A glass of wine at a typical restaurant will cost you an arm, and your meal will cost you the rest of your body. Luckily, we at Mad Monkey fancy ourselves a sort of budget-travel-guru. And we’re about to blow your minds. Or really, just help you save a shit ton while you’re traveling down under. With our Sydney Backpackers Guide, you’ll not only find the best places to sleep, eat, drink and play, but you’ll probably have the most incredible trip of your life that you’ll never want to return home. Sorry, mums.
Get ready to take notes (or just bookmark this page for future use) because we’re going to tell you everything you need to know about traveling Sydney on a budget!
Pre-Travel Preparation for Australia Travel:
Half of the traveling is preparing for your trip. It pays (and saves tons of money) to give yourself a few months to arrange your pre-travel requirements. Don’t leave these things to the last minute.
Flights to Australia
This will most likely take the biggest chunk out of your Sydney backpackers budget. As a general rule, the earlier you book your flights, the better price you can get. But if you’re flexible, definitely keep an eye on those last-minute flights, which can often be a steal. The season also affects the price of your flights. You can use free online tools such as Skyscanner and Momondo to monitor prices. Hopper also offers a When to Buy and Fly Reports which tells you the best days to book and fly—weekdays are generally cheaper.
General estimates of flights to Australia:
- Flights from Europe to Australia: $1,200 – $1,600
- Flights from North America to Australia: $1,000 – $1,600
- Flights from South America to Australia: $1,300 – $2,000
- Flights from Asia to Australia: $500 – $750
- Flights from Southeast Asia to Australia: $300 – $500
- Flights from New Zealand to Australia: $200 – $400
*In USD updated April 2018*
Travel Insurance Australia
Rule No. 1 for most travelers is ensuring that you have an insurance policy to cover unforeseen expenses in cases of emergencies. Insurance will cover your costs if you lose your baggage, your flight is delayed or canceled, you fall sick or get into an accident, and even if you have to hurry back home due to an unexpected event.
You need to choose a reliable travel insurance. You can research and purchase from companies in your home country but if you plan to travel long-term, we recommend World Nomads. Prices vary based on where you live, where you’re going (multiple countries are allowed), how long you’ll be traveling, what your age is, and how much coverage you want.
Cost of Travel Insurance for Australia
You can get an exact quote at the World Nomads website but here are some quick estimates for when you travel to Australia:
- One-week insurance: $47 – $65
- One-month insurance: $115 – 165
- Three-month insurance: $217 – $308
- Six-month insurance: $403 – $543
- One-year insurance: $957 – $1,214
*In USD updated April 2018*
Unless you’re from New Zealand, everyone needs a visa to travel to Australia and you need to apply for it before you board your flight. How much you spend and how long you wait for the visa depends on two things: what passport you’re holding and what kind of visa you want to apply for. Generally, there are two types of visas available for backpackers: Tourist Visa and Working Holiday Visa. The first one is for those who just want to travel for three months or less. The second one is for those who want to stay longer and work while they travel. Find the right visa for you here. A tourist visa is either free or costs A$140, depending on the passport you have. The Working Holiday visa costs A$440 but is only available to eligible countries and for certain ages.
Australian Culture, Etiquette, and Customs
It’s always important to know the etiquette and rules of a country before traveling there. Not only is it useful, but it’s respectful to follow the social order of things in a new place. Learn about when and how much to tip, get a brief history lesson, discover some insider tips about food to try and when to go, and most importantly, learn some Aussie slang so you can understand what the hell everybody around you is saying. All here in our Australian Culture Guide.
From posh penthouse suites atop soaring skyscrapers to modern hostels in hip neighborhoods, Sydney has every type of accommodation you can dream up. We want to help you find the best place to stay to make your trip to Sydney absolutely perfect. For Sydney backpackers, accommodation will possibly be the most costly expenditure on your trip, so we’re here to help you navigate the extensive options in the bustling city of Sydney.
Best Areas for Backpackers in Sydney
The seasoned backpacker may find Sydney accommodation prices appalling. Compared to places like South America or Southeast Asia, the amount these places charge might seem like extortion. Fear not, we’ve found plenty of options that will suit those on a budget. There are a variety of neighborhoods in Sydney, all with a unique personality that appeals to different people. We’ve broken down which area might be best for you. Are you a social butterfly keen to meet other like-minded travelers? Your best bet is King’s Cross, AKA “Backpacker Central”. Are you a beach bum looking to catch some waves or wanting to explore the marine life of Sydney? You’ll most definitely want to stay in Bondi or Coogee Beach. Check out Where to Stay on a Budget to find the best neighborhood in Sydney for you!
