When I first arrived in Sydney public transport seemed to be a complex mess that I just couldn’t figure out. Taking public transport in Sydney seemed to be harder than I thought. At the time the city was moving from paper tickets to transport cards and it seemed that even the people working at ticket booths (when I could find one) were unsure. So here is a quick guide on taking public transport in Sydney in the hope that your experience is easier than mine.
The first thing to know is that Sydney has now phased out all paper tickets and moved to the sole use of a transport card – the Opal card. You can purchase these at most convenience stores in the city as well as top them up at train, ferry and light rail stations (most bus stops don’t have top up machines – you’ve been warned).
Trains are the fastest and easiest way to get around Sydney. The train network is fairly comprehensive with a few notable exceptions. For some unknown reason you won’t be able to take a train the famous Bondi Beach – the train stops short at Bondi Junction which is not within walking distance of the beach – at all. You also won’t find a train to Manly Beach.
If you take a train further out of the city (such as to Flemington for the markets) you’ll notice that a lot of train stations outside of the city centre don’t have turnstiles which I found strange. But do make sure that tap your card on the poles with the Opal Card logo on them, you can be fined if you forget to do this (super easy to forget).
The main stations in the CBD are Town Hall, Central and Wynyard if you’re looking for downtown or Darling Harbour, Circular Quay for the Opera House and the St. James and Museum is your headed to Hyde Park or the Botanic Gardens side of the city.
The ferry is by far my favourite method of taking public transport in Sydney. Although it does generally take longer than a train the view more than makes up for it. There are a lot of really cool harbour side suburbs that are really only accessible by ferry (in terms of public transport). You can find some great ones here.
The two main ferry stops in the city centre are Circular Quay and Barangaroo, you can get a ferry to pretty much anywhere from these.
Moving on to my least favourite method of taking public transport in Sydney – buses. Buses in Sydney are notorious for being rarely on time and sometimes not even turning up. But they do service a lot of places not service by any other public transport. Bus stations in the city are poorly signposted and do not give up to date information on when a bus will arrive. There is an app that will give you up to date information but this is also sometimes not accurate. If you can take a train!
The light rail is a great way to get around but it only has one line (at the time of writing). The current line runs from Central Station and is a great way to get to Darling Harbour, Paddy’s Markets, Pyrmont and the Star Casino. After that it heads out to some of the inner west suburbs. At the time of writing a light rail line is being built down the middle of George Street (the cities main street you could say). Once it has been finished it will be great, but for now it’s just a massive construction site.
If you’re are looking for more information on taking public transport in Sydney you can check out the official transport site here. It has some great maps and route building tools. Also do keep in mind that Sydney’s transport system does differ from Melbourne’s transport system. You can’t use the Opal card across both. Melbourne has its own transport card.