In this article I will talk about the transportation situation in Sydney. The city has trains, trams, buses and ferries, and I’ll explain how everything works from the tickets to the fare system. Public transportation here has improved greatly and has become much more easier to understand than it was when I first arrived in Australia, however it is still surprisingly complex with some bus section information unclear even to this day. But fear not!! The introduction of the Opal card last year is slowly resolving these problems, and I will talk about the card in more detail below.

Opal card

The Opal card arrived on the scene last year, and is similar to Tokyo’s Suica card. Until now Sydneysiders have been using paper tickets or receipts from conductors as tickets, but at long last the city has taken a step into the future. In the past train, bus, ferry and tram tickets had to be purchased separately, or combined unlimited passes called ‘MyMulti’ tickets, but with the arrival of the Opal card everything has become much easier. More on that later.
The Opal card system is as easy as ‘Tapping on’ when boarding and ‘Tapping off’ when alighting.

Opal card

All-day travel capped at $15

Travel all day for no more than $15. Tourists can ride all day with an Opal card without worrying about a thing, and there is no need to buy a separate daily pass!

60 minute transfers

When transferring using the same mode of transport within a 60-minute timeframe you only pay one fare based on the distance you travel. This only works for bus to bus, or train to train transfers.Transferring from train to bus will incur another fare.

Weekly Travel Reward

Tapping on and off 8 times in one week will get you free travel for the rest of the week. Just be aware that transfers do not count. Also the most you will pay in one day is $15, and anything exceeding that amount will not be counted. If you are trying to lower your weekly transport costs, then the Opal card can be very beneficial if you use your head.

Sunday $2.50 Travel Cap

Ferry prices are usually expensive, but on Sunday’s a return ticket will only cost you $2.50. Even if you then hop on the train or a bus, or travel long distances, it’s still $2.50. This makes Sunday’s perfect for leaving the house and going out.

Weekly travel capped at $60

One week of traveling will never cost you more than $60! (excluding Sydney Airport Station access fee)

30% discount on off-peak fares

Receive a 30% discount automatically when travelling during off-peak hours!
※Peak hour:Sydney Trains network - Weekdays from 7.00am-9.00am and 4.00pm-6.30pm or NSW TrainLink network - Weekdays from 6.00am-8.00am and 4.00pm-6.30pm.

Where can I buy one?

Opal cards can be purchased online or at Opal card retailers. As ordering online requires a credit card and time for delivery, the best way to get your hands on one is at a Woolworths supermarket or a Seven Eleven. Search for participating retailers near you here.

How to Top up

An Opal card must be loaded with money before use. You can top up easily online or at convenience stores with the Opal card mark. Always be aware of the remaining balance on your Opal card.

Airport Station access fee

I have now told you about the benefits of using an Opal card, including daily and weekly caps and free travel periods, however one thing all passengers but be wary of is the Airport station access fee. Using the domestic and international terminals will incur a separate fee ($13 as of April, 2015). Keep in mind that this fee must be paid when going to the airport regardless of card benefits.


Sydney’s public transportation fares

These fares are from theOpal cardwebsite.

Bus Fares

Bus 1 (0 - 3 km)-Section1-2:$2.1
Bus 2 (3 - 8 km)‐Section3-5:$3.5
Bus 3 (8+ km)-Section6+:$4.5

Train Fares

(Up to 10km)From City Circle, Bondi Junction to the CBD, from Chatswood to Wynyard, From Mascot to Central:$3.38
(10-20km) From Chatswood to Townhall, Central:$4.2
(20-35km)From Hornsby/Epping to Central:$4.82
(35-65 km)From Cronulla to Central:$6.46
(Over 65 km)From Newcastle to Central:$8.30

Ferry Fares

(Up to 9km)From Neautral Bay, Balmain and Taronga Zoo to Circular Quay:$5.74
(More than 9km)From Manly and Parramatta to Circular Quay:$7.18

What is a person’s average monthly transportation costs?

Fares will differ depending on what mode of transportation is used, however a person commuting to work or school 5 times a week will pay roughly $67.20 a month using the cheapest transportation available.
Houses are on average 3-5 sections from the city, and will cost $112 a month. (※These prices have been calculated using the Opal card Weekly Travel Reward)

Other tickets


The old paper tickets can still be used in addition to the Opal card. Train and ferry tickets can be purchased easily from a ticket machine, however you need to be careful when buying bus tickets. There are 3 section-based tickets, MyBus 1, 2 and 3. MyMulti is a multipass that can be used on buses, trains and ferries.

Bus Sections

As you may have realised looking at the list of bus fares above, fares are calculated by distance travelled. Short distances are within 1 or 2 sections, but travel more than 3 sections and fares start to change. When do sections change? To be honest with you, I’m not even 100% sure, and this information isn’t even written at the bus stops. When you’re unsure you should ask the driver, or check the online map beforehand to avoid trouble. Check the maphere.


As seen above, riding the bus from C10 to E8 takes you through 3 sections (10, 9 and 8), meaning you will pay the $3.50 fare for 3 Sections. If you have an Opal card this is all calculated automatically, however if you’re using a paper ticket you need to figure out the cost beforehand or ask the driver in order to avoid fines.

Be careful of fines!

During the paper ticket era many people were riding with a MyBus1 ticket ($2.10) even though they were travelling 3 Sections ($3.50). This happened so often that ticket inspectors always rode the trains and buses to perform surprise inspections. Also, concession tickets are available at a discount to students in Australia, but not for English school students. Students not eligible for concession tickets frequently used them anyway, and this was also a target of the inspections. Fines can be around $200, and even if you mistakenly buy the wrong ticket you won’t be let off with a warning, so always make sure you pay the appropriate fare for your journey.


Having looked at both the Opal card and paper tickets, there’s no mistake that the Opal card is hands down the easier to use in terms of fare calculation between sections. There is no excuse not to have an Opal card with the bonus of all travel on Sunday’s capped at $2.50! Every Opal card has a security number, so make you register your card after purchase so you can protect or transfer your balance should your card be lost or stolen. Keep in mind that this card is for use in Sydney and its suburbs only, and cannot be used in other Australian cities!