Top Budget Hostels in Sydney
Now that you’ve decided which neighborhood you want to stay in, you’ve got to find a place to temporarily call home. There are plenty of affordable hostels in Sydney that will help you maintain your budget. Not into hostels? Let us change your mind: Hostels are the best way to meet other travelers. They often have communal areas and social events to bring everybody together, usually through our common love for booze. Many also have kitchens where you can prepare your own food, rather than spending $30+ on every meal. Are you visiting during the summertime and want a pool to dive into to cool off? Stay at the Sydney Central YHA. Do you want to start your day literally steps from the beach? Mad Monkey Coogee Beach has got your back. If you’re not thoroughly convinced, check out the Best Budget Hostels in Sydney to find the perfect bed for you.
Best Party Hostels in Sydney and Beyond
A little party never killed nobody. Amirite? We all love a good party and for those never wanting to leave it, then staying at a party hostel is a must. After all, the most memorable part of traveling is the people you meet along the way. If you’re looking to meet your future BFF while also enjoying epic rooftop views, then check out Sydney Harbour YHA. If you want to join in on daily and nightly activities, exploring the city or competing in beer pong tournaments, stay at Wake Up! Sydney Central Hostel. Peruse our list of the best party hostels in Australia that will make your liver ache.
Sydney’s sprawling beaches are a huge draw for many backpackers. If your dream is to start every day with a gnarly surf sesh, Bondi is the perfect place to crash. Gather your mates and share an apartment at The Chee Bondi, or splurge on the Adina Apartment Hotel where you’ll have your own balcony, kitchen, lounge, and dining area. Solo travelers can chill on the rooftop deck at Noah’s Bondi Beach, and backpackers staying longer can get great rates at Surfside Bondi Beach Backpackers. Find more options in our Bondi Beach Accommodation Guide.
If you want to steer clear of the mass amounts of tourists that crowd Bondi and the CBD, staying in a smaller neighborhood is key. Not only is Randwick less touristy (which in turn, makes it less expensive), but this hip neighborhood is situated close to both the city center and the beach. This makes all of the best sights in Sydney super accessible. Cozy up in one of the Coogee Beach hostels, or treat yourself at the luxurious Avonmore on the Park. For more Randwick accommodation options, check out our article, Where to Stay in Randwick.
Getting Around Sydney
With over 5 million people, it’s not hard to get lost in Sydney. Luckily, it’s not so difficult to navigate their superb public transportation system. Choose between a bus, ferry, train, taxi, or just go on foot. The worst case scenario is that you lose your way in some strange part of town and accidentally walk into a speakeasy.
Sydney Public Transport
The easiest way to get around Sydney is to get an Opal Card, Sydney’s all-in-one public transport card. This is your golden ticket to sunset ferry rides, the gorgeous Blue Mountains, or simply the other side of town to check out the beach. There is a daily and weekly cap (A$15.40 and A$61.60, respectively) on the Opal Card which means no matter how many times you use it in a day or in a week, you will not be charged more than these amounts. Also, on Sundays, you are only charged a maximum of A$2.60. For more details on where to get a card and how to use it, check out our Sydney Transport Guide, which also details how to get from Coogee to the CBD.
Mad Monkey Insider Tips for Sydney Backpackers:
- If you want to see the Blue Mountains in Katoomba, which is two hours away by train from Sydney, go on a Sunday to save on transportation costs. It can cost up to A$17 if you travel during peak hours.
- Don’t forget to tap your card when you get off the train, ferry or bus. Some trains don’t have a turnstile so it’s easy to just walk out. But you will be charged a default fare for the trip which could be as much as A$8.50. Every penny counts if you’re on a strict budget!
Taxis in Sydney:
For those who are considering taking cabs or Uber, here are the rates (different rates apply at night and on weekends):
- Base: A$3.60
- Per minute: A$0.94
- Per km: A$2.19
- Booking fee: A$2.50
- Base: A$2.50
- Per minute: A$0.40
- Per km: A$1.45
- Minimum fare: A$9
It’s definitely possible for Sydney backpackers to spend their life savings here, but we’re here to help you make better choices (you’re welcome). Aside from sightseeing the most iconic landmarks in Sydney, there are plenty of things to do and places to see in this vibrant city. Whether you want a relaxing beach holiday, or a jam-packed schedule full of activities, Sydney is sure to please every type of traveler.
