Lesson No 1 – Public transport ticketing in Sydney is a nightmare

Ferry across Sydney HarbourI love outback Australia. I’ve done a few trips to various places and am planning my next, but in the meantime I figured if I can’t get out and travel, then how about I bring travel to me? So I’m sightseeing in my home city.

As with many tourists, I decided to take in some of the major icons in the city. I downloaded two self-guided walking tours  – Sydney Harbour Bridge, and The Rocks – which went together quite nicely to make one long walk, and this morning caught the bus to Circular Quay and the ferry across to Milsons Point.

Sydney has some of the best transport options in the world. Catching a ferry across the harbor on a beautiful sunny Sydney day is magical. So how can we stuff it up so much?

I already had a bus ticket sitting in my wallet, but if I didn’t I’d be in trouble. You can’t get on the bus without a ticket, but there’s nowhere at the stop to buy one, and no indication of where you can get one.  For all you visitors coming downunder – buy your bus tickets from a newsagent,  7/11 or convenience store.  You can buy single tickets or a 10 journey pass. One ticket will give you one trip and  you can’t use it to change between options, but you can get a day pass for $22 for an adult that will allow you onto all buses, trains and ferries for 24 hours. If you think you’re going to catch 4 or more buses/trains/ferries then the day pass is a good option.

Well, it’s a good option unless you want to catch the light rail, which is different, or want a weekly pass, or want to get on or off the train at the airport, or ….. Transport ticketing in Sydney is a nightmare. I’ve lived here most of my life and don’t understand it.

Here’s the website to find out about Sydney transport : 131500.com.au (so called because that’s also the phone number to ring)

The Opera House from Circular QuayAt least at the Quay all the wharfs have ticket machines and ticket windows. As I didn’t know exactly which wharf my ferry left from, I walked along until I found one that had a big banner out the front “Lunar Park tickets”. I couldn’t work out how to use the machine (it’s not me, really, the machine isn’t obvious)so I went to the ticket window “Single to Milsons Point please”. “That’s $5.80” he said. To go one stop!!! It really is a long time since I’ve been on a ferry.

So I bought my ticket and went onto the wharf. The ferry came in and I asked the bloke if it was going to Milsons Point. “You want Wharf 5” he said “This is wharf 4.”

The only problem is the ticket only works to go through the turnstile once, so you can’t use it to get onto the second wharf. But that was okay – I told the attendant at Wharf 5 that I walked onto the wrong wharf. He didn’t flinch, just opened the gate and let me straight through. I don’t think I was the first person who had done it.

Would it have been that difficult for the original ticket seller to say as he handed me my ticket “That ferry leaves from Wharf 5”?

But it was a beautiful morning, and there are worse things to do than sit on a wharf at Circular Quay and watch Sydney Harbour.

Parks at Circular QuayFerries, catamarans, day cruisers, water taxies, water police patrols. They all use wharfs at the Quay, and you don’t have to buy a ferry ticket to watch it. If you walk around the Quay you not only see all the activity on the water, but there buskers, cafes, parks and the Museum of Contemporary Art, where, because of a backpack, I didn’t get to see any art. But that’s another story.

They even have markers on the footpath to show the changing shorelines over the years since white settlement.

And of course, the Harbour Bridge sits on one side, and the Sydney Opera House on the other – two of Sydney’s most famous and easily recognisable icons. I didn’t actually get around to the Opera House, but more of that in the next blog.

Finally the right ferry came and I got on. When I was a kid it was always exciting to catch a ferry across the Harbour. You’d rush to get to the front of the line to get on, then rush to get a seat outside with the best view. It’s still the same. I got on, went straight to the back deck area and claimed my spot on the very back seat where I could see everything.

That’s another thing about Sydney – there are no orderly queues. Everybody just mills around waiting at the ferry wharf (or bus stop), then when it comes we all rush to be first on.

The ferry wakeAs Circular Quay receded and the wake from the ferry grew in the water the young woman sitting next to me started chatting.  She was a local, born in Sydney, and as I was taking photos she assumed I was a tourist and, being friendly, asked me about my trip.

She had family visiting from overseas and was showing them the sights of the city she was born in and loves. She was a Muslim, wearing a hijab, and a proud Australian. And the only person to engage with me like that all day.

Ya gotta love this city!

Costs so far :

2 trips from MyBus3 travel 10 ticket (10 trip ticket $36.80) = $7.36

Ferry from Circular Quay to Milsons Point = $5.80


Sydney Transport

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