Dangers & Annoyances
- Sydney's wonderful beaches must be treated with healthy respect. People drown every year from rips and currents. Swim between the flags.
- Police in Sydney have little tolerance for minor transgressions or drug use. Random searches are common in clubs and random drug testing is now conducted on drivers.
- Sydney's sun is fierce in summer – do as the locals do, applying a hat and plenty of sunscreen.
Sydney Museums Pass (www.sydneylivingmuseums.com.au; adult/child $24/16) Allows a single visit to each of 12 museums in and around Sydney, including the Museum of Sydney, Hyde Park Barracks, Justice & Police Museum and Susannah Place. It’s valid for a month and available at each of the participating museums. It costs the same as two regular museum visits.
Four Attraction Pass (adult/child $70/45) Provides access to the high-profile, costly attractions operated by British-based Merlin Entertainment: Sydney Tower Eye, Sydney Sea Life Aquarium, Wild Life Sydney Zoo and Madame Tussauds. It’s available from each of the venues, but is often considerably cheaper online through the venue websites. If you plan on visiting only some of these attractions, discounted Sydney Attractions Passes are available in any combination you desire.
Standard voltage throughout Australia is 220 to 240 volts AC (50Hz). Plugs are flat three-pin types. You can buy converters for US, European and Asian configurations in airports, outdoors stores, hardware stores, luggage shops and some pharmacies.
Embassies & Consulates
Most foreign embassies are in Canberra, but many countries also maintain a consulate in Sydney. See protocol.dfat.gov.au.
Emergency & Important Numbers
|Police non-emergency||131 444|
|Australia's country code||61|
|International access code||0011|
Other useful contacts:
Lifeline Round-the-clock phone counselling services, including suicide prevention.
NRMA Provides 24-hour emergency roadside assistance, maps, travel advice, insurance and accommodation discounts. It has reciprocal arrangements with similar organisations interstate and overseas (bring proof of membership).
NSW Rape Crisis Offers counselling, 24 hours a day.
Entry & Exit Formalities
Visa requirements and strict customs and biosecurity controls mean that some pre-planning is required before entering Australia.
Entering Australia you can bring in most articles free of duty, provided customs officers are satisfied they’re for personal use and that you’ll be taking them with you when you leave. See www.border.gov.au for more information.
- There’s a duty-free quota per person of 2.25L of alcohol (if you’re over 18 years of age), 25 cigarettes (yes, you read that right) plus an open packet and dutiable goods up to the value of $900 ($450 if you’re under 18).
- Amounts of more than A$10,000 cash (or its equivalent) must be declared.
- Authorities take biosecurity very seriously, and are vigilant in their efforts to prevent introduced pests getting into the country. Be sure to declare all goods of animal or vegetable origin. Dispose of any fresh food and flowers and check. If you’ve recently visited farmland or rural areas, it's best to scrub your shoes before you get to the airport; you’ll also need to declare them to Customs.
All visitors to Australia need a visa – only New Zealand nationals are exempt, and even they receive a 'special category' visa on arrival.
- Visa application forms are available from Australian diplomatic missions overseas, travel agents or the website of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.
- Citizens of 24 European countries are eligible for an eVisitor, which is free and allows visitors to stay in Australia for up to three months. These must be applied for online, and they are electronically stored and linked to individual passport numbers, so no stamp in your passport is required. It's advisable to apply at least 14 days prior to the proposed date of travel to Australia. Applications are made at www.border.gov.au.
- An Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) allows visitors to enter Australia any time within a 12-month period and stay for up to three months at a time (unlike eVisitor, multiple entries are permitted). Travellers from qualifying countries can get an ETA through any travel agent or overseas airline registered with the International Air Transport Association (IATA). They make the application for you when you buy a ticket and they issue the ETA, which replaces the usual visa stamped in your passport. It's common practice for travel agents to charge a fee for issuing an ETA (in the vicinity of US$25). This system is available to passport holders of some 33 countries, including all of the countries that are eligible for eVisitor.
- Eight of the countries that are eligible for ETA but not eVisitor can make their application online at www.eta.immi.gov.au, where a $20 fee applies. Those countries are Brunei, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and the USA. Taiwanese must apply in person.
