If you’re anything like me, your pre-departure planning and Sydney travel research is less than practical and focuses principally on three main questions… How do I get to Bondi beach? Where are the best clubs and bars? Will I meet beautiful Australians whilst at the above locations? Whilst these are all very important things to know before embarking on your adventure “Down Under”, here are five quick pointers that are certain to make your life easier and help you settle in!
1. The CBD (inner-city) curfew:
As a result of increased acts of alcohol related violence in and around popular central Sydney nightlife spots, a curfew and a set of “lockout” laws have recently been imposed. Whilst this is aimed at preventing (generally) harmless drunken brawls, such events have previously been known to get out of hand and subsequently resulted in some grave injuries. How does this affect your night out? Bars and clubs within the lockout zone (pretty much the entire CBD) are not allowed to admit anyone after 1:30am (this applies even if you were inside and stepped out for a few minutes). Also note that if a bouncer or member of staff feels you are too intoxicated, they may refuse you entry (even before the lockout time), not serve you, or even ask you to leave. Whilst venues are required to serve “last drinks” at 3am, they must stop serving shots and doubles promptly at midnight. Finally, most venues require proof of age, so even if your 18th birthday feels like a lifetime ago, remember to slip an ID card or passport in your pocket as you head out to make sure that your night doesn’t end before it has even begun!
2. The Weather:
This might sound seemingly obvious, as you’re probably expecting nothing but blue skies and sun, sun, sun (especially if you’re visiting during the hotter summer months)! Whilst Sydney definitely does offer the goods almost all the time, don’t be caught off guard (like I was) and forget to pack a raincoat and umbrella, or long sleeved top at the very least… When it rains it pours. And with the rain comes temperatures that can “plummet” unseasonably low to around 20 degrees Celsius, meaning summery shorts and a t-shirt will no longer suffice. Fear not though, these summer storms definitely aren’t a frequent occurrence. Another extreme to keep in mind is the strength of the sun. You’ve probably already heard this one; the combination of the summer sun with the ozone hole situated pretty much right above Australasia means that if you aren’t careful, your skin will fry. Invest in a maximum strength, water proof suncream upon arrival (you won’t find anything below a factor 30 but to be safe go for the 50), and slather yourself from head to toe. Even though the bottle may advertise that protection lasts for 4 hours, frequent reapplication is key. Tanning to that luscious golden shade may take a little longer, but averting becoming a tomato and melanoma mean suncream is a must.
3. Alcohol taxes and prices:
Perhaps one of the first things you will notice upon arrival are the relatively exorbitant prices of alcohol in Australia. A result of a muddle of taxes that no one even really pretends to understand, the country that loves a good drink (or two) sees its population paying some of the highest alcohol prices globally. Whilst high prices are unavoidable on the whole, head to stores like Liqourland where great weekly promotions and discount shelves make high quality familiar brands slightly more affordable! Unlike most of Europe, the majority of stores that sell beer, wine, and spirits are distinctly separate from the grocery store/supermarket. Even though local liquor stores may seem expensive at first glance (accounting for exchange rates and converting back to your home currency), drinks at the bar or club are likely to end up being significantly pricier… Don’t expect to be able to go out and “enjoy a few drinks” without handing out a handsome sum. If you’re planning a big night out, make sure to hold a pre-drinks or pregame get together to start your night off at home beforehand!
4. The opal card system/hailing a bus:
Whilst this technically covers two points in one, what comes next link to getting around the city and surrounding areas. Sydney’s public transport system (which runs on trains, buses and ferries), is extremely effective in efficiently connecting all corners of the city, beaches, and suburbs. Movement away from antiquated paper tickets has heralded in the opal card, a “smart card ticket” that you can put money on to pay for all the transport types, somewhat similar to London’s Oyster Card. Register your card online to ensure that if you lose it, the value stored is transferred to your new card. Benefits of the transport system include a $2.50 cap on all travel on Sundays, making it a great day to get out and explore the city! One thing to remember when using Sydney’s buses is that drivers will not stop at all stops (unless someone on the bus has requested to stop) or you hail the bus. Whilst this is unlikely to happen at larger stops like Central Station or along Bondi beach, at other stops simply motion to the upcoming bus as you would if hailing a cab and the driver will pull up at the stop.
5. There’s a world beyond Bondi
My final piece of advice is that yes, the world famous Bondi definitely is a beautiful beach that backs on to a cool, low key yet trendy beach town that doesn’t disappoint and your trip wouldn’t be complete without paying a visit (or two) to. But Sydney has so many other beaches with equally as soft white sandy beaches, crystalline turqouise waters and endless vistas (often minus the sometimes overwhelming crowds). Make sure to dedicate time for the 6km, roughly 1-2 hour long Bondi to Coogee (or vice versa) cliffside walk that meanders past other favorites including Bronte, Tamarama and Closely beaches. Not only does this give you the opportunity to check out some of the other smaller beaches, but you get to bask in the fresh salt breeze and admire the unbeatable panoramas at the same time. If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, make a day out of it and hop on the train down to Cronulla or the ferry across the harbor to Manly and check out some of the other beaches Sydneysiders are lucky enough to have on their doorsteps!
All content and photographs are original © Flora Straeuli http://www.nextstepto.com 2016