— travel inspiration for small budgets and big dreams —

travel inspiration for small budgets and big dreams

Small-Town Girls, Midnight Trains

My first impression of Australia — Sydney in particular — was that it was inexplicably expensive. I was planning a weeklong trip for a family of 5 and it didn’t take long for the travel budget to reach six figures (in Philippine pesos). Sydney, for some reason I couldn’t fathom, seemed more expensive than Paris or London. However, when I finished all the planning and budgeting, I computed for the average cost per person and it was, after all, fairly reasonable.

Sharing with you here my travel budget for a one-week trip to Sydney, Australia for PHP 50,000all in — including airfare, visa, accommodations, meals, train/bus fares, entry fees to attractions where necessary, international travel tax, and even a miscellaneous fund.

Note: If you’re not too arte, you can actually cut these costs even further but I’m #KuripotWithStandards. 😀


Quick Look

1 week in Sydney budget for PHP 50,000

You can get an idea of the best exchange rates here.

Small-Town Girls, Midnight Trains

– Breakdown –


Airfare – PHP 9,891 round-trip

We got our Cebu Pacific tickets to and from Sydney during a sale — no sense paying full fare if you can get it on promo. Don’t worry, though, you won’t have to wait for those once-in-a-blue-moon piso sales to avail of this kind of fare. Here’s the fare breakdown of our ticket:

Manila Sydney airfare

As you can see, the base fare is PHP 4,000 — not piso, so there’s a good chance you can get a fare like this during Cebu Pac’s regular sales — and the terminal fee is already included.

Note: This PHP 9,890.52 fare is for Manila-Sydney-Manila. If you’re departing from Cebu or elsewhere in the Philippines, you’ll have to add an extra leg to your flight. Our Cebu-Manila-Sydney-Manila-Cebu tickets worked out to PHP 10,921.93 each.

Small-Town Girls, Midnight Trains

Accommodations – PHP 9,535

This is one aspect of the budget that I found particularly challenging for several reasons. One, I don’t want to stay in a dump so I look for hotels or hostels that are well-reviewed. Two, I wanted to stay in a central place that had attractions within walking distance. Three, after searching and Airbnb, I didn’t find that many affordable family rooms (or single rooms, for that matter) in Sydney, so choices were limited. Four, Sydney did have several good hostels but many of them did not accept kids under 12 or adults over 60, which meant they had to be ruled out as we were traveling with a preschooler and two senior citizens.

Luckily, I found The Pod Sydney. It’s a hostel but it’s a good hostel — beds have drapes for privacy, there’s a kitchen if you want to prepare your own meals, and it’s well-reviewed in both and TripAdvisor. A dorm bed costs PHP 1,399 a night. More importantly, if you’re traveling with family or friends, they accept guests of all ages and they have a Quadruple Room that costs roughly PHP 5,500 per night. Your group of 4 gets all the benefits of a well-equipped, centrally located hostel but you won’t have to share a room with strangers.

If you go up to the Blue Mountains and spend a night there, a dorm bed at the Blue Mountains YHA will only cost PHP 1,141 a night. Spending six nights at The Pod Sydney and one night at Blue Mountains YHA will cost you a total of PHP 9,535.

Small-Town Girls, Midnight Trains

Transportation – PHP 3,497

The pros and cons for the various ways to get from the Sydney airport to the city can take up a whole other article but it boils down to this:

  • If you’re traveling alone and your hotel is just a very short walk from a train station or bus stop — remember you’ll be walking with luggage — take the train or bus, respectively.
    • The Pod Sydney is around 350 m from Museum Station (on the T2 line from the airport). See the route HERE. There are a few bus stops nearby but, ummm, I can’t figure out — using either Google Maps or the NSW Transport planner — if it’s not too hard to take a bus from the airport. Give it a try.
  • If you’re traveling alone and your hotel is not a short walk from a train station or bus stop, you can book a shuttle, which will take you all the way to your door.
    • It’s worth noting, however, that quite a lot of people have had bad experiences with shuttles operating out of Sydney airport — long wait, unhelpful driver, etc. — so try to look for a shuttle operator that has good reviews.
  • If you’re a group of 3-4 persons, take a taxi. It will be more comfortable and might actually work out cheaper.
  • If there are more than 4 of you, you won’t fit in a single taxi, so do the math and figure out which will work best for you in terms of comfort and cost.

Another thing to consider, in terms of trying to decide which transport option to take, would be if everyone in your group would be comfortable with the walking component. For example, 350 m will probably be no big deal to someone in his/her 20’s but may be a bit of a struggle for, say, seniors with bad knees or parents who have to deal with kids and bags.

The shuttle from the airport to the hotel (and vice versa) costs AUD 16 (PHP 592) per way, so that’s PHP 1,184 back and forth.

As for getting around Sydney using public transportation, get an Opal card. The nice thing about Opal fares is that they have a “cap” — once you’ve spent a certain amount, you won’t be charged for additional rides. On Sunday, there’s a cap of AUD 2.50 (PHP 92.50) and from Monday to Sunday, there’s a weekly cap of AUD 60 (PHP 2,220). For a one-week Sunday-to-Sunday holiday in Sydney, therefore, you’ll be spending a maximum of AUD 62.50 (PHP 2,312.50) on your Opal Card.

