Sydney: Travel, Transportation and Airport Notes

Sydney Airport is pretty smooth and modern; we cleared customs and immigration and picked up our luggage in about half an hour, with a moderate crowd of uninformed travelers.

All the regular conveniences are conveniently available, including money changers, convenience stores, places to eat, billions of toilets and you can drink the water from the taps (bottled water is also available).

Though you won't care to stop on your way in to Australia, there are lots of children's play areas scattered about for passing time waiting to board your flight home later on.

Sydney Airport Children's Play Area
Sydney Airport Children's Play Area

Travel into the City

Travel from the airport into downtown takes about 30 minutes and A$25 (as of 2004), or A$9 per person via minivan. Some of these mini vans are operated by semi-sleazy looking folks, and vans seems older and perhaps not well looked after, so a taxi might be cheaper and safer and faster.

Duh, hard choice.


Be sure to check on visa requirements-many nationalities, such as Americans, that usually enter visa free to most countries need at least electronic pre-clearance for Australia, also known as “ETA.” There are lots of ways to get one, including through some airlines. You can do it easily online, through the Australian Government's ETA web site for a small fee.

Frighteningly scary amounts of tourist info is also available through that same ETA site.


Unless you are a really good swimmer, you likely arrived in Australia by air. Air is about the only mode of transportation that you can't use to get around once in Sydney, so maybe it is just as well.

Trains, Monorails and Buses

If you'll be doing mostly walking, or perhaps just stopping at one or two places on a leisurely tour, then buying individual tickets for each ride is very doable. For the trains and subways, you need to buy tickets from a vending machine. Select your destination (sometimes by station name, sometimes by “zone” within the central city area, for example), feed in some money (most machines take notes or coins, and all give change) and get your ticket. Hang on to the ticket, as you have to pass it through the electronic wicket entering and leaving the train.

The same system works for the downtown monorail. The monorail operates largely between touristy sites in the central city area and is convenient if you are going those places and a useless eye sore slicing through downtown cityscape views if not.

Buses also operate on a pay-as-ride system. There are signs specifying exact change only, but unless you acted like a jerk and/or it was really busy I saw most drivers make simple change. Just don't hand over a A$100 bill for a short ride.

Day Passes

If you will be using a fair amount of transport, spend a little time at a train station looking into the 18,000 (it seemed) varieties of all-day passes available. Some passes include buses and/or ferries, some don't, some are for monorail and include dessert, others not… you get the picture. For many folks the passes will save some money, and for everyone a pass will save the hassles of juggling change when you are already juggling kids.

Land and Water Taxis

Sydney watertaxiTaxis are plentiful and can be flagged down most anywhere, though are easily found in taxi racks throughout the city. For short trips with a big family, they might even be cheaper than pubic transport.

Water taxis are an expensive but cool option for getting across the harbor. We'd probably recommend the ferries for atmosphere at 20 percent of the cost, but the cool factor of a water taxi must not be denied.


Sydney walking signLastly, there is walking. Sydney has its ups and downs, but the sidewalks are in good shape and the central city is fully walkable with a stroller and kids. Crosswalks are clearly marked with the sign you see pictured, and in most cases cars were good about yielding to us weary foot travelers. Depending on where you in the world you came from, the traffic in Australia may run on the wrong side of the road, so mind the notices reminding you which way to look.

User Feedback

Related Sydney Articles