Sydney is considered expensive to visit, but can be done in affordable manner

Posted Oct. 11, 2012


SYDNEY— What are the first things that come to your mind when somebody mentions Sydney, Australia? For many people the list includes koalas, kangaroos, beaches, and Steve Irwin.

With all due respect to the late great Crocodile Hunter, the first thing that should come to mind for those thinking about traveling there is far less whimsical and much more practical: Money.

Be wary travelers, Sydney is more than just laid-back blokes and beautiful beaches. In fact, in a recent study by UGS Financial Services, Sydney ranks as the eleventh most expensive city in the world.

With an average hotel room in the city costing about US$180 a night, a beer costing an average of  US$7 to US$10 a glass, and the average round-trip airfare costing anywhere up to US$2,000 for economy flights, many travelers can find that even a short trip to Sydney can cost an arm and a leg.

But fear not budgeting travelers, because where there’s a will, there’s a way. And if you are flexible with your travel plans, you can get through your time spent in the Harbour City without having to re-mortgage your house or empty your retirement fund. Here’s how….


Don’t worry about making reservations at restaurants. In fact, if you really want to save some cash, don’t even worry about going to whatever fast food joint you can find. Most of the fast food places will cost US$10 or more for a meal.

“The one mistake most Yanks make” says Sydney native Malcolm Rothall, a 20-year-old student living in the city, “Is that they associate American fast food places as being cheapest food. But that’s hardly ever the case. Most of the time you can get better food for cheaper if you just understand where to look.”

So where exactly should one search for cheap food in Sydney? Well the answer, simply put, is to open your eyes and walk around.

“The best places to get food are sushi stands, they normally run incredible specials since fresh fish is so cheap in the city,” said Rothall. “Other than that, you just have to keep your eyes open and check the local pubs.”

Yes, it seems that one of the advantages to having the world’s third-largest fish market, is that Sydney is able to offer incredible sushi, at bargain prices. The best way for travelers to save cash is not to sit down at a sushi restaurant, but to walk up to one of the many sushi stands that populate the city streets.

Given the right time and place, travelers can find sushi stands that will give away hand rolls for US$1 a piece. But, if raw fish isn’t exactly your thing, try popping in to any one of the thousands of bars within the city for specials that range from US$3 tacos to US$10 steaks.


Another problem with how people typically view travel is their insistence upon staying in hotels. If you’re looking to save cash and still have a fun time, you’re going to have to break out of this mode of thinking.

“One of the biggest issues people have with staying in Sydney on the cheap is refusing to stay outside of hotels,” said Rafeh Refan. Instead, he suggests hostels. “The best places to stay are hostels. They’re cheap, clean, and if you’re able to get along with a few strangers, a pretty fun time.”

Hostels in the city vary in price, and quality, but the basic price for a night in one of the top hostels in the area is around US$35. For that price you get a bed to sleep in and free meals, as well as help from local staff with coordinating travel and whatever other activities you might be interested in.

For travelers completely against staying in a hostel, Sydney presents a unique problem.

“You won’t find a hotel for much less than US$100 a night here.” said Habib Dellaa, manager of the Marque hotel in Sydney, “You really need to try and stay as far outside the city as you can, but then you’ll be paying transit costs to get anywhere.”


In addition to being one of the most expensive cities in the world, city also holds the wonderful title of, “Most Expensive City in Australia to Grab a Drink In” according to UBS. Again, at most places you can expect to pay anywhere from US$7 to US$10 for a beer, and US$10 or more for spirits.  Buying booze from the local market can be equally frustrating with the average price for a 24-pack of beer costing around $45 in Sydney. So what exactly, should travelers do to help keep their bar tabs low? Learn to love wine.

Wineries have a great history and tradition in Australia, and the wines made within the country are both cheap and delicious. You can find bottles of wine for as cheap as US$2 each, but for a decent bottle you can expect to spend US$8 to US$10. If drinking wine isn’t exactly what you’re looking for, and you want to visit one of the many pubs Sydney is known for, the advice again, is to open your eyes and look around.

“You can find places that offer US$2 to US$3 schooners (pints) of beer in the city, specifically near the universities, if you keep your eyes open.” Says local business owner David Webb, “Anytime you want to see a real footy or rugby match on the cheap, you should just head out near Sydney University, most of the bars there are pretty affordable.”

Finding ways to stay in Sydney for cheap isn’t obvious. It will require a well-trained eye, flexibility for accommodations, and an ear to the ground to sniff out all the best local deals. Even with all of these traits, travelers will still have to pay hefty sums just for airfare, but with the right mentality an economic minded traveler can have the time of their life in one of the world’s most beautiful cities, without having to break the bank.


Make sure to stay at the WAKE UP! Hostel on The corner of George Street and Pitt Street. With rooms beginning at US$35 a night, it is the premier hostel in Sydney, and is located above several famous and affordable pubs and eateries. In order to get there take a local subway or bus to Sydney Central, and walk across the street to the hostel. Central is Sydney’s largest station and one-way travel from any point within the city limits doesn’t cost more than US$10.

When it comes to food try the sushi at Harbour Sushi on George Street, located across from Central, where you can buy 10 hand rolls for US$10, which is enough to feed roughly two to three people. Or go to the Abercrombie Hotel and try the famous US$3 tacos.

For cheap drinks try Bar Century on Liverpool Street, where they offer US$3 schooners all day, everyday.

Leave a Reply