Most people consider overseas travel as a luxury not everyone could afford. Limited flight options, expensive airfare and visa requirements make it more difficult for a Philippine passport holder. However, our desire to explore, taste and experience the world plus the realization that time is far more important than money, pushed us to chase our travel goals.
After traveling to 11 Asian destinations in the last 3 years, we felt it was time to take it to the next level and fly outside the continent. Even though there is still so much to see in the region, we gave in to our fantasy to set foot in a modern city in a first world country.
Australia’s close proximity, numerous unique attractions, tolerance to diversity and laid back atmosphere makes “The Land Down Under” the best choice for our first travel outside of Asia. After months of planning and research, we finally made our Aussie dreams come true last May 2019.
The Daily Phil’s first blog post is a First Timer’s Travel Guide to Sydney, Australia. Hope you find this helpful. Have a good day, mate!
Table of Contents
- Day 1
- Hyde Park (Anzac Memorial, Pool of Reflection, Archibald Fountain)
- St. Mary’s Cathedral
- Day 2
- Sydney Opera House
- Royal Botanic Garden
- Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair
- Government House
- Sydney Harbour Bridge
- Vivid Sydney
- Day 3
- Blue Mountains (Three Sisters)
- Paddy’s Markets
- Day 4
- Bondi Beach
- Bondi Icebergs
- Day 5
- Darling Harbor
- Taronga Zoo
- Circular Quay
- Day 1
- Final Thoughts
- The Daily Phil on Youtube
Cebu Pacific has daily flights to Sydney. We were very fortunate to score roundtrip tickets to Sydney for only PhP 13,769.30 (for 2 people) last July 2018 during their “PISO PAIR” promo.
This is probably the lowest rate this fare could get and booking it basically assured us that our Australian dreams are indeed within reach. Regular roundtrip tickets from Cebu Pacific would normally cost from PhP 15,000 to PhP 20,000. Qantas and Philippine Airlines also have non-stop flights to Sydney.
Philippine passport holders are required to get a Visitor (subclass 600) Visa from the Australian Embassy before entering Sydney for a holiday. Visa application of Filipinos to highly developed countries are usually complicated and does not promise high chance of approval. However, our experience was surprisingly hassle free since the application can be done online.
First, we secured all of the requirements which are mostly documents that would establish your financial status, roots with the Philippines and travel history.
Next, we created an ImmiAccount at immi.gov.au, accomplished the application form and submitted soft copies of the documents.
Afterwards, we paid the visa application fee of AU$ 140.00 (PhP 5,517.00) as of December 2018, via credit card.
Finally, we prayed to the Gods above that our application will be approved and our time, money, effort and excitement will not go in vain. Just after 6 calendar days, we got an automated email stating that the application has been processed and much to our delight, our Visa Grant letter was attached! This is it! Australia, here we come!
I was given a single entry Visitor visa for a maximum of 3 months stay valid for 6 months from the date of grant. John, on the other hand, was approved for a multiple entry Visitor visa for 1 year. You lucky boy…
We purchased a Telstra sim card with 3 GB of data at one of several telco kiosks at the arrival area of the Sydney airport for AU$ 10.00. The data is shared between our 2 phones via mobile tethering. We used it primarily to update our social media accounts and access Google Maps.
It turns out that this data allowance is more than enough for our 5 day stay. There are many free wi-fi spots within the city such as train stations, restaurants, convenience stores and tourist spots. Telstra along with Optus and Vodafone are the largest cellular networks in Australia all offering 4G services.
We purchased an Opal card in a convenience store at the arrival area of the Sydney airport. The Opal is a prepaid card that can be loaded with credits to pay for fares in trains, trams, buses and ferries. The card itself is free and you only pay for the top up amount.
We hopped on the train at the international airport station to reach the Central Business District. We took the train to reach most of our destinations. However, some of them are close to each other that they can be reached by foot. Schedule most of your trips to attractions on a Sunday if time and energy permits. Opal charges you no more than AU$ 2.80 for unlimited rides on all modes of transport on Sundays.
We booked a standard room for 2 at Sydney Hotel CBD via the Agoda app for PhP 4,250.00 / night. The hotel is located at the heart of the city, just 2 min away by foot from Town Hall station and a couple of blocks away from places of interest like the Hyde Park and Darling Harbor.
The room is equipped with a comfortable queen sized bed, a narrow cabinet, a mini refrigerator, a safe and cable television. There is not much living space around the bedroom, no view from the window but the bathroom is modern and large with a decent sink, toilet and hot shower. The air conditioning works perfectly and housekeeping does a good job maintaining the room every day.
After our 8 hour flight from Manila, we checked in at our hotel at around 4 pm which means we still have a couple of hours to roam around the city. We visited the Hyde Park as it is just a few blocks away by foot.
It is one of the oldest and most popular park in Sydney and the rest of Australia. A great place to just sit down, read a book, enjoy the lush greens or watch people as they go through their day.
St. Mary’s Cathedral
Just across the road from Archibald Fountain is St. Mary’s Cathedral. It is the cathedral church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney. The church’s interior and exterior are intricately designed with Gothic accents. We went and prayed for a safe and memorable stay in Sydney.
Sydney Opera House
One of the places that I am looking forward to the most on this trip is to visit the Sydney Opera House which is probably the most iconic landmark of the country. Taking a selfie with the building in the background is of course a must but getting to it really close and seeing its unique roof and the little details around it is a nice experience.
The performing arts venue was completed in 1973 and was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007. We took the train from Town Hall to Circulay Quay station to get here.
Royal Botanic Garden
Just around 5 min away by foot from the Sydney Opera House is the Royal Botanic Garden. The place is huge and we only got to explore the Lower Gardens section filled with many trees, shrubs, manmade ponds, open grasslands and pathways.
Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair
Also just a couple of minutes away from the Gardens is Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair. A sandstone bench made for the wife of the Governor of New South Wales with a view of Fort Denison and the Tasman Sea. But we went here for the popular lookout position beside it that provides a breathtaking view of the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbor Bridge.
Still within the Royal Botanic Garden, the Government House is the heritage-listed vice-regal residence of the Governor of New South Wales. The landscaped gardens surrounding it is beautiful.
Sydney Harbour Bridge
The Bridge runs through the central business district and the North Shore and is one of the longest arch bridge in the world. It is nicknamed “The Coathanger” because of its arch design. Although we did not walk over the bridge, we got very close to it to appreciate its architecture. We walked from the Opera House to the southern tip of the bridge in The Rocks area.
We were not aware prior to booking flights to Sydney that our visit coincides with Vivid Sydney. I guess it’s destiny. Vivid is annual event in the city that hosts talks, art exhibits, music festivals and illuminations. It ran from May 24 to June 15, 2019 for the 11th consecutive year.
The Opera House, the Harbour Bridge, Museum of Contemporary Art, Taronga Zoo and other landmarks in the city projected colorful light displays with music every night.
We were in the perfect spot on the first night of Vivid, at the foot of the bridge facing the Sydney Opera House. A great start to our amazing Sydney adventures.
The Blue Mountains (The Three Sisters)
The Blue Mountains National Park offers breathtaking lookouts, waterfalls and historic walking trails. The entire range is covered with Eucalyptus trees that disperses oils that when hit by the sun gives off a Blue hue. This nature escape from the city can be reached in 2 hours by train so go there early. We took the train from Town Hall to Katoomba. We got up late and got there around lunch time.
Another mistake we made is purchasing a Hop On Hop Off Blue Mountains Explorer Bus Pass via Klook for PhP 1,677.00 which we failed to take advantage of. We were fine seeing the Three Sisters only and did not bother doing the trails to see other nature attractions. You can do this by riding the bus at Katoomba and alight at The Echo Point. The trails in between stops and attractions are 30 – 40 min one way. We did not have the time and energy to do that.
Go to Paddy’s Markets for lots of inexpensive souvenir items such as T shirts, keychains, magnets and other novelty items that are actually made in China. On the second floor of the same building is Market City, a mall filled with outlet shops. Paddy’s Markets is just beside Chinatown which is just 5 min away from our hotel and Town Hall train station. If taking the tram, alight at Haymarket stop.
Another highlight of our trip to Sydney is the afternoon that we spent in Bondi Beach, one of the most famous and most beautiful beach in the world. Surfers travel to Sydney because of its dependable waves. But sunbathing or just simply relaxing on its half a mile, crescent shaped shore surrounded by gorgeous beach goers is an experience on its own.
The sand is fine and white but still not close to that of Boracay. The sun was shining brightly during our stay. The temperature was around 20 – 25 deg. celsius but the water was very cold so we just took a quick dip. The beach can be reached in less than 30 min by train from Town Hall to Bondi Junction Station, ride Bus No. 333 until Campbell Pde Terminus then walk towards the beach.
Just beside the Bondi Beach is Bondi Icebergs. A swimming club where its pools sits right next to the sea. Every now and then, the waves come crashing to the salt water lap pool which is very cool. There is an entrance fee of AU$ 8.00 for adults which includes access to the pools and sauna. An additional AU$ 3.00 is charged for the locker.
The water is also cold as expected and so we did not swim for too long. However, we did enjoy the view of the ocean and the beach while the sunlight slowly fades away making the sky change its color to a calm hue of Pink.
On our last day in Sydney, we met and caught up with John’s college friends Nelson and Angie who has been living in Sydney for more than 5 years. We walked our way to Darling Harbour which is just a couple of blocks away from Town Hall station. Attractions and facilities such as the Australian National Maritime Museum, ICC Sydney and Harbourside Shopping Centre among others are located here.
Our visit to Australia will not be complete without seeing the country’s national mascots, the Kangaroo and the Koala. We took the M30 Metro Bus from Town Hall to Taronga Zoo, the trip lasted for more or less 40 min. We purchased our tickets weeks in advance via Klook for PhP 1,371.00. We saw the animals from a close distance but not close enough to touch them since they were still enclosed by a fence.
We decided to take the ferry from the Taronga Zoo to Circular Quay instead of riding the bus back home. Cruising the Sydney Harbour by ferry is a must as it provides a different yet equally breathtaking views of its iconic landmarks while the sky projects warm colors of Pink and Orange during sundown.
We spent our last evening in Sydney at the foot of the Opera House reflecting on the wonderful experiences we’ve had in the city.
Sydney is definitely one of the best cities we have visited so far and will always hold a special place in my heart.
Sydney is a modern and busy city that somehow is still able to maintain a laid back vibe. You do not need to go very far from the center to breathe and recharge from the stress. The beautiful landscapes, breathtaking views, mighty landmarks, friendly Aussies and accessible nature attractions make Sydney a destination like no other. I will definitely visit again if given the opportunity and maybe discover other cities in Australia like Melbourne.
However, Sydney is quite expensive according to Philippine standards especially when it comes to food, transportation and accommodation but with careful planning and research, one can still make the most of their stay in the city even on a budget.
I hope you found this blog post helpful and convinced you to include Sydney in your travel bucket list.
The Daily Phil on YouTube
We made a Sydney Travel Guide video on our YouTube channel, The Daily Phil. Make sure to check it out to see an up close preview of what the city has to offer.
This is The Daily Phil, conquering the world, one country at a time, using a Filipino passport.
Until next time, Travel Now, Bills Later!