- If you are from a country not covered by eVisitor or ETA, or you want to stay longer than three months, you'll need to apply for a visa. Tourist visas cost from $140 and allow single or multiple entry for stays of three, six or 12 months and are valid for use within 12 months of issue.
- Visitors are allowed a maximum stay of 12 months, including extensions. Visa extensions are made through the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, and it's best to apply at least two or three weeks before your visa expires.
- Young visitors (aged 18 to 30) from Belgium, Canada, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Taiwan and the UK are eligible for a Working Holiday Visa (417), which allows you to visit for up to one year and gain casual employment. The emphasis of this visa is on casual and not full-time employment, so you're only supposed to work for any one employer for a maximum of six months. A first visa must be obtained prior to entry to Australia and can be applied for at Australian diplomatic missions abroad or online. You can't change from a tourist visa to a Working Holiday visa once you're in Australia. You can apply for this visa up to a year in advance, which is worthwhile, as there's a limit on the number issued each year. Conditions include having enough money to support yourself, a return air ticket or sufficient funds for a return or onward fare, and a fee of $440 is charged. At the time of research the government was considering extending the age limit up to 35.
- Nationals from Argentina, Bangladesh, Chile, China, Hungary, Indonesia, Israel, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Peru, Poland, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Thailand, Turkey, the USA, Uruguay and Vietnam between the ages of 18 and 30 can apply for a Work and Holiday Visa (462) prior to entry to Australia. Once granted, this visa allows the holder to stay for up to 12 months and undertake temporary employment to supplement a trip. Conditions vary depending on nationality; there are educational and English-language requirements. The application fee is $440.
- Both the Working Holiday Visa and the Work and Holiday Visa can be granted a second time if the holder undertakes certain types of work (eg agriculture, construction) in regional Australia for three months.
The only visitors who do not require a visa in advance of arriving in Australia are New Zealanders.
- By far the easiest way to access the internet is to buy a local prepaid SIM card, pop it in your (unlocked) phone and sign up for a data package. Expect to pay around $2 for the SIM, then $30 to $50 for a month of calls, texts and data.
- Nearly all hotels and hostels provide wi-fi connections, although some, especially top-end places, charge for the service, or make the free service so slow that you are virtually forced to pay for 'premium' access.
- Many cafes and bars offer free wi-fi. Most public libraries and shopping centres also offer it.
- Pay-as-you-go wi-fi hot spots are common in busy areas such as airports.
- Because of the greater access to free connections, internet cafes are thin on the ground these days.
- Australia is very strict when it comes to driving under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs. There is a significant police presence on the roads, and they have the power to stop your car and see your licence (you're required to carry it), check your vehicle for roadworthiness and insist that you take a breath test for alcohol or a drug test. The legal limit is 0.05 blood alcohol concentration (measured as grams per 100mL, equivalent to what many other countries would call 0.5). If you're over, you face a hefty fine and other sanctions.
- First offenders caught with small amounts of illegal drugs are likely to receive a fine rather than go to jail, but a conviction may affect your visa status.
- If you remain in Australia after your visa expires, you will officially be an 'overstayer' and could face detention and expulsion, and then be prevented from returning to Australia for up to three years.
LGBT folk have migrated to Oz's Emerald City from all over Australia, New Zealand and the world, adding to a community that is visible, vibrant and an integral part of the city’s social fabric. Partly because gay and straight communities are so well integrated in central Sydney, and partly because of smartphone apps facilitating contact, the gay nightlife scene has died off substantially. But the action's still going on and Sydney is indisputably one of the world’s great queer cities.
Sydney Mardi Gras
The famous Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras is now the biggest annual tourist-attracting date on the Australian calendar. While the straights focus on the parade, the gay and lesbian community throws itself wholeheartedly into the entire festival, including the blitzkrieg of partying that surrounds it. There’s no better time for the gay traveller to visit Sydney than the two-week lead-up to the parade and party, held on the first Saturday in March.
