There’s no doubt about it, us backpackers are always looking for ways to cut costs where we can and who can blame us? The more pennies we save on basic living means more money for skydives, snorkelling and drinking beers – it’s sensible really! Coming from Asia, it was so much easier to cut corners there where everything is so cheap, but in Australia it’s definitely harder. Not impossible though – I’ve been impressed with the number of food and drink deals available everywhere and buying things in the supermarket is definitely not as pricey as I expected. Nonetheless, it’s always great if you can find ways to entertain yourself in a budget and when visiting major cities like Sydney or Melbourne, it becomes a necessity. I spent a month living in Sydney and I was out most days doing a range of activities, and yet I managed to afford living in the city and not working for four weeks! So what can you do to fill your time? Here are my top 10 free things to do:
- Visit Sydney Opera House and walk the Harbour Bridge – they are both free to look at and take photos with, and if you are staying at the top of the CBD, there is also the free shuttle bus (555) which takes you direct to Circular Quay.
- While you’re down there, spend a day sunbathing and reading in the Royal Botanical Gardens. It’s a haven from busy city life and you can be surrounded by nature and water for a while – perfect. Plus there are plenty of paths to go running or walk along and discover smaller gardens.
- Pick a Sunday and save a small fortune on travel – all bus/ferry travel is called at $2.10 on Sundays so why not take advantage and head to the coast. Go to Maroubra and watch the surfers, or head to Bondi or Coogee to start the coastal walk, take a picnic and stop along the way. Or why not head to one of my favourite places – Manly, it’s peaceful beachy fun and also has a lovely harbour for drinks and food.
- On rainy days, head inside and learn a bit more about Sydney by going to the Observatory, The Rocks Museum, or get a bit arty and check out the galleries – there’s the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the Museum Of Contemporary Art. All of these are free entry and are worth a look.
- In the evenings, look for cheap entertainment in Surry Hills – it’s not quite free but there are always comedy nights on for $10 a ticket at various venues, or movie nights and trivia quizzes on at The Soda Factory. All are a good laugh and great if you have a group of travellers on a budget. There are even some free jazz nights on at Venue 505 for the price of a drink at the bar.
- On Saturday and Sunday mornings, head to the markets at The Rocks and several other places across the city where collections of food, trinkets, vintage clothes, home items and more lie waiting to be discovered. Perfect for browsing and some even have live music.
- Need a feed but low on cash? Head to Newtown, which homes a little restaurant called Lentils… This place is fantastic – it provides people from all backgrounds with a home cooked meal and just asks that they pay what they can afford for the meal. The food was a tad bland when I was there, but the sentiment of the idea overrides everything and I was so impressed by the venture. They also have live music on sometimes.
- Get out of the city for a bit and head to the Blue Mountains. It will cost you a small amount to get there by train, but definitely don’t bother wasting your money on organised trips. You can easily catch a train from central, then a short bus ride, and be there in just two hours and it costs a lot less than a tour guide for the day. When you arrive at the Three Sisters, you can hike for miles around the mountains and take cable car rides.
- Keep looking online – the beauty of being based in one of the major cities is that often there are lots of free events and activities happening, you just need to make sure you hear about them. I looked on Time Out website every day to see what was on and often there would be exercise classes, comedy nights, gigs, markets and more listed there – some have small costs and others are free. Just do the research! Plus there is always free food and drink being handed out – I had free Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, bottles of water, Coke and Mountain Dew, and even bags of pasta handed to me!
- WALK! It seems obvious, but often the biggest money saver is the one you don’t think of. Sydney is a relatively small city and is easy to walk around, do what I did and spend hours walking around the city and discovering little parts you never knew existed. The Botanical Gardens, beaches and the harbour have plenty of places to walk and explore, so take advantage of them.
Check out the top 28 Sydney Hotels with Perfect Harbour Views – The Ultimate Guide by HotelsCombined to complete your Sydney experience.
Can you think of any other ways to save money in Sydney? What other free activities can you recommend?