When visiting a new city, it can be difficult to figure out how to move through the city and not get totally turned around or lost. But Sydney has an amazing network of public transportation systems making it easy to hop on a train, metro, bus, or even ferry to get to where you need to go. The best part is that many of the buses even go into the suburbs of Sydney.
Locals and tourists can use an Opal card or a credit card that allows you to tap and go. You can purchase an Opal card at many newsagents, supermarkets, convenience stores, post offices, and at the Sydney airport. Before you can use your Opal card, you will need to load it with money and it can easily be reloaded at train stations and convenience stores.
It is very easy to use your Opal card, simply tap the card on the reader when you board and you are good to go. Remember to tap your card on the reader when you disembark so you are not charged extra. Out and about using the public transportation system? Don't lug extra bags or shopping finds everywhere you go – find a Sydney luggage storage service, drop your bags, and come back for them later. Using Sydney's terrific transit system, of course!
How to get around Sydney by train
Sydney’s Train System
The train network in Sydney, the City Circle, loops around the city and stops at seven stations along the way. It is really the easiest way to make your way around the city centre. Stations that you can hop on or off include Circular Quay, Central, Martin Place, Museum, St. James, Town Hall, and Wynyard.
The T1 North Shore line will take you across the Sydney Harbour Bridge over to the lower north shore. The Northern Line stops at Town Hall, Central, and Wynyard and heads north across the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
The T4 Eastern Suburbs and Illawarra Line will take you to Bondi Junction and is great for those wanting to visit Bondi Beach but avoid heavy traffic. The T4 line will also take you into Kings Cross and leaves from the Martin Place, Town Hall, and Central stations. The Blue Mountains Line leaves from Central and goes through Western Sydney to the Katoomba, Wentworth Falls, and Leura stations.
Central Railway Station
The Sydney Central Railway Station is one of the first rail stations in the country and was built in 1855. The original station was located in Redfern at Cleveland Fields but was moved to Haymarket in 1906. The Redfern Train Station is located where the original Central Station stood. The iconic clock tower at the Central Railway Station is a must-see when in Sydney.
Today, the station is used as one of the main terminals for all intercity rail traffic and also has several suburban lines come into the station. The station has several nice waiting rooms, ticket booths or desks, and luggage facilities. Even if you are not planning on traveling by train in Sydney, you will want to stop by and visit the station.
Serving the Redfern suburb, this is the location of the original Central Station built in 1855. Today it is on the Illawarra line and has 12 platforms; ten platforms above ground and two underground. The Redfern Station is one of the most important transportation hubs in the city.
The above ground platforms are accessible from the Lawson Street entrance and the two underground platforms are accessible from the Gibbons Street entrance. The concourses are connected inside the station. Platform 1 serves the BMT, CCN, SCO, and T7 lines which go to Central Station. Platform 2 serves the same lines as Platform 1 but will take you to Katoomba, Olympic Park, Springwood, and Wyong.
Platforms 4 and 6 take you to Epping and Parramatta. You can hop on one of the trains on the other platforms and head to Bankstown, Liverpool, Macarthur, and Bondi Junction which is near Bondi Beach. Interactive maps can be downloaded or you can check out the maps located in the station.
Kings Cross Railway Station
This underground railway station is located on the Eastern Suburbs line. The station serves the Kings Cross area which is best known as the red-light district of Sydney. There are anywhere from six to eight trains that enter and leave the station each hour with extra trains that run during the peak hours throughout the work week.
International Railway Station
The International Railway Station is located in the Sydney Airport. It serves the International Terminal and opened in 2000. It is operated by a private company and passengers have to pay a surcharge in addition to the standard CityRail fare. The station has two side platforms beneath the parking lot just to the west of terminal T1.
You can easily access the International Railway Station by taking a pedestrian subway that connects to T1. The Sydney Airport and East Hills Line are served at this station with trains running about every 15 minutes in both directions.
Sydney’s Light Rail System
There are three main lines that make up the light rail network in Sydney. The first line or L1 takes you from Central Station to Dulwich Hill. The second line, L2, goes from Circular Quay to Randwick and the third line, L3, goes from Circular Quay to Kingsford.
Taking L1 is the best way to quickly reach several great attractions including The International Convention Centre, Chinatown, Darling Harbour, The Powerhouse Museum, the Australian National Maritime Museum, and the Star Casino. If you are needing to head into the city centre, you can take L2 or L3. Both will also take you near the Royal Randwick Racecourse, Surry Hills, and the Sydney Cricket Ground.