Top Things to do in Sydney CBD
We’ll start with the most obvious. Hey there, Harbour Bridge. Pleased to meet you, Opera House. Even though there are sure to be thousands of others tourists flocking to these same areas, the CBD is home to so many must-see sights that absolutely live up to the hype. Sydney’s city center can be almost overwhelming with all it has to offer. Take a breather at Hyde Park or the Royal Botanic Gardens, or simply sit on the steps of the Opera House and people-watch. Meander through one of the many markets or arcades before checking out a museum. For our favorites, check out our list of Top Things to Do in Sydney CBD.
What to do in Sydney in One Day
If you’re [sadly] short on time, we’ve got you covered. It’s impossible to cram all of Sydney’s best sights into one day, but you’ll see enough to convince you to return. You’ll start your morning on the famous Bondi to Coogee Walk. After taking in the incredible ocean views and going for a dip in an ocean pool, you’ll head to the city, sun-kissed and ready to explore. Once you’ve marveled at Sydney’s famous architectural feats, you can take a sunset ferry ride to get another vantage point of the city. For more details, check out our 24 Hour Sydney Guide.
Unique Things to do in Sydney
For the veteran traveler who has already seen Sydney’s main tourist hot spots, or for those just wanting to get off the beaten track, we’ve put together a list of Unusual Attractions in Sydney. Check out beautiful viewpoints overlooking the harbor, or meet some adorable Aussie animals. Catch a game of cricket or ghost-hunt in an old quarantine station. Relaxed travelers and thrill-seekers alike won’t have any trouble finding something to do in Sydney.
What to do in Sydney on a Budget
Budget-friendliness is the name of the game. We believe every traveler can find a way to enjoy any city they set their eyes on. Even expensive AF cities like Sydney. We know typical Sydney backpackers probably can’t afford to dance the night away at that swanky nightclub, or wine and dine at that rooftop restaurant. Fortunately, there are still plenty of [better] ways to experience Sydney. From free-entry art galleries to freshly caught seafood meals, even travelers with the tightest of purse strings will find plenty to do. Check out our Budget Backpacker Guide for more details.
Free or Affordable Activities in Sydney:
*All prices in Australian Dollars, updated January 2018
- I’m Free Walking Tours: Free, obviously
- Sydney Opera House: Free, if you don’t plan to see a show or $40 for a 1-hr guided tour
- Sydney Harbour Bridge: Free to walk on the pedestrian walkway or starting at $163 to join the BridgeClimb
- Park-Hopping: Free! We recommend visiting one or all of these: Royal Botanic Gardens, Hyde Park, and Centennial Park
- Museum of Contemporary Art: Free
- The Art Gallery of NSW: Free
- Sea Life Sydney: $33, or $70 if you want to bundle it with Madame Tussauds, WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo, and The Sydney Tower Eye
- Taronga Zoo: $47 – additional fees apply if you want to get up and close with a koala
- Luna Park: Free entry – Single rides cost $9.95 while unlimited rides start at $49.95
- Coastal Walks, Rock Pools, and Beaches: Free
- Surfing, Stand Up Paddle Boarding, Snorkeling + other water activities and sports: Rental prices vary but are usually around $15 per hour for surfboards or snorkel gear. You can find rental places on or near most beaches.
- Young Henrys Brewery Tour: $40
Monkey Insider Tips:
- Check for group activities offered by your hostel.
- Also, ask your hostel about attraction prices, they usually have better rates!
- If you’re a surfer, go further north for less crowded beaches (check out good spots here). If you want to learn how to surf in Sydney, start here.
Top Sydney Beaches
Visiting Sydney’s famed beaches is a dream of many travelers. There are over 100 beaches to choose from in Sydney (and over 10,000 in all of Australia!), which can make decision-making difficult. If you want to learn how to surf, hit up Freshwater Beach. Not only does this beach have decent sized waves, but it’s the actual birthplace of Australian surfing after a Hawaiian named Duke Kahanamoku showed off his skills to the locals. For a quieter beach, check out Parsley Bay Beach or Camp Cove. If you want to get rid of those pesky tan lines, head to Cobbler’s Beach, where sunbathing in your birthday suit is encouraged. For a more detailed breakdown, check out our List of the Top 10 Beaches You Should Visit in Sydney.
Bondi to Coogee Walk
No trip to Sydney is complete without exploring the spectacular coast. The best way to get your fix of dazzling turquoise waters is to take on the Bondi to Coogee Walk. Along with offering pristine ocean views and a diverse marine life you can explore firsthand (bring a snorkel!), this coastal walk includes an eclectic art exhibition, Sculpture by the Sea. If you want to up your workout, join a yoga class overlooking the water. If you want to up your alcohol intake, make a stop at Clovelly Lawn Bowl’s Club and Coogee Pavilion. For more deets, check out our complete Bondi to Coogee Walk Guide.
