Sydney might be a world-class city, but living – and socialising – here can be surprisingly cheap if you know where to go. Here are some of the best ways to experience Sydney without breaking the bank.
Sydney is home to some fabulous museums and galleries, many of which are free to visit. These include the Art Gallery of New South Wales, which has free entry to view the permanent collection and most temporary exhibitions, as well as a range of free talks, tours, films and other events, and the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), which also offers free entry to almost all their exhibitions. Feeling fancy? Treat yourself to a coffee at the rooftop MCA Café and enjoy the view of Sydney’s iconic Circular Quay and Opera House.
Cost: Gallery entry is free. Paid tickets are required for some major exhibitions.
Explore Sydney’s history
Cockatoo Island is home to a fascinating chapter of Australia’s convict history. A former penal colony, the island still boasts convict artefacts dating back to the 1800s. In fact, it’s such a culturally significant site that parts of the island are on the UNESCO World Heritage List – and it’s just a short ferry trip from Circular Quay. Join a tour, visit one of the island’s many events or exhibitions, or while away the afternoon with a game of basketball, giant chess or one of the many vintage lawn games on offer from the Visitors Centre.
Cost: Ferry tickets are about $7 each way and tours start at $5. Entry to the island is free, as is use of the games and other amenities. Pack a picnic and you’ll be good to go!
Eat yourself silly
Sydney is a foodie town, which means there are great things to eat everywhere you look. And, while there are lots of high-end restaurants, there are also lots of student-friendly places where you can grab a fantastic meal for under $15. Try Marrickville for cheap and tasty Vietnamese, including the famous $6 banh mi at Marrickville Pork Roll; get friendly with a plate of dumplings (from $9.90) at New Shanghai (city, Chatswood or Ashfield) or Chinatown Noodle Restaurant (Quay Street in the CBD); pig out on a chicken, shawarma or felafel roll at El Jannah (under $10; multiple locations); or grab a plate of roti with two curry dips and spicy sambal (from $8) at Mamak (Chinatown and Chatswood) – to name a few.
Cost: Depends how hungry you are!
Sydney wouldn’t be Sydney without the wild stretches of coastline and stunning beaches it’s known for – so to become a true Sydneysider, you’ll need to get out and see them for yourself. From the calm waters of Balmoral Beach on the north shore to the surf and sunshine of Bondi, Bronte, Coogee and Maroubra in the east, there’s world-class swimming just about everywhere you look. Want to take a road trip? Jump on the B-Line bus to the Northern Beaches (including Manly Beach, Whale Beach and Palm Beach) or beg a friend for a ride to the pristine – and comparatively uninhabited – Central Coast (Pearl Beach, Killcare and MacMasters Beach, to name a few). Wherever you go, always choose patrolled beaches and swim between the flags.
Become one with nature
One of the best ways to experience Sydney is to set out on foot – pack a hat and a picnic and head for the coast, where some of Australia’s best walks are waiting for you. The Eastern Beaches Coastal Walkway is an iconic track that connects some of Sydney’s most famous eastern suburbs beaches. You can go all the way from Bondi to Maroubra (12km, 3-5 hours), or just do a shorter section like the world-famous Bondi to Coogee walk. Further north, the Spit to Manly walk (10km, 3.5-5 hours) will take you through coastal, bushland and suburban landscapes. Thanks to the spectacular clifftop views, you might be lucky enough to see some whales if you visit between May and November. Or, head to the Royal National Park and make the short (but challenging) trek to the Figure 8 Pools (3.5km, 1 hour) for an unforgettable bush-meets-beach experience.
For all walks, do your research before you go – make sure you’re fit enough to complete the walk you choose; take adequate food, water and sunscreen with you; and follow warnings and other information signs before and during the walk.
Cost: Access to the Eastern Beaches Coastal Walkway and the Spit to Manly trail is free. Entry to the Royal National Park is $12 per vehicle per day.