How to travel from Sydney International Airport the cheap way

Welcome to Sydney. International flights land at the Sydney International Airport which is located about 10km south of the Sydney CBD.

Once you pass through Customs, you’ll exit out of the airport at the ground level through either Exit A or Exit B. The two exits are located about 300 metres apart from each other.

There are a number of easy-to-access transport options located near the exit gates. Depending on your budget and your personal timetable you’ll need to make a decision about which transport option you want to use. I’ll start with the most expensive options, and work my way down to the cheapest options — the cheapest options are the ones used everyday by airport workers and backpackers. The most expensive options are generally the quickest and most comfortable ways to exit the airport.

A private hire car or limousine can be pre-booked with a simple search of the internet. These drivers will generally be standing at the allocated exit gate with a sign — they monitor the arrival time of your flight, and will be ready to greet you once you leave Customs. If your driver isn’t waiting for you at the arrival gate, they might be at the limo pickup area — follow the signs. The cost of a private car or limo starts at about $US50 — on average, would cost about $US70-$US100 for about an hour. The next most expensive travel option would be a hire car. You’ll find the booking desks for the hire cars located halfway between the Gate A and Gate B arrival gates on the ground floor. Hire cars cost for a few days start at about $US100.

Cabs are always parked ready to take fares. You’ll find the large taxi rank at the southern end of the Sydney International Airport. As your taxi leaves the airport, the fare will automatically increase by about $US3 — this is the taxi airport fee. Taxis to the city take about 20 minutes and can cost $US35 — the cost and time can depend on traffic jams — be aware if you land at 6am (which a lot of international flights do) a ride in a taxi before 10am means you will be stuck in peak hour traffic.

Other options: If a friend or relative picks you up at the airport, they’ll be hit with a $US15-$US30 airport parking fee. Your overseas Uber app also works here in Australia. Passengers can request Uber cars through a virtual queue system and be met by drivers at the international airport’s free public pick up zones. Follow the bright green signs to the Priority Pickup area for your uberX, uberXL or UberSELECT ride.

One of the most popular ways for travellers to exit the airport is via the underground railway. The train leaves approximately every ten minutes from the Sydney International Airport — you’ll find the entry to the railway station located at the northern end of the Sydney International Airport. Trains from this location head north to Sydney ending up on the City Circle underground rail network and other trains travel south-west towards Campbelltown.

Before jumping on the train you’ll need to buy an Opal card — You’ll find a ticket window and automated machines selling these travel passes near the entry gate to the train station. Opal cards can be used across Sydney’s train, bus and ferry network. The cost of travelling out of the airport precinct by train is $AUS16.90, plus the general train fare — in other words, it could cost you about $AUS21 to get to Sydney’s CBD — (this is about $US16). Opal cards can also be purchased at the Newslink shop or WH Smith bookshops located inside the terminal. Opal cards are smart cards and can be topped-up with cash either via the Opal card app, automated Opal machines located at train stations or at most news outlets and convenience stores across Sydney.

If you’re planning to stay in Sydney’s CBD for a few days, I would recommend buying an Opal card and putting $US30 onto it — the card will come in very handy as you travel around the city. Remember to tap on before each journey and tap off at the end of each journey.

The cheapest way to travel from the airport, and it is not loudly promoted, is via a suburban bus. Airport workers use this option because they can skip the $16.90 gate fee that comes the train fare to and from the airport. The bus leaves from a bus stop located on the ground level — outside the arrival gate at the northern end of the Sydney International Airport. Before leaving the terminal to walk to the bus stop, visit the Newslink or WH Smith bookshops and buy an Opal card — I recommend putting at least $10 onto the Opal card before catching the bus.

Buses leave here and travel to Mascot and Bondi Junction train stations, and also to Burwood in the inner west. From these train stations you can easily travel to Sydney’s CBD area. Most airport employees catch the 400 bus from the airport to Mascot train station — which is located about one bus stop after the domestic airport bus stop.

An extreme way to avoid the high airport rail cost is to do what some airport workers do and walk out of the airport through the airport car park across the bridge to Wolli Creek train station — be aware though that this is about a 4km walk — once you get to the train station you can travel from there to the city, south-west Sydney and suburbs south of Sydney — don’t forget to buy an Opal card at the railway station.

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