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by Alyssa Ramos
Note: Original title is “How To Travel Solo in Sydney When It’s Raining (and On A Budget)”
Did you know that just like in LA, it hardly EVER rains in Sydney? Yup. Sydney is known for its glorious warm and sunny weather which leads to its infamous beaches always being packed with bikini clad Victoria’s Secret models and sexy surfer boys. Or so they say. I wouldn’t know because the three days of the year I happened to go to Sydney, there wasn’t just a non-stop torrential down pour, but it was also freezing like the Antarctic, meaning that no one was at the beach except die-hard surfers, and dedicated tourists, like me.
Luckily I’m a “the-wine-glass-is-half-full” kind of gal, so instead of letting the weather, the fact that I was solo and only had three days there, and the teeny tiny little obstacle of having no debit or credit card get me down, I decided to literally just go with it. I did everything that was suggested in the touristy books in addition to things previous visitors and my Sydney Blogger Guide from ManyManyAdventures.com suggested, but I have to say, making friends with locals and tagging along with them to their regular happenings was the best idea and one of the most incredible experiences ever. My subconscious was beaming and giving me high-fives the whole time I was there, and I’m still reveling in my good fortune.
So here’s what I did in leu of bronzing at the beach all day long:
Obviously when I was planning my trip, I only looked at hotels IN Sydney because I didn’t know any better. Sydney is awesome and all, but it’s filled with either tourists or business people, both of which do not stick around when it’s raining. Locals however will still hang out in local bars and cafés, despite the strange water that falls from the sky.
Locals DO NOT live IN Sydney. It’s wayyy too expensive, not to mention considered “touristy” to them. That’s why after hearing endless recommendations about Bondi Beach, I decided to book the cheapest place I could find there so I could act like a local. I ended up staying in a self-catering apartment called Ultimate Apartments Bondi Beach which I found on Booking.com, only a few blocks from the beach, that my dear mother had to pay for via email with her credit card since they didn’t accept cash (and that’s all I had at that point). This allowed me to wander around Bondi and experience all of the little bars, restaurants, cafés, and shops that I otherwise would have had no idea existed. This knowledge came in handy when no one in Sydney was out and about but EVERYONE in Bondi was having rain parties!
So you won’t be able to really see everything as well as you would when it’s clear out, but luckily you have plenty of time on your hands since there’s not much else to do when it’s raining. I still sat up top of the double decker City Sightseeing Tour bus with a few other brave souls when it was only drizzling (but still freezing) and it wasn’t that bad, so if my 106 pound, Florida-born, LA-living, “don’t-get-my-hair-wet”, ass can tolerate it, so can anyone. The tour will take you around to all the major sites and explain what everything is, so that if it happens to clear up, you can always go back to your favorite spot!
Bonus: The City Sightseeing Tour bus doubles as a cheap means of transportation compared to the high-priced taxis and confusing buses!
This is a no brainer. At least for me…I would probably be doing this anywhere I went anyway, but when that rain started coming down hard, more glasses of wine started getting poured. Since I was broke, with only about $200 AUD to last me the rest of my trip, I would look for places with specials or happy hours, and use them as an excuse to use their shelter and free Wifi. I found a ton in Bondi Beach, but also a few in Darling Harbor. I feel like a lot of people don’t like the idea of having a drink or bite somewhere by themselves, but it’s really not that bad! It’s fun actually, and it forces you to talk to people and actually pay attention to your surroundings!
My absolute favorite place to go for wine was the Sydney Opera Bar. I mean, you really can’t beat a chilled glass of Chardonnay with an up close and personal view of the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbor Bridge lit up at night.
Duh. What else would you do? Go to the beach? Just kidding, I did that too. So like I said I was non-stop the whole time, trying to squeeze in as much as possible in my three days, but whenever it was raining really bad, I tried to do in-doorsy things, like go to the Sydney Aquarium. I’d highly recommend it except for the fact that I got LOCKED inside of it since they decided to close early. Major fail.
