Arriving into Sydney Kingsmith Airport you notice signs for the trains to take you into the central part of the city, and it seems like a cost-effective means of getting around. You’re right, it is…but there’s a catch or two. First…let’s…get you an opal card.
You mean I get an card with an opal in it?
Well no…but depending on when and how you travel you’ll feel like you’ve bought one!
The opal card is the contact-less payment system used by the New South Wales transport system. The card itself is free which is a plus considering that in London you have to pay £5 (USD 6.27 / AUD 8.24) to get the card ON TOP of the initial money needed to pay for the transport. So that’s a plus.
However what you save on initial card fees you make up for on transport!
What?! What are you talking about?
The train fare is based on distance and if you travel to/from the airport there is an airport access fee of AUD $13.40 (GBP 8.13 / USD 10.20). The flat off-peak fare between two train stops (in AUD) is $2.36 and that will most likely be the cost of your train fees if you are staying in central Sydney. Now earlier I mentioned “off-peak”, and if you want to spend more of your money on food and fun than train rides I suggest you stay within the off-peak times which are from 9am to 3:59pm, and then from 6:30pm onwards. If you don’t travel in an off-peak time, that same $2.36 fare jumps to $3.38! Did I also mention that they are increasing the fares on NSW transit in July 2017?
No, I…I didn’t know that. What should I do? I don’t want to spend ALL my money in one go.
If you want to estimate your train fares before you travel, there is a nifty Opal card phone app that tracks how much money you have on your opal and you can also visit the NSW Transit fare calculator online.
Ok got it; use the fare calculator. So how does riding the train work?
Now don’t let the prices scare you away! The trains themselves are very comfortable and have great AC to keep you cool in the summer, and good heating to keep you warm in what they consider their idea of a cold winter. There are three levels of train to choose from, and you get a different view from each one!
I recommend for short trips (about 1-2 stops) you sit in the middle especially if you plan on riding through Central Station or Town Hall station because it can get pretty crowded making it more difficult to disembark later on.
For a longer journey, choose the top floor to get an amazing view of the rails, and the city as you ride through Sydney. Even underground it’s still a pretty cool experience!
Alternatively you could ride the bottom floor. If you thought the train itself made you feel small imagine how small you’ll feel as you sit below the platform at a train stop! It’s also somewhat more cozy on the bottom level, and perfect for napping. Just don’t miss your stop!
Alright I’ll keep that in mind. Anything else?
When going into the station you have to tap in at the gate, and tap out on your way out. Regarding platform access there are many signs and posts to let you know which platform to board. The only issue you have to watch out for is getting on the ‘correct’ train, only for it to change routes along the way and become the ‘wrong’ train. Finally, older trains do not have digital signs telling you the next stop, so if you are a visitor make sure you listen to the announcements to get to the correct stop.
If you need assistance getting around the station there is always friendly staff at hand to help you get to your destination!
And one more tip: if you travel on Sunday your fare caps off at $2.50 so you can go as far as you want without the high price!
Now if you are a bus person (enjoy seeing the city while riding through town) check out my bus guide!