Sydney Airport Guide

Sydney, Australia - June 13, 2017: The car dropping off people in front of departure area of Sydney International Airport in a sunny day.
Tony Nguyen / Getty Images

Sydney Airport is the first port of call for most U.S. visitors in Australia, with connecting flights to other large cities also available. In 2018, Sydney Airport was used by 44.4 million passengers. With one international terminal and two domestic terminals, it is the busiest airport in Australia.

There is a free shuttle bus called the T-Bus between the domestic and international terminals, as well as a train. The airport is generally easy to navigate, with efficient check-in and security processes.

Sydney Airport Code, Location, and Contact Information

Know Before You Go

Arriving or departing at Sydney Airport is a generally a pleasant experience, thanks to modern amenities and abundance of restaurants and shops. Qantas, Australia's largest airline, operates out of the airport, alongside Virgin Australia and budget airlines Jetstar and Tigerair.

Terminal 1 (international flights) is only a free, 10-minute bus ride on the T-Bus or 2-minute train ride from Terminal 2 (non-Qantas domestic flights) and Terminal 3 (Qantas domestic flights). Train transfer tickets cost around US$4.50 one way.

Although it can get busy on weekends and there are a lot of business travelers during the week, the airport is safe and well-designed. The electronic passport control gates, called Smartgates, mean passing through immigration is usually quick and easy.

Passengers should scan their passport at a kiosk and receive a ticket before proceeding to the Smartgate. Kids under 16 years old, or those without ePassports will need to queue for manual passport checks.

Incoming visitors should also be aware of Australia's strict customs regulations. As an island, Australia is protective of its natural environment, prohibiting passengers from bringing in fresh fruit or homemade foods. You can find out more about what you can bring on the Australian Border Force website.

Parking

Parking at Sydney Airport is convenient but can get pricey. Prices start from US$6.65 for 30 minutes. At the P3 domestic parking lot and the Express Pick-Up international parking lot, the first 15 minutes are free, while all other parking lot begin charging upon entry. There can be a lot of traffic getting in and out of the parking lot, so make sure to leave extra time or use the drop-off lane at the terminal.

If you intend to leave your car at the airport, you can book online for discounted rates or use a private parking service outside the airport (many offer free shuttles). The Blu Emu parking lot is another option for domestic travelers on a budget, located a 15-minute free shuttle ride away from the domestic terminals.

Driving Directions

Most routes to the airport are well-signposted and the trip takes around 25 minutes from the Central Business District (CBD) without traffic via the M1 motorway. However, Sydney's peak-hour traffic often spills over into the airport, so you should allow extra time if you need to arrive between 7:30 and 9 a.m. or 4:30 and 6 p.m.

Public Transportation

Taking the Airport Link train to or from Sydney Airport is an expensive exercise. The 13-minute ride will cost you US$13.30 per adult and US$10.50 per child, due to a hefty station access fee added to the fare. You can buy a single-trip ticket, or pay using an Opal Card or your Amex, Visa, or Mastercard. The minimum top-up amount for new cards at the airport station is US$24.

If saving money is your priority, you can take the 400 bus, which runs between Bondi Junction and Sydney Airport, or the 420 bus, which passes by Sydney Airport on its route from Eastgardens to Burwood. Depending on your destination, this will cost between US$1.50 and $5.80 but take around an hour. There are also shuttle bus transfers, many of which are cheaper than the train.

Taxis and Rideshares

If you are traveling with a group, you may be better off using a taxi or rideshare app. In Sydney, you can use Uber, Taxify, Shebah, Didi, or Ola. The trip to the CBD will cost about US$30 to $40. There are taxi ranks outside all the terminals and a priority pick-up area for rideshares.

Taxi drivers are required to accept all fares from the airport and can only pick up passengers at the taxi ranks. If traveling to the airport, you can hail a taxi on the street or call 13CABS (13 22 27), Legion Cabs (131 451) or Premier Cabs (13 10 17).

Where to Eat and Drink

Sydney Airport is home to a wide range of food outlets to choose from. Fast food chains like McDonald's, Krispy Kreme, Mad Mex, Joe & the Juice, Red Rooster, Roll'd, Subway, SumoSalad, Starbucks, Hero Sushi, and Soul Origin have multiple locations throughout the airport.

For sit-down dining, The Bistro by Wolfgang Puck is Terminal 1's premier offering at Gate 10, with pizza, burgers. and a full-breakfast menu. For something a little lighter, try the canteen-style Kitchen by Mike at Gate 30. There is also a food court before security in this terminal.

In Terminal 2, MoVida serves up Spanish tapas near Gate 32. If you find yourself in Terminal 3, Bar Corretto (Gate 8) and Bar Roma (Gate 3) are both good spots for a hot meal and a beer or wine. If you want to get a taste of Australia's famous coffee when you disembark, order a flat white from Veloce Espresso at International Arrivals in Terminal 1.

Where to Shop

You'll find all the typical duty-free products (alcohol, perfume, and cigarettes) at Sydney Airport, as well as specialty stores, pharmacies, newsagents, and banks. The Post Office can be found in Terminal 1 before security or Terminal 3 near Gate 6. Luggage storage is offered in Terminal 1 Arrivals before security, Terminal 2 near Gate 49, and Terminal 3 near baggage claim.

Luxury fashion labels like Bally, Burberry, Bulgari, Coach, Emporio Armani, Ermenegildo Zegna, Fendi, Gucci, Hugo Boss, Max Mara, Rolex, Salvatore Ferragamo and Tiffany & Co. can all be found in Terminal 1. Australian brands like Ugg, R.M. Williams, and a variety of swimwear labels are also available.

How to Spend Your Layover

If you have a long layover, it is probably worth heading in to the city center or to the beach. If you'd rather get some rest, there are accommodation options to suit most budgets in the area.

The Rydges Sydney Airport Hotel is highly rated, as are the Meriton Suites on Coward Street and the Pullman Sydney Airport. For budget travelers, Citadines Connect offer all the essentials at a good price.

Airport Lounges

Air New Zealand, Emirates, Qantas, Singapore Airlines, Skyteam, and American Express have lounges for eligible members in Terminal 1. All lounges close at night.

The House is a pay-to-use lounge in Terminal 1, with dining, bar, Wi-Fi, and shower facilities. Entry fee starts from US$55 for adults and US$28 for children. You can book in advance online or pay at the door.

Wi-Fi and Charging Stations

There free, fast Wi-Fi throughout the airport. There are charging stations and workspaces in all three terminals, as well as at many of the cafes and restaurants.

Sydney Airport Tips & Facts

  • Sydney Airport began operations in 1919 as a private aerodrome, making it one of the oldest continually operating airports in the world.
  • It offers flight connections to over 90 destinations worldwide.
  • Sydney Airport uses SmartGates, an electronic passport control system.
  • Allow extra time for parking at the airport or use the drop-off lane.
  • Consider your public transport options carefully. Using a taxi, shuttle or rideshare app may be cheaper for groups than taking the train.
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