A Local’s Guide: How To Catch Public Transport In Sydney, Australia

One of the challenges whilst travelling is having to learn how to navigate another town’s public transport system. Some are quite easy (eg. Singapore, Barcelona or even Paris) whilst others are abit harder (eg buses!). As a local and public transport catcher in Sydney for most of my life, I’ve seen the city change from having to have a different ticket for buses and trains to now, a revamped public transport system where you only need 1 card to take any of the public transport options. Long gone also are the tin can trains and buses with no air-con (all those memories of 35C+ days in those trains).

I hope these tips will be handy for your next visit here.

Opal Card
The whole city transport network now accepts the Opal Card. This card works alittle like a savings card- you load it up with money and then tap on and off when getting on and off public transport. The card readers are at all the gates of train and ferry stations, immediately inside the buses and at the station on the trams.

As of 01 Mar 2020, you can now also use your debit or credit cards to tap on and off. If you’re an overseas visiter, check with your bank as transaction or conversion fees will apply.

If you are arriving at Sydney International Airport, you can get a card at any of the WHS retailers inside or at the Sydney International Airport train station. As of the 01 Mar 2020, the card is free if you top up with a minimum of $20 for an adult card (or $10 on a concessional card). You can top up your card at any train station from an automatic machine, most newsagencies or online.

For more information, the Transport NSW website here has more.

Sydney International Airport to City
The Sydney International and Domestic Airport stations are privately owned so the cost of using these stations is alot higher than every other station. At the time of writing, for an adult it is $14.87 aud (one way) and $13.18 aud for a child (also one way) if you are coming or going to the city centre. If you’re travelling alone or couple, this would be the cheapest option to get into the city centre compared to an uber or taxi especially during peak hour traffic.

Sydney has a huge rail network that spans about 60km across the Sydney area. The rail line goes beyond and can take you to the Blue Mountains, interstate to Canberra or even to the otherside of the state to Broken Hill. There are some major hub stations (eg Town Hall, Central, Wynyard, Strathfield of Parramatta) but most of the stations will just have 2 platforms for each direction.

I think the trains are the easiest to catch. Most of the trains now have signs within the carriage to tell you what stops are coming up and what the current stop is. All train platforms will also list when the next train is arriving and all the stations it will be stopping at. You just need to know where you want to go and the rest is ok!

Train doors open and close automatically here, are all air-coned and the direction that seats are facing can be moved. We have double decker trains here! Beware, trains heading into the city at peak hour are often packed (standing room only) so I would avoid unless an absolute must. If travelling late at night or early morning, the guard carriage in the middle of the train is popular for safety reasons.

Click here for a map of the network.

Cards are tapped on and off inside the bus. You will not be able to top up in the bus or at bus stops so be sure you have enough. By far the hardest to navigate, buses are tricky in Sydney.
There are no indications inside the bus what stops there are (or even where the stops are) so this will require more homework than the trains. Our buses are coded by numbers to signify a certain route and by knowing this, will greatly help you in trying to figure out where the bus stops are.

A great free app the use is TripView Lite. You can enter in where you want to go and from and it will bring up the train timetable, bus routes and timetable and even show you the bus stops along the route.

Make sure you wave a bus down for it to stop and press the buzzer inside prior to the stop you want to get off at!

Please note that the seats at the front of the bus are priority seats for prams and the elderly. If there is standing room only, please ensure you move to the back of the bus.

Pick any form of transport in the app
This is a bus route in the app with stops listed

The ferry network is quite small due it only operating within Sydney Harbour and is also easy to navigate. For a map click here. Circular Quay is the major ferry hub- you will likely be here during your trip if you are visiting Sydney. Ferries to and from Manly and Taronga Zoo run from here.

You tap on when you get onto the wharf (no need to tap off). Please note that if the weather is bad, the ferries can get cancelled and you will need to seek an alternative form of transport.

These have the best seats (and views) of all the transport options as there are outside seats!

Sydney has had 1 tram line operating for years and in 2019 has just welcomed another tram line. There are currently 2 tram routes with a 3rd opening later this month.

– Central to Lilyfield
– Circular Quay to Randwick
– Circular Quay to Kingsford (05 Apr 20: now open).

Tap on at the tram stops before boarding or after alighting. The trams indicate what stations are coming up and what stops there are on the line. The Circular Quay to Randwick tram runs along George St in the city centre and is also a good option instead of walking!

Let me know what you think/thought about the public transport system in Sydney and if you would like to find out anything more.

One thought on “A Local’s Guide: How To Catch Public Transport In Sydney, Australia

  1. Pingback: Local’s Guide: What You Need To Know About Sydney – Lingo in Transit

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