Here’s how to enjoy Australia’s most populous city without burning a hole in your pocket
Seek out affordable accommodation
Book a stay with YHA Australia (yha.com.au), which has hostels located all across Sydney. Rates start from just A$35 per night. Other sites like Need It Now (needitnow.com.au) offer last-minute hotel deals, while online classifieds platform Gumtree (gumtree.com.au) sometimes has listings for longer-term stays.
Alternatively, if you’re up for an adventure and don’t mind sleeping on a stranger’s sofa, Couchsurfing (couchsurfing.com) is a platform through which you can connect with locals willing to share their homes for free. However, be sure to read your potential host’s reviews carefully before arranging a stay!
Hang out at the beach
Lounge on Sydney’s picturesque beaches, such as Bondi, Coogee, Bronte and Watson’s Bay, for an activity that won’t cost a penny. Swim in the cool, clear waters, or go on meandering coastal walks from Bondi to Coogee or Bronte Beach. If you’re willing to spend a little, you can even rent a surfboard and try riding the waves.
Have a picnic
Who needs expensive restaurants when you can enjoy beautiful outdoor picnics? Enjoy views of the iconic Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge while munching on a takeaway at Circular Quay. Alternatively, lay your picnic mat on the verdant fields of The Royal Botanic Garden (Mrs Macquaries Rd, +61 2 9231 8111; rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au).
Also read: 7 offbeat things to do in Sydney
Go on a free walking tour
I’m Free Walking Tours (+61 4 0551 5654; imfree.com.au/sydney) offers free tours of the city; all you have to do is tip your local guide as you see fit. Join the morning or afternoon tour for insights into downtown Sydney, or for a bigger dose of history, turn up for the evening tour to explore The Rocks, the site of Australia’s first European settlement.
Not a fan of organized tours? Get a knowledgeable local to show you around instead. With Sydney Greeters (sydney.greeters.info), a personal guide will introduce you to the city’s best restaurants, bars and shops — entirely for free.
Check out museums and galleries
Sydney is replete with art galleries and museums. The Art Gallery of New South Wales (Art Gallery Rd, The Domain; +61 2 9225 1744; artgallery.nsw.gov.au) features works from local and international artists alike, and admission is free. Modern art enthusiasts will appreciate the Museum of Contemporary Art (140 George St, The Rocks, +61 2 9245 2400; mca.com.au), where intriguing pieces by Aboriginal artists are on display.
Do also visit The Mint (10 Macquarie St, +61 2 8239 2288; sydneylivingmuseums.com.au/the-mint), an award-winning redevelopment of the city’s oldest public building and coining factory. Today, the site is home to the headquarters of Sydney Living Museums, a veranda café and a library. Admission is free.
Nosh on affordable fare
Head to a Greek gyros (pita bread stuffed with rôtisserie meats) stall — there are plenty in Sydney — for a hearty meal that won’t break the bank. At Traditional Gyradiko (445-447 Gardeners Rd, Rosebery; +61 2 9313 5379; traditionalgyradiko.com.au) a juicy, wine-marinated pork gyro served with chips and a salad is just A$8.
Another of Sydney’s fave cheap eats is the banh mi thit (Vietnamese pork roll). Head to Marrickville Pork Roll (236A Illawarra Rd, Marrickville; +61 4 1116 7169) for a fresh baguette stuffed with pork and veggies that will cost just A$5.
Sushi shops are also a dime a dozen in Sydney. Sushi Hub (sushihub.com.au) has 30 outlets across the city; you can easily fill up on assorted sushi rolls for less than A$10.
Make use of public transport
Sydney’s efficient public transport infrastructure means you can travel just about anywhere via bus, train, ferry or light rail. For discounted fares, purchase an Opal card for free and top up its value; this gives you cheaper fares than buying single-trip tickets. Other perks include a 30% discount on fares during off-peak periods, weekends and public holidays, as well as a maximum daily fare of A$2.50 on Sundays.
Also read: 10 budget travel tips you need to know