There’s no denying that Sydney is great. With its beaches and its bars, the weeks float past all too easily. Yet there’s also no denying that stopping off in the Harbour City to restock the travel funds with a bit of work can all too easily end up having the opposite effect. But it need not be so.
Part of what makes Sydney so great is that while it looks a million dollars, it doesn’t have to cost it. Luckily for us, the best bits are free. Indeed, with its jaw-dropping natural beauty and vibrant street culture, a quick wander can easily transform into a rocking day out. So here are our tips on making the most of your time for the least amount of money.
Check out the view:
People fall hard for Sydney because it’s so gorgeous. Between its majestic harbour and world-famous sand pits, this is a city that knows how to meet the sea with spectacular effect and the incredible views don’t cost a thing.
Let’s start with the beaches. Like a casting call for a swimwear advert, Bondi is overflowing with tanned types who worship the Sydney gods of sun and style. Enjoy the most Aussie of experiences by hiring a surfboard for $20 and ride Bondi’s iconic waves.
While you’re there, stroll along the coastal walk to Bronte or Coogee to experience dazzling clifftop scenery. Be sure to have a swim and a BBQ on the beach along the way. There’s also the Manly-Spit bushwalk, which gives you a chance to discover some of Sydney’s quieter northern beaches.
One of the city’s top tourist attractions is the Bridge Climb. Be warned though, the experience will leave a serious hole in your wallet. Instead, just walk across the bridge, alongside the road, for free. If you’re still desperate for some altitude, climb up the Pylon Lookout, on The Rocks side.
Sydney calls itself ‘the City of Villages’ and one of the best things about staying here is getting to know the various suburbs. There are heaps of areas to explore. Top of the list should be people-watching in Kings Cross, Sydney’s seedy underbelly with strip joints, sex shops and street-corner druggies aplenty. Just hold ont o your wallet or you’ll really be strapped for cash.
Don’t forget to check out some of the colourful weekend markets around the city. Bondi, Paddington and Kirribilli are all good, although our fave is Glebe. Browse the wares on offer and sunbathe on the lawn and enjoy the music.
If you want to kick your exploring up a notch, grab a train ticket and head off bushwalking in the Blue Mountains (west), the Royal National Park (south) or Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park (north).
Tightarse Tuesday is a godsend for cash-strapped travellers, with cinema tickets and pizzas half-price. If half price is still too much then every Tuesday at Darlinghurst’s Darlo Bar there’s a free movie night complete with popcorn. Similarly, the Beresford in Surry Hills does movie nights, with dinner and a drink, for $15.
More free films are screened every Wednesday and Sunday at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. While you’re there have a look round the museum for free. There’s also plenty of other cultural hubs which have free entry, like the Museum of Contemporary Art in Circular Quay.
Despite being seen as strictly an old-timers sport in Europe, lawn bowls is all young and cool here, probably due to clubs always having cheap drinks, making them a great alternative to the beer garden on a sunny day. Check out Clovelly Bowling Club, on the Bondi-Coogee coastal walk.
Every January, the Sydney Festival takes over the city. The programme always includes a number of free events, notably two massive outdoor concerts called Festival in the Domain. It’s also worth checking out Tix4Nix for cheap tickets to a whole range of events.
You cannot live by views alone. Luckily, heaps of pubs do cheap steak nights. Some of them even taste good. Try our fave, the Trinity, in Surry Hills, on a Monday.
Another tip is to go to a bakers at the end of the day, smile sweetly and work your accent to bag free leftovers. If breakfast is included in the price of your hostel always remember to slip a few bread rolls and pieces of fruit into your bag for a pack lunch later on.
Before you head out, remember to check out the Sydney Happy Hour website to see where the best deals are currently on offer. Also, try to go out midweek and start the night early. Prices are normally jacked up at weekends, and cover charges usually begin at 10pm.
Fed up of paying crazy prices in internet cafés? Head into the massive Apple store on George Street. You can use the internet on the ground floor computers for free. If you can be bothered to join a library, you can also use theirs without paying. If you’re travelling with a laptop, go and chill out in a McDonalds for the free Wifi. Often the staff don’t even care if you buy anything.
It is possible to live in a hostel rent-free. Your best bet is to try and strike a bargain whereby you do some cleaning in return for a bed for the night. If you’re planning on staying around for longer, make it a daily arrangement. Don’t fancy the work? At least join one of the many loyalty schemes to save some cash each night.
Alternatively have a gander at Gray’s Escape, where you can barter for your bed from the comfort of an internet café (if you’re not near the Apple store that is). You could even get down with the locals by couch surfing.
Time to do one?
Sydney is all about getting out on the water, and the brilliant thing is, you don’t need to have a bank balance and a yacht to match Roman Abramovich in order to achieve it. Just pay $6.40 to jump on a ferry to Manly and enjoy one of the most scenic boat trips in the world.
If you’re about to travel on, it’s worth calling vehicle hire companies and asking if they have any relocation deals. You have to time it right, but if you’re willing to travel when they need a car or van moving, you can hire it for as little as $1 a day. Then all you have to figure out is how to carry on saving money at your next destination…