On the big night itself, the parade kicks off around sunset, preceded by the throbbing engines of hundreds of Dykes on Bikes. Heading up Oxford St from Hyde Park, it veers right into Flinders St, hooking into Moore Park Rd and culminating outside the party site in Driver Ave. The whole thing takes about 90 minutes to trundle through, and attracts up to half a million spectators ogling from the sidelines.
For the best views, make friends with someone who has an apartment above the street. If you’re forced to stand on the street, bring a milk crate (oh so suddenly scarce) to get a better view. The gayest section of the crowd is between Crown St and the first part of Flinders St. If you’re running late, the crowd thins out considerably near the end – although by this stage the participants’ enthusiasm is on the wane. Another fun option is to volunteer as a marshal: you’ll need to attend a few meetings and arrive hideously early on the day, but you’ll get the best view and a discounted party ticket for your efforts.
You can also buy a ticket for the Parade Sideshow, positioned near the end of the route. Not only is this a handy option if you're heading to the party, but you'll also have seats, toilets and bars at your disposal and entertainment while you wait.
The legendary Mardi Gras Party (tickets $145 to $199 through www.ticketek.com.au) is an extravaganza in every sense of the word. With around 16,000 revellers, it stretches over several large halls, and showcases the best DJs and lighting design the world has to offer.
Best Gay-Friendly Straight Bars
- Beresford Hotel Gay-friendly all the time, but on Sundays play spot-the-straight.
- Sly Fox Working-class pub welcoming lesbians for many years.
- Dolphin Hotel Mixed as they come in the heart of Surry Hills.
- Marlborough Hotel Home to Tokyo Sing Song, an underground hideout for the kooky and queer.
- Green Park Hotel A proper local pub for Darlinghursters of all persuasions.
- Bookshop Darlinghurst Long-standing gay bookshop and a great source of local information.
- House of Priscilla One-stop-shop for gender illusionists.
- Sax Fetish Racks of shiny black leather and rubber gear.
- Gertrude & Alice Named after literary lesbians and packed with interesting reads.
- Sappho Books, Cafe & Wine Bar Part bohemian cafe-bar, part rag-tag bookshop.
Best LGBT-Friendly Accommodation
- ADGE Boutique Apartment Hotel Fabulous apartments just off the Oxford St strip.
- Medusa Darlinghurst boutique hotel, well positioned for eating, drinking and carousing.
- Adina Apartment Hotel Darling Harbour Large chain that actively courts gay business.
- Meriton Suites Kent Street Bag yourself your own city pad.
Best Gay Venues
Best Lesbian Hangouts
The battle for social acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community has been long and protracted, but successful. In central Sydney, the Eastern Suburbs and the Inner West, few locals even bat an eyelid at same-sex couples holding hands on the street but attitudes are more conservative in suburbs further afield. The 2017 postal survey on gay marriage, which resulted in its legalisation, nevertheless revealed a significant split between conservative and liberal areas of Sydney on the issue.
Sydney is now relatively safe, but it still pays to keep your wits about you, particularly at night.
Ain’t no denying it, Sydney puts on a good party. By good, we mean big, lavish and flashy. Some party animals treat it like a professional sport, spending months preparing for the big fixtures, which can resemble endurance events.
While Mardi Gras is the city’s main Gay Pride festival, Darlinghurst’s Stonewall Hotel organises a minifestival around the late-June anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York, such a crucial event in the LGBT rights story. Catering to more niche tastes, Harbour City Bears (www.harbourcitybears.com.au) runs Bear Pride in August.
Other special events:
- Daywash (www.daywash.com.au) Regular day parties (usually noon to 10pm on a Sunday).
- In the Dark (www.itdevents.com) Runs various parties.
- Extra Dirty (www.extradirty.com.au) A chance for the leather, fetish and rubber crowd to delve into the darker reaches of their wardrobes.
- Queer as Fvck (www.facebook.com/queerasfvck) Monthly live music from LGBT artists in decadent Lazybones in Marrickville.
Drinking & Nightlife
Sydney’s gay scene has been impacted heavily recently by three factors. The level of acceptance around the inner city means that LGBTQ+ folk will feel comfortable in almost any bar; dating and hookup apps have made it easy to find other people; and the lockout laws have had a heavy impact on the Oxford St party strip in the Darlinghurst area. Still, there are several venues in this area.
