Notwithstanding my second picture I recommend this service if your final destination in Sydney is within walking distance of a train station.
Catching the train is the fastest way to reach Sydney Airport or to get to the city from the airport. Services run directly to/from the city centre to/from stations located inside the Domestic and International terminals. You can probably go cheaper by bus but for the extra dollar or so I prefer the faster train service. Cost-wise if there are two the cost v.v taxi is similar or slightly less – for three plus take a taxi though that will take 30min plus depending on traffic.
It only takes 10 minutes to travel from Central Station to Domestic Airport Station and 13 minutes to International Airport Station.
On weekdays there are approximately six to eight services every hour from 6.00am until 10.00pm, and then four per hour until the last train. On weekends and public holidays there are four services per hour. Check you web for details timetable - http://www.airportlink.com.au/.
Current fare is A$15.90 single adult to any station in the city (ie on the train you board). Fares to other stations – change at Central – cost a bit more. Return fares are twice the single fare – though don’t by a return unless you intend returning on the same day).
Now the sting in the tail. The train you get is a regular suburban train which can range from modern and clean to disgusting. For the premium fare charged (you pay a premium of around A$12 to get out at the Domestic or International Terminal) one would expect a premium train as one gets in most other places e.g. Hong Kong, London etc, etc.
Earlier this week I got a clean modern train, yesterday I got the one in picture two which reminded me of a local train I took in Chennai a couple of years ago (for a few cents I might add). In any event why should I pay more ($12 more) than someone getting out at the next station past the airport. Shame on Sydney for this blatant rip-off of air travelers – I am aware of, but do not accept, the excuses.
While many times the quality of the train your get to or from the airport is not reflective of what this great city has to offer the trains are safe.
This bus can be booked by going to the airport concierge, where they will arrange it for you. It's located in the main lobby of the airport, near the blue sign that says "Meeting Point" and opposite the Money Exchange. It's AUD 12-16. Going to my hostel was 16 AUD and on the way back to the airport it was 12 AUD. I'm not sure why that is. But it's in the above listed price range. It's much better way to go then a taxi, which my French friend at the hostel told me, was 65 AUD to get to the destination.
You can buy your ticket at your hotel or some convienence stores in town, if not at the airport.
I did it by public bus and it was great and inexpensive. Take bus #400 outside of the arrivals area to Mascot, tell the driver you want to transfer at Mascot to a bus to the CBD, he will let you know where to get off, the driver was very helpful, you then need to transfer, cross the street and look to your right and you will see a bus stop, most buses that stop there will take you into the Central Business District, just ask the driver if your unsure, they are most helpful. I believe I paid about $3.00 for each bus and it took about 50 minutes total. I got off at the Central Train Station but the bus will continue into the CBD. It was easy, interesting and I enjoyed it. $15.00 for the train, what a rip off for a 10 minute ride. I took the bus back to the airport also. Don't be diswayed by those that might post a negative regarding this. Easy, fun and simple.
Save your money and take a bus from the Airport to the central business district. It does take a little longer, but you will save more than half of the train fare which is around AUD $15.00. Take bus #400 from the Airport to Mascot, cost AUD $3.30, once there cross the street and wait for bus #309 or 310, cost AUD $3.30 and that bus will take you to the Central Railway station or into the CBD, total time about 45 minutes, save money and take the bus.
The cheaper option to travel to the city from the airport would be the shuttle service. It'll cost around AUD 10 and gets you to the doorstep of your hotel. To wait for the shuttle, go the furthest end of the airport, near the McD. The waiting point would be just outside the airport building. If you're not sure, check out the airport information counter.
If you just want to get around the city for the day on the train, then the best ticket to use is the City Hopper.
City Hopper $6.80 Adult $4.80 Child
Includes: Unlimited travel for 1 day between 11 cityrail stations (including the city CBD circle) in the central city area.
The Day Tripper is another way to get around Sydney and also save some $$$$.
The day Tripper includes unlimited travel for 1 day using the Cityrail Network, Sydney buses and Sydney ferries. It does not include the tourist Sydney or Bondi Explorer buses.
Day Tripper $15 Adult $7.50 Child
The best way to tour around the city is to buy a Day Pass and you can use the same in the Bus, Train and even it the Water Taxis. So even if you drive your vechicle to Sydney, just park it in the hotel and use this mode....Its very difficult to find a parking space in Sydney....So be careful.
dont bother with sydney trains if you are a visiting tourist. there are free buses for tourists in the city and you can walk most distances as monuments are not that far from each other. the trains are alsways late and fairly pricy for even shortest trips.
ferry is a good option though. city to manly is a good one and slo the one to Torranga zoo. much cheaper too.
for blue mountain trips take the tour bus as it takes a while to get there by train and there is a bit of walking from the station to "the 3 sisters" (scenic area).
if there are more than 2 of you then consider taxis for your trips to airport or around town at night. buses and trains can end up costing almost the same as one taxi when you add up everones tickets.
If You are planning on spending a couple of days in sydney consider buying a red travel pass (instead of the sydeny pass which costs $110 for 3 days but includes a lot of feature you probably won't use.) It costs about $33 a week and gives you unlimited travel on
*CityRail services in the area bounded by Bondi Junction, Rockdale, Bardwell Park, Canterbury, Croydon and Chatswood stations (Where most of the attractions are)
*Sydney Buses in the red area – zones 1, 3, 6 and 7
*Sydney Ferries inner harbour services
Best advice I can give is to get a multi travel ticket which can be used on a bus, train or ferry. It's cheap and convenient. Depending on how much public transport you think you'll be doing, there's a ticket just for you - there's the Travel ten (I think you can only use this for one mode of public transport for 10 rides) and the weekly pass which can be used for all types and the best is that it is unlimited use for 1 week. If you are travelling further than the zone that comes with your ticket, you just pay the difference.
the public train system is excellant compared to most other railway systems in the country, the trains are so frequent that even if you're late there is sure to be another following it in less then 10 minutes.
If you plan for a whole week exploring Sydney Center, buying a weekly TravelPass is the best way to do. The RED (cheapest) one will do it just fine; including unlimited bus and train rides from Airport to the city -- around city area -- Bondi Junction -- up to North Sydney (St. Leonards / Chatswood) I'd say the public transportation system here is one of the best I've ever experienced, not so confusing (unlike New York Metro), clean and safe. The buses run till midnight and so as most of the trains. The TravelPass can be bought at any train stations, travel information kisoks, news stands or even grocery stores!!
Ferries are a great way to see Sydney. They are much nicer to travel on than trains so if you have the opportunity, go for a ride on one even if it's just to see the sights. If you see something you like you can get off and have a good look.
This website is an excellent resource for the prospective traveller to Sydney. It covers all the public transportation options of bus, train & ferry with timetables, fares etc, in fact everything you could want to know
Although I had to choose above that this tip is "around" Sydney you can also find out information about travel to other parts of New South Wales from Sydney.
Lastly, the photo I have attached here is the ferry "Queenscliffe" which plies the Manly - Sydney route one of the nicest ferry rides you can have here in Sydney just for the scenic pleasure. I tool it when I was on a school excursion (field trip to you Americans) to Many Ocean World which is just across from where the ferry comes in from Circular Quay in the city.