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Since I can remember, I had always dreamed about going to Australia.
But it always seemed like such a fantasy world for me, because the country is located as far away from my hometown as possible. Luckily, I had the chance to go for a week down under after finding a really cheap flight from Bali (where I was coming from).
The first thing to know about Sydney is that it is super laid back, quiet and clean. For being a pretty big city, it is probably the most “relaxed” place that I’ve ever been to. People are very friendly and everything just happens smoothly.
The city is stunningly beautiful.
It’s surrounded by ocean water in every direction. Sydney Harbour is one of the most picturesque places I’ve seen on the planet- with the Opera House and the famous Bridge on opposites of the water. You can’t go anywhere around town without stumbling upon a clean beach or getting a fantastic view of cliffs over the ocean. It almost doesn’t make sense. I’ve never been to a place like Sydney before.
It might sound a bit strange to hear this, but I felt touches of American, European and Asian cultures when I was in Australia. Keep in mind that this is just my impression, coming from a 20-something American who has lived in both Europe and Asia.
This is what I am talking about:
American culture– the city layout, the strip malls, residential neighborhoods, the overall “lifestyle,” and especially the food
European culture – the people’s dressing styles, European-style architecture and churches, and sports (rugby and cricket)
Asian culture– an overwhelmingly amount of Asian tourists, and Asian Australians who were born and raised there. Also, I saw more Asian restaurants (Thai, Japanese, Korean, Indian) than local restaurants.
Transportation in Sydney efficient, but expensive and timely. There are trains, buses and a ferry system. Many people commute around by the well-run Ferry system, which takes you across Sydney Harbour to other parts of the city. However, ferries and trains stop running around 11 or 12PM, and taxis are so damn expensive to take… So there is a bit of a dilemma if you want to party all night.
If you have a few extra days to spend in Sydney, then I recommend renting a car at VroomVroomVroom and driving around yourself. It’ll save you money and you’ll get a lot more freedom!
In Sydney, everything is expensive.
Like so expensive that I nearly ran our of money halfway through my trip because I underestimated the cost of living.
The is what I’m talking about:
– a domestic bottled beer was $8-10 in a bar
– local water bottle was $4 in a convenient store
– a 30 minute taxi ride was $72
– a snickers candy bar was $3.75 in a vending matching
– good luck finding any decent meal under $15-20
You get the point. My friends were nice enough to let me crash at their house, so I saved lots of money on accommodation. I can’t even imagine how expensive hotels cost in Sydney. All I can say is make sure you bring an extra couple hundred dollars, because you’re gonna need it!
Culture and People
Sydney is much different than American stereotypes portray it to be. Nobody drinks Fosters Beer, kangaroos aren’t anywhere near the city, I never saw an Outback Steakhouse restaurant, and not everyone has bleach blonde hair.
That being said, the surfing stereotype is true. Australians love to surf! It is more popular in Sydney than I thought it was. Sports in general are really popular in the land down under. People love to watch and play cricket and rugby. Other popular sports are netball, swimming and baseball.
Australian people are absolutely hilarious. I met a ton of Aussies out at bars and through my friends. They are all jokesters. They will make fun of you in any way possible. Lots of people called me a “Ranga” which means “Ginger” in American English. It made me laugh.
It seemed like Australians don’t care what other people think. Wear whatever you want, and do whatever you like, as long as you don’t interfere with others to enjoy themselves too.
Their thick accents and Aussie lingo made it difficult for me to understand some things. But I quickly picked up some words after a few days. Basically, Australian English is quite different from American English. They tend to make words shorter, like “Maccas” for McDonalds, “Facey” for Facebook, and “Brekkie” for Breakfast. They also use the words “heaps” (meaning a lot of something), “reckon” meaning (thinking or saying something) and “footie” for rugby. Oh, and nobody is referred to as a “friend…” Instead, they are called “mates.” “These were all new terms in my vocabulary.
“Hey mate- Sydney is heaps of fun! Do you reckon a burger at Maccas for dinner tonight?” –> This is a typical Aussie sentence, which would make absolutely zero sense to any American.
