Sydney is the Harbor City. It is the largest, oldest and most cosmopolitan city in Australia with an enviable reputation as one of the world’s most beautiful and liveable cities. Brimming with history, nature, culture, art, fashion, cuisine, design, it is set next to miles of ocean coastline and sandy surf beaches. The city is also home to the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbor Bridge, two of the most iconic structures on the planet.
Sydney is a major global city and one of the most important cities for finance in the Asia-Pacific. Sydney hosted the first Olympics of the new millennium, and continues to attract and host large international events. The city is surrounded by nature and national parks, which extend into the suburbs and right to the shores of the harbor.
Sydney Kingsford Smith International Airport (IATA: SYD) is Australia’s busiest airport and the main gateway to Australia. It is located 6 km from the City centre in Southern Sydney on the northern shores of Botany Bay. Sydney Airport is the oldest continually operated commercial airport anywhere in the world.
Over 35 airlines fly in and out of Sydney Airport with daily flights linking Sydney to key destinations on every continent. The Asian-Pacific transport hubs of Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok, Tokyo and Seoul have several daily flights, as do the European centres of London, Paris and Frankfurt (with stopovers in Asia or the Indian Ocean). There are also non-stop flights to Dubai in the Middle East. North America is connected via Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas-Fort Worth and Vancouver. Travellers from South America can fly direct from Buenos Aires or Santiago (stopover in Auckland).
You can fly to Sydney directly from all other Australian capital cities and from many major regional airports. Otherwise, you need to fly to the state capital and transfer to a Sydney flight. Sydney can be reached within an hour and a half from Melbourne and Brisbane, 45 minutes from Canberra and just under four hours from Perth and Alice Springs
Airlines and terminals
Check which terminal you are going to.
International terminal (T1) handles all international flights and some domestic flights. Check your itinerary and flight number because connections, customs etc will take longer when arriving or departing from the International Terminal, even on a domestic flight. You do not need a passport when travelling domestically, just hang on to your boarding pass.
Domestic terminal 2 (T2) is the largest domestic terminal. Airlines using this terminal include Qantaslink (Qantas flights numbered 1600 and above), Aeropelican, Regional Express (Rex), Jetstar, Tiger and Virgin Australia.
Domestic terminal 3 (T3) handles Qantas domestic flights numbered from 400 to 1599, which are mostly services to larger cities and towns.
T1 (International terminal) has food and shopping both before and after immigration and security. There is an open air beer garden and bistro by check-in Bay A on the departure level. There are cafes on both departure and arrival levels. Good coffee and food can had for a reasonable price, but it is easy to buy poor overpriced coffee and food too. Departures has cheaper prices than downstairs at arrivals. There is a better and cheaper choice of food before going through security, at the large central food hall in departures. Avoid currency exchange offices (see the Currency exchange section). Two free showers for both males and females are available by check-in bay A on the departures level. There is also an open air observation deck, with the entrance next to check-in bay B on the departures level, through the bistro and up the elevator. A post office is in the check-in area, but it is only open during business hours. Post boxes are available after customs. There is a small kids play area after security. There is a large duty free shop selling alcohol, cigarettes, perfume and electronics available when departing and arriving. There are some free Internet terminals in departures, even a few before security. There are paid Internet terminals there too and downstairs in arrivals. Trolleys cost money landside of security. Pick one up airside where they are free, or out in the carpark where they have been left by previous users. Travel Concierge Sydney Airport offers those arriving into Sydney a booking service for shuttle bus tickets, accommodation, tours and attraction tickets, they offer best prices and can look after many of your tourist requirements. They are located in T1 Arrivals Hall in-between both arrival gates (AB & CD).
T2 has a large food and shopping area, with a large selection of food outlets located to the right after you go through security. There are also gift shops, bookshops and some clothing stores. There are nice views over the tarmac from the eating area. There are ATMs before and after security. Everyone is able to go through security, whether travelling or not. Travel Concierge Sydney Airport has a smaller desk in T2 opposite baggage carousel 3, where you can buy shuttle bus tickets, accommodation, tours and attraction tickets, they offer best prices and can look after many of your tourist requirements.
