Sydney on a budget


Yikes! Sydney is now number 3 on the list of the World’s most expensive cities list!  Although here at Intern Options, we’ve noticed absolutely no drop in it’s popularity as a place to work… and indeed a lot of our internships are available in Sydney, so here’s a few ideas for budgeting your Sydney life…

The living bit…

Go self catering

We know it’s obvious, but there are hundreds upon thousands of places to eat in Sydney and it’s really tempting to try a new one every meal.  Over the course of 3 – 6 months, it will really start to add up.  Intern Options can help you find suitable accommodation where you will have access to a kitchen, our advice is get some stock foods in right at the beginning of your internship.  If you make your own lunches, you will save yourself time and money, then you can use your lunch time to enjoy some sunshine in the park, or like many Sydneysiders do – go for a run!


Everyone loves a good market, and Sydney has plenty of options.  Check out this list on Time Out’s website for some suggestions as to where you can buy almost anything including cheap and fresh food.  And, just because you are in another country, don’t forget that certain services like Gumtree and Ebay are global phenomenons now; if you are looking for bargains – perhaps a bicycle for getting around, or concert tickets for a sell out gig – or selling stuff at the end of an internship, these are also worth a look.

Buy season tickets for travel

If you are doing your internship in Sydney,  you will definitely be there at least 3 months, you can save enormous amounts of money by buying a travel season ticket.  As well as getting to and from work, you can use it for getting around the city sights on your days off, out to the beaches at Bondi or Manly after work, or if you go all out and get a 3 zone ticket, you can get all the way to the Blue Mountains or Newcastle for a weekend trip.  You can compare the different prices for season tickets on the NSW transport website here, and download the zone map here (PDF, requires Adobe Acrobat Reader) to see just how far a multipass can take you in NSW.

Staying connected

Everyone wants to stay connected with their friends and family, chances are you will want to take a mobile phone and maybe even a laptop during your stay.  Electronic goods can work out relatively expensive in Australia at the moment, so our advice is to take it with you from home, but make sure you have adequate insurance to cover it in case it gets lost or stolen.

Buying an unlocked handset (or getting yours unlocked by your network) before you go, is the best option as then you can use a local SIM card in it, and calls to your new Sydney friends will be much cheaper.

Wi-fi is available for free in a few places around Sydney including libraries, most galleries and at the moment, any McDonalds restaurant(!), but there are many more where you may have to pay to connect.  3G coverage is good across all of the city, but please, please only use this if you have a local SIM card.  Using your UK SIM for data could end up costing you a lot of money, even better, if you have one of those all-singing, all-dancing kind of phones, turn off all the background data services to avoid roaming costs.

The travelling bit…

Get to know Sydney with free walking tours

Get to know Sydney by taking one of the free walking tours available in the city.  Tours are about 3 hours long, and you will get around all the sights in central Sydney.  Guided by savvy locals, you are guaranteed to learn some stuff, be it historical, cultural, or where the best pubs & clubs are.  The tours are basically free, although it is polite to give your guide a reasonable tip (money, not advice!) at the end.  Two options for free tours are the “I’m Free Tours” which convene outside the Town Hall every day at 10.30am and 2.30pm, and “Peek Tours” who meet outside the Custom House on Circular Quay everyday at 10.30am and 2.30pm.  In the summertime, make sure you take enough water and sunscreen to see you through, it can get very hot.  If you want to get to know the Sydney nightlife, Peek Tours also run a few different Party Tours, although this is one for the weekend only, our internships are not for hungover people!

Places to visit – parks and gardens

There are plenty of green spaces around Sydney, including the huge Royal Botanic Garden which occupies most of the peninsula behind the Opera House.  Wandering around here you can sit and chill under a variety of wonderful shady trees, see the fruit bats that nest in the Botanic Gardens, as well as enjoy views of the city and Sydney Harbour.  So, why not spend a bit of your weekend lounging about in a park with a good book, a picnic and some new friends.

Places to visit – beaches & ocean pools

It doesn’t need to be said that it is free for anyone to sit on a beach in Sydney, and indeed many people do.  You can get to either the famous Bondi beach or Manly beach easily using public transport.  The ferry over to Manly is an experience in itself, with tremendous views of the Harbour – you can even time your return journey to catch the sunset, although get to the port early to get the best seats as the ferry gets very busy with tourists and commuters alike.

If swimming in the sea is not your thing, you can cool off with a dip in one of Sydney’s many waterfront, open-air swimming pools.  Entry is usually cheap or in some cases free, you can check their websites for the prices.  Have a look at this page for a list of the pools and beaches around Sydney.

Culture – museums and galleries

Sydney being such a large city, inevitably has a huge range of different museums and galleries for you to visit.   The NSW Art Gallery and the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) are both completely free, except for certain special exhibitions.  The Australian National Maritime Museum currently offers free admission on the first Thursday of every month, and the Australian Museum is currently $12 for adults, although if museums are really your thing, you might consider a membership for $70 for the year. (Prices checked 06.03.2013)

The must dos

No internship in Sydney would be complete without visiting the two most famous city sights in the world!  As with everything, you can do this the expensive way, or the less expensive way.  Walking over the top of the Harbour Bridge is a one off experience but it will set you back $200, or just make sure that you plod on over one day before you leave, to enjoy much the same views.  The Manly ferry will also get you out on the water for another perspective of both Harbour Bridge and the Opera House.  The Opera House itself, you can walk around the outside for free of course, or it is possible to do a full tour inside.  Booking tours online in advance will save you money, but perhaps an even more genuine Sydney experience, would be to try and catch a show or concert there – the Opera House hosts a huge range of events to suit all tastes.  Keep up to date with what’s on at the Opera House on their website.

Culture – free festivals

There is plenty going on in Sydney all the time, one of the biggest free festivals is the Sydney festival held in January each year, but the NSW government generally has a whole host of events going on, check their website regularly for details.

…Live like a local

It always takes time to get to know a new city, and when it’s as large as Sydney it can seem a little overwhelming!  Remember that Sydney has a huge tourist economy and in certain places things will cost much more than they would normally.  When you start your internship, don’t be afraid to talk to the people you work with and ask questions about the best places to go, shop and eat.  Remember you will be there for a least a few months, so it may be worth looking at membership and loyalty schemes if you think you will be using a particular service a lot.  Besides that, just have a great time, you are unlikely to ever get bored in Sydney whatever your budget, and we have loads of internships there in every field, if you’ve not yet applied, then make sure you send us an enquiry soon as possible!

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