I also noticed a lot of different ethnicities of people that for some reason or another, are Australian. They all speak English but have Asian, Indian, and European ancestry. It was quite interesting to be to see so much diversity at a place that is pretty far away from the rest of the world.
The only thing I didn’t like about Sydney was the strict police enforcement everywhere. I saw people randomly getting strip searched in public places because dog sniffers got them. You can’t drink legally on the streets and if you show up to a bar too drunk, they won’t let you in.
At times, I almost felt uninvited in Australia. For example, one afternoon I was just sitting in a corporate building downtown using their wifi, and 2 policeman approached me with their badges and asked me a million questions like: “Why are you sitting here? Where are you from? What’s in your backpack? Who are you visiting here? etc.” They took photos of me and checked my passport. I wasn’t doing anything wrong – just using the wifi. It left me on edge and sort of offended me.
What to Do?
There are lots of things to do in Sydney, but it all depends on your budget. If you can, take a tour inside the Sydney Opera House! It is $50 but totally worth the experience. Also, the Taronga Zoo is world famous with lots of kangaroos, but it’s also $50 to enter.
If you have an extra day and want to get out of the business of the city, then I recommend taking a 2 hour train ride to the blue mountains- A national park that is like a mini Grand Canyon of Australia. I went and the views were fantastic! A half-day trip is the perfect amount of time to explore around.
The best place to see kangaroos was at Featherdale Wildlife Park, which was just an hour train ride from the city. Trust me this place is awesome! It’s half the price of the main zoo ($25), and you can feed and pet all the animals including wallabies, koalas, kangaroos, goats, dingos and more.
Lastly, I must take a second to elaborate on Sydney’s beaches. They are literally everywhere, and each one is just as perfect as the one next to it. The beaches are much smaller than I was expecting. They are compact, usually in a half-moon shape with pristine golden sand, clear water and scenic costal walking paths. Sydney’s northern beaches are most notable for surfers, but nearly all other beaches have surfers out riding waves from sunrise to sunset. Bondi beach is the most touristy and well-known beach around Sydney. Nothing but good vibes!
For a more complete list, check out my post on “10 Things to do in Sydney“
The majority of the food in Sydney is very similar to American or any other western cuisines. Hamburgers, French fries (called chips in Aussie), hot dogs, pizza, pasta, steak, seafood, chicken wings, salad and more.
Fish and chips is also popular because the British brought it to Aussie when they had control of the country in the 1800s. I was in complete heaven because I hadn’t eaten “western” food in a year because I was living in Korea. Aussies LOVE their barbecue sauce, and put it on almost anything.
Some of the more “Aussie” dishes that are famous down under are meat pies, kangaroo meat, sausage rolls, sushi rolls, Vegemite spread, tim tams cookies. This goes without saying but food is really expensive in Australia, and street food doesn’t really exist. So don’t be surprised!
For a more complete list, check out my post called “Top 7 Australian Foods!”
Whether you like to sit back and enjoy a cold beer, socialize and listen to live bands or dance the night away at a crazy club, Sydney has a place for you. Downtown in the city is where most of the posh clubs, nice bars and live-music venues are at. The main clubbing area is called King’s Cross and it’s definitely the place to be “seen” around Sydney (AKA dress nice and have bills to spend). Here, you will find all the strip joints, sex shops and trendy places that stay open really late.
My favorite place to go out was in Manly. This area is just a short ferry (or taxi) ride north of the city center. Manly is a more residential area but the Corso (downtown strip) felt like a fun college town to me. It is filled with lots of bars, restaurants, shops and young 20-something’s ready to party. It’s so easy to meet people and there are dozens of fun bars to hang out at! Also, the beach is just a second away so you can always feel that sweet ocean breeze. Most places close around 2-3AM in Manly, so make sure that you plan out the night accordingly.
So, Whaddya say Mate? Come join the fun down under!
Check out My Video that I made in Sydney!
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