T3 (Qantas domestic) has a food hall with a variety of food and coffee. Nice Thai is available for around $15 or Hungry Jacks for normal prices. The food hall is airside of security, but you do not need to be a passenger to pass through. Most food and drink places and the security checkpoint close 30 minutes or so before the last departure. Don’t expect to be able to get anything at all if you are arriving on a late flight. Don’t expect people to be able to get to the gate to meet you on a late arrival as they will have to wait at baggage claim if you arrive after the last departure. There are Wi-Fi and Internet terminals available for $5 per hour.
For accommodation around the airport, see the Southern Sydney article. You can book all airport accommodation from Travel Concierge Sydney Airport located in T1 and T2.
Due to curfew laws, no planes arrive or depart between 11PM and 5:30AM. The domestic terminals (T2 and T3) close after the last flight has cleared (around 11PM) and reopen at 4AM – you cannot remain in the terminal. T1 (international) also closes around 11PM and reopens at 4AM – but there is small transit area with basic facilities that you can remain in if you are already in the terminal (landside). This is located on level 1 near the entrance to the train station. There are limited seats and it fills up quickly when security starts herding people out of the terminal. The last train service departs at 11:45PM.
Transfer between domestic terminals T2 and T3 must be done on foot. Follow the signs either via the railway station underground, or across the car park.
Transfer between T1 and T2/T3 is 4 km by road, as the terminals are on opposite sides of the airport tarmac. You will have to use one of the following methods to transfer:
Transfer between terminals
- An Air-side shuttle is available free of charge if you are connecting through with Qantas or a One World partner airline. Passengers transferring Virgin Australia and a codeshare flight or other international Virgin Flight (Pacific Blue, Polynesian Blue, United Airlines, Virgin Atlantic Airways and Hawaiian Airlines) are entitled for a free pass on the T-bus (see below).
- If you aren’t entitled to a free shuttle, your best bet is to catch a suburban train ($5.20). It is a 2 minute journey between Domestic and International stations with around 10 minute frequency. Follow the train signs from the terminal and board any train on platform 1 for International to Domestic transfers and any train on platform 2 for domestic to international. Travel one stop only, as the train continues to the city or into suburban Sydney.
- T-bus ($5.50) outside the terminal building. The T-bus is a dedicated terminal shuttle and uses the normal roads. It is scheduled to take around 10 minutes but can be stuck in Sydney traffic at peak times. Runs at a 10-20 minute frequency and you pay the driver on boarding. This method is slower and slightly more expensive than the train, but it stops close to the terminal and has plenty of room for baggage.
- Sydney Buses ($3.50) T1 yellow bus stop outside the arrivals, or outside T3 at domestic. It is possible to use the ordinary city bus service to transfer between terminals with the same speed as the T-bus, albeit with less frequent departures and less luggage space. T1 to T2/T3 take the 400 towards Bondi Junction. T2/T3 to T1 take the 400 towards Burwood. There is only one stop for buses going both directions, and catching the bus going the wrong way will again send you off into suburban Sydney.
- Taxi ($10). The trip will take around 10 minutes, though the wait for taxis can be very long. Drivers may also give you attitude as they have to line up for a long time and generally want bigger fares.
- Walk. If you have little luggage and some time to kill, the walk will take around an hour. There is a footpath the whole way, and has good views of planes taking off metres above your head, and of the Alexandra Canal. From T1 walk across the car park, across the crossing, under the underpass, and follow the Airport Drive footpath/cycleway to the right, keeping the canal on your left, and airport on your right. From T2/T3 follow the road out of the airport, and turn left onto Qantas drive, and keep the airport on your left. The route is not covered.
Between the airport and the city
Sydney Airport is 9 km from the city centre and reaching the city centre or other suburbs is easy, whether it be by suburban rail, bus or car. If you’re going to the city centre the following methods are your best bet:
- Suburban trains operated by CityRail depart frequently from Domestic and International rail stations, which are connected to the airline terminals via lifts and pedestrian subways. A single ticket to the city is $15.40 from domestic or $16.20 from international, including an airport station surcharge (GatePass) of $11.80. If you have or buy a MyMulti ticket, you just need to pay the gatepass fee. The airport is located on the Airport & East Hills line and is served by a train every 10 minutes during off-peak, and every 7 minutes during peak. Passengers for the city centre should take a train from Platform 1. The trains are used by commuters during peak hours, and you may not get a seat.