Most venues attract a predominately gay male clientele. Despite Sydney’s size, there are no permanent lesbian bars, but rather a series of lesbian nights at pubs, bars and clubs around town.
It would be very surprising (not to mention illegal) for gay couples to strike problems finding rooms in any Sydney establishment. Accommodation fills up fast and prices shoot through the roof during Mardi Gras month, particularly around Darlinghurst, Surry Hills and Paddington.
Oxford Street in Darlinghurst has the biggest concentration of stores targeting Sydney’s LGBT shoppers. You’ll find everything here from sex shops to bookshops and fashion outlets.
Star Observer (www.starobserver.com.au) LGBT-focused news and events.
ACON (www.acon.org.au) AIDS Council of NSW website.
DNA (www.dnamagazine.com.au) Monthly glossy gay men's magazine, available from newsagents.
LOTL (www.lotl.com) Monthly lesbian magazine, aka Lesbians on the Loose.
Grindr (www.grindr.com) Probably Sydney's most popular gay dating app.
Scruff (www.scruff.com) Hook-up app catering to rougher tastes; also very popular in Sydney.
Gay & Lesbian Sydney by Neighbourhood
- Sydney Harbourside Some of Sydney's most popular gay beaches including Lady Bay and Obelisk.
- Newtown & the Inner West The fabled lesbian homeland, also popular with gay men.
- Surry Hills & Darlinghurst Sydney's main gay ‘ghetto’, with most of the bars, clubs and gay-targeted businesses.
- Kings Cross & Potts Point No gay venues but loads of gay guys live here.
- Paddington & Centennial Park The home of the Mardi Gras Party and lots of well-dressed dudes.
- Bondi, Coogee & the Eastern Beaches The beautiful boys gravitate to North Bondi.
Need to Know
Gays and lesbians living in New South Wales enjoy legal protection from discrimination and vilification, and an equal age of consent. A law passed in late 2017 means that they can now legally marry.
Best LGBT Beaches
- North Bondi Where the buff lads work on their tans.
- Lady Bay Pretty nudist beach tucked under South Head.
- Obelisk Beach Small, secluded nude beach with a busy, bushy hinterland.
- McIver's Ladies Baths Women-only sea baths, extremely popular with the Sapphic set.
- Murray Rose Pool Harbour beach close to the gay ghettos.
Parades & Politics
On 24 June 1978 a Sydney icon was violently born. There had been other gay-rights marches – in 1973 activists were arrested in Martin Place – but this one was different. Two thousand people followed a truck down Oxford Street in a carnival-type atmosphere, encouraging punters to come out of the bars to join them.
After harassing the participants for much of the route, the police corralled the remaining marchers in Darlinghurst Rd, Kings Cross, beating and arresting 53 of them. Worse still, the names of all of the arrestees were published in the Sydney Morning Herald and many of them lost their jobs.
The following year 3000 people joined the march, dubbed the ‘Gay Mardi Gras’, and in 1981 the decision was made to move the event to summer. Though acceptance is now much more widespread, the parade still has a serious political edge; more than just a protest, the parade is considered by many to have helped transform Australian society into a more accepting place for lesbians and gay men.
- Newspapers The main daily newspapers are the Sydney Morning Herald (news, entertainment), the Daily Telegraph (sports and rabble-rousing) and the Australian (nationally distributed right-wing broadsheet).
- Radio Sydney is not short of radio stations. The Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) has the intelligent talk stations Radio National (576AM) and 702 ABC Sydney (702AM), along with the utterly refined ABC Classic FM (92.9FM). Triple J (105.7FM) is the ABC’s legendary alt-rock youth station while FBI (94.5FM) is a well-established community indie radio station. There are also the SBS multilingual stations (1107AM and 97.7FM), the multicultural 2000 FM (98.5FM), and the progressive subscriber-based jazz, classical and contemporary station 2MBS (102.5FM). The unique Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander station Koori Radio broadcasts on 93.7FM. Numerous other commercial stations fill the dial.
