Moving to Australia

Public Transport in Sydney

For some people, when deciding on a city to visit or reside in, public transport can be a deal breaker. If there are few options for getting around, it can be difficult to see what you want to see, and go where you want to go.

Happily, public transport in Sydney is one of the reasons why it’s such a popular Australian destination. You can make your way around the city by bus, train, light rail or ferry, and you can also hail a taxi or summon an Uber.

Let’s take a look at how Sydney makes it comfortable and convenient to get around.

Get yourself an Opal card

Allianz Global Assistance Overseas Health - Sydney Public Transport Opal Card

“Tap on, tap off” will be your mantra when using public transport in Sydney. The very smart Opal ticketing system enables customers to travel on trains, buses, ferries, light rail and even regional trains and coaches. You simply load your Opal card with funds when you purchase it and top it up as required, or you can set it for auto top-up by connecting it with your credit or debit card.

You can also top it up via the Opal Travel app which offers lots of other functionality too such as trip planning, fare estimates, travel alerts, notifications of travel disruptions and information on wheelchair accessible services.

Opal cards are available for purchase at more than 2,100 retailers including petrol stations, newsagents, pharmacies, 7-Elevens and other convenience stores and at airport train stations.

Before you get on a bus, ferry, light rail or train, simply tap on at the Opal card reader and you’re good to go. But don’t forget to tap off when your journey ends or you will be charged the maximum fare for the journey.

Double decker trains through the city, to the airport and beyond

Allianz Global Assistance Overseas Health - Sydney Double Decker Trains

Train travel is a very convenient way to make your way through Sydney and out to the suburbs. The trains tend to run on time and of course they prevent the need to sit in traffic. You also get a different view of the city from the airconditioned comfort of a train seat.

In the Sydney Central Business District, the train stations are:

  • Central
  • Museum
  • St James
  • Town Hall
  • Wynyard
  • Circular Quay
  • Martin Place
  • Kings Cross.

Train services run from 4am to midnight on most lines and you’ll find 24-hour ticket vending machines at all City stations. If you want to venture beyond the metropolitan area, you can jump on a train to the Blue Mountains, Wollongong, Newcastle and the Hunter Valley.

Since the mid-1960s, Sydney has used double decker trains, also known as ‘bi-level’ trains in other parts of the world. Choose the upper seating deck if you don’t have a lot of heavy baggage to carry and you’d like a better vantage point. Visitors appreciate that Sydney’s trains are efficient, clean and reliable, and you can choose which way to face by simply flipping the back rest to be forward-facing or rear-facing.

If you are getting around using public transport in Sydney, the best times to take the train are outside of peak commute hours. If you can, avoid travelling between 7am and 9am and 4pm to 6.30pm Monday to Friday as these are when the trains are the most crowded.

The train also runs regularly to the airport and is a reliable way to get to the airport on time so you don’t miss your flight.

Buses run round the clock

Sydney’s Metrobus system is what commuters use to get into and out of the City and to travel between the City and the beaches and suburbs. With your Opal card, you can get on and off buses as you wish without having to carry cash.

At night, the NightRide system comes into play and replaces train services between midnight and 5am. There is also a separate network, the Sydney Olympic Park bus routes, nine individual routes that carry passengers to major events in the precinct.

Don’t miss a ride on a ferry!

Allianz Global Assistance Overseas Health - Sydney Public Transport - Ferries

Sydney’s 32 ferries are true icons of the Harbour City. Not only are they a convenient and affordable way to cross the waterways (instead of travelling over the bridges), they provide a different view of the city and a fun experience.

The city’s commuters take ferries twice a day to get to and from work or to travel to appointments or shopping trips. Visitors are often fascinated by the ferries and feel fortunate to be able to cruise the harbour for just a few dollars. The main ferry hub is Circular Quay in the CBD and the network includes 20 wharves across 37 kilometres.

Instead of paying for organised tours on private vessels, you can enjoy magical views of the Harbour Bridge, the Opera House, the city skyline and the various coves and bays of the harbour and feel the sea mist on your skin. Not only will you be sightseeing, but you’ll be reaching various destinations too. Simply view the schedule, pick a location and take the green and yellow ferry that goes there.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Darling Harbour – Shop ‘til you drop, have a drink in one of the bars, enjoy a gourmet meal or visit the tourist attractions. Madame Tussauds and the Sealife Sydney Aquarium are there.
  • Cockatoo Island – The best place in the city to see the squawking white birds with the yellow crests. 
  • Watson’s Bay – Take a picnic lunch out to the bay and spread a blanket out on the grass or sand. Or, wander in to one of the cool cafes for a spot of lunch.

Taxis and ride sharing

You can hail a cab in Sydney just like in other cities and the taxi companies are reputable and safe. Just keep in mind that 2am and 2pm are the shift change times and it can be very difficult to find a taxi then.

Uber is very popular in Australia and there is also GoCatch which is like Uber but doesn’t have surge pricing. You’ll need to download the apps to use both these services.

Sydney’s light rail is growing

Allianz Global Assistance Overseas Health - Sydney Light Rail

Sydney’s light rail network covers one 12.8-kilometre route, the Dulwich Hill line, which features 23 stations. A second line is scheduled to open in 2019.

Security is excellent

Public transport in Sydney is well supported by robust security including CCTV, on-board security personnel, emergency alert buttons and good lighting.

When choosing where to live, study or holiday, remember that the networks for public transport in Sydney are comprehensive and you should have no trouble at all finding your way across the various options.


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