Sydney Transport, Buses, Rail & Ferries.
Sydney has a comprehensive public transport system which encompasses train, bus and ferry. There are a number of tickets available which allow you to mix and match the different types of transport to your heart's content.
An efficient way of travelling from Kingsford Smith Airport (Sydney's international gateway) to the City is with the Airport Express. It is the only scheduled bus service from the airport and departs every 10 minutes to and from Central railway station, and every 20 minutes to and from Kings Cross. It will drop you at one of a number of key stops, including the Town Hall, Circular Quay and Potts Point, and runs 365 days a year from 0500 to 2300. A return fare will cost you AUS$ 10 and children go for AUS$ 5. There is a family ticket available for AUS$ 25, and all tickets are valid for two months from the date of purchase. There is no extra charge for baggage, and you can spot the buses easily as they are painted green and yellow, rather than the usual blue and white.
A wide selection of cars are available to hire through any of Sydney's many car-hire companies including Hertz, Avis & Budget.
There are plenty of Taxis within Sydney, and if you prefer to get dropped directly at your door, the fare should set you back around AUS$ 25-30. Make sure that your driver knows where your hotel is before you commence travel.
Perhaps the city's biggest boon is the train network which runs underground through the city so you get a fast and direct route to your destination. Of most use to you if you are staying in and around the CBD, is the "City Circle" which links key stations around the city area. Trains run every few minutes and this is the quickest way of getting from one place to another. There is a lot more to the "CityRail" network than just the stations in the CBD though: it stretches all the way from Katoomba in the Blue Mountains, over to Bondi Junction in the east, from where you can take the 380 bus down the legendary Bondi Beach. The line actually runs a little way further than that already, stretching out towards the seafront at Bondi, though as with all great civil engineering schemes this was abandoned midway through construction on the grounds of cost. There are fresh plans to complete this line, though local residents who fear an even greater deluge of tourists to their beloved beach, have other ideas.
From Central you can also go north to Newcastle via Chatswood and Hornsby, and south to Bornaderry (Nowra) via Sutherland and Helensburgh. If you want to use the network, check out the CityRail Map. Quick and efficient as the train network is, the lines do not service either the northern or southern beaches, nor does it have stops in key areas like Glebe. For these destinations you will need to navigate the STA bus network.
As with all bus services throughout the world this will involve working out where to catch your service, and, sometimes more importantly, where to get off! Most services tie in with the railway stations at Circular Quay, Wynyard, Town Hall and Central (Railway Square), and then make their way in and out of the city via George, Elizabeth and Castlereagh Streets. Some stops require you to hail the bus down, so if you are unsure make sure the driver knows that you want to get on.
There are two ways of paying - either in cash (drivers always appreciate the correct change), or you can purchase a multiple trip ticket from one of the numerous outlets (newsagents, railway stations etc) all over the city and suburbs. These are dipped in the green ticket readers that are on either side of the bus as you get on. Make sure that your ticket doesn't get bent or saturated in one of Sydney's downpours; drivers and fellow passengers alike become upset at the sight of a reader which has become jammed by a papier mache ticket.
Buses run frequently between 5am and midnight, and there is a limited night bus service to fill in the gap in between. Catch these buses from Town Hall Station on George Street, just by the QVB and cinemas. Normal bus fares apply, and you can use season and multi-ride tickets on these services. If you are planning to catch a Nightrider bus, it is worth checking with the STA Buses first, so as to avoid being stranded for hours on end.
For a more majestic trip to the city, and an unparalleled view of the harbour, Sydney Ferries are a must. Less crowded than the trains and buses, they operate from Circular Quay, and are just one indicator of Sydney putting its world reknowned harbour to good use. The ferry routes that Sydneysiders use for the purposes of commuting run regularly between 6am and midnight, whilst those which service tourist attractions have a more limited service. With the suburbs sprawling out along the banks of the Harbour, there is no shortage of destinations, from inner-harbour areas like Kirribilli and Neutral Bay, a route that gives a ducks eye view of Kirribilli House, the official residence of the Australian Prime Minister, to Darling Harbour, Parramatta and Taronga Zoo.
The ferry is also the most sensible way of getting to the ever popular Manly on the North Shore, and all ferries will give you picture postcard views of the majestic Harbour Bridge and legendary Opera House. Water Taxis are available, calling at the various wharfs along the harbour - try Harbour Taxi Boats on 9555 1155.
Sydney also sports a monorail system which was built with much local opposition, launched with a great fanfare, and may yet be dismantled as the City looks at its transport needs in the new millennium. The main problem with the monorail is that it is of little use to Sydneysiders as they go about their business, and is at best a bit of a novelty for visitors. Granted, it does provide a link from the CBD to the newly developed Darling Harbour area, but Sydney is not a huge place and a good healthy walk would be just as good. Needless to say, the sight of the futuristic train zipping along George Street is usually enough to persuade most people that the 10 minute round trip is worth being given a fair go, if only because it is there for the taking.
The buses, ferries and trains are brought together under a very useful season ticket option which takes the guise of a "Travel Ten" (10 trips on the buses), Red Weekly tickets, Blue Weekly tickets, and many other colours of the rainbow weekly tickets. Check out the options with the STA's website at http://www.sta.nsw.gov.au/sb.tickets.html to see which is best suited to your purposes. These cards save you money and mean that you don't have to buy a ticket for every journey.