Sydney is Australia's most popular tourist hotspot, luring millions of holidaymakers every year with the promise of sun, sand, merry-making and culture:
Sydney caters for all ages: Sun-lovers head for the beaches; families can explore the attractions of Darling Harbour; gourmets delight in the restaurants at The Rocks; adventurers can climb the iconic Harbour Bridge; while the less active can stroll the magnificent Botanic Gardens. Sydney is also a popular gay holiday destination, especially during late February when the annual LGBT Mardis Gras takes place.
Sunny Sydney is one of the world's top holiday destinations, offering stunning beaches, vibrant nightlife, superb shopping and delectable restaurants. And beyond the iconic landmarks and cosmopolitan pleasures of the city, many beautiful natural landscapes beckon travellers keen to explore the Australian great outdoors, making Sydney a great travel hub.
Best time to visit Sydney
The most popular time to travel to Sydney is during the summer months, between November and March, when it is constantly hot and sunny. Winter in Sydney (June to August) is mild but damp, and nights can be chilly.
GMT +10 (GMT +11, Oct - Apr)
Electrical current is 230 volts, 50Hz. Three-pin flat blade plugs are used but are different to those in most other countries, so an adapter is normally required.
English is the official language of Australia.
A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required by travellers over one year of age arriving within six days of having stayed overnight or longer in an infected country. No other special immunisations or medications are required for most trips to Australia; however, insect repellents are strongly advised because of the risk of mosquito-borne illnesses. Another health risk is sunburn, and visitors are advised to take precautions. Medical services are excellent, but can be expensive so travellers should ensure that they have adequate insurance. Australia has a reciprocal health agreement with the United Kingdom providing for free hospital emergency medical treatment; proof of UK residence is required.
Most service providers in Sydney don't expect a tip, so travellers shouldn't feel pressured into giving one, though a tip of 10 percent is standard in restaurants. Passengers usually round up to the nearest dollar or more in taxis.
The crime rate in Australia is low; however, travellers should be aware that tourists could be targeted by petty criminals. Visitors should be vigilant about personal possessions and travel documents, particularly in popular tourist destinations such as along the Gold Coast. Tropical cyclones normally occur between November and April in some parts of Australia, particularly in Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory. There is a serious risk of bush fires in summer (November to March), especially in Victoria, Tasmania, New South Wales and ACT. Also during the summer months, the shallow coastal waters of northern Australia and Queensland become infested with marine stingers, commonly known as box jellyfish, whose sting is highly dangerous and can be deadly. Visitors should pay attention to signs on beaches and follow the instructions of local lifeguards to avoid injury.
Generally an informal attitude, in dress and behaviour, prevails in most social and business situations. Sport, particularly rugby and cricket, is almost a religion in Australia.
Sydney is one of the world's top holiday destinations, offering a variety of attractions for all ages. Families can explore the sights at Darling Harbour, including one of the biggest and most impressive aquariums in the world; observe some fascinating Australian fauna and flora at Wildlife Sydney Zoo; and watch a film on the huge screen at the Imax theatre.
Those interested in history will want to explore the cobbled streets of The Rocks, a restored 19th-century village that was the site of Australia's first European settlement in 1788. The Rocks also gives access to the Pylon Lookout on the famous Sydney Harbour Bridge for an amazing view of the harbour, Sydney Opera House and beyond. Adventurers will definitely want to experience the iconic bridge from a more thrilling perspective though, and can take part in an organised climb to the top of Harbour Bridge for breath-taking views and a sense of bold achievement. For even greater heights, visitors can test their mettle by experiencing the view from the open air, glass-floored viewing platform at the top of the 853ft (260m) Sydney Tower.
When it comes to something more relaxing, Sydney boasts a large array of golden beaches for sun-lovers, from the famous Bondi Beach, lined with surf shops and designer cafes, to one of the many smaller beaches around Sydney Harbour. The Royal Botanic Gardens are also a joy to wander through, and a good spot for some exercise or a picnic.
A multi-cultural and cosmopolitan city, Sydney has a wide variety of restaurants and cuisines showcasing diverse influences from around the world, but particularly from Asia. Along with modern Australian ('Mod Oz') cuisine, which combines fresh ingredients with a creative blend of European and Asian styles, restaurants serve almost any type of fare imaginable, from Tibetan to African, from Russian to American. Some areas or streets are dedicated to one type of food, while other areas in the city offer a variety of styles. The range also varies from award-winning, fine dining restaurants - situated mainly around the harbour or attached to five-star hotels - to international fast food takeaways such as McDonalds or Pizza Hut. Fresh seafood is in abundance, and steak is a staple that can be found in a selection of steakhouse chain restaurants scattered around the city.
The main dining areas in the centre of Sydney are The Rocks, Circular Quay, Darling Harbour and Chinatown. Prices vary according to location, with harbour facing establishments generally charging more for their views. Some restaurants are BYO, which means they are unlicensed, but diners can bring their own wine (sometimes a small corkage fee will be charged). All restaurants are non-smoking.
Sydney's nightlife is all go, with everything from pubs and jazz bars to rock venues and nightclubs. For live music listings and free weekly entertainment guides look out for publications like Time Out, Metro and Drum Media.
The best party areas include Darling Harbour, Oxford Street and The Rocks. Oxford Street is the epicentre of the LGBT nightlife scene in the city, though there are many straight bars and clubs as well. Kings Cross is the reputed Red Light District of Sydney, an area which has seen some improvement over the last few years, attracting an increasingly diverse and arty array of visitors, but it remains a gritty nightlife centre, as one would expect for an area once dominated by sailors and brothels. The Rocks and Kings Street Wharf offer more upmarket entertainment options. Sydney is also renowned for its performing arts, the most notable venue being the iconic Sydney opera House.
The legal drinking age in Australia is 18. There are some lock-out and last drinks laws in effect in the Sydney CBD Entertainment Precinct, with no drinks served after 3am at hotels and registered nightclubs, but some smaller venues are exempt from these rules.
The summer season (December to February) is the most popular time to visit Sydney, with temperatures generally exceeding 77°F (25°C). November and March are favoured by visitors wanting sunshine without the searing heat. Winters (June to August) are mild, with temperatures averaging between 63°F (17°C) and 48°F (9°C). Winter nights are likely to be chilly. Rainfall is evenly distributed throughout the year but it is slightly wetter between March and June.
Australian federal law changed on 7 December 2017 to recognise same-sex marriages. Australia has an established tradition of tolerance towards homosexuality, but there are still isolated incidents of homophobic crimes. Take care when visiting rural communities.
Details of vaccination recommendations and requirements are provided below.
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