- TV Sydney's main free-to-air TV channels include ABC and SBS (public broadcasters, generally offering more worthy fare), and the commercially driven Seven, Nine and Ten networks and their affiliated channels.
Australia uses the PAL format, with DVDs formatted for use in region 4.
There are ATMs everywhere and major credit cards are widely accepted, though there's often a surcharge.
Central Sydney is chock-full of banks with 24-hour ATMs that will accept debit and credit cards linked to international networks. Most banks place a A$1000 limit on the amount you can withdraw daily. You’ll also find ATMs in pubs and clubs, although these usually charge slightly higher fees. Shops and retail outlets usually have EFTPOS facilities, which allow you to pay for purchases with your debit or credit card; contactless is usually available. Some places like supermarkets offer 'cash out', which means they charge your card more and hand over the difference in cash.
- Exchange bureaux are dotted around the city centre, Kings Cross and Bondi.
- Shop around, as rates vary and most charge some sort of commission. The best rates are usually found online.
- The counters at the airport are open until the last flight comes in; rates here are significantly poorer than they are in the city.
Sydneysiders rarely seem to use cash these days, with locals going for contactless 'tap' payments. Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted at shops, restaurants, pubs and hotels. Diners Club and American Express are less widely accepted. A credit card surcharge or minimum transaction amount is common.
- The unit of currency is the Australian dollar, which is divided into 100 cents.
- Notes are colourful, plastic and washing-machine-proof, in denominations of $100, $50, $20, $10 and $5.
- Coins come in $2, $1, 50c, 20c, 10c and 5c. The old 2c and 1c coins have been out of circulation for years, so shops round prices up (or down) to the nearest 5c.
- Travellers cheques are something of a dinosaur these days, and they won’t be accepted everywhere. It’s easier not to bother with them.
- In Sydney most service providers don’t expect a tip, so you shouldn’t feel pressured into giving one.
- The exception is restaurants, where a tip of 10% or so is standard.
- People tend to round up to the nearest dollar or more in taxis.
- Tipping in bars is uncommon but on the increase, especially if there's fancy cocktail wizardry involved.
Opening hours vary very widely. The following are approximations:
Restaurants noon to 2.30pm and 6pm to 10pm, sometimes shut Sunday or Monday
Cafes 7am to 4pm
Pubs 11am to midnight Monday to Saturday, noon to 10pm Sunday
Shops 9.30am to 6pm Monday to Wednesday, Friday and Saturday; 9.30am to 8pm Thursday; 11am to 5pm Sunday
Banks 9.30am to 4pm Monday to Thursday, 9.30am to 5pm Friday
Offices 9am to 5.30pm Monday to Friday
Australia Post is efficient and has branches throughout the city. It costs $1 to send a postcard or a standard letter within Australia. Airmail letters cost $2.10 to New Zealand, $2.30 to the Asia Pacific region and $3 to the rest of the world.
On public holidays, government departments, banks, offices and post offices shut up shop. On Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Anzac Day and Christmas Day, most shops are closed.
New Year’s Day 1 January
Australia Day 26 January
Easter (Good Friday, Easter Saturday, Easter Monday) March/April
Anzac Day 25 April
Queen’s Birthday Second Monday in June
Labour Day First Monday in October
Christmas Day 25 December
Boxing Day 26 December
- Many public holidays cleverly morph into long weekends (three days), and if a major holiday such as New Year’s Day falls on a weekend, the following Monday is a holiday.
- Something else to consider when planning a Sydney visit is school holidays, when accommodation rates soar and everything gets hectic. Sydney students have a long summer break that includes Christmas and most of January. Other school holidays fall around March to April (Easter), late June to mid-July, and late September to early October.
- Smoking Smoking is not permitted indoors in public places (including offices, shops, bars, restaurants, cafes, hospitals) or outdoors in playgrounds, public sports grounds, transport stops, entrances to public buildings and outdoor dining areas. Some pubs have outdoor smoking areas, but you aren't allowed to eat in them, even if you want to.
- Vaping Banned in Australia, though this may change.
