Cruising on a ferry cat into Sydney’s City Centre, a slight breeze caresses my face, providing a delightful taste of the crisp air on my tongue. We glide under the Sydney Harbour Bridge, as the traffic zooms overhead. The Sydney Opera House is just within my reach. I can see the ‘sails’ glistening in the sunshine, welcoming me.
It’s the dream, isn’t it? I can’t tell you how many people have stopped me when they hear my Australian accent, telling me how they have always wanted to visit Australia; how they would love to do it, but the cost and the flight and … My answer is ‘just do it. You won’t regret it.’
And I’m here to say, it’s time. It’s a new year. Time to plan your goals and accomplish them! And it’s easier to do it, when you know what you are in for. If you are like any of those who have stopped me, dreaming to one day visit Sydney, let me see if I can guide you on how best to get there…
Finding a Good Price for the Flight:
Getting to Sydney can be pricey, although nowadays it’s not much more than going to Europe from the U.S. Sites like Orbitz and Expedia allow for searching multiple flights at once for the lowest fares. Deals can be found directly with major airlines as well. Shop around. If you wish to expand your journey beyond Sydney, there are some packages which also include internal Australian flights. If you plan on traveling around the country, take advantage of this kind of deal.
If you can manage it and the airline offers it, splurge on the upgrade to Economy Plus. The cost is only a little more than for economy and for the extra legroom alone is well worth it. It is also typically quieter which is welcomed for the 14-hour flight from LA or San Francisco.
If you can stretch the budget, fly QANTAS if you can. Based on my travels to Sydney flying different airlines, QANTAS provides the best, most positive customer service. I have not been paid to say that, nor is it loyalty based to an Australian airline. It’s just my humble opinion. You just get good ol’ Aussie service, which includes a hot towel before every meal, no matter what class you are flying, which really makes the flight feel luxurious. And, if upon touchdown in Sydney, people burst out clapping, feel free to join in. It’s typically Aussies on the flight doing this, happy to be home. For some reason, I’ve only experienced this on QANTAS.
Surviving the Flight:
The flight sounds long, yes. 14 hours is a long flight. But flights are scheduled to leave later late in the evening to allow for sleeping. All airlines will provide you with a dinner, some offering complimentary wine if you are so inclined. One then has the option to sleep, read, or be entertained with a variety of movies. Then, about an hour and a half before landing, breakfast is served, before an early morning arrival in Sydney.
If you have headphones to block noise, take them. It’s worth finding space in your carry on. There is bound to be, as with almost every flight I’ve taken, an exuberant school group or exchange organisation, full of teens, who will undoubtedly be ‘hushed’ by their leader during the flight. They are excited, understandably, but at some point, you need to sleep. This is also why upgrading to economy plus is worth it. I call this the “adult section” where, generally speaking, the cabin is filled with older, gentler folks who just want to sleep.Arriving – Immigration and Customs:
You will receive a customs form, while in flight, to complete before landing. I recommend digging into your bag for your passport and a pen and complete it while on the plane. This will help get you through immigration more fluidly.
When you land, you will go through a massive Duty Free shop. I’m not kidding. It’s a ploy to get you to buy up big before you enter the country. If you are drinker or a smoker, it’s not a bad idea to purchase here. Both are highly taxed in Australia.
Once through immigration, you will await your bags on the luggage carousel before going through customs. Dogs may walk through, sniffing your luggage, hand luggage, or even you! Don’t be concerned. They are just doing their job, and they have a good reputation. However, they will sniff out any food that is prohibited, so take note of anything that you are carrying that is not allowed and ditch it before you land or before entering into the immigration area. Australia has very strict customs laws to prevent disease from entering the country. Due to customs restrictions and quarantine regulations, Australia is free from many animal-related diseases found in other parts of the world, so Australians are usually happy to comply.
As you go through customs, you may be spot checked and asked to put your bag through an x-ray. This is not a security x-ray, but to review bags for restricted foodstuffs. Be clear on your customs form of what you are declaring, taking note of the restrictions. Be honest and you should bypass this area fairly easily.
Upon departing customs, you will go through the double doors. If it’s like any time I’ve been home, the arrival area will be packed with people, eager to see family and friends arriving from overseas. It’s the best welcome home ever! Even as a visitor, you get a true sense of how welcoming Australia is.
You will most likely arrive early into Australia and the best way to counteract jetlag is to walk as much as possible on your first day. Find your hotel, check in, shower, and grab a quick coffee and head outside. Do not lie down! You’ve waited eons to get here, so start your adventure and head to the Opera House. She awaits your arrival with eager anticipation.
If you need more inspiration, check out my photos from Australia.