Sydney On A Budget: What To Do & What To See

Photo courtesy of Francisca under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Sydney is an incredibly diverse place and travellers heading here are in for a wild ride. It’s a metropolis jungle and also a nature conservationists dream paradise—Sydney definitely has it all—which is why it attracts so many travellers and can be a place where paying premium prices is the norm.

But the good news is there’s lots of easy ways to skimp here and trim there without affecting your vacation in a bad way—it’s just about being smarter about the money, the itinerary, and a couple of other key factors! So if you’ve got your sights set on the the Emerald City, take in these tips, a little bit of prep, and enjoy the fun ride!

Do the free things.

Sydney’s Contemporary Museum of Art is one of those great things: a free museum. But it’s not the only free thing you can do in the city, and it’s a great way to trim the expenses between things that will cost but you really want to do anyway (like scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef!)

Download an app like HearPlanet to get a customized walking tour guide that you can put in your pocket and access with headphones, or just head out onto one of Sydney’s ferries for panoramic views of the harbour that are going to only cost the ticket of the ferry (instead of a really expensive tour). And make sure you don’t miss the beaches and the parks—those are great free or low cost ways to enjoy all the city has to offer!

Lock in your rates.

Exchange rates are constantly changing; with the global market constantly fluctuating, it’s better if you lock in your rates as soon as you find the ones that you want and getting those big budget items out of the way. You can do this by paying with credit card, and doing everything in advance; websites that let you prepay are the way to go.

Also, don’t forget to note what time of year you’re going. Being in the Southern Hemisphere Australia has summer from the end of November through February, making these holiday months the most expensive to travel there. Head there just before, or just after, these busy tourist days and you’ll see much better prices for everything all around!

Be smart about your cash.

It’s almost never a better idea to take money to an exchange office; with ATM machines these days, it’s almost always the best bet to pull your cash straight out. A couple of tips to keep in mind before heading off with your plastic is to contact your bank for two reasons.

First, you’re going to want to alert them to your travel plans so they don’t put a hold on your account. Second, you want to make sure that your ATM transaction fee isn’t going to be outside of 2%-5% range, because that’s how you’re going to get the best deal for exchanging money. And third, when in doubt, take a little bit of cash with you and commit to using only credit card in most situations. It’s easier to keep up with expenses as well as being good at curbing those exchange fees!

Take alternative lodging.

The share economy really has people thinking: do I really need a room at an all-inclusive resort? Between hostels, Airbnb, and everything in between, it’s never been easier to find accommodation at a great price. Other things to consider when you’re heading to Sydney are vacation rentals and home swaps—if you yourself have accommodation in a cool place in the world, you never know who would like to trade houses with you for a week or so!

For the really brave and adventurous there’s always couchsurfing, but that’s much more friendly for solo travellers, so if you’re going as a pair or a group, look at places other than hotels first!

Get discount cards.

Sydney has a really handy thing called the iVenture card, and it’s definitely worth the price if you’re into taking in the traditional tourist sightseeing spots. You can choose between destinations that focus on the harbor, parks and gardens, entertainment, cultural attractions, and more, and they’ve got pre-pay and pick-up at varied locations when you arrive. For families, it’s a great way to get everyone to see all of the sites, or even branch out and visit neighboring cities (they have discounts for city hopper passes as well!).

Pack flat packs.

This is the most practical piece of advice I can give anyone who’s travelling—take a water bottle with you, and if you’re low on backpack space, make it a BPA-free flat roll water bottle. Products like the Vapur Eclipse are designed exactly for the purpose of not taking up much space in your luggage, being a safe way for you to take your water around with you, and it’ll save you big.

My biggest tool for saving money while I’m traveling, regardless of the destination, is to just plan as best as you can. It’s really very easy to get great deals, be it with discount airlines or Groupon specials for sightseeing excursions, but it all comes down to how well you are prepared for the things that will actually happen while you’re at your destination—if you can get a handle on that, you’re home free!
Bon voyage!

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