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Getting Around

Ferry

  • Most Sydney ferries operate between 6am and midnight. The standard Opal card one-way fare for most harbour destinations is $5.88; ferries to Manly, Sydney Olympic Park and Parramatta cost $7.35.
  • Private company Manly Fast Ferry offers boats that blast from Circular Quay to Manly in 18 minutes. Other routes include Manly to Darling Harbour, and an appealing Manly–Watsons Bay–Rose Bay–Manly route ($15 return). Opal cards are not valid on this service.
  • Captain Cook Cruises and Sydney Harbour EcoHopper offer hop-on, hop-off services with several stops around the harbour.

The Basics

Key Routes

Bus

389 Interesting bus route from Darling Harbour to Bondi Junction.

B1 Express bus from Wynyard to the Northern Beaches.

Train

City Circle This loop of stations is handy for most attractions in the centre.

T1 The northbound train line that crosses the Harbour Bridge.

Ferry

F1 The Manly ferry, a glorious half-hour cruise from Circular Quay.

F4 This picturesque ferry ride takes you to Watsons Bay via Rose Bay.

Light Rail

The line running from Circular Quay to Central down George Street opens in 2019 and will be great for above-ground city-hopping.

When to Travel

  • The morning crush lasts from 7am to 9am and is a bad time to travel. Trains are significantly cheaper from 9am until 4pm, just before the evening rush hour begins. It lasts until 6.30pm, when fares go down again.
  • You can travel all day on an Opal card on a Sunday for $2.60; it's a great time to get out on a ferry or take a longer rail journey.
  • Trains on certain lines are regularly replaced by buses at weekends or late at night when maintenance is required. Budget extra time for your trips if this is the case.

How to Hail a Taxi

  • To hail a taxi from the street, look for one with the sign on the roof lit up and wave at it.
  • Drivers will sometimes ask you where you are going first and may refuse if they are near the end of their shift.
  • You can also hire taxis at taxi ranks, by phone or via apps such as GoCatch or 13Cabs.
  • Taxis all take cards and can issue receipts.
  • The ride-sharing app Uber is commonly used also.

Key Phrases

City Used by buses to refer to the CBD (Central Business District, ie downtown Sydney).

City Circle The loop that goes around the centre's main railway stations.

Light Rail The city's tram network, with two separate lines.

Opal Card The card used to access the city's public transport. Buy it from a newsagent or service desk, load it with money, then tap it on the reader when you start and finish your journey.

Opal Single Ticket If you don't have an Opal card, you can buy single tickets from machines in stations, but these are poor value.

Sydney Metro A new underground rail project, not yet operational.

Etiquette

  • Have your Opal card ready to tap at station gates or when boarding or alighting from buses.
  • The left side of the escalator is for standing, the right side for walking. People will get irritated if you don't obey this.
  • Though plenty do it, in general Sydneysiders aren't too keen on people talking on mobile phones on public transport. In 'quiet carriages' on some trains it is specifically prohibited.
  • Giving up seats to those more in need of them is common practice.

Top Tips

  • Get an Opal card as soon as you arrive; they are available at the airport.
  • Download the TripView app to plan public transport.
  • Some city centre stations are closer than they appear on the map; Town Hall and Museum, for example, or Wynyard and Martin Place.
  • Once you've hit your cap for the day ($15.40 from Monday to Saturday), travel is free.
  • Opal cards can only be used by one person at a time to travel.

Water Taxis

Water taxis are a fast way to shunt around the harbour (Circular Quay to Watsons Bay in as little as 15 minutes). Companies will quote on any pick-up point within the harbour and the river, including private jetties, islands and other boats. All have a quote generator on their websites; you can add in extra cruise time for a bit of sightseeing. It's much better value for groups than singles or couples.

Water-taxi companies:

Fantasea Yellow Water Taxis

H2O Maxi Taxis

Water Taxis Combined

Light Rail (Tram)

  • Trams run between Central station and Dulwich Hill, stopping at Chinatown, Darling Harbour, the Star casino, Sydney Fish Market, Glebe and Leichhardt en route.
  • Opal-card fares cost $2.15 for a short journey and $3.58 for a longer one.
  • A second light rail line will open in 2019. It will run from Circular Quay down a now car-free George St right through the city centre to Central station, then veer east through Surry Hills, head past the Sydney Cricket Ground and Sydney Football Stadium and on to Kingsford, with a branch veering to Randwick.

Feature: The Opal Card

Sydney's public transport network runs on a smartcard system called Opal (www.opal.com.au).

The card can be obtained (for free) and loaded with credit (minimum $10) at numerous newsagencies and convenience stores across Sydney. When commencing a journey you’ll need to touch the card to an electronic reader, which are located at the train station gates, near the doors of buses and light-rail carriages, and at the ferry wharves. You then need to touch a reader when you complete your journey so that the system can deduct the correct fare. You get a discount when transferring between services, and after a certain number of journeys in the week, and daily charges are capped at $15.40 ($2.60 on Sundays). You can use the Opal card at the airport train stations, but none of the aforementioned bonuses apply.

You can still buy single tickets (Opal single trip tickets) from machines at train stations, ferry wharves and light-rail stops, or from the bus driver. These are more expensive than the same fare using the Opal card, so there's not much point unless you don't think you'll use $10 worth of transport during your Sydney stay.

You can purchase a child/youth Opal card for those aged four to 15 years; they travel for half price. For student and pensioner discount Opal cards, you have to apply online.