When you’re a backpacker arriving in Sydney, it can be quite tricky to find the place of your dreams. Especially if you don’t know the city all too well, you might easily make a couple of wrong choices during the apartment hunt. As you may know, rents here are very expensive. So, after living here for five years in seven different apartments, here is our advice.
How to find accommodation in Sydney
Before arriving in Sydney or Australia in general, we recommend you to book a few nights in a backpacker hostel. Hotels in Sydney are pretty expensive (expect $100 per night or more), so backpacker hostels are the way to go if you want to save money (a dormitory costs you about $25 per night). Three or four nights give you enough time to get to know the city and tick a few things off your to-do list. If you end up needing more time, you can easily extend your stay at the hostel. Nevertheless, you might want to note that prices go up in peak season, in this case November until February. You also might have to book a couple of month ahead if you plan on staying around Christmas or New Year’s Eve.
Flat share in Sydney
If you are interested in flat sharing, start your search on the platform Gumtree. This website is extremely popular in Australia, as it provides a network for individuals to post their ads (cars, shared apartments, jobs, etc). Another option is to join the numerous Facebook groups that have been created for this cause and Sydney Flatmates/House share/Roomshare/Accomodation. It will give you the opportunity to contact people who might be looking for a flat mate. Make sure to check international Facebook groups in case you want to stay in a rather multicultural environment/apartment.
For those who want more privacy and plan on renting a studio flat or an apartment, be aware that it is pretty difficult to find one through an agency if you’re here on a Working Holiday Visa. Competition is very high and rental agencies are rather reluctant towards helping backpackers. However, if you have a relatively well payed job and plan on staying in Sydney for a couple of months, it is not impossible to get a studio apartment! Generally speaking, the minimum lease starts at six months. To find ads and offers, visit the pages Real Estate and Domain.
Best suburbs to live in Sydney
The most difficult aspect of moving to a new city is figuring out where to settle down. As you are most likely not familiar with the more and the less pleasant areas, making a wrong decision is quite common. You would not be the first person to pay more than necessary or live in a part of the city that is not convenient for you. A false evaluation might ruin your first days in Sydney, so here is an introduction to Sydney’s districts.
Sydney’s CBD (Central Business District)
The CBD is often the number one choice for backpackers to start their stay. It’s a good place to stay in the beginning, as public transports are expensive. Plus the location is handy if you plan on looking for a job. However, rents tend to be a lot higher than in other areas of the city. In the south of the CBD, a large number of skyscrapers are inhabited by an Asian community and there are a lot of spare rooms. But BEWARE, many of those offers are shared rooms, an occupied living room, and balconies converted into rooms, in order to rent out as much of the apartment as possible. It is probably unnecessary to warn you of the risks and inconveniences that come with that kind of living…
In exchange, you can often find a number of extra services in these buildings, ranging from pools to saunas, jacuzzis, and gyms! A lot of backpackers live in those arrangements, on George St and Pitt St for example. So, if you want to live in the city, just be careful with ads in the south.
Newtown & Glebe
These districts can be a nice alternative. Very accessible from the CBD (not even ten minutes by bus), they have a bohemian and artistic flair to them, are very lively and filled with boutiques, small coffee shops, bars, and restaurants.
Very close to the city center (Central Station), this very popular area is rich in small cafés and restaurants.
Potts Point & Kings Cross
Located five minutes by train or a twenty-minute walk from the city center, Kings Cross is THE liveliest district of Sydney. On the one hand it’s where you will experience a lot of fun nights, but on the other hand you will also witness the less fortunate dragging themselves around. A lot of backpackers settle here nevertheless, as rents aren’t very high, there’s a lot of entertainment, and it’s close to the proximity to the CBD.
Potts Point is right next to Kings Cross and considered to be Sydney’s “Little New York”. In comparison to Kings Cross, Potts Point is fancier and more pleasant to live in.
Only two steps away from the CBD, Ultimo is the student district of the city. UTS, the big university, attracts numerous foreign exchange students, who want to live as close to the university as possible 😉
A rather calm and pleasant district to live in, not far from the city center.
Bondi Beach is THE most iconic place in Sydney, where surfers feel like they’re in paradise. It’s a piece of California located in Sydney, where people skate, wear tank tops, and show off their abs. While surfing is reserved for daytime, the entire district starts to party as soon as the sun sets! You can not only find a job in one one of the many cafes/restaurants or shops, but also a shared flat with international backpackers. The only problem is that rents are comparatively high, especially when considering the distance to the city center; the bus ride takes around 40 minutes. (You can also take the bus to Bondi Junction and take a train from there).
Just like Bondi Beach, this is where the surfers are at. The vibe is generally calmer and more quiet, so it’s a nice area to live. Manly’s advantage is the ferry, which can take you to the city center within half an hour, passing sights like the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House.
Sydney’s Outer Suburbs
Besides these few districts, there is always the option of moving to the suburbs. You get good contracts for rentals. If you are happy to move a bit out of the city for tranquility or simply to save money, this can really make a difference. Also, if you are over living in skyscrapers, you can move in to one of the famous share houses, which might be more in your price range out there.
You have options all around Sydney, be it the North (North Sydney, Lane Cove, Ryde), the East (Strathfield, Auburn, Fairefield) or the South (Marrickville, Rockdale, Randwick, Hurtsville).
Accommodation prices in Sydney
The prices vary, depending on the type of accommodation, the number of tenants, and the district. Here are a few of examples to give you an idea.
– Backpacker Hostel, 8 or 10 bed dorm: $200 per week
– Backpacker Hostel, private room for two people: $900 per week
– 8 person apartment, 4 bed room: $140 per week
– 4 person apartment, private room: $280 per week; room for two people: $380 per week ($190 per person)
– 4 person apartment, private room: $250 – 300 per week
– 4 person apartment, room for two people: $350 – 400 per week
– House with garden, 4 persons, private room: $250 per week
Au pair : You live and eat with an Australian family in exchange for taking care of the children and helping with housekeeping chores (part time). You can also work full time and get a small income (around $200/ week).
Host family : Paid agencies hook you up with a family that will accommodate you.
Work for Accommodation in Hostels: You work at a hostel for 15-20 hours per week in exchange for a free dorm bed in the staff room.
Couchsurfing : Allows you to stay at a certain place for a couple of days for free.
Airbnb : Private apartments or rooms are rented out by private people – and sometimes the prices are only slightly more expensive than in a hostel!
Updated on 26/09/2019 – Initially published on 17/11/17