Another nice thing about the Opal card: it covers the trains and buses to and around the Blue Mountains, as well as the ferry to Manly and Taronga Zoo, so if you’re going to those places, you won’t have to budget an additional amount for transpo. (This is a big deal, considering that group tours to the Blue Mountains usually cost over PHP 4,000 per person, whereas you could easily take the train to Katoomba and back, and use the public buses to get around, all covered by your budget for the Opal weekly cap.)

If you’re interested in going on a hop-on hop-off bus tour, such as this one, try to see if you can get a discount (usually 10%) by booking online.

Small-Town Girls, Midnight Trains

Meals – PHP 12,210

It’s a pet peeve of mine: perusing travel budgets and realizing they don’t include meals. I know that people have different tastes when it comes to food but I think it should still be included — even if you have to use estimates — because people want to know how much they’ll be shelling out for the entire trip. And food does represent a significant chunk of the budget — as you see here, it actually costs more than the airfare.

To estimate the food budget for this trip, I used Numbeo, a crowd-sourced depository of information on cost of living around the world. For Sydney, here’s what they have:

  • Cost of a typical meal at McDonald’s or other fast food chains – AUD 10
  • Cost of a typical meal at an inexpensive restaurant – AUD 15.75

Based on these numbers, I figured AUD 15 (PHP 555) should be a reasonable budget per meal per person — or AUD 45 (PHP 1,665) per day. Usually, breakfast will tend to be cheaper than lunch or dinner, and if you want, you can buy food from a supermarket the day before and prepare breakfast yourself at the hostel. This is one of the nice things about staying in a hostel: you can cook in the communal kitchen, and if you’re on a very tight budget, you can actually prepare all your meals yourself, using ingredients bought from a supermarket, and you can easily get by with half the food budget here. Also: look out for Chinese takeaways that sell their food at a huge discount in the afternoons.

For 22 meals, at AUD 15 per meal, you can budget PHP 12,210.

Small-Town Girls, Midnight Trains

Sightseeing – PHP 2,975

What to see and where to go will depend on your interests, of course, but if you’re on a tight budget — and even when you’re not! — it’s always worth it to go to Google and type “free or cheap things to do in….”

In Sydney, there are a lot of things you can do that won’t cost much, if at all. Those include:

  • Crossing the Sydney Harbour Bridge (you don’t have to spring for a bridge climb unless it’s a particular dream of yours)
  • The Royal Botanic Garden (go up to Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair for great views of the harbour — and the perfect selfie backdrop)
  • Free walking tours such as this one (most people give thank-you tips to the guides at the end)
  • Coastal walks such as the famous Bondi to Coogee route
  • And beach bumming, of course!

Since you already have an Opal Card and you’ve budgeted for the weekly cap, why not go up to the Blue Mountains? Better yet, spend a night there — that way, you won’t have to rush from sight to sight and you can take your time taking in an environment (and climate) that’s a lot different from Sydney’s. The train from Sydney to the main Blue Mountains town of Katoomba is covered by the Opal Card, as are the public buses that go around Katoomba and stop by famous sights such as the Echo Point lookout for viewing the Three Sisters. Entry to Scenic World isn’t free but you can enjoy pretty much the same views by bushwalking — look up the Prince Henry Cliff Walk. If shopping is more your thing, take a bus (or walk) to the charming village of Leura.

There are some attractions in Sydney that are worth budgeting for, however, especially if you’re traveling with kids and kids-at-heart. For this budget, I included:

  • Taronga Zoo – AUD 41.40 (PHP 1,532) for an adult ticket bought online
  • Whale Watching – AUD 39 (PHP 1,443) if bought during Captain Cook’s pre-season sale (which is why it pays to plan ahead — #TravelSmart).
    • You can read about our whale watching experience HERE.

Small-Town Girls, Midnight Trains

Other Expenses – PHP 10,272

An Australian visa obtained online will cost around PHP 4,995.

The international travel tax (PHP 1,620) is not yet included in the airfare. You can pay this online but there will be a small surcharge, so if you’re planning to arrive early at the airport anyway, you can just pay for it there.

And, yes, this budget even includes a miscellaneous fund of PHP 5,277. You can use this to pay for entry to other attractions, add baggage allowance if you’re not traveling light, buy pasalubong, etc.

Small-Town Girls, Midnight Trains

Sydney Travel Budget: Summary

Here’s a quick recap of our budget for a one-week holiday in Sydney:

  • Airfare – PHP 9,891
  • International travel tax – PHP 1,620
  • Accommodations – PHP 9,535
  • Transportation – PHP 3,497
  • Meals – PHP 12,210
  • Sightseeing – PHP 2,975
  • Visa – PHP 4,995
  • Miscellaneous – PHP 5,277
  • TOTAL – PHP 50,000

#ResponsibleTravel #SmartTravel #KuripotWithStandards #TihikWithStandards 😀


Enjoy Sydney!


