Bus, train, taxi, shuttle — what you need to know about your options for transportation from the airport, particularly if you’re in a group.
In Sydney, commuters use an Opal card, which is a card that you tap in for entry to public transport such as trains, buses, and ferries. You will need an Opal card for some of the transport options below, and you’re most probably going to need an Opal card to get around Sydney anyway, so before anything else, get an Opal card at the airport. We got ours at the entrance to the trains.
Basic things you need to know about the Opal card:
- There are different Opal cards for adults and kids. If you’re traveling with a kid, it’s important to get the Child/Youth card for him/her because the fares charged to the card will just be roughly half of adult fares.
- The Opal card itself is free. What you will need to pay for is the amount that you will store in the card. For example, when you buy the card, you can ask the person at the counter to put in 10 AUD initially. You pay 10 AUD, and every time you use the bus or the train, your fare is deducted from the amount stored in your card.
- You can “top up” the amount in your card at self-service machines sprinkled all over Sydney, as well as at many convenience stores. You can top up Adult cards in increments of 10 AUD and Child/Youth cards in increments of 5 AUD.
- Getting a refund on the value stored in your Opal card is a complicated process so try not to put too much in it. It’s easy enough to top up anyway.
- Once you have your Opal card, try to register it online at the Opal website so that if it ever gets lost, you can recover the value stored in it. We failed to do this and lost one of our cards with over 30 AUD still in it. Not a devastating loss, exactly, but there sure are a lot of things you can buy with 30 AUD.
You have several options for transportation from the airport to your hotel/hostel and which is the best one for you will depend on factors like the amount of luggage you have, how many you are in the group (or if you’re traveling solo), and whether or not your accommodations are located near a train/bus stop.
Cheapest Option: By Bus
There’s a bus station outside the airport so consider this option if:
- Your luggage won’t be too much trouble to handle in and out of a bus; and
- You’re staying somewhere along the route of the buses that ply the airport.
You can use the “Directions” feature of Google Maps to determine if it’s practical to get to your hotel by bus from the airport.
Consider, too, that if you’re not familiar with Sydney, it might be a little difficult to know when/where to get off the bus, even if you know the name of your bus stop. In that case, you can use your phone’s GPS or you can ask the driver or a fellow passenger for help.
By Airport Shuttle
Shuttles will usually ferry passengers from the airport to their hotel (and vice versa) for 15-16 AUD. Kids are charged a lower price or may be completely free. You can prebook your shuttle online but do check the shuttle company’s reviews, as some visitors have complained of unhelpful drivers or of difficulty finding the right shuttle. If you haven’t prebooked a spot in a shuttle, you can get the airport transport desk to help you.
This is probably the most reliable option for first-time visitors because:
- You can figure out ahead of time at which station you need to get off. The names of stations are announced at the train and are highly visible at the platform so you will know when it’s time to disembark.
- It’s easy enough to navigate with luggage.
- Trains run frequently and are never too crowded (at least in all the times I was on the airport line).
The main problem with the airport train is that it comes at a bit of a price. The basic fare for trains in general actually isn’t too bad but if you’re getting on or off at the airport, they automatically tack on an additional charge. As of June 2017, the total train fares are:
- 16.74 AUD for adults
- 13.87 AUD for kids
So: taking the train will be a bit more expensive than the airport shuttle but it’s easier and more reliable.
Taxis are generally the more expensive option, wherever you are in the world, but if you’re traveling in a group, this may actually work out cheaper than taking the train or airport shuttle.
Fares will depend on where you’re staying.
Transportation From The Airport: What We Did
There were 5 of us traveling together — 4 adults and 1 child — and we were staying in Sydney’s central business district (CBD) at a wonderful, family-friendly hostel called The Pod Sydney (TPS — see our review here) . Google Maps didn’t show a bus from the airport that would take us near our hostel and, anyway, we had a fair bit of luggage. (It was winter.) Turned off by some of the bad reviews of airport shuttles, we initially decided to just take the train, as TPS was just 400 m from the Museum train station. However, we were tired from the flight, my parents knees weren’t 100% healthy, scattered rain showers were forecast for that day, and somehow the thought of shepherding ourselves, our luggage, and a really active kid from the train station to the hostel under possible rain just didn’t appeal. 😀 A taxi was the obvious choice but we didn’t have a car seat and weren’t sure if a single Sydney taxi would accommodate all 5 of us inside.
What we eventually did:
- My parents and sister took a taxi with all our luggage.
- H and I took the train.
It turns out that many Sydney taxis are actually quite large and would have accommodated all of us. (According to my parents, the taxis on queue at the taxi stand were a mix of sedan-type vehicles and small vans, so if you’re traveling in a group of 5 or more, you can conceivably just move back in the queue till you’re matched to a bigger taxi.) We also asked the driver: the lack of a car seat for a nearly-5-year-old wouldn’t have been an issue for him. So, actually, we could all have taken the taxi.
Expenses for transportation from the airport to hostel:
- Cab fare (3 adults): 70 AUD
- Train fare (1 adult, 1 child): 30.61 AUD
- Total for 5 pax: 100.61 AUD
To get to the airport on our last day in Sydney, a taxi was again the obvious choice. However, I still had nearly 20 AUD in my Opal, which would have been too bad to waste. TPS also had a sign in the hallway saying they could arrange shuttle transport to the airport for only 15 AUD per person — which would work out cheaper than the taxi — and as the shuttle was picking us up from the hostel, there weren’t bound to be too many communication problems. In the end, I took the train, and the rest of my family took the shuttle.
Transportation expenses from the hostel to the airport:
- Shuttle fare (3 adults, free for the child): 45 AUD
- Train fare (1 adult): 16.74 AUD
- Total for 5 pax: 61.74 AUD
Hope that helps. Enjoy Sydney!
Sydney Basics: Transportation from the Airport | © 2017 Small-Town Girls, Midnight Trains