There’s also a ton of museums. It’s not really my thing, and probably not yours either, but, they’re there. One in-doorsy place that was actually pretty cool to see when it was raining was the Sydney Tower Eye, which is essentially a 360 degree room at the top of the Westfield mall/tower. I bought a ticket to see it, but just like the Sydney Aquarium that I was forced to sneak into…my ticket wasn’t even checked.
How many people can say that they were the only person on Bondi Beach at one point? Probably a few, but I’m one of those few! I got to actually see the beach before every square inch of it was covered in beach towels and surfboards! At first, it was a little depressing, but after some locals explained the rarity, it was actually pretty awesome. I refilled that half glass of wine.
After Bondi, I took the bus into Sydney to catch the ferry from Circular Quay (pronounced “key” for some weird reason) to Manly Beach, another highly recommended local place to visit despite the dreary weather. The ferry is cheap, only about $9AUD or so round trip, and takes you for a nice little cruise past the Sydney Harbor Bridge, The Sydney Opera House, and the Sydney Harbor on your way to Manly Beach. Since the weather was bad, my lovely little cruise felt more like the Titanic was sinking, but I wrote it off as good GoPro footage.
What do you do at the beach when it’s shitty out? Find the closest restaurant or bar that overlooks the beach, of course! I was able to take exactly six photos of Manly Beach before my entire body started shivering uncontrollably, which is when I found the only restaurant that was actually on the beach, The Pantry. I swear, it’s like I send telepathic SOS messages out for wine and warmth and then poof, there they are! Although I tried to explore (and by ‘explore’ I mean find somewhere cheaper) a little more, the tiny town was pretty much dead with the exception of the insane boys surfing in the Great White Shark-infested water and my fellow tourists gawking at them from the shore. Although I couldn’t really experience the beach, I still had a mighty fine time looking at it through the window as I sipped my (house) Pinot Grigio, and ate my Grilled Halloumi Cheese (cheapest vegetarian thing on the menu).
The best part aside from bantering with the very interesting locals in the souvenir shops (I could literally only afford two bracelets for $4AUD and they kept trying to apartment switch with me in LA), was that on the way back the sky cleared up and we got to see a beautiful sunset as we rode back into the harbor. The ferry was moving so slow that we also got to see the mesmerizing twinkling of the city lights at night!
Since I was by myself, and I’m not anti-social, I ended up making friends with locals in Sydney, but at the most randomest of times and places. The first time was on the Sydney Sightseeing Tour bus when I casually asked a younger guide where I could buy an umbrella, the second was when I took a photo of a group of guys at the Sydney Opera House and ended up hanging out with them and learning that Tazmania is a real place, and the third…well…that was just pure luck. I mean, it’s not every day a tall, dark, and handsome surfer jogs up to you on your last day in Australia and asks you to watch the sunset and then takes you to dinner. But I digress.
The first thing you need to know is that Australian people (AKA Aussies, AKA Ozzies, AKA….hot), LOVE Americans and especially love LA. That was an extremely broad statement, so I’m going to just go ahead and back track and correct that to *many.
Before I departed on my lovely little trip around the world, I had no idea how I was going to meet people, where to meet them, or in general, what to expect. What I learned is that as long as you approach places and people with an open mind, a smart demeanor, and a friendly smile, you’ll not only experience a different culture like no other, but you’ll keep friends across the globe for the rest of your life.
Other areas besides Bondi Beach where locals hang out are Surry Hills, King Street, Grebe, and Darlington. If you happen to stay in Bondi Beach, O’Brien Street and Hall Street have a ton of cool restaurants and bars like MAD Pizza ē Bar and Bondi Hardware,
Seriously though. You’re in freaking Australia, you don’t need to pause for social media, take a nap, and you definitely do not need to be keeping up with the Kardashians. Yes you’ll get tired, but good thing there are tons and tons of cafés and coffee shops; get a coffee at a local shop like Alice and Gertrude’s in Bondi and chat with locals, they’ll get you up and running in no time! Plus, you can always sleep on the plane on the way home, or like…when you’re dead.
Set alarms and reminders if you need to, but get up and go see and do as much as possible, because you’ll never know when or if you’ll get to go back!