Sydney is the country’s main international gateway and has good transport connections to destinations around Australia. The city has a thriving backpacker scene and several travel agents that cater mostly to backpackers who should be able to fix you up with cheap bus or train passes.
Sydney is a good spot to get a cheap domestic flight up and down the coast with good deals to Brisbane and Melbourne. Check the internet and local papers for the latest specials.
Sydney Airport (tel (02) 9667 9111) is about 8 km south of the city centre and is easily accessible by train from Central Station. The airport is split into domestic and international terminals that are several kilometres apart. The international terminal is all contained in one building, while the domestic terminal is comprised of separate buildings that are used for Jetstar, Qantas, Rex and Virgin Blue flights.
The easiest way to the airport is the new Airport train line that whisks you to the airport in around ten minutes. Trains leave from Central Station and less frequently from other stations on the City Circle line. The one-way fare from the Domestic Terminal to Central Station or Kings Cross is $15; one-way fares from the International Terminal are $15.80 to Kings Cross or any station in the city centre.
The train fare between the two terminals costs $5, but there are also free buses linking the domestic and international terminals.
Bus route 400 connects the airport with Bondi Junction station. This bus costs $4.80, which is the cheapest way to and from the airport and is handy if you’re staying at Bondi Beach.
Sydney has good bus connections to the rest of the country with CountryLink, Firefly Express and Greyhound Australia buses departing from the coach station on Eddy Avenue near Central Station.
Central Station is Sydney’s hub for train travel with long-distance services departing upstairs from the bus station in front of the tram stop. The station has all the facilities that you would expect including bars, shops, fast food outlets and lockers.
Countrylink and CityRail both offer intercity train services although CityRail’s network extends only as far south as Goulburn and Nowra, west to the Blue Mountains and north to Newcastle and Scone. Countrylink goes further afield within New South Wales and also runs a few interstate services. Really long-distance train journeys are operated by Great Southern Railway and include the Indian Pacific to Perth (via Broken Hill and Adelaide) and the Ghan to Alice Springs and Darwin (also via Broken Hill and Adelaide).
There are a few good hitching spots that are relatively easy to get to by public transport, but it can take a while to hitch a lift out of town because there is so much local traffic.
There are motorways leaving Sydney to the north, south and west. The southern and eastern approaches go right into the city centre but traffic heading north has to make its way through the suburbs before they get to the motorway. This means travellers heading north can find a good hitchhiking spot right before the motorway entrance with a lot of long-distance traffic. However these roads also carry a lot of local traffic so you’ll need a sign indicating that you’re looking for a longer ride.
The Sydney-Newcastle Freeway goes to Newcastle and also has a lot of traffic heading further up the coast and towards Queensland. Take the Train to Wahroonga (on the North Shore line), walk down Coonanbarra Road and take the footbridge across the Pacific Highway and wait in front of the Abbotsleigh School for a lift. Use a sign with either your destination or North written on it.
There are a couple of options heading south to Melbourne, although the hitching spots aren’t as good as you get for northbound rides. The Hume Highway is the easiest and quickest option while the more scenic coastal route via Wollongong may take you a little longer but there is plenty to see en route.
For the Hume Highway, take a train to Beverly Hills and walk up King Georges Road to the start of the South Western Motorway. This isn’t such a good hitching spot as there is a lot of local traffic and most long-distance traffic is already on the motorway.
Because there is less local traffic it may be easier to get a lift on the coastal route to Melbourne, but it will be a longer trip. There are a couple of good hitching spots accessible by train. The cheapest is to take the train to either Heathcote or Waterfall (on the Illawarra line) and try your luck on the Princes Highway before the motorway begins. Alternatively you can take the train further south to Berry and completely bypass Wollongong and all the local traffic between Sydney and Wollongong. This will cost you a bit more than hitching at the northern end of the motorway, but you’ll be on a regular road rather than a motorway and will have a better choice of spots to wait for a lift and if you have no luck, at least Berry is a nice town to get stranded in.
If you’re heading west, you’ll want to get on Parramatta Road before the start of the Western Motorway. Take the Train to Strathfield, walk up Mosely Street and try your luck. You could also try Parramatta Road closer to the city centre although you’ll have a longer wait, as there will be more local traffic. In any case you’ll need a destination sign to avoid shorter lifts.