15 minutes, whilst buses and taxis are also available upon exiting the airport terminal.

Remember to pick up an Opal card; this is Sydney’s ‘tap-on, tap-off’ travel system. Cards can be purchased at all train stations and selected retails and ‘topped up’ with travel credit to be used on trains, buses, and ferries.

Accommodation

There is a wide selection of budget and affordable accommodation available for backpackers in Sydney. Although the city is undeniably expensive in many respects, backpacker hostels cater especially for budget-conscious trailblazers. This can mean bonus amenities such as free WiFi, free breakfast or activities and excursions.

Check out Sydney’s coolest (and most affordable) hostels here!

Sydney Harbour YHA rooftop _ Courtesy of YHA Australia (1)

Rooftop View | Courtesy of Sydney Harbour YHA

Things To Do

There’s never a dull moment in Sydney. From nature walks to thrilling adventure activities, chill cultural days to wild animal fun, here are our top picks of things to do in Sydney.

Bondi Beach Surfing

A trip to Sydney would not be complete without a surf at Bondi Beach. Although there are many pro wave-catchers bopping out on the sea, beginners mustn’t fret as Bondi is actually quite welcoming to newbies. Avail of a surfing lesson at Let’s Go Surfing or rent a board from one of the many surf shops that dot the shoreline. Their prices are based on hourly rentals and are very reasonable. Afterwards, do the Bondi to Coogee walk – a breathtaking (and free) sight not to be missed!

Lets Go Surfing Bondi - Push on Wave

Beginners Lesson | Courtesy of Let’s Go Surfing

Sydney Opera House

Take a stroll through Sydney’s Central Business District (CBD) to Circular Quay to see the renowned cultural and tourist attraction, Sydney Opera House. With the stunning Sydney Harbour Bridge as its neighbour, it is quite the sight to see. From there, hop on a ferry to Darling Harbour to get a city view from the waterways.

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La Bohème | Courtesy of Opera Australia

Ferry To Manly

Catch a short ferry to Manly, a sleepy beachside suburb set across the water from Sydney. With cafes, shops, bars and restaurants, this little beachside town boasts 100% Aussie surf vibes, so remember to bring a board if that’s what you’re into.

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Manly Ferry and Opera House | © Scott Davies/Flickr https://flic.kr/p/yqeh6

Go Wild

There’s endless fun and action-filled activities in Sydney. From the charming old-school Luna Park amusement park, to the world-class conservation Taronga Zoo, sky-diving, whale watching and shark diving, to name a few.

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BridgeClimb

Although on the higher end of the budget, climbing the famous Sydney Harbour Bridge is definitely bucket list material. The company BridgeClimb offers excursions on a daily basis, and although a tad pricey for a backpacker, it’s bound to be worth every penny. The structure, which towers 134 metres above sea level, provides the most breathtaking views of Sydney Harbour. Do it at dusk for the best candy-coloured skies!

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Dusk on Sydney Harbour Bridge | Courtesy of BridgeClimb