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Sydney on a budget

Updated on September 16, 2010

Sydney is a great city, although it can be rather expensive at times. But not to worry, there are loads of cheap, or not so expensive things to do when you look for them. So there is no reason not to come to Sydney when you are on a budget, a student or a backpacker. It is almost always good weather in Sydney, so there are heaps of suitable and cheap or free outdoors activities. In winter there is the possibility of heavy rains though, so this would be a great time to check it all the nice and cheap indoor markets.

The ultimate Budget travel guide

The Rocks, Harbour Bridge and the Opera House

First of all, when in Sydney you have to visit the two Australian icons in the form of the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. Both of them free to look at and walk around, and right next to each other. You can climb up the Harbour Bridge and walk over it. The view is spectacular, and includes the Harbour and the Opera House. Some great photo opportunities you shouldn’t miss. On the south eastern side is the Pylon Lookout, climb even higher for even better views.

After you finished walking the Harbour Bridge, make your way to the Opera House, to inspect it up close. It was designed by the Danish architect Jørn Utzon, and is Australia’s most famous icon. Everyone around the world knows the photos of this building, so visiting is a must. After visiting the Opera House, take a stroll around the area called The Rocks. It is a lively place with lots of great bars, restaurants and clubs. There is the Rocks Market on George Street every Saturday and Sunday between 10am and 5pm. Here you will find many souvenirs, fossils, opals, jewellery and Aboriginal art.

The Royal Botanic Gardens

The Royal Botanic Gardens are right next to the Opera House and easily accessible. The garden was planted in 1816 to grow vegetables for the first Australian settlers. Since then it has evolved into a beautiful park, with lots of different vegetation, scenic walkways and interesting inhabitants in the forms of many bird species, and a bat colony. You can take a free guided walk every day at 10am and at 1pm from Monday through Friday. The tours leave at the Gardens Shop. Highlights in the Botanic Gardens are the rose garden, the South Pacific plant collection, the glass pyramid at the Tropical Centre, and the bat colony. They are actually grey-headed flying foxes, and you will find them in a corner of the gardens. Many signs point the way, so go check out these massive bats for yourself. Not to worry, they are quite big, but the won’t bite.

Darling Harbour and Chinatown

Darling Harbour is a beautiful spot. And although it is filled with bars and great restaurants, you do not need money to enjoy it. It is right next to the CBD, close to metro station Town Hall. Just have a walk around and enjoy the scenery, or sit down at on of the little benches or on the pier to take it all in. On the weekends there are often street artists around, or street musicians (often Aboriginals playing their traditional music). You can take a walk over the Pyrmont Bridge to have a nice view over the Harbour, or have a nice picnic in the park right behind the harbour.

Chinatown is the quarter right next to Darling Harbour. It is full of nice (and often cheap) Chinese restaurants, shops, and markets. During the Chinese New Year celebrations in late January or early February this neighbourhood goes crazy. The streets are filled with sideshows, traditional Chinese music, and little stalls selling everything from good-luck tokens to the weirdest Chinese dishes.

Bondi Beach and Manly Beach

Bondi Beach is the hippest place in Sydney, and it has one of its best beaches. It is great for working on your tan (bring enough sunscreen and water), having a little swim, and learning to surf. If you are lucky you might even spot some dolphins as they are known to hang out there regularly. If you are up for a bit more of an active afternoon, you can do the Bondi To Coogee walk. This is a 5km walk along beautiful beaches and over stunning cliffs. It will take you up to two hours, so make sure you bring enough water and sunscreen! Coogee is another one of Sydney’s great quarters and it also has a nice beach.

Manly Beach is very laid-back and easy-going beach near North Head. To get there you take a beautiful ferry ride from Circular Quay.  There are many nice little restaurants and bars at the Manly Wharf, and if you have a look around you find some cheap, but good food here. There is a small footpath along the sea and around a small headland, that will take you to Fairy Bower Beach and Shelly Beach. These are absolutely gorgeous. Like Bondi, it has a great walk for the more active visitors. This one is 9km long and is called the Manly Scenic Walkway. Make sure you’ve got enough water and sunscreen with you!

Browse the markets

Sydney has many great markets. And most of them are fairly cheap. But even if you have no money to spend, they are great for browsing around one lazy afternoon. Here is just a small selection of my favourites. Do not to forget the ones mentioned above at the Rocks and Bondi Beach as well.

Paddy’s Market is right next to the CBD in Chinatown. It is a big indoor market, with heaps of different products. Most of it are Australian souvenirs, but you will also find cheap clothes,, shoes, bags, jewellery, books, wooden sculptures, cd’s and dvd’s, and whatever else you can think of. If you go up one floor there is an elaborate food court, with food styles from all over the world. The markets are open every Thursday to Sunday from 10am to 5pm.

Not to be confused with Paddington’s Market, which only takes place on Saturdays. This is the best place for a massage, a tarot reading, great and unique clothes and jewellery, and much more.

Last but not least, the Sydney Fish Market west of Darling Harbour on Blackwattle Bay ( Every year over 15 million of seafood comes through here, and you will find almost every fish on the planet here. Mostly the varieties that are caught in and around Australia though. But if you are into seafood, this is the place to be. They have mud rainbow trout, crabs, Balmain bugs, oysters, mullet, lobsters, fat slabs of salmon and much more. You can buy fish to be prepared at home, but there are many stalls who sell ready to eat sushi, oysters, mussels, and several types of fish. Outside is a little court with tables and a  view over the sea, where you can sit and eat your freshly prepared lunch. If you get there early, you can do a guided tour through the seafood auctions.


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    • Mieka profile image

      Mieka 7 years ago

      Thank you Faybe Bay. Australia is absolutely amazing, if you ever have the time to visit! I love Ireland too btw. I visited Dublin, and we did some hiking tracks around there as well. Very beautiful!

    • Faybe Bay profile image

      Faye Constantino 7 years ago from Florida

      Oh So nicely done! I have to bookmark this one, may have to add travel as a topic.Rated you up!