Sydney has a reasonably extensive system of buses but like most places catching a bus is the thing tourists tend to steer clear of or fear most. The reasons for this is that bus routes are harder to decipher, buses get snarled up in traffic, all buses don’t stop at all bus stops, and stops are not marked in the way train stations and the like are, meaning that unless you know the route you may have little idea where you are.
I can offer little in terms of getting snarled up in traffic – though to be honest this is not a significant problem in Sydney – many buses have been rerouted to avoid a major light rail project to install tracks, etc down George Street to Circular Quay.
Nearly all Sydney buses now have interior displays telling you what the next stop is which is fine if you know the name of the stop you need.
I can certainly offer something (at least for those with an Ipad or Iphone) in terms of deciphering timetables and knowing where you are on a bus, and that is the NextThere app. I have done a separate review on this and, truly, if you use it or something similar for other devices you need not fear taking a bus in Sydney. The Opal Card App is also good.
The intent of this review is not to tell you how to get from A to B on a bus, but there is one specific location I must mention. In terms of what are seen as the ‘main sights’ of Sydney there is only one that cannot be reached by public transport other than a bus and that is Bondi Beach. To get there (40mins) take bus numbers 380 or 333 (from Circular Quay) with the destination showing North Bondi, Dover Heights, Watsons Bay or Bondi Beach. You could also take the train to Bondi Junction and then buses 380, 381, 382 or 333 to Bondi Beach (in theory a lot faster but depends on connection times). Notwithstanding the Bondi Junction station name it is a 15 minute bus ride from there to Bondi Beach and thus not really walkable. You can of course take a taxi from anywhere to Bondi Beach!
There are two main bus “terminals” in the City centre – the streets around Circular Quay (which has a bus information centre) and Railway Square (beside Central Railway Station – pictured below).
Both terminals are well connected by bus and train. The free bus service (Route 555) which ran from Circular Quay to Railway Square is currently not operating (Sept 2016).
All Sydney transport requires you to have an Opal Card (recommended) or to pay an Opal Single Trip fare (not recommended).
Bus fares are based on distance travelled.
0-3kms – Opal Card $2.15 : Opal Single Trip fare $2.60
3-8kms – Opal Card $3.58 : Opal Single Trip fare $4.30
8kms plus – Opal Card $4.61 : Opal Single Trip fare $5.60
Opal card fares above relate to full adult fares pre any caps/discounts earned. Opal Single Trip fares attract no discounts, give you no transfer rights, etc.
While officially paper tickets no longer exist for use on Sydney Transport the Opal Single Trip Fare is the (more expensive and restrictive) equivalent. Bus Opal Single Trip fares can be purchased from the bus driver on board the service you wish to travel on. This does not include on PrePay bus services (typically the red ones), which accept Opal cards only. Be aware also that many stops within the City area are now classified “Pre-pay” stops meaning that you cannot get an Opal Single Trip fare on any bus from that stop.
Taking all into account I would suggest you forget about Opal Single Trip fares and buy an Opal Card. Note that Multi-trip tickets, daily/weekly travel cards and the like do not exist in Sydney. Daily caps, discount fares etc are all built into the Opal Card.
Please refer to my separate review on the OPAL Card.
From Circular Quay to Bondi Beach costs around $3.58 with Opal Card or $4.30 with an Opal Single Trip fare.
If you are using an OPAL Card, when you get on/off a bus you must ‘tap on /tap off’. If you don’t tap-off you will be charged the fare to the end of the bus route based on where you got on. If you don’t tap-on you will be fined!
Final picture courtesy of Opal.com.au.