The Cost of Living in Sydney and How to Make it Work for Your Wallet

March 10, 2015

in australia, budget travel, cost of living, sydney

As Australia’s largest city and a city that is often said to be one of the most beautiful in the world, there are plenty of reasons to move to Sydney. Although not the capital of Australia (that’s Canberra, for those of you who don’t know!), Sydney puts on a fine display of history, culture, harbor life, and cuisine that is unparalleled in most other places. And for expats hoping to move to Australia, the government has set up a program through which people under 30 can obtain the necessary work permits relatively easily.

However, before your move to Sydney, a look at the cost of living can be quite an eye-opener—in fact, Sydney consistently ranks among the top 10 cities in the world for highest cost of living! Let’s look at a breakdown and see if there are any ways to combat this high cost.

Sydney Harbour Bridge


Accommodation is going to likely be the bulk of your monthly expenditure. The cheapest single apartments you’re going to find within Sydney proper will cost you at least $1,000 per month, or about $280 per week. More likely, you’re going to be spending somewhere in the area of $350-500 per week on a single apartment. Obviously, the more rooms you have, the more it’s going to cost you. Also important to note is that many furnished apartments will require you to pay a deposit equal to one month’s rent when you first move in.

For younger explorers or those who are not planning to be in Sydney for a long time, it might be cheaper to book yourself into a hostel—but know that you’re still going to probably end up paying about $200 per week for a decent dorm room.

Instead, you’ll probably choose to sacrifice location for cost. Sydney has a great transportation system, and some of the areas further out from downtown can be just as fun. When you’re picking out your new home, be practical about the location—remember, that beachfront view may be beautiful, but if you save a little money on the home, you won’t have to work as many hours to pay that rent and will have more time to enjoy that beach!Sydney apartment


On top of accommodation, you may have to pay utilities (these aren’t always included in the rental cost). For electric, water, gas, etc. you will probably be paying somewhere in the neighborhood of $150-200 per month. You’ll likely pay another $50 or so on top of that for internet each month.

Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do to alleviate the cost of utilities. Winter is not especially cold, so you generally will not spend too much extra on heating, but you might be able to keep some of your costs down if you go with space heaters—but you’ll likely need to live in Sydney for more than a year in order to see the benefits of purchasing the space heaters to start with. If you have internet, you can keep your entertainment costs down by streaming shows online via Netflix or Hulu rather than going out to the movies (but note that you will likely have to set up a VPN first as these sites are not available in Australia!).


Now that we’ve got accommodation out of the way, let’s talk food. Sydney has some of the best variety for cuisine in the world, and you’ll definitely want to explore it. However, eating in restaurants will often cost quite a bit. Even normal food costs could set you back a fair amount—a 1.5L bottle of water will cost you around $2.25, and a dozen eggs might cost you $3.00. In general, you’re looking at about $50 or more per week. And a meal at a cheap restaurant will often set you back $12 or more per person.


When it comes to grocery shopping, it might be economical for you to sign up as a member at Costco and get in the habit of buying your things in bulk. If you’re looking for a restaurant, check out Urbanlist’s 50 Cheap Eats in Sydney, which should have something for you regardless of your personal tastes. Or why not take a picnic out to the Botanical Gardens and eat with a view of the Sydney Opera House in the background?


Sydney has a great network of rails, buses, and ferries that should get you to really wherever you need to go—there are even buses and railway lines that connect out to the suburbs. The ticket system can be a bit confusing at first, but once you’ve got the hang of it, you’re all set. Know that a one-way ticket should cost you a little over $3, or you can get a monthly pass for about $120.

There are also a few free buses that do loops around some of the downtown areas, such as the 555, which will take you around the city and its Central Business District and past most of the city’s well-known landmarks, including the Sydney Opera House, Australian Museum, and Chinatown.


Why move to Sydney if you’re not going to spend at least a little time exploring the city, right? Granted you’ll see enough beautiful places in your daily commute if you’re lucky, but to really get a feel for the city’s culture and history, you probably want to dig a little deeper.

Sightseeing in Sydney doesn’t have to break the bank. If you’re interested in history, check out the Australian Museum ($12 for adults) and Australian National Maritime Museum ($6 for adults). Rather than climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge, walk across it and visit the Pylon Lookout for cheap—it’ll bring you 87m above sea-level, giving you the bird’s-eye view that you were looking for. For those interested in theatre, the Stables Theatres offers a pay-what-you-can show every Monday.

View of Sydney city from the water

Although a look at the cost of living in Sydney can be a bit of a reality check, it doesn’t need to deter you from moving to this wonderful city.  Your cost of living is really up to you, though. If you’re frugal and stick to a budget, there’s no reason why the cost of living in this city should be at all prohibitive.

This article is by Jess Signut. Jess is originally from the US but is a long-term expat and traveler who has lived in various locations across the world, including Australia.

Jess currently has a day job but writing about her international experiences is her passion and she travels as much as time and budget will allow. Her ultimate goal is to travel full-time and see as much of the world as possible.

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