How to get around Sydney by bus
If you are not comfortable riding the train or light rail system, Sydney does have a wonderful bus network with several buses traveling through Sydney and into Circular Quay and Wynyard as well as several of the suburbs, beaches, and attractions that are further from the city centre.
If you are needing to reach Bondi Beach or any of the eastern suburbs of Sydney, you will want to hop on the 380 or 333 bus. When heading into the inner city or west neighborhoods including Alexandria, Surry Hills, Marrickville, and Newtown, there are several buses you can grab including the 308, 352, 355, 412, 433, 426, 428, M10, and M30.
Sydney even has several regional buses that go to the Blue Mountains and along the Australian coast to several towns and cities along the way. Most of the regional buses leave Eddy Avenue right in front of Central Station and include Greyhound, Priors Scenic Express, Firefly Express, and Murrays.
Sydney also offers the Big Bus Tour which is perfect for those who want to see more of the city without having to navigate it by themselves. There are tours that depart every 30 minutes from Circular Quay and take you to 33 stops throughout Sydney including Barangaroo, Kings Cross, Bondi Beach, and The Rocks. You do have to purchase tickets at least 24 hours in advance.
How to get around Sydney by ferry
With amazing Sydney Harbour, it is super fun and relatively easy to hop on a ferry. Several ferry services offer rides around the harbour. Head to Circular Quay and then take a ferry to eight main spots around the harbour. Most of the ferries are operational from 6:00 a.m. until 12:00 a.m. Your Opal card also works on the public ferries.
The non-stop F1 ferry will take you from Circular Quay to Manly and back again whereas F2, also non-stop, will take you to Taronga Zoo Sydney, one of many activities for kids. The Sydney Ferries Network will also take you from Circular Quay to Barangaroo, Luna Park, and Darling Harbour.
There are private ferries that you may be interested in if the public ferries are too crowded. The Manly Fast Ferry will take you from Circular Quay to Manly in only 18 minutes whereas the F1 ferry takes about 25 minutes. Check out Captain Cook Cruises when you have a little extra time as it will make several stops between Circular Quay and Lane Cove.
Water taxis are also becoming more popular as ferries become more and more crowded. You can zip right along in Sydney Harbour from Circular Quay to Watsons Bay in about 15 minutes. There are several companies that offer to pick up at almost any point within the harbour and along the river. They will pick you up from islands and even other boats.
How to get around Sydney by car
Traveling by car through Sydney can be problematic. The geography of the city means steep, winding roads that can be difficult for those not used to driving in Sydney. Traffic jams are a daily hassle and weather can make driving hazardous. Driving around the city is not quick and it is definitely not easy.
Toll roads are also common in Sydney along their motorways and major access points such as Harbour Tunnel, West Connex, Harbour Bridge, Eastern Distributor, and Cross City Tunnel. You will need an electronic tag or e-tag or a visitor’s pass to pass through the tolls.
Parking is also problematic with private parking lots and street parking being very expensive, most of the parking meters take cash and coin as well as cards. If you are looking for a cheaper parking option, you can pre-book your parking space in the city centre and then walk or use public transit to get around the city.
Wilson Parking has some of the best parking rates and you can also use Parkopedia to find the cheapest parking rates near where you are wanting to park your car. Again, you will have to park your car and then walk or use public transit to get around to other areas or you will spend a lot of money paying to park.
Can I get around Sydney by foot?
There are many areas and neighborhoods where getting around on foot is actually easier than hopping on public transit or driving your car. When you are exploring different areas of Sydney, you will definitely want to lace up your comfy shoes and strike out on foot.
Take advantage of walking tours offered by several different tour companies where you can follow a knowledgeable tour group and stroll through the historic neighborhoods of Sydney. Your guide will weave fun, interesting, and exciting stories about the areas you are exploring. They will also give you tips on where to visit, shop, and eat (try Sydney street food) when in the area.
Sydney Trains and More
Spending time exploring Sydney should be a fun and exciting time. You do not want to have to worry about how to get from point A to point B when you are not familiar with the city. Sydney's public transport system is not a very difficult system to master, but it does take a little time to figure it out. You do not want to get lost so be sure to ask a local if you are not sure about which train, bus, or ferry to take.
Bring along your sense of adventure and give the public transport in Sydney a try! Whether you are heading to the city centre or Bondi Beach, you will be able to easily get to where you want to go. Remember to purchase and load money on an Opal card so you can easily tap and go when riding public transit.