Huge thanks to Bambi, Chai, and Omar for their valuable tips on transpo, tours, and food.



12 Responses

  1. Hi this is Flora, the one who messaged you on Fb. So sorry I overlooked this comment box, so silly of me. 🙂

    Basically I want to ask for your advice. I’m just now seeing the high cost of living in Sydney, after booking our tickets on a whim last December. I’m actually really considering rebooking our return tickets to 3 days earlier. The only problem is the new return tickets will cost around 30k for two. Do you think it would be more practical to rebook our tickets or just continue with the full 9-day vacation? Any help will be greatly appreciated. 🙂

    1. Hi Flora!

      Sorry it took me a while to reply — our internet connection’s acting up. 🙁

      Anyway, if I were in your shoes, I wouldn’t change your return date. If it’ll cost 30k, you might as well stay and spend that 30k there hehe. I don’t know if you’ve already booked your accommodations, but if you haven’t, you could just book a decent but cheap room. We stayed in The Pod Sydney and I think they have a double room. The people there were really nice to us, the location was central, and there was a Coles supermarket just a few meters away. We bought our food at Coles and so we spent so much less for our meals than what we budgeted for (see this post).

      Since it’s your honeymoon, you probably want to stay somewhere really nice, but maybe you could, like, stay in a nice hotel for a few days and then transfer to cheaper (but still nice!) accommodations for the rest of the trip. Think of it as an adventure! 😉 Or stay in the cheaper digs first then level up on your last few days. 🙂

      Long story short, I don’t think it will help much if you return early if you’re going to spend anyway to have your flights changed. Just stay there, buy food from the supermarket (pretend you live there!), and do activities that will cost very little (like the beach! They have so many nice beaches). 🙂

      Enjoy your honeymoon! 🙂 COngrats and best wishes to both of you. 🙂

  2. Hi!!
    Nice blog! Very informative.

    I’ll be travelling in July. Just want to ask – What’s your internet provider did you use on the trip? or any pocket wifi provider thanks

    1. Hi Leo!

      My sister just bought a SIM card that included some data when we arrived in Sydney. She was the one who bought it and used it so unfortunately I don’t really know the details, like which provider it was or how much it cost, but she bought it at the arrival hall just before you reach McDonalds. If you’re taking the train, you will pass it.

      For what it’s worth, we didn’t really use her data much because we had WiFi at the hostel and the GPS of Google Maps works even without an internet connection (just make sure you download an offline map of Sydney from Google Maps), so if you don’t need to be online all the time, I can also assure you that it’s possible to explore Sydney without a pocket WiFi or 4G SIM.

      Hope that helps!


  3. Hi,

    This is very helpful. 🙂 I was just wondering though, you mentioned that you were with senior citizen as per applying their visas, did the embassy asked you to submit medical? I’m planning to bring my Mom on her birthday this March 2019 and she’s turning 71.

    Looking forward for your tip.

    Thanks in advance. 🙂


    1. Hi Eryn! No, my parents weren’t asked for medical certificates when we applied for a visa. They were only 66 though, so I can’t be totally sure if your mom would be asked for a med cert. Their visa application portal will just let you know what documents you need to submit, and you don’t need to finish it all in one go, so you could just start your mom’s application and if it says she needs a med cert, you can then go and get one from her MD. Good luck! 🙂

    1. Hi Jevie!

      If I recall correctly, we got all our AUD from a money changer here in the Philippines — we use Core Pacific — and didn’t have to withdraw AUD once we got to Sydney so I can’t really compare the two methods for Australia.

      More generally speaking, in my experience, whether withdrawing money from an ATM or using a money changer would be better largely depends on the country you’re visiting. For example, in Indonesia (in Bali), I tried getting money from an ATM and the bank fees were minimal, so that was the better way. However, in the United Kingdom, the banks charged a bigger fee for ATM withdrawals, so that wasn’t ideal there.

      Hope that helps.

  4. Hi! I was reading through your blog and to the comments section. I across you mentioning Bali. It was stated on the grant notice that if you have travelled to Indonesia and other countires included it is advised that you get a polio vaccination. Is it realy neccesary? Ive been to Bali last year for 5 days. Im contemplating if I really need to get a vaccination or not.

    1. Hi DG! That wasn’t in our visa grant notice — maybe it’s recent? Did it mention that the vaccination should be recent? (Otherwise, the polio shots we got as kids should be fine, right?) Maybe this came up because there are some parents nowadays that don’t vaccinate their kids.

  5. Hi! Just came across your blog and I find it very informative 🙂 I’m actually planning to bring my parents to Sydney early next year for a vacation and I’m doing the bookings as early as now to avail of cheaper fares/reservations. Hehe. Just curious tho, does the 50,000-peso budget only cover one person or your whole fam?

    Thanks in advance!

    1. Hi Ciara! I’m glad you find the blog useful. 🙂 The Php50,000 is per person for the whole trip. (I wish it was for the whole family though!) I’m excited for you, it’s always nice to be able to treat our parents, so I hope you all have a wonderful time. 🙂

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