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Visitor's guide to Sydney: 13 things you should know

Your on-the-ground guide while you’re in town

Planning a trip or just arrived in Sydney? We’re so glad to have you here. From transport info to cultural knowledge, here are some things to make your visit to Sydney better.

1. The Gadigal people are the traditional custodians of the City of Sydney’s area

The Gadigal are one of 29 clans of the Sydney metropolitan area referred to collectively as the Eora nation. Aboriginal peoples have an unbroken and ongoing connection to our area.

Visit the Barani website to learn about First Nation peoples’ histories and cultures.

bara, meaning shell hook, by Waanyi artist Judy Watson, is a public monument honouring the Gadigal of the Eora Nation. It rests on the lawns overlooking Dubbagullee (Bennelong Point) and Warrane (Sydney Cove). Photo: Chris Southwood / City of Sydney

2. There’s Sydney and then there’s the City of Sydney

We know it can be confusing. There’s Sydney, the capital of New South Wales, and the City of Sydney.

The City of Sydney refers to our local government area that covers about 26.15 square kilometres. It’s made up of 33 suburbs which are wholly or partly contained within our council boundary.

It includes many of the historic areas that visitors see such as the city centre and surrounds. As the City of Sydney council, we provide high quality facilities and services to residents, businesses and visitors in these suburbs and urban places.

Beyond our local area, you’re still in Sydney – but different council areas.

For example, if you're at Bondi Beach, you are in the Waverley Council area and not in the City of Sydney.

The Greater Sydney area covers 12,368.2 square kilometres and is made up of 35 local councils.

What does this mean for you? As a visitor probably not a lot. But if for some reason you need to report an issue about waste collection, parks, parking or something else, it can be useful to know the council of the area you’re in.

3. Public transport is a great way to get around

Sydney’s public transport network includes trains, light rail, buses and ferries. It’s easy to jump on board with contactless payments available on all forms of transport.

If your bank card shows the contactless symbol you can use it to pay for your travel. American Express (AMEX), Mastercard and Visa credit or debit cards are accepted.

It's easy to get a train or another form of public transport in Sydney. Photo: Getty Images

You can also use an Opal card. It’s a smartcard ticketing system used to pay for travel on public transport in Sydney, the Blue Mountains, Central Coast, the Hunter and Illawarra regions.

You can buy one over the counter from Opal retailers, including convenience stores and newsagents. Add value before you travel and tap on and off to pay your fare.

Transport for NSW manages public transport.

4. Getting from the airport to the city is easy

It’s a short 15 minute train ride into the city from both domestic and international airports.

Services to the city leave frequently between 5am and midnight, 7 days a week. There are also shuttles, taxis and ride share options.

There are tactile braille signage at our signal crossings. Photo: Katherine Griffiths / City of Sydney

5. Our city has accessible wayfinding

Tactile and braille signs are next to push buttons at signal crossing for pedestrians across the local area.

You might like to visit our accessibility map of Sydney’s city centre.

For accessible public transport information, visit Transport for NSW.

6. Roaming ambassadors can point you in the right direction

Keep an eye out for roaming ambassadors in their red shirts around the city.

Around 200 volunteer ambassadors meet and greet tourists at hotspots across the city centre, including Circular Quay, around the historic Queen Victoria Building and Sydney Town Hall.

They can help you on all our city has to offer, including restaurants, museums, galleries and attractions.

City of Sydney volunteer tourism ambassadors welcome visitors to Sydney

7. Customs House visitor information centre is here for you

Customs House is the only accredited visitor information centre in Sydney's centre.

It's an invaluable resource for visitors like you. It’s not far from the Sydney Opera House and close to public transport

Our team can point you in the right direction or you can use the free wifi to search on your own device. It’s also air-conditioned – a welcome relief from summer heat.

One of Sydney’s finest heritage buildings, it’s also a cultural destination. Walk on top of the Sydney model and get a different perspective of our city.

You can find other visitor information centres conveniently located in Sydney and in major towns across NSW. Look for the distinctive blue and yellow ‘i’ signs.

Customs House features a spectacular scale model of downtown Sydney. Displayed under a glass floor on ground level. Photo: Katherine Griffiths / City of Sydney

8. It’s easy to get around on foot or 2 wheels

Sydney is a very walkable city, so you can easily explore the city on foot. Join thousands of Sydneysiders who get around by bike each day. There are plenty of dedicated cycleways to get you from A to B.

Check out our cycling map.

It's a good idea to be sun smart when exploring in Sydney. Photo: Getty Images

9. It's important to stay sun safe and hydrated – no matter the season

Did you know you can still get sun burnt on cloudy days? Like all of Australia, the UV in Sydney is intense, so you need to stay sun safe whatever the weather. Sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses are essentials. Take a water bottle with you wherever you go.

There’s a map to help you find the closest water bubbler in the city.

10. Keen to have a swim? There are options in the city

You could take a refreshing dip in one of the City of Sydney’s 6 swimming pools. There’s also a harbour swimming enclosure at Marranawi Cove at Barangaroo.

If you're heading out of the city to the beach, make sure you swim between the red and yellow flags and stick to patrolled beaches.

Find out more on the BeachSafe website. The site includes current information and conditions for every beach in Australia.

Children enjoying Marrinawi Cove at Barangaroo. Photo: Lisa Maree Williams / Getty Images

11. You can find your ideal event on What’s On

There’s always plenty going on in Sydney. Visit What’s On to find the perfect event while you’re in town. All events on What’s On are listed by the public, so you’re guaranteed to find the broadest range of things to do. Search by category or date to find your perfect match.

The Sydney Culture Walks app helps you explore Sydney. Photo: Katherine Griffiths / City of Sydney

12. You can take a self-guided walking tour

Choose your own adventure with our free Sydney Culture Walks app.

Discover hidden laneways and new neighbourhoods while learning about Sydney’s fascinating history and the stories behind the city’s most loved public artworks.

Download Sydney Culture Walks app on the App Store or Google Play.

Surry Hills is one of the suburbs in our areas you might want to check out. Photo: Getty Images

13. See Sydney from a different perspective with help from some locals

Whether you’re looking to try new foods, meet new friends or simply enjoy a memorable day out, going on a tour around Sydney promises to give you something new to discover about our area.

We’ve pulled together some tours you might like to check out – whatever your age or interest.

Need help? It's available

Sydney is generally a safe place with low levels of crime, but it’s still important to take care and look after yourself.

In an emergency dial 000 (triple zero) to contact police, fire and rescue or ambulance. The call is free of charge from any phone or mobile.

If you need to report a crime that is not an emergency, dial 131 444 for the Police Assistance Line.