Forever sparkling flirtatiously in the sunshine, displaying the sleek and sexy lines that have made it famous across the world, Sydney is truly a supermodel of cities. But indeed, like with any self-respecting Naomi or Giselle, good looks tend to come with a price. And at first glance, the New South Wales capital is no different.
When you first step foot in Sydney the cost of living can be a shock to the system, especially if you’ve just hopped off a plane from Asia, South America, even New Zealand. Everything from beds to beers attack your travel funds as hungrily as Kate Moss being let at a packet of Ryvita. But all is not as it seems in the Harbour City. It only takes a sneaky look behind the catwalk curtain to realise there’s plenty of ways to get the most out of the city’s streets without breaking the bank. That’s right, Sydney is that most wondrous of creations – a supermodel who’s up for a cheap date…
There’s a reason why Sydney truly comes alive in the summer – it’s a great place to be outdoors. And the best bit is that enjoying the views comes for free.
When ticking off the obvious harbour sights, make sure you stroll round to Mrs Macquarie’s Chair for the best panoramic view. If you’re up for a longer walk, the Bondi to Coogee stroll along the clifftops is hard to beat, stopping at TNT fave Bronte for a swim. A quieter alternative is the Spit Bridge to Manly walk, a 10km hike with fantastic views and secluded beaches. You can even get an excellent free city walking tour with Peek Tours (www.peektours.com.au). TheRoyal Botanic Gardens also offer free tours.
Want to swim in a pool with amazing harbour views, for free? Head to McCallum Pool, a short walk from the Cremorne Point ferry wharf. Or, you could spend just a few bucks on a train and spend a day in stunning national parks – the Blue Mountains to the west, Ku-ring-gai Chase tothe north and Royal National Park to the south. If you plan ahead you can often camp for as little as $5 per person (see www.environment.nsw.gov.au).
Many of Sydney’s museums and galleries have free entry so there’s no reason to turn into a hermit if it’s not the perfect beach day. The Art Gallery of New South Wales, by the Domain, is generally the pick of the bunch, but it’s also worth a gander in Circular Quay’s Museum of Contemporary Art. If Egyptian mummies are your thing, drop by the Nicholson Museum in the University of Sydney.
If movies are more your style, head to the Beresford, in Surry Hills, when they show classic films in the beer garden each Monday night.
January is the month for Sydney Festival. Running from January 8-30, it’s a veritable feast of concerts, exhibitions and plays. The first night is always a huge affair, thanks to a massive free concert in the Domain. Many top restaurants and bars get in on the act by offering super-cheap deals throughout the month. Check out www.sydneyfestival.org.au. If you’re willing to queue early in the morning, head to Martin Place, the day of gigs, to get dirt cheap last minute tickets with Tix For Next To Nix.
While Sydney is blessed with a zoo and aquarium that are both world class, you don’t necessarily have to hand over any silly waterproof notes to get your nature fix. Grab a snorkle and head underwater at the Cabbage Tree Bay Aquatic Reserve, which is just off Shelly Beach, a short walk from Manly. You’ve got a good chance of spotting stingrays, wobbegong sharks, seahorses and even the very cool leafy sea dragons.
While up by Manly, also stroll over to Collins Beach, where you can admire the small colony of little penguins. Prefer something more slithery? Head to La Perouse, where Snake Man does a free half hour show every Sunday.
If you love whales but don’t want to splash out for an expensive boat trip, fear not as they can often be seen close to shore, at points like North Bondi. You’ll have to wait until May however.
If you crave browsing in markets then you’re spoilt for choice in Sydney. The pick of the bunch are at Bondi Beach (Sundays), Surry Hills (first Saturday of the month), Paddington (Saturdays), Kirribilli (second Sunday of the month) and Glebe (Saturdays). You can even enjoy a beer at the same time in the Fringe Bar Markets on Oxford Street (Saturdays).
Generally speaking, head to Alexandria for factory outlets, Glebe for books, Newtown for retro gear, Paddington for your designer threads and Surry Hills for your vintage stuff. Don’t forget to check out charity shops like the Salvos and Vinnie’s, while Paddy’s Market is always crammed with bargains. And if you see some furniture lurking on the street, feel free to take it with you as it’s been thrown out for a council pick-up. Word to the wise though, ignore sofas and mattresses. You never know what other creatures are included in the deal. And finally, contrary to popular opinion, a night out in Sydney need not leave you penniless if you plan your night carefully.
Girls are especially in luck. They can head to the Establishment on George Street for free Champagne (on Thursdays, from 5-7pm) while you get chatted up by a suit.
Other good deals include $2.70 schooners at the Criterion (Pitt St, 5-7pm), $6.50 jugs atScruffy Murphy’s (George St), the same at Scubar (George St), $2.20 schooners at Rosie’s Tavern (Kent St, 5.30-6.30pm), $3.50 beers and a million pool tables at the Shark Hotel(Liverpool St), where you can also sing for your drinks on Karaoke Thursday, two-for one Sangrias at Agave Mexican restaurant (Crown St) and finally, the Gaff (Oxford St) has deals most nights of the week. For up-to-date happy hour listings, see www.sydneyhappyhour.com
Cheap flights: Sign up for email updates from Qantas (www.qantas.com.au), Jetstar (www.jetstar.com), Virgin Blue (www.virginblue.com.au) and Tiger (www.tigerairways.com) so you know when they’re running sales – which is surprisingly often as competition is intense. It’s always cheaper to fly mid week than on a weekend and cheaper to fly out after major holidays than before.
Free internet: If you’re in Sydney, head to the Apple Stores (George St or Bondi Junction) for free web access. Most libraries offer free internet once you’ve become a member, which usually only requires some ID (and sometimes proof of address). And if you’re lucky enough to have a laptop, there’s complimentary WiFi in all sorts of places, like many McDonald’s.
Cheap films: Most major cinema chains sell cheaper tickets on “tight-arse Tuesdays” (some bowling alleys and pizza places do the same).
Cheap photos: Just returned from a multi-day group tour and want some good momentos of the group? Instead of all of you paying to burn your pics to a CD, chip in for one person to do it, then share them on Facebook, or via email.
Cheap beds: Sign up to the various loyalty schemes for hostel chains like Base, YHA and Nomads. Hostels will also often give you a discounted or free stay if you offer to do some work, such as cleaning. If you’re a true tight-arse, you can check out www.couchsurfing.com orwww.globalfreeloaders.com for a place to crash without spending a cent.
Cheap transport: Think relocation, relocation, relocation. What’s that? When campervans are dropped off in less popular pick-up points, companies are desperate to get them back – so desperate they’ll charge you just $1 a day to drive them. This can make for a very cheap roadtrip (petrol aside of course) – the only catch is you may only have a few days to make it happen.
Cheap clubbing: Get to most clubs early as some places only charge after about 10pm. It can also be cheaper to go out on weeknights, as some venues hike up their costs for the bigger Saturday crowds.
Cheap food: Seek out pubs that have a budget menu – many have meals as cheap as $5, even in Sydney (The Forresters $5 steak in Surry Hillls is the king). Often local pubs do cheaper dinners during the week. Also, drop by bakeries (try Bakers Delight and Donut King) around closing time and, if you ask nicely, they’ll often bung you bread and pastries they were going to chuck out.