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Harbour City, as Sydney is affectionately known, is Australia’s oldest and most international metropolis. It’s a treasure trove of urban fun and sophisticated culture with the added bonus of mouthwatering beaches and national parks right on the doorstep. After exploring the city’s highlights, grab a rental car and head down the coast to find your own personal beach hideaway.
Who to Book With
Nearly every major car rental hire company on the planet has an office or three in Sydney, along with useful local firms like Bayswater Car Rentals. You can find them all at Sydney’s bustling airport or along William Street in the downtown district of Kings Cross. This popular city is busy year-round, so be sure and book your rental as early as possible to get the lowest prices and best selection.
Best Time to go
Even the winters are a balmy 17C in Sydney (remember that the seasons are opposite from those in the northern hemisphere). There really is no low season here, but the most rain falls between March and June. Try the spring months of September and October for a great mix of sun and pleasant weather, along with better deals on car rental rates.
Need to Know Essentials
When picking up your rental, be sure and bring the following to the office:
- A valid UK or EU driving license or International Driving Permit
- A second form of photo ID
- The credit card that was used to make the reservation
- A printed rental confirmation sheet
Sydney’s centre suffers from traffic congestion almost around the clock, but it gets particularly heavy during weekday rush hours and when locals head out of the city on weekends. It’s tough to find street parking downtown, and it’s always metered at around £2 an hour. Car parks are an easier option but are very expensive at around £16 an hour and £45 per day. Even city centre hotels will charge their guests to park on site. Parking at the beaches and suburbs is slightly easier, but the average fine for a parking violation in Sydney is £57.
Some roads around Sydney have tolls, including the useful Cross City Tunnel, the Harbour Bridge and Tunnel, the M7 and Falcon Street. An electronic E-Tag or E-Pass is required to use the toll booths, so ask your car hire office to provide you with one. An excellent network of highways and streets makes it possible to get anywhere in and around the city with ease.
Sydney’s pubic transport system is impressive, involving buses, trains, ferries and a monorail geared towards tourists. The buses and ferries are operated by State Transit, while the light rail and suburban trains are managed by CityRail. There is no metro and a perennial shortage of taxis, but several different ticketing options make it affordable to stick to the public transport for inner-city travel.
Multi-modal tickets are the way to go if you plan to use the public transport system in Sydney. MyMulti Day Tripper is the most popular pass, good for one-day travel on all buses, trains, city ferries and the light rail. This pass costs around £14 for adults and £7 for kids. MyMulti also has weekly passes based on three zones of varying distance from the city centre. MyMulti-1 is a good choice at around £28, allowing access to popular sites like Bondi Beach, the zoo and Darling Harbour without the need to worry about ticketing along the way. Single-fare tickets must be bought from a kiosk or machine at the station before boarding.
CityRail operates the rail network in Sydney, with 176 stations covering the entire metropolitan area. Trains arrive at stations every 10 to 30 minutes, depending on location, between 05:00 and midnight. The fares are based on distance travelled, ranging from around £2 to £4 for a single trip. Tickets must be bought before boarding unless you have a MyMulti pass.
The Sydney Monorail is a privately-operated train that runs on a 12-minute loop around the centre of the city. More of a sightseeing ride than a transport option, the monorail caters to tourists and costs around £3 per ride.
Sydney Ferries has a main hub at Circular Quay and Darling Harbour, running a good network of ferry routes all over Sydney Harbour. MyMulti passes are valid on these ferries, or you can buy single trips for around £4 or £2 based on the two fare zones.
Taxis can be flagged on the street, booked online or called for a pick up around the clock. There are day rates and night rates, starting at around £2 to get in and £1.50 per kilometer. The night rate, between 22:00 and 06:00, simply adds 20 per cent to the fare. Credit cards are accepted for an additional 10 per cent tariff.
Sydney Buses runs the extensive bus network in the city, with two main downtown stations at Circular Quay and Wynyard. In the city centre tickets must be purchased from a machine before boarding the bus, while in the outskirts you can buy tickets form the driver as well. Their website has a wealth of information.
Although there are lots of things to do right in Sydney itself, travellers who like to get out on their own will find dozens of amazing daytrips right on the doorstep of the city. From the Blue Mountains to countless beaches along the coast in either direction, there is no end to the daytrip options if you have a rental car.
The Blue Mountains - These offer a solid dose of Australian wilderness less than an hour from Sydney. Take a nice walk in the Katoomba area, explore the Jenolan Caves or simply drive to the scenic lookout at Echo Point. These mountains are a UNESCO World Heritage Area for good reason.
Hunter Valley - This is one of Australia’s most popular wine-growing regions, with dozens of vineyards open to visitors. Take a daytrip to this lovely region and visit a handful of wineries, where a tour of the vineyards and a tasting is standard procedure.
The Grand Pacific Drive - This is a stunning coastal road that hugs the side of sheer cliffs as its passes south from Sydney towards the cool town of Wollongong. At the end of this drive, you’ll find 17 awesome surf beaches that are rarely crowded and enjoy free, unfettered parking.