Eating and Drinking in Sydney
Sydney is a vastly diverse, multicultural city and as a result, the cuisine options are endless. Even the pickiest of Sydney backpackers will be spoilt for choice. Indulge in some freshly caught seafood, feast on sumptuous dumplings, or immerse yourself in Australian culture by snacking on meat pies. Afterward, grab a happy hour drink at a quirky pub or beachfront bar. While you’re bound to find something delicious and thirst-quenching by just wandering around, we’ve listed some of the best restaurants and bars to narrow down your search.
Best Sydney Bars
Sydneysiders know how to party, as evident through their mix of effervescent nightlife venues, kitschy pubs, and alluring speakeasy bars. Want a haircut while also sipping on on a tasty cocktail? Grab a chair at The Barber Shop. Trying to get a bit wild and jonesing for some absinthe? Head to the voodoo-themed bar, Papa Gede’s. Enter a speakeasy through a soda machine, drink a punch jug while battling it out on a ping pong table in a former railyard, or take shots while playing retro video games. Check out our favorites on our list of Unique and Trendy Bars in Sydney.
Coogee Beach Restaurants You Should Try
If you’re staying in Coogee, you’re in luck – there are dozens of restaurants and bars to choose from. Whether you’ve got a hankering for Mexican food or Brazilian BBQ, Coogee’s got you covered. Enjoy the views at Barzura and Coogee Pavilion, the healthy options at Melonhead and Cali Press Coogee Cafe, and the seafood at A Fish Called Coogee. The mix of cuisines in Coogee will titillate your taste buds and satisfy your every craving. For more, read our Coogee Beach Dining Guide.
Best Coogee Bars and Pubs
If you’re into beach views, rooftops or live music, you’re sure to find a pub to your liking in Coogee. Grab a cold one after surfing or relax at a beer garden at sunset. Partake in Sunday Sangria at Beach Burrito or Del Punto’s daily Happy Hour from 5 – 7 pm. Feel free to create your own pub crawl from our list of the Best Bars in Coogee!
Vegetarian Restaurants in Sydney
Before you carnivores skip this section, let’s remember that Sydney does food right. Even (and especially) meat-less food. In fact, Sydney wins awards for its veggie-friendly food. (Well, at least one award anyway.) Enjoy freshly prepared food with locally sourced and organic ingredients at Bodhi Restaurant. Delight in a fabulous brunch or elegant seven-course meal at Yellow. If you’re a vegetarian or vegan who misses meat (your secret’s safe with us), check out The Green Lion’s bean beef nachos and fishless fish. For more, check out the Top Vegetarian Restaurants in Sydney.
Longterm Sydney Backpackers
Once you get a taste of Sydney, it’s hard to leave. For those wanting to stay longer, there’s plenty of Sydney to explore, let alone the rest of Australia! Whether you want to work and make a home here, or milk that tourist visa for as long as possible, Australia is the ideal place to have your adventure!
Book your longterm stay at Mad Monkey Coogee Beach!
Travel and Work in Australia
The best way to stay on the road longer is to work while you travel. And by working, we don’t mean a nine-to-five desk job (unless you’re into that kinda thing). Temp jobs in Australia aren’t super difficult to find, as it’s common for backpackers to take advantage of the one-year working visa most people are qualified for. Work at a cafe a few times a week, put in some time at a hostel where you’ll meet tons of other travelers, or get a bartending gig at the local pub. While these jobs are plentiful, you still have to make sure your affairs are in order to make the process smoother. Check out our guide to Finding a Job in Australia.
Plan the Perfect Australia Road Trip
When you think of Australia, what do you picture? The Opera House, white-sand beaches, peculiar animals, turquoise waters filled with exotic marine life, and probably that big red rock in the middle of the desert, right? While many areas of Australia have a lot of these things, you’ll have to travel a bit to see them all. Hence, an epic road trip with your best mates to see all of what Australia has to offer. Unless you have several months at your disposal, you’ll have to choose a section of the country to explore. We’ve broken down the top three routes for backpackers – it’s basically the best kind of choose your own adventure game. For the full rundown, head to our Australia Road Trip Guide.
More Articles for Sydney Backpackers
Want more Sydney travel inspo for your upcoming trip? Trying to find more affordable activities to keep your budget in check? Read these other articles for more tips about backpacking Sydney.
- 13 Ways to Explore Sydney on a Budget from Nomadic Matt
- Affordable Sydney: 32 Free and Low-Cost Tips from Solo Traveler
- Top 15 Must-Dos in Sydney on a Budget by Katie Tobias from Stay at Base
- How to Travel in Australia on a Budget from Y Travel
- Top Ten Free Things to do in Sydney from Globetrotter Girls