- Local buses. If you want to skip the GatePass fee, a good option is to take the 400 local bus route towards Bondi Junction. The stop after the domestic terminal is 200-300 m from the Mascot suburban rail station, which is one stop from the Domestic Terminal but free from the GatePass fee. The bus costs $3.30 and the train $3.20, and with a MyMulti card it costs no extra. The bus stops are located outside T1 and T3 (but not T2). There is only limited luggage space on the bus, but if you can manage backpacks or suitcases by yourself it should not be a problem.
- Shuttle Bus operators will drive a group of passengers to the city and deliver them to their hotels – to buy a ticket on a shuttle bus to your hotel you need to purchase them from the information desks in T1, T2 and T3. In T1 and T2 you can buy shuttle bus tickets from the approved outlet called Travel Concierge Sydney Airport, prices are $16 one way and $28 return. In T3, it is called Traveller Services.
- Taxis to the city centre should cost approximately $30 (including tolls), and more to other Sydney destinations (The Rocks $35-40, North Sydney $35, Manly $50, Parramatta $80-100 etc.) You can expect to pay a $3.00 airport taxi levy and a $5.50 Eastern Distributor toll on top of the metered fare. If you are arriving on a Friday evening, you may face a long queue for taxis. Asking the driver to take O’Riordan Street is a little slower but shorter and cheaper than the Eastern Distributor tollway which frequently experiences traffic congestion during peak times.
- Vehicle rental is available at all terminals from a variety of rental companies (see Sydney Airport website for current list). After you rent a vehicle, you will be directed to pick it up at a parking space in the adjacent parking garage. You return the vehicle to the same area.
- Having someone pick you up. At T1 (International), a private car can not stop legally at the arrivals area to pick up someone from the curb. If you exit the car park within 15 minutes, it is free, otherwise it is $7 per half hour. At T3 (domestic terminals), cars can stop at the pickup area only if there is someone already at the kerb. At T2, there is a pick up area inside the paid car park. Follow the yellow stenciled signs outside the terminal. Car park charges apply if you stay longer that 10 minutes. Fines apply for waiting at the arrivals areas or for picking up at the departures areas. Leaving your car is out of the question. The parking officers can photograph your car and licence plate and fine you without warning you to move along.
- Walk and train from T1. T1 (the international terminal) is less than 2km from Wolli Creek Station, from where a train to the city costs $3.40 and a MyMulti can be used with no surcharge. The walk isn’t signposted and may be very quiet after dark. It is all surfaced, has only one set of three steps (in the airport, near the customs building), and takes in some nice scenery by the Cooks River. Exit straight from the international terminal (T1), follow the pedestrian path under the multistory car park, and continue just to the left of the customs building to the pedestrian crossing. Go under the road, as indicated by a greenMarsh Street sign until, you run into a green fence with the canal directly in front of you. Follow the path up to your right around and back over the path you just walked on up to the Marsh Street bridge. Cross the Cooks River on the footpath on the right of Marsh St and then proceed along the cycleway next to the Cooks River (signposted to Tempe), keeping the river on your right. When you reach the Princes Hwy (6 lane road), cross at the pedestrian crossing lights, and continue straight on, past the apartment blocks, shops, to the end of the road, then turn right up to Wolli Creek Station. The walk will take about 20 minutes and will save you $12 (gatepass fee) on the train fare. Trains from Wolli Creek are even more frequent than from the airport since East Suburbs & Illawarra line trains also stop there.
- Walk and train from T2 & T3. The Domestic terminals (T2 and T3) are about 1.7km from Mascot train station. The walk along suburban pavements takes about 20 minutes. Follow the road out of the domestic terminal and on to O’Riordan Street. Follow O’Riordan Street and then veer left onto Bourke Street. Cross Coward Street and then John Street, Mascot train station is on your right. An adult fare to the city (Central) from Mascot is $3.40 and a MyMulti card can be used with no surcharge.
InfoSource: Wikitravel Under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.