Taxes & Refunds
There’s a 10% goods and services tax (GST) automatically added to almost everything you buy, Australia-wide. If you purchase goods with a total minimum value of $300 from any one store within 60 days of departure from Australia, the Tourist Refund Scheme entitles you to a refund of any GST paid (see www.border.gov.au for more information).
Keep your receipts and carry the items on board your flight as hand luggage (or get them checked before you check them in); you can get a refund at the designated booth located past Customs at Sydney airport (see www.border.gov.au for more information).
- Public telephones, which can still be found around town, take phonecards, credit cards and occasionally coins (if the slots aren’t jammed up).
- Australia's country code is 61.
- Sydney’s area code is 02 (drop the zero when dialling into Australia).
- International access code is 0011 (used when dialling other countries from Australia).
- Toll-free numbers start with the prefix 1800, while numbers that start with 1300 are only the cost of a local call.
Australia’s digital network is compatible with most international phones. Local SIM cards are cheap, so bring an unlocked handset. Local mobile numbers begin with 04. Using mobiles while driving is prohibited unless hands-free.
Local and international phonecards range in value from $5 to $50 – look for the phonecard logo at retail outlets, such as newsagents. There is a bewildering variety of cards available, with all sorts of deals aimed at visitors wanting to get in touch with loved ones in Europe, Asia and the Americas. Shop around.
Sydney is on Eastern Standard Time (EST), which is 10 hours ahead of GMT/UTC. That means that when it’s noon in Sydney it’s 6pm the day before in Los Angeles, 9pm the day before in New York, 2am in London, 4am in Johannesburg, 11am in Tokyo and 2pm in Auckland. Running from the first Sunday in October to the first Sunday in April, Daylight Savings Time is one hour ahead of standard time. This, plus daylight saving in the northern hemisphere, means that for most of the above examples, the difference is usually an hour either side.
Sydney Visitor Centre – The Rocks Sydney's principal tourist office is in the heart of the historic Rocks district
- City of Sydney Information The council operates a good tourist information desk in the Customs House as well as kiosks in Martin Place, Chinatown and Kings Cross.
- Hello Manly This helpful visitors centre, just outside the ferry wharf and alongside the bus interchange, has free pamphlets covering the Manly Scenic Walkway and other Manly attractions, plus loads of local bus information.
- Parramatta Heritage & Visitor Information Centre Knowledgeable staff will point you in the right direction with loads of brochures and leaflets, info on access for visitors with impaired mobility, and details on local Aboriginal cultural sites.
Travel With Children
With boundless natural attractions and relaxed, outdoor living, Sydney is great for kids. Families can easily show their little ones a good time without suffering for it themselves, with many great options that don’t cost a cent: swim, wander and play all across the city.
Australians are generally tolerant of children. Most restaurants welcome well-supervised children and many have high chairs and kids menus, though avoid little hole-in-the-wall cafes in the inner city (no space). The only place you may come across a blanket ban on children is in some of the quieter B&Bs and boutique hotels. Larger pubs serving food usually have a child-friendly area up to a certain time of night. Many pubs and eateries, especially in the Inner West, specifically set themselves up to be family-friendly, with play areas, changing facilities and even farm animals. The Henson, Petersham Bowling Club, Grounds of Alexandria and Camperdown Commons are great examples.
The calm waters of Sydney's harbour beaches are great for kids. If you're particularly paranoid about sharks, head to the netted areas at Murray Rose Pool, Nielsen Park, Chowder Bay, Balmoral and Manly Cove. Most of Sydney's surf beaches have saltwater ocean pools, such as the spectacular Bondi Icebergs and McIvers Baths. Dee Why has a pool for younger children and Narrabeen has a shallow paddling beach at the mouth of the lagoon.
There are also some excellent indoor public pools complete with slides and other watery attractions. Cook & Phillip Park Aquatic Centre in the centre of town is a lot of fun and the Australian Museum is right across the road, or try the Ian Thorpe Aquatic Centre next door to the Powerhouse. West of the centre, Wet'n'Wild is a full-blown water park.
