How to Figure Out Where to Live in Sydney Before You Arrive

How do you decide where to live in Sydney when you’ve never been before?

Well, you could spend hours Googling each suburb or going through expat forums looking for recommendations or you can ask me.

Today’s Email

I’m moving from NYC to Sydney on November 13th.

You mentioned your struggle to find an apartment in the right part of the city. I’m in that same situation now!

I’ve never been to Sydney and really have no idea what the pros and cons are of the different areas.

What do you think is the best way to figure it out without having to spend a lot of time traveling around? We have about two weeks to find a place once were there so any help is greatly appreciated!

Lauren’s Reply

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Are you working during those two weeks?

I posted a recent Mailbox Monday about finding an apartment in Sydney in just two weeks. You might want to take a look at that also for more info about apartment viewings, what sorts of ID you need to take with you and other tips.

It is difficult to narrow down what suburb to focus your rental search on especially without having been to Sydney before.

What I would suggest is staying close to the train route or perhaps ferry, by far the easiest way to get around Sydney. The buses aren’t bad but during peak hours can be very crowded and when they fill up the bus simply won’t stop and you can end up with several full buses passing you by at the bus stop. Very frustrating.

Not knowing what price range you’re looking at or if you will need more space (kids?) I’ll suggest my favourite neighbourhoods.

Crows Nest is a wonderful area, lots of nice shops, good cafes, pubs and restaurants. Though it’s not directly on the train it is only about a 10-15min walk from St Leonard’s station.

Other suburbs that are on the North Line that are worth looking at are Wollstonecraft, Waverton, and Kirribilli. Wollstonecraft would be the less expensive of those neighbourhoods as you get closer to the city rents go up and apartments get smaller. :-)

Manly, though not on the train, is awesome. The ferry runs frequently until midnight I think or maybe it’s 12:30 am. A monthly ferry pass is pricey, but it’s like taking a harbour cruise every morning on your way to work, assuming you’ll be working downtown (or in the city as they say in Australia, they always giggle at me when I say downtown).

Manly has a great expat community, one of the world’s best beaches, amazing snorkelling at Shelly Beach, restaurants, shops, and heaps of tourists. Once people move to Manly they rarely leave the area. Living in Manly comes with a hefty price tag so expect to pay more.

Areas I would avoid are Kings Cross, apartments are usually advertised as being in “Potts Point” or “Elizabeth Bay” but map them to make sure they are far away from The Cross.

Kings Cross is lined with strip clubs and bars. We lived in the area when we first moved there and it was pretty awful stepping over people passed out on the sidewalk on the way to work every morning.

Surry Hills, though the restaurant mecca of Sydney, is another area I would avoid looking for an apartment in but do go there for dinner. In my opinion, you just don’t get a whole lot for your money in Surry Hills. Now if you can afford it then, yeah Surry Hills is great and walking distance to the city. Also, avoid Redfern, on the train but can be dodgy in areas.

I also really like our area. Our postcode is Woollahra but we are very close to Bondi Junction station right on Edgecliff Road.

Bondi Junction the suburb is full of apartment buildings and not really the most attractive area, but the convenience is huge. Right on the train just a few mins into the city, 10mins on the bus to the beach and everything you need right there.

Bondi Beach is full of backpackers but still very nice and so very classicly Sydney.

That should get you started. Start looking at and get a sense of what’s available for what price. Remember that rents are listed per week so when you see $650 that per week.

Sydney is huge so ruling out suburbs is a good thing to start doing.

Hope this helps and it’s not too overwhelming.

What Are Mailbox Mondays?

Every Monday I pick a question from an email subscriber along with my reply straight out of my inbox to share with everyone here on Sydney Moving Guide.

I don’t promise to have all the answers, but I will do my best to point you in the right direction or help you with your research as I know there is a lot of noise out there on the interwebs and good resources are hard to find.

The main goal of Mailbox Mondays is to start conversations on topics you want to know about.

So please leave a comment, or ask a question, or share more info from your experience living in Australia in the comment section below.

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Hi, I’m Lauren, and I LOVE being an expat in Sydney but am fed up with all the misinformed and useless expat guides out there, not only giving bad advice but also charging for it! So I created Sydney Moving Guide written by expats, for expats. Click here to read my story.

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