22 Things To Note When Planning Your Trip to Sydney

Not a city you visit without doing some research.

I obviously underestimated Sydney because it's such a popular travel destination, I thought it would be brainless to navigate around! Despite what conventional guides tell you about Sydney... here is my honest list of things to note when it comes to planning your holiday here. I wished somebody told me all of this before I went there, but in a way there is a warped, stimulating sense of active travelling because of the constant need to deal with problems as they come. A tiny shoutout to my fellow Sydney travelers... we did well, I think, despite all that we still covered a lot of it and had fun! Here goes: 

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1. If you're doing a city-hop from Melbourne, consider the train option instead of the plane.
From time to time, there would be promotions and offers that make train rides between Melbourne and Sydney even cheaper than plane rides. If you're travelling on budget and want to save a night of accommodation, hop on an overnight 11-hr journey. A word of caution: not for those who are prone to backaches or can't sleep in seats.

2. Wear comfortable shoes.. because the transport system can be extremely erratic!
Sydney's transport system sucks. Regardless the angle I'm looking at it, it objectively has failed itself in many ways, so be prepared to rely on your legs to carry you around as opposed to catching a cab or a bus to save yourself some energy.
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3. Do not pin your hopes on the free transport city circle bus.
I must have experienced the extreme (negative) side of the free transport city circle bus, because anything worse than this should be classified as traumatic. I was there for five days, rather determined to catch this free transport city circle bus which has a very useful route, but never managed to truly catch it because it did not stick to the schedule. When we finally caught up with it on the last day... it drove off when we knocked on the door of the bus (which the driver stubbornly closed even though the bus wasn't half-full). The driver definitely saw us but purposely drove off without opening the door to explain anything, which was downright infuriating. Needless to say, it left a negative impression on me. The point is: do not count on this free transport city circle bus for your holiday plans.

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4. The main city train stations and platforms are extremely confusing for a tourist.
For a first-timer, you have to be on full alert to truly get the hang of how the train stations work, they can vie with the complexity of Paris's metro stations. There are several platforms, you can't really see the station names when you're sitting inside the trains, and overall, not built for a relaxing trip. Expect to pay attention on trains or you'll miss your stop!

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5. Always check your Opal card balance after you topped it up.
I have the unfortunate experience of buying an Opal card for AUD20 (meant to have AUD20 credits) at one of the bookshops at the Central, and there were no credits stored inside when I tried to tap in. Sydney certainly doesn't like me... I doubt it's the first time it'd happened, and by this time, I have no expectations left for their transport system. I tried to do a refund by producing a receipt and explaining that they had given me an empty card, and till date, no refund has been done even though I gave them my Australian number (I returned to Melbourne and waited for 2 months in vain). I honestly did not expect them to refund me anyway, given the state of how things are.

6. Brrr! Don't catch a cold while hiking.
Onto happier activities! The temperature on the famous Blue Mountains can dip to much lower degrees than in the city, so even in the summer it can be 14 degrees - check the weather forecast too, if it rains, forget about it. It'll be colder and windier! Thanks to Aloysius (and friends) for lending your windbreakers or I'd probably have frozen to the bone.

7. Blue Mountains can take a whole day (ie. morning till sunset) if you're not interested in a simple touch-and-go.
The Blue Mountains are indeed gorgeous even in considerably bad weather, but to properly finish touring it, you'll need a whole day - along with hiking trails (ranging from 90 minutes to 3 hours), Scenic World, and Jenolan Caves.

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8. Rare opportunity: Catch a selfie with quokkas at Featherdale Wildlife Park.
Doing Featherdale Wildlife Park and Blue Mountains together in a day is ideal and strategic, but probably only possible with great determination, time management and a car. But if you can do it, it is definitely a great time-saver opportunity and maximize your Sydney experience. Both are located northwest of Sydney city. Featherdale Wildlife Park opens from 9am to 5pm, so you've probably got to compromise by doing both attractions at a faster rate.

9. A breathtaking experience - Coogee to Bondi Walk!
Must-do. Set aside one day in your Sydney plans to do this scenic walk! See entire post on this.

10. On BridgeClimb...
This is one of the memorable activities that you can do if you've AUD200 to spend (Prices vary depending on type of climb and timing. AUD148-338 (adults), AUD118-248 (children). Click here to find out details. But if you simply want a great view, get onto the Pylon Lookout
Sydney Pylon Lookout: AUD13 (adults), AUD8.50 (seniors and students), AUD6.50 (children aged 5 to 12)

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11. Mamak Sydney is the number one restaurant in Australia.
There is a huge queue everyday, but it's not number one for nothing.

12. Names for your cafe-hopping convenience...
Grounds of Alexandria, Reuben Hills, Aqua S, Passiontree Velvet, Bourke Street Bakery are some of the super popular cafes that can't go wrong, so go ahead and pin them onto your maps.

13. Star performer: Devon Cafe
However, if there's only one cafe you have to go, it'll be Devon Cafe. See my full review and gushing about this cafe here.

14. Another big name housing the world's best gelato makers: Cow and the Moon!
Cow and the Moon has been awarded the best, and you ought to try it.

15. The tastiest food are found in their food courts... but not just any:
The two best meals that I've tried in Sydney are surprisingly all in food courts - Bo 7 Thanh Tam and Gumshara. Don't get the hang of Sydney's bests only through trial-and-error, get it straight at their food courts.

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16. Book your Watermelon Cakes to prevent disappointment.
To enjoy a slice of heavenly watermelon cake at Black Star Pastry, it is advised that you book them in advance, or arrive as early as you can. Officially they close at 5pm, but they start running out of watermelon cakes at around 3.30pm.

17. Holidays meant incurring extra costs at most dining places, with mark-ups of 2-5AUD. 
Don't cut your budget too tight - Australian brunches are often rather expensive, and even more so on public holidays because they have a special menu for these days.

18. Most attractions are closed during holidays too.

Check their opening hours in advance.

19. Sunscreen... always.

The sunscreen is no doubt critical to your packing list. Sydney is sunny two-thirds of the time round the year, and most of the attractions are outdoors - no shade. Always remember to reapply your sunscreen every three hours to ensure you're completely protected!

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20. Opt for hotels or Sydney Central YHA over Airbnb.
I'm not saying all Airbnbs in Sydney would have a dreadful (okay, maybe just much-much-lower-than-expectations) experience as I did, but Airbnb options found in the Sydney central vicinity were either way too expensive or dodgy. If there's one city I'll advise against the Airbnb option which I love a lot, it's Sydney... instead, opt for a hotel that has a great location to save your legs from walking too much or the Sydney Central YHA which is greatly raved all over the internet but apparently I missed the PSA when it all happened. Just a heads up - the slots run out fast, so if you find that you can't squeeze into the YHA, fall back on price comparison sites to help you plan your accommodation. 

21. Always check the weather forecast before jetting over.
It's difficult to enjoy Sydney without clear skies and sunny days, because most of it is outdoors. If the weather isn't that great, it might not be worth it to jet over then.

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22. Study the map in detail!
Because the city is not designed in an intuitive way. Don't visit Sydney without doing some research on it, especially if you're tight on time!

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a travel and food blogger with a constant longing to be somewhere to makes her feel alive ☆ life's an adventure