Sydney has built a reputation for itself as one of – if not the most – iconic cities in Australia. Its celebrated landmarks, lively community and stunning beaches make it an ideal location for international students.
When you choose to live and study in Sydney, you’re in for a fun and memorable experience, regardless if you choose to reside in the city or in one of its notable suburbs. Here’s what you can expect from the cost of living in Sydney.
When looking for units and/or rooms to rent in Sydney, the cost of living tends to lower the further away you get from the city. You’ll have several accommodation options in the Sydney area including privately renting in the inner city or suburbs, renting a room in a sharehouse, living in student accommodation, or opting for a homestay.
According to CoreLogic, the median rent in Sydney (as of October 2023) is $726 per week. However, your weekly rent could very well fall above or below that figure depending on a variety of factors, including location. Let’s take a look at the rent estimates in Sydney’s inner city vs the suburbs.
Living in the city has a strong appeal for many who want to experience Sydney’s lively atmosphere and exciting nightlife. The cost of rental units in Sydney varies depending on where you live within the city.
If you’re planning on renting a unit in Sydney’s CBD, expect to pay around $870 per week. In Surry Hills, a neighbourhood just outside the CBD known for its culture and cafés, rental prices lower to $700 per week. The inner-city suburb of Ultimo offers even lower rental prices with the median rental price of $675 per week.
The suburbs offer a quieter, more relaxing environment for those who want to live close to the city but don’t want to be surrounded by the sounds of city life 24/7.
Located a 30-minute train ride outside of the city, the suburb of Parramatta has a median rental price of $560 per week. Even further from the city, about an hour outside Sydney in Campbelltown, rental units go for a median price of $440 a week.
Renting a room
Renting a room in a sharehouse or an apartment can be an affordable way for students to live closer to the city. Rental websites like flatmates.com.au and Flatmate Finders allow students to search rooms for rent with filters such as price, furnishings, accommodation type, room type, parking, length of stay and date of availability.
The approximate median price of a room for rent in Sydney is around $350 per week. Again, these prices can vary quite significantly depending on proximity to the city, furnishings, rental type and more.
Living in student accommodation is another popular options for international students in Sydney. In these large centres, you’ll have the opportunity to meet many other students, be surrounded by high-quality facilities, and enjoy all-inclusive pricing. In student accommodation, you’ll have the option to rent your own studio apartment or a room in a shared unit.
Depending on the style of room you choose and its location, the price can range significantly. On average, you can expect to spend around $350 to $400 per week for a shared apartment, while a large studio all to yourself could cost up to $860 per week.
If you’re not looking for Sydney apartments to rent, you may choose to stay with a local family in the area with the option of meals being included in the price. The Australian Homestay Network (AHN) provides a price breakdown of the expected cost of a homestay in Sydney depending on a student’s age (under or over 18), how many meals per week will be provided, and whether you’ll be staying in a private or shared room.
In 2024, for a complete homestay in a private room with three meals provided seven days a week, a student over the age of 18 can expect to pay $410 per week.
Which one to pick?
Sydney’s university campuses are more spread out than other cities, so you should be aware of this when deciding on a place to live. Macquarie University, for instance, is north of Sydney’s famous harbour, which can add quite a bit of time to your commute. Even though access is easy with the train system, the time adds up when you’re getting from one side of the city to the other.
Most of Sydney’s other universities like UNSW Art & Design, the University of Sydney and the University of Technology, Sydney are located near the city centre, which means access is easier from all parts of Sydney.
You should also think about your what’s most important to you when weighing up living options. Living further away from the city usually offers more living space and can be significantly more affordable. However, you could end up spending more on public transport and taxi or Uber services if you go out in the city. Living near the city can be a little more expensive, but you’ll be closer to the action.
To explore Sydney using public transport, you can purchase an Opal Card or simply use your own bank card (debit and credit cards are accepted). An Opal Card is a smartcard that can be used to travel on trains, light rail, buses and ferries across the city and surrounding areas.
Unfortunately, unlike in other cities, international students are traditionally not eligible for reduced fares., which means you’ll need to pay adult fares. The cost of a trip is based on the distance travelled, so the amount you pay depends on how far you are going. However, Transport NSW does have daily, weekly and weekend price caps in place. Thanks to these caps, you’ll never spend more than $17.80 per day (from Mondays to Thursdays), $8.90 on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays, or $50 per week.
The NSW Government recommends budgeting roughly $100 groceries per person each week but also suggests that your grocery bill should not be more than one-third of your after-tax income. They also provide helpful tips for minimising your cost of groceries such as lessening food waste, meal planning, and buying imperfect produce.
Sydney has an incredible food and drink scene that changes from suburb to suburb. From trendy bars and restaurants to historic pubs and clubs, you will want to make sure you take advantage of everything Sydney has to offer and set aside money to go out for meals. Breakfast in Sydney will cost you around $20, while ordering a main in a mid-range restaurant costs $25-$45.
It’s important to remember that in Australia, waiters and servers get paid a liveable minimum wage. This means that your sandwich or salad may cost a little bit more than you expect, but it also means the staff are being paid fairly for their time. Unlike some other places you may have visited, such as the United States or Canada, Australia does not have a tipping culture. Places may ask if you would like to tip, but it’s not necessary.
When planning a night out in Sydney, it’s beneficial to do your research. Some locations that hold events or have live entertainment can require a cover charge or entry fee of anywhere from $5 to $35. In addition, a drink at a popular bar or club can cost around $10 to $25, depending on the venue and what type of drink you order. Make sure to budget for your night out so you can have fun without breaking the bank.
In Sydney, $50 or more per ticket is an expected figure to pay for live music or sporting matches. For a larger act at a stadium or arena, over $100 and up to $200 per ticket is typical. Other events like dance or theatre performances will usually cost $50 or more. If you want to keep your ticket prices down, make sure to check out weekly city guides, campus events, or local productions for cheap or sometimes even free tickets.
A movie at any of the city’s cinemas will likely cost around $25. Make sure you take advantage of any cinema membership programs that will get you discounted tickets and free popcorn and drinks.
You can also leverage your student status to score deals on tickets. For example, show your student ID card at the Ritz Cinema in Randwick and you can enjoy $8 tickets on Mondays.
Membership fees are important to factor into the cost of living for students who are interested in joining a gym during their studies. The quality and location of the gym factor into the prices of their weekly membership fees.
At Crunch Fitness, memberships start at $10.95. In comparison, Virgin Active memberships start at $38.50 per week. Each gym may have varying joining fees associated as well. Additional costs can also occur if you are looking to take part in specific workout programs such as personal training. Do your research and ask about student discounts when looking for the best gym for you.
For more information on the cost of living in Sydney, make sure to check out our Cost of Living Calculator.