Thursday, January 19, 2012

Sydney on a Budget: A Guide For Filipino Travelers

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This is a guest post from Oma who spent the holidays in Sydney. All photos in this post were taken by her.  

Hello, Sydney! 
Before my trip, I honestly didn’t understand why most of the Aussies I talked to said that people like me would prefer Sydney more than Melbourne.

After spending almost 2 weeks in Sydney, I finally understood why. 

For us Filipinos who love the sun and the beach and are comfortable wearing cotton shirts and tsinelas (flipflops) in public, we could easily fit in Sydney’s familiar warm and laid-back lifestyle.  As Sydney is widely known to celebrate the New Year with splendour, my friend and I decided to spend Christmas and New Year at the state capital of New South Wales (NSW). The city teemed with tourists from all over the globe.  My estimate was that more than half of Sydney’s population was made up of tourists during the holidays.

After dealing with tons of tourists and high costs, here’s what I learned and would recommend to fellow travellers who wish to explore Sydney during the holiday season: 

1. Do not spend too much time in the Central Business District (CBD).  There’s a free guided tour of the city which takes you around the city on foot for 3 hours.  This gives you an idea of the areas to hang out or the buildings you would want to visit again.  Since the guided tour is free, they only rely on the customers’ gratuity.
Check  for free tours at .

2.  If you don't like being surrounded by sky scrapers and prefer the sand and waves, head straight to Coogee, Watson's Bay, Bondi or Manly beach.  These places have been designed in such a way that the beach, parks, restaurants and shops are close to each other. Among the four that I have been to, my favourites are Coogee and Watson’s Bay. Both places give you a breath taking view of the waters from the cliffs.

See the forces of nature at Watson's Bay.
3. Take the ferry. Although Sydney’s popular mode of public transport is the bus, riding the ferry is a nicer option for those who wish to enjoy the city’s sights. You will also pass by the Sydney Opera house and Harbour Bridge which provides a beautiful backdrop for your requisite photo op. Unlike the bus, the ferries’ trips are less frequent and end earlier in the day so do not forget to check the timetable/schedule of your ferry’s return journey.

Sydney Harbour Bridge 

4. Speaking of transport, Sydney’s transport pricing system is a bit complicated (fares depend on distance covered).  I would recommend the multi day or multi weekly pass tickets to give you some peace of mind. 

5. Eating out and drinking are relatively expensive. In the city, a decent meal costs 10-14 AUD.  Fast food is cheaper but if you do not want to stuff yourself with empty calories, just prepare and bring your good ol' baon (packed lunch). 

6.  Unless you have someone to drive you to the Blue Mountains, do not avail of the Blue Mountains package tours. Better yet, take the public train.  Blue Mountains is among the must-see places in Sydney (although I wouldn’t say that I missed half of my life if I had not gone there). It is an hour and half train ride from the city. If you have money to burn, you can opt for Scenic World which offers one-minute cable car, railway, and skyway rides to see the Blue Mountains from different angles. Shuttle services in Katoomba (the train stop you have to get off from) offer discounted package rates for these rides.  If you decide that you want to go to Scenic World, be there early to avoid queuing.  You may also want to do bushwalks or hiking which most package tours do not mention.

So the Blue Mountains is really blue!
7.  Enjoy the free admission. Sydney has galleries and museums that are offered free to the public.  This includes the Art Gallery NSW which houses an amazing collection of Aboriginal, Australian, European, Asian and contemporary art.   

8. Take note that a lot of places in Sydney are closed during Christmas Day. So if you do not like to be stuck at your room on Christmas day, you might want to join the other one thousand tourists who are ready to party on Bondi beach. 

I must say that Sydney's Fireworks display is definitely worth this long queue!

9. Watch the fireworks without spending a lot. If you want to catch Sydney’s famous New Year’s Eve fireworks but do not want to spend 200 to 1000 AUD to get a good and clear view of the pyrotechnics, one of the popular options is to watch it by Macquaries Point. The area is quite close to the Harbour Bridge, is elevated, and is open to the public for free. Thus,  I recommend that you come in very early as people start lining up as early as 6 am to get the unblocked view of the bridge.  They also let in only 20,000 people in the area then close the gates by late afternoon.  If you get there early, make sure that you are mentally prepared to wait for more than twelve hours. This means that you packed your bag with food, drinks and items that will either keep you warm or shield you from the heat or rain. Bring playing cards or books - things that would keep you busy, less anxious and less grumpy. However, if you do not want to queue that early and you have a lot of time in your hands prior to New Year’s Eve, we suggest that you visit other recommended vantage points. Just make sure to figure out how you are going to get yourself there and how to get public transport to bring you back home.   

10. Most importantly, don’t be shy to ask locals or fellow Pinoys about things to see and do in Sydney on a budget. It wouldn't hurt to ask. They may know some things that you did not get to read about in your research or provide you helpful feedback on how realistic is your itinerary. 

See more photos of Sydney at the Rain's Travels Facebook page.


  1. wow I wish I can visit sydney someday. :) nice blog!

    1. Thanks Riz! Hope you can make it to Sydney soon.

  2. I love the free admissions on museums and galleries ahaha. This is one great post na useful sa mga pinoy travel bloggers.


    1. Welcome, glad this was of help. I love not just the free admission but the free tours as well, hopefully the idea catches on in Manila. :)

  3. Nice tips.. Can I ask about cheap accommodations in Sydney? I will be going there from July 1-16 this year? Any suggestions for backpacker's hotels?


    1. Thanks! Have you found a place to stay in yet? You could try this budget hostel in Sydney:

  4. Hello. Just saw your blog. Planning to visit australia next year. Would like to ask how much will be my budget daily for the tour? I will stay with my relative there. I prefer just the city tour and museums mostly on the city side. Can I also ask for your itinerary?thank you

  5. Hi, nice blog. Thanks for this. Would you mind to recommend cheap accommodations with privacy. Be traveling alone. Seen some cheaper at airbnb but most would allow you just a sofa in the living room...And how much is your estimate expenses for a 4 to 5 days in Sydney...Considering I dont spend much really as a traveller.

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