Getting Around Sydney
The best way to get around Sydney is by Sydney Trains. While all Sydney's rail lines are easy for first-time users to navigate, the City Circle line is ideal for travelers looking to visit a number of the city's best things to do. Although the bus system has routes that crisscross the city, any traveling done on four wheels is at the mercy of Sydney traffic. Rental cars are recommended for driving to and from the city but not inside its boundaries since traffic is heavy and Aussies drive on the left side of the road, which can be confusing to American visitors. Walking is, of course, a wonderful way to explore any city, but Sydney is much too large to be done on foot alone. And a trip on a ferry is a must-do for the views alone.
To get to and from Sydney Airport (SYD), you can take a fairly cheap taxi ride or hop on the Airport Link train, which takes you about 6 miles into the city. You can also rent a car at the airport. A taxi ride from the airport to the central business district will cost between AU$45 and AU$55 (about $32 to $39).
With a convenient light rail and train network that's tourist-friendly and reliable, it's no wonder why the Sydney Trains system is popular with locals and visitors alike. Many attractions, including the Sydney Opera House, The Rocks and the Royal Botanic Garden, can be accessed from the system's City Circle line, while other lines travel to the nearby Blue Mountains and along the South Coast. Fares vary based on distance and time traveled, and discounts are available for senior citizens and children. Single trip tickets can be used, but for a more hassle-free fare option that works on all of Sydney's trains, light rails, buses and ferries, purchase an Opal card, a reloadable plastic card that riders can transfer money onto online, at select retailers or at Opal train station vending machines. Most train lines operate from 4 a.m. to midnight.
Sydney's public buses are a fairly reliable form of transportation and they're a convenient way to get to just about everywhere in the city, even its outskirts. But because Sydney is such a big and bustling place, the buses do encounter frequent traffic jams and delays, particularly during rush hour. Fares are based on distance traveled. A single, one-way fare for trips between zero and 3 kilometers costs AU$2.20 or AU$2.80 ($1.50 or $2), dependent on if you have an Opal card or a single Opal ticket. You can also use an Opal card on Sydney's buses and other forms of local transportation.
If you're looking to get to Manly Beach or Darling Harbour or just want to enjoy the best views of Sydney Harbour, riding one of Sydney Ferries' vessels is a must. You'll find the main ferry terminal at Circular Quay, where seven ferry lines depart every 25 to 40 minutes throughout the day and evening. Make sure to leave plenty of time to arrive at the ferry dock since wharf gates close 2 minutes before scheduled departure times.
One-way fares vary based on the destination but start at AU$6.01 (or $4.30). Should you choose to forgo buying paper MyFerry single and return tickets (which can be bought at select convenience stores, ticket vending machines or ticket offices), a reloadable Opal card can be used to pay for ferry rides. Discounts are also available for seniors, students and children.
If you're planning to visit multiple Aussie cities or want to take a daytrip outside of Sydney, consider renting a car. However, for those who plan on staying within the city, a car will become an expensive, inefficient hassle. Not only is parking hard to come by, but traffic is also unrelenting. Add in the cost of a rental and the price of gas, and you'll end up paying big money for a big headache. If you do decide to drive, keep in mind that traffic operates on the left side of the road and all cars use right-hand drive.
In Sydney, taxi fare is determined by the number of kilometers traveled, so you might find the fares higher here than in the U.S. Plus, during peak hours (10 p.m. to 6 a.m.) and on weekends, additional surcharges or hiked fares may apply. To hail a taxi, signal for one on the street or make an advance reservation by phone (much like you would in America). Expect to pay about AU$2.19 per kilometer (or roughly $1.56 per mile) when traveling during regular hours. Ride-hailing apps like Uber and Taxify also operate in Sydney.
When in doubt, hoof it. If you're armed with a good map, then walking can be a great way to see Sydney's individual neighborhoods. However, this sprawling city is way too large to traverse entirely on foot. When you get tired (and you will), hop on another mode of transit.
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