Parks & Wildlife
Sydney's not short on places to let the kids off the leash. Most beaches have superb playgrounds and right in the middle of the city at Darling Harbour there's an incredible adventure park with water games, swings, slides and flying foxes. Once you're done you can stroll up to Wild Life Sydney Zoo and the Sydney Sea Life Aquarium or pop into the fascinating Australian National Maritime Museum.
Bondi's Let's Go Surfing offers lessons for kids aged seven to 16 – but watch out, you may find that your offspring are suddenly much cooler than you are. Most other surf schools also cater for kids, and special school-holiday packages are standard during January.
Bike tours are another good way to expend excess energy; try Bike Buffs, Bonza Bike Tours or Manly Bike Tours. Otherwise you can hire bikes (kids' bikes are widely available) and lead your own pack around Centennial Park or Sydney Olympic Park, which also has an impressive high ropes adventure park for kids eight years and up. Taronga Zoo has the impressive Wild Ropes also.
Sydney Harbour Kayaks welcomes 12-year-olds to its tours, as long as they're accompanied by an adult. It also rents kayaks to families with kids as young as three.
Kids adore Ultimo's science- and technology-focused Powerhouse Museum, which has plenty of hands-on experiments, big chunks of machinery for budding engineers plus an interactive Wiggles exhibition. Close by at Darling Harbour, the tween set are likely to be quite distracted by Rihanna, Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga at Madame Tussauds. Across town, the Australian Museum is a real hit with the younger crowd, especially its excellent dinosaur exhibition.
If the thought of dragging the kids around a gallery fills you with dread, you'll be surprised by the child-friendly Art Gallery of NSW. The dynamic program includes free shows most Sundays, tailored discovery trails and self-guided, child-focused audio tours. There are also regular art safaris and creative workshops at the Museum of Contemporary Art.
The delights of the Sydney Opera House aren't restricted to adults. Catch the best in international children's theatre, school-holiday shows and free Creative Play sessions. There's also a junior version of the popular Opera House Tour.
Little astronomers might want to do some stargazing or see the Time Ball drop at the very kid-focused Sydney Observatory.
Most sights, entertainment venues and transport providers offer a discount of up to 50% off the full adult rate for children, although the upper age limit can vary widely (anything from 12 to 18 years of age). Many places also let under fives or under threes in for free. Family tickets are common at big attractions, generally covering two adults and two children.
There are Child/Youth Opal cards for four to 15 year olds (plus NSW/ACT high school students 16 or over) that mean you pay half fare on public transport. Under fours travel free.
Need to Know
- For an extra cost, car-hire companies will supply and fit child safety seats (compulsory for children under seven).
- Most accommodation providers can provide cots, but try to arrange in advance.
- Mothers have a legal right to breastfeed in public.
Highlights For Kids
If the kids are hounding you for some gut-churning highs visit Luna Park, which has enough old-fashioned kitsch to impress the oldies. If it's a hot day consider combining your visit with the adjacent harbourside North Sydney pool. During summer the sprawling Wet'n'Wild water park in Sydney's west will impress the kids and clean out your wallet.
For an exhaustive list of events and activities for babies up to school age kids visit www.ellaslist.com.au or look out for the free Child newspaper.
Travellers With Disabilities
Compared with many other major cities, Sydney has great access for citizens and visitors with disabilities. Central districts and suburban centres are well endowed with kerb cuts and tactile pavement indicators.
Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guide from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel.
Hearing-impaired travellers Most of Sydney’s major attractions offer hearing loops and some can arrange sign-language interpreters. To make sure your needs can be met, contact venue staff in advance.
Vision-impaired travellers Many new buildings incorporate architectural features that are helpful, such as tactile floor indicators at the top and bottom of stairs. Sydney’s pedestrian crossings feature catchy beep-and-buzz sound cues.
Wheelchair access Most of Sydney’s main attractions are accessible by wheelchair, and all new or renovated buildings must, by law, include wheelchair access. Older buildings can pose some problems, however, and some restaurants and entertainment venues aren’t quite up to scratch. Most of the National Trust’s historic houses are at least partially accessible.
Parking permits Contact Roads & Maritime Services, who can supply temporary parking permits for international drivers with disabilities.
