Getting to Downtown Sydney, Australia, From the Airport

American Airlines aircraft prepares for take-off at Sydney Airport.

James D. Morgan / Getty Images

So you've just arrived in the Capital of the Southern Hemisphere, Sydney, Australia. Perhaps you even saw the famous Opera House from the plane as you descended into the Kingsford Smith Airport. Now, you must face the daunting task of getting to downtown Sydney, which is actually easier than you might think.

You'll be touching down in Mascot, just south of the city center. There are several modes of transportation at the airport—trains, taxis, and buses—but the best option depends on where in the city you'll be staying and how much you're willing to spend. Some hotels, such as Stamford Plaza, Holiday Inn, Mercure Hotel,
Ibis Hotel, and the Airport Sydney International Inn, offer free shuttles to and from the terminal. 

Taxis

  • Best If: You want easy, private transportation and your accommodation is nearby.
  • Avoid If: You have to travel across the city or during peak traffic times.
  • Where to Find: There are designated taxi ranks in front of all terminals.

Taxis are a great option for private transportation because they're easy to find, but beware of the price. Driving into the city center takes about 20 minutes, on average, but can be much longer during morning and evening rush hours. According to the Sydney Airport website, it could cost between $45 and $55 AUD for a one-way trip and, most of the time, any tolls you may go through are an added expense. You can find taxis at designated and signposted ranks in front of all terminals.

Rideshare Apps

  • Best If: You want private transportation that's more budget-friendly.
  • Avoid If: Finding your Uber or Lyft in the pickup lane is too stressful.
  • Where to Find: Drivers for rideshare apps must meet passengers in the pickup line at arrivals.

Using a rideshare app like Uber or Lyft is perhaps a more budget-friendly alternative to taking a taxi, but requires a bit more work. The Sydney Airport has Wi-Fi, so if you're traveling internationally and haven't picked up a SIM card from the airport (because they can be wildly expensive), you can still call an Uber or Lyft. The tricky part is finding your car among the horde of vehicles in the pickup line, especially because you're likely to lose Wi-Fi when you go outside.

The Train

  • Best If: You're in a hurry.
  • Avoid If: You don't like public transportation.
  • Where to Find: The train station is located at the northern end of the terminal.

There's a convenient railway link from the airport to Central, the train station at the south end of Sydney's business district, that takes about half the time of a taxi and is also a fraction of the price. The trains run every 10 minutes from the northern end of the terminal and you can obtain an Opal Card at the station or at Relay and WH Smith stores in the airport (you may also tap your Amex, Visa, or Mastercard). From Central, you can take connecting trains or busses to your destination. Note that there are no luggage racks on the train.

Public Buses

  • Best If: You're looking for the cheapest option.
  • Avoid If: You're in a hurry or you find the routes too difficult to navigate.
  • Where to Find: Bus stops are located at both T1 International and T3 Domestic terminals.

Like the train, Sydney's public buses run on the Opal system, so you can use your Opal Card for both. The buses run on a timetable, which you can find online or at the bus stops, which are located at both T1 International and T3 Domestic terminals. The bus goes to most places around the city, so getting close to your destination should be easy, but they can be slightly difficult to navigate (for newbies, at least) and the frequent stopping can take a long time.

Airport Shuttle Buses

  • Best If: Your accommodation or tour provides a shuttle.
  • Avoid If: You're looking for the most mainstream way into the city center.
  • Where to Find: Visit the Redy2Go desks located in the arrivals hall of terminals T1 and T2.

If you've prearranged shuttle transportation with a hotel or a tour, your organizer will likely tell you where exactly to find the bus, but you can also get information on shuttles from the Redy2Go desks located at the arrivals hall of the T1 and T2 terminals.

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