Sydney can be a notoriously expensive place to visit. If planning a trip to Sydney, you will certainly be asking “What does it cost to visit Sydney?” Lesley grew up in Sydney and we frequently visit both for work and to catch up with family and friends, so we are sharing our tips to help you to budget your trip to Sydney. All prices are in Australian Dollars.
What does it cost to visit Sydney?
It is possible to visit Sydney on a reasonable budget, with a little “insider knowledge” on the best places to go.
When visiting Sydney, particularly when we had children, we always chose to stay in or around Darling Harbour. You can certainly find much cheaper accommodation further out, but we find the convenience is worth the additional cost.
From Darling Harbour you are within easy distance of all the major city attractions. In Darling Harbour itself you will find a wide range of dining options, from cheap eats in the Harbourside food court, to a selection of restaurants and bars around the harbour as well as nearby China Town, where you can enjoy a cheap Asian Meal or Yum Cha. There are also a huge range of attractions right at your hotel door.
Among the attractions you will find nearby are:
- The Australian National Maritime Museum,
- Sea Life Sydney Aquarium,
- A range of harbour cruises,
- Kingpin bowling,
- Laser tag,
- childrens playgrounds,
- Madam Tussauds,
- Powerhouse Museum
- Wildlife Sydney Zoo
- Paddys Markets.
- Chinese Gardens of Friendship
- China Town
Budget your trip to Sydney
Darling Harbour Accommodation
Below I have researched the current cost of one night’s accommodation for two people in hotels in Darling Harbour in which we have stayed. These are not paid endorsements, just hotels we stay in ourselves when we visit Sydney.
Some of these also have “kids stay free” promotions, which can make them great value.
There are also a range of holiday apartments available, where you can self-cater. If your prefer this style of accommodation Research private holiday accommodation here
- Mercure Sydney: $215 per night $259 per night with breakfast
- Ibis Darling Harbour: $235 per night $285 per night with breakfast
- Novotel Darling Harbour: $309 per night $369 per night with breakfast
- Holiday Inn Darling Harbour : $224 per night $249 per night with breakfast
- Ibis Sydney Airport: $135 per night. We paid $300 for the night prior to our most recent overseas trip for dinner, including a bottle of wine, bed and breakfast.
Another reason we choose Darling Harbour accommodation is that many of the hotels either offer limited parking, or subsidised parking at a nearby long term parking station. Do check this option if driving to Sydney as parking can be at best difficult and can be very expensive. Parking can cost upwards of $30 per day.
Sydney has an extensive bus, rail, light rail and ferry service. The Opal Card is the most cost effective means to use public transport in and around Sydney. It can be pre-paid depending upon how many trips you wish to take. As a guide, single fares are:
- Train Up to 10km $3.50
- Bus up to 8km $3.66
- Ferry $6
- Light rail up to 8km $3.66
- We paid $48 for a day pass for two adults and two children.
The Hop on Hop off Bus is $55 per day and is a great way to get an orientation of the city. You can also package entry into popular attractions to save money.
Getting from the airport.
Most hotels offer a free airport shuttle service. The Sydney Airport Shuttle service is $15 per person.
If you are planning to venture out of Sydney Discovery Pass provides unlimited travel on regional rail and coach links across NSW, Victoria Queensland and Canberra. Fares start at $232 per person for 14 days.
Food and Drink
Asking “how much does food cost” is like asking “how long is a piece of string?” It will depend upon your tastes and budgets.
Below I have outlined some of the typical costs of a meal at a bar or cafe in the Sydney central area, as well as indicative prices of a meal at a more upmarket restaurant. I have also included some grocery prices to give you an indication for self-catering.
You can certainly spend significantly more than this and meals would be much cheaper in suburban Sydney.
- Fast meal in the food court at Darling Harbour $15-$25
- Meal in Chinatown for two $40
- Main course in a Darling Harbour Restaurant $40
- Seafood meal in Sydney central
- Entree $25
- Main $50
- Fish and chips for two $50
- “All You can eat” dumplings in the Sydney Tower Eye $45 adults $32 children
- Counter meal at a pub or club for two people $60
- Cafe Breakfast for two $25
- Coffee and cake at a cafe $20
- Meat pie from a bakery $5
- Take away coffee $3-$4
- Glass of wine at a restaurant $8
- Bottle of wine at a restaurant $30
- Schooner of beer at a restaurant $8
- Schooner of beer at a pub or club $5
- Glass of wine at a pub or club $5
- Bottle of wine at a pub or club $25
- Bottle of wine from a bottle shop $7 to $15
- Six pack of beer from a bottle shop $15
- Loaf of bread at supermarket $2
- Litre of milk at a supermarket $2
- Kilo of sausages at a supermarket $10
- Kilo of lamb chops at a supermarket $15
Many things in Sydney are free.
- Browse around Circular Quay and the Opera house, taking that must-have selfie with the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Enjoy the street performers and enjoy a coffee at one of the many harbourside cafes.
- Stroll through the botanical gardens around to Lady Macquarie’s chair for magnificent views of the harbour. Enjoy a picnic lunch in the gardens.
- Wander through the historic Rocks area, the birthplace of Australia from Circular Quay and stop at one of the old pubs for a schooner and a counter meal.
- From the Rocks, walk up to Observatory Hill for more magnificent harbour views.
- Visit the Art Gallery of NSW
- Stroll through Paddy’s Markets and haggle a bargain from the hundreds of stallholders.
- Take a ferry to Watson’s Bay, take a dip at the beach and wander up to the famous “Gap” cliff face. Walk along the south head heritage trail, past Lady Jane nudist beach and the Hornby lighthouse. From here you can spot whales between May and November
- Take a ferry to Manly Beach for a swim and a stroll along the promenade.
- Take a ferry to Cockatoo Island and spend the day exploring the maritime and convict history. Self guided audio tours are available, and you can camp the night from $175
- Visit historic St Mary’s Cathedral
Below I have listed the current entry prices per person for some of the more popular tourist attractions.
- Water taxi Darling Harbour to Circular Quay $20
- Sydney Harbour lunch cruise $75 pp
- Australian National Maritime Museum $20 adults $14 children
- Harbour Bridge climb $236
- Sydney Opera House Tour $40
- Seal Life Aquarium $44
- Taronga Zoo $47
- Wildlife Sydney Zoo $60
- Powerhouse Museum $15 adults children under 16 free
- Hyde Park Barracks Adults $12, children 8
- Museum of Sydney Adults $15 children 8
- Sydney Tower Eye observation deck $19.60
- Chinese Gardens of Friendship Darling Harbour Adults $6 children $3
- Hop on Hop off bus, 1 day tour $55
- Blue Mountains explorer bus $50
- Sydney Observatory $10 adults $8 children
The Sydney Pass offers discount prices on a number of Sydney Attractions. Entry into 7 attractions is $229 adults and $135 children.
The Iventure card provides discount entry into many popular attractions from $270 per adult.
Sydney attractions pass provides entry to the Sydney Tower Eye and three other attractions for $99
The above list is by no means exhaustive, but we hope it will give you some useful information to start planning your trip to Sydney.