The last time we visited Sydney, it was in April 2009. Since then, we did not go back to Australia. When we saw an advertisement by Scoot in November 2017, we decided to book cheap tickets and visit Sydney again after 9 years.
Back in 2009, we travelled on SIA and stayed at Macleay Serviced Apartment Hotel (at Potts Point) for seven nights. The package cost came up to S$3,735.
This time round we flew on Scoot Airline and stayed at IBIS East Sydney Budget Hotel (6 nights) and Berida Hotel in Bowral town (2 nights) at cost of S$2,684. This was S$1,051 cheaper compared to nine years ago.
We travelled free and easy on this trip. My daughter and my wife planned the whole trip before the journey. They booked the hotels on-line using Booking.com. They researched on transport from one place to another. There was plenty of desk research to plan for the itinerary without a travel agent.
We travelled on a budget as far as possible. We took public transport (buses and trains) between destinations because taking taxis are expensive. We did not splurge on meals and meals on average cost about $12 per head, certainly not cheaper than Singapore hawker food.
In total, we spent S$4,500 on this trip for 3 adults on 9D-8N trip that included transport costs, meals and some other minor purchases. (The exchange rate between Australian dollar and Singapore dollar was nearly one to one with Aussie dollar marginally higher.)
Impressions of Sydney
It was autumn in May. The sun set about 5.00 pm and sun rises at 6 am. This autumn was not typical. We did not expect the weather to be very cold. Temperature ranged between 16 – 13 degrees C with rain and wind on some days in Sydney. In Bowral town, the temperature dropped to 13 – 1 degrees C.
Cost of living in Sydney city centre is high. Taxi fares are expensive. We took public buses and trains to get around. Even with public transport, it is expensive when compared with Singapore. Meals can cost A$12 upwards per person for lunches and dinners. A sit down dinner can easily cost A$70 for three persons with tax and service charges added on.
In autumn, the fields started to go brown and the trees started to shed their leaves. In colder climate, we could see some autumn colours of red, yellow and gold.
Australia is one big country with vast lands for agricultural produce, and for rearing of cattle and sheep. It is also a big island where fisheries thrive in coastal countryside. You can get fresh fruits, fishes, meats and dairies cheaply in Australia.
New South Wales is the state where Sydney is located. It has many parks that are beautiful. Sydney has harbour views like Sydney Habour. It has famous beaches such as Bondi Beach and Bronte Beach. It is all so picturesque.
Sydney has history that dates back to 1788, the early colonial period where UK brought their convicts to this country. One can still see these old buildings, houses and infrastructure that are still standing today. We visited some of these to get a feel of lives during that eventful period.
Essentials and Itinerary for Sydney trip
Day One (Thursday)
Travel on Scoot – starts 10 am arrives 7.45 pm (local time). Total time on flight about seven and half hours. Time difference – Sydney is ahead by 2 hours. Add two hours to Singapore time.
Cost of Scoot Budget for 3 adults was S$1,360.
On reaching Sydney, buy Optus SIM Mobile card for 7 days with 15 GB data plan at A$40.Took a taxi at airport Terminal 1 to IBIS Sydney East Budget hotel. Cost A$55.
Stayed five nights at IBIS Budget at A$150 per night for triple-share room (inclusive of breakfast of $10). This hotel is within walking distance of King’s Cross train station. It is in Darlinghurst part of Sydney City. We returned on the last night to this hotel before flying back to Singapore. Altogether, we stayed six nights in this IBIS budget hotel.
Temperature was 16 degrees C on arrival at Sydney Airport.
Cars on the roads are right-hand drive, like in Singapore.
Day Two (Friday)
We took a public ferry using Opal card to reach Cockatoo Island. The Sydney 21st Biennale 2018 was staged on this island. Cockatoo Island is the largest island off Sydney Habour. It is a UNESCO World Heritage listed site for history of convict prison between 1839 to 1869.
Cockatoo Island was very windy and very cold.
We took a walk round The Rocks in the afternoon. The Rocks is the site for British settlement in the late 1780s. Convict labour was used to chiseled away rocks with bare hands to create a tunnel known as Argyle Cut. Take a guided tour of Susannah Place Museum to see the old brick houses built in 1844 and see how the early settlers lived back then. We ended the walk at Circular Quay.