Central Sydney’s transport hub, Circular Quay, is well served by accessible ferries, buses and trains. Wheelchair users will need the assistance of bus drivers and train guards for access and should note that not all buses nor train stations are accessible; check on bus timetables and train maps. If using a train, contact station staff, who will place a ramp for you and arrange for alighting. If there is nobody available, wheelchair access points are marked on platforms and the train guard will assist.
- First Stop Transport (http://firststop.transportnsw.info/accessibility.html) NSW's main public transport provider, and you will find most information you need on their accessibility landing page. Their online trip planner has a useful filter for accessible services and maximum walking time.
- Parking Sydney has lots of parking spaces reserved for drivers with disabilities; see www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/explore/getting-around/accessibility/mobility-parking for information. You can also stay in time-limited parking spots for longer. Provided it is current and valid, an interstate or overseas disability parking permit can be used in NSW.
- Transport NSW (https://transportnsw.info/travel-info/accessible-travel) Offers a comprehensive accessible travel webpage covering all modes of transport and including useful tips on planning accessible trips in the state.
- Zero200 A reliable wheelchair-accessible taxi service that can be booked by phone or online.
Deaf Society of NSW (02-8833 3600; www.deafsocietynsw.org.au) Lists upcoming events and current news, as well as hosting information about resources and equipment. Much of the information is presented in Auslan as well as text.
Easy Access Australia (www.easyaccessaustralia.com.au/sydney) Hosts detailed access reviews of about a dozen accommodation providers in Sydney.
IDEAS (www.ideas.org.au) An information portal for people with a disability, with a very useful ‘Out & About’ tab as well as innumerable links to disability-related service providers.
Sydney for All (www.sydneyforall.com) Maintained by Destination NSW, this is the most comprehensive source of information regarding accessibility in Sydney. In addition to relatively detailed access information for Sydney’s main tourist sites, there’s information on getting around, including downloadable PDF access maps for the main central tourist areas.
Vision Australia (1300 847 466; www.visionaustralia.org) Lists latest news and events and has an online shop for assistive devices.
Sydney is generally safe for women travellers. Sexual harassment and discrimination, while uncommon, can occur and shouldn’t be tolerated.
- There are strict regulations governing overseas visitors working in Australia; see www.border.gov.au for details.
- A working-holiday visa allows for a stay of up to 12 months, but the emphasis is on casual, or incidental, employment rather than a full-time job, so working full-time for longer than six months with any one employer is not allowed. See Visas for details of working-holiday visa eligibility.
- The best places to seek work are the websites Gumtree (www.gumtree.com.au) and Seek (www.seek.com.au). Many hostels will help find you work (though it won’t be highly paid).
- To serve alcohol in NSW, you need to pass a course, the RSA (Responsible Service of Alcohol). You can do it online. See www.liquorandgaming.nsw.gov.au.
- To work, you'll need to apply for a Tax File Number (TFN). See the website of the Australian Taxation Office for details.
- Greetings Greet both men and women by shaking hands or a kiss/air kiss for friends (it's not custom for straight Aussie blokes to kiss each other though).
- Dinner Bring wine, flowers or chocolates if you are invited to someone's house for a meal.
- Restaurants Splitting restaurant bills is standard practice.
- Parties If you're asked to 'bring a plate' to a party, it means bring food.
- Public Transport Offer seats on crowded buses, trains and ferries to older people or parents with kids.
- Bargaining Not usual in shops but sometimes OK at some markets.
- Escalators Stand on the left, walk on the right.
Travel insurance is a very good idea when visiting Sydney, though you should check that you're not already covered: some bank accounts and credit cards offer free travel insurance to holders. Reciprocal health cover is available for some nationalities.
Worldwide travel insurance is available at www.lonelyplanet.com/travel-insurance. You can buy, extend and claim online anytime – even if you're already on the road.
Checking insurance quotes…
- Public toilets are free, but there aren't that many of them around.
- Stations, parks and shopping centres are good bets.
- NSW Volunteering (www.volunteering.nsw.gov.au) Check out its website for a wide range of volunteering opportunities.
- National Parks and Wildlife Service (www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au) Offers volunteering opportunities on its website; these may be bush regeneration schemes, for example.