Notwithstanding my second picture I highly recommend this service if your final destination in Sydney is within walking distance of a train station.
Catching the train is the fastest way to reach Sydney Airport or to get to the city from the airport. Services run directly to/from the city centre to/from stations located inside the Domestic and International terminals. You can probably go cheaper by bus but for the extra dollar or so I prefer the faster train service.
It only takes 10 minutes to travel from Central Station to Domestic Airport Station and 13 minutes to International Airport Station.
On weekdays there are approximately six to eight services every hour from 6.00am until 10.00pm, and then four per hour until the last train. On weekends and public holidays there are four services per hour. Check you web for details timetable – http://www.airportlink.com.au/.
The Airport fare is made up of two components – an airport station access fee (a premium to use the airport stations) of $13.80. The balance is a regular train fare. For the additional fee you ‘get’ a regular suburban train which can range from modern and clean to disgusting. Other countries that charge additional fees to get to/from the airport are less audacious than Sydney and provide a higher quality/ faster train to justify it – think Hong Kong and London – though at the latter you can also use the regular underground system with NO premium.
All Sydney transport requires you to have an Opal Card (recommended) or to pay an Opal Single Trip fare (not recommended).
The current full fare (Opal Single Trip fare) is A$18.00 single adult to any station in the city (ie on the train you board) plus Kings Cross (change at Central Station) from the domestic airport or international terminal (Dec). Single Trip fares to other stations – change at Central Station – cost a bit more. You do not need to pay this much if you buy an OPAL Card at the airport.
If you plan on using any other public transport on your visit to Sydney you should not buy the Opal Single Trip fare for the airport train but rather use an OPAL Card, which you can get at the ticket window (not machines) at both airport train stations. While there is no way to avoid the $13.80 access fee the balance of the fare is subject to OPAL card rules meaning it will be between free and $2.42 ($3.46 peak times) for either airport station. So the maximum cost with an OPAL card will be $17.26 from either station to the city. OPAL cards can also bought at various other locations in the airport – WHSmith for one (see list on http://www.opal.com.au).
For full information on the OPAL card my OPAL Card review. The card itself is free – you decide how much credit to put on it.
Just a little trick for the more agile with lighter luggage. If your intended destination is Town Hall Station you will note that it is marked as the last station on the route (the train actually carries on through to Central Station but that is not relevant here). You can save about 10 minutes if you alight at Central, switch platforms and get any train going in the opposite direction (North Shore line or City Loop) – at no extra cost. While this is not hard it’s probably not worth the bother.
In the event that you do get a less than welcoming train (second picture) on your arrival into Australia it is not reflective of what this wonderful city has to offer more generally – this you will quickly work out so don’t be disheartened. I should also add that the trains to and from the city are safe (as indeed is most of the network at any time of day).
Access to the train station at both Domestic and International terminals is well signposted and a short walk in both instances. Lifts are available for people with heavy luggage.