Information on public transport:
Buy Opal Cards for travel on public transport from any convenience store and not at train stations. You can only top up value on Opal cards at train stations. Remember to tap in and tap out after each trip. Though there are no barriers at some train stations outside of city centre, commuters are trusted to be honest on travel. If one is caught cheating, there will be a heavy penalty. Fine is A$200. Total amount spent on three Opal cards for the whole trip was A$180.
If you are traveling with luggage on trains, plan your journey during off-peak hours after 9 am to before 4 pm (week days). You can have cabin space for your luggage.
Visit website “Trip Planner for New South Wales” for detailed information of travelling to different destinations on public transport (trains and buses).
Some cars on trains are designated as quiet carriage. Mobile phones must be switched to silent, headphones down in volume and chats keep to a minimum.
Day Three (Saturday)
It was a wet and cold day with rain.
We went to two markets:
- Glebe Point Market
- Paddington Market
They are public schools used as Market places on Saturdays.
In the night, we went to Potts Point and visit Macleay Hotel. We stayed in this hotel back in 2009.
Day Four (Sunday) – Mother’s Day celebration
It was wet and cold morning.
We went to Paddy’s Market at Chinatown area. In the afternoon, we went to Bondi Beach and walked the coastal walkway to Bronte Beach. On reaching Tamarama Beach, the halfway mark, the rain poured down. It became very cold and windy. It was very unpleasant when my pants were wet. The consolation was that the view on this coastal walk was well worth it.
Day Five (Monday)
The rain stopped after two days of it. It was still cold 18 – 12 degrees C.
We took a train to Windsor town of Hawkesbury City (Townhall station to Windsor station). It is north of Sydney. The ride was one and a half hours long. We took in the sight of the Hawkesbury River that run through the town at Howe Park.
From Windsor Town, we moved to Richmond, another Hawkesbury town.
Day Six (Tuesday)
Woke up to sunshine, temperature 19 – 13 degrees C.
It was a day to travel to Southern Highlands south of Sydney and stay at Berida Hotel (4 stars) for two nights at Bowral town. We took all our luggage along since IBIS Budget Hotel did not have room for kept luggage. We took the city trains and intercity train and the whole journey was three hours with three changes of trains.
Take T4 line at Kings Cross to Wolli Creek
Change to T8 line from Wolli Creek to Macarthur
Take Southern Highlands Line (intercity train) to Bowral.
We set off at 9.20 am and reached Bowral at 12.30 pm.
Bowral was cold with temperature 15 – 5 degrees C. It is 114 kilometres from Sydney. We took a walk at this historic town, first came into existence in 1816. It is a quiet town and the residents treat this place as a retirement/hospice homes.
We saw autumn colours at this place.
Day Seven (Wednesday)
It was sunny but very cold 13 – 3 degrees C.
We arranged for a Southern Highlands Taxi for a half-day tour of two places: Illawarra Fly and Fitzroy Falls. We then ended at Old Berrima village. Cost of booking this taxi was A$420. (First hour at A$100 and subsequent hour at A$80.)
Entrance fee for Illawarra Fly was $75 for three adults to walk the Tree-top Walk and climb the tower above the forest for a view of the Tasman Sea in the distance.
At Fitzroy Falls, we saw one waterfall at the start. Because of drought, the Twin Falls was dry.
For lunch, we dropped by an award-winning pie shop for their famous pies. (There is a tour that takes tourists on a pie trail.)
On return trip to hotel in Bowral, we took a public bus at Berrima to Moss Vale and an intercity train to Bowral.
We pampered ourselves for dinner. We ate wood-fired pizza and the cost came to A$70 after ++. This was our most expensive dinner.
Day Eight (Thursday)
Morning temperature at 6 am dropped to 1 degree C. However the weather rose through the day. When we reached Sydney, it was 19 – 9 degrees C.
We set off at 9.30 am for the return journey back to Sydney reaching at 12.30 pm.
We spent time at Australian Design Centre, visited Queen Victoria Building (expensive retail mall). We ate Japanese food on the last night.
We ended the night at Coles supermarket picking up Australian produced nuts and chocolates. These were cheaper than buying them in Singapore.
Day Nine (Friday)
We returned home taking the 12.00 pm Scoot flight. We touched down at 6.30 pm local time. Calling for a cab cost us A$50 for the journey from IBIS budget hotel to airport.
Travel books consulted:
Sydney Didi & Co travel guide
Sydney The Monocle Travel Guide Series