Getting around in Sydney by car; travel times, routes, tolls and parking info

Getting around in Sydney by car; travel times, routes, tolls and parking info

We found Sydney a bit crazy to drive as the city isn't really organized with signs. Here is a travel tip when you are using a car when visiting Sydney.

Travel times and routes

You can drive around Sydney reasonably freely, and outside of peak times travelling by car is usually at least as quick as any method of public transport. Congestion can be expected on roads to the city from 6:30AM until 9:30AM, and roads away from the city from around 4PM until 6:30PM. Congestion is considerably worse heading away from the city during Friday afternoon peak.

Roads are generally well signposted to the next major suburb or suburbs along the route. But it can happen that you follow the signs and suddenly something complete else is posted and you have no clue anymore where to go. Only a handful of cross-city met-roads are signposted by number.

Congestion can be expected around Bondi Beach, and the other eastern suburbs beaches on summer weekends.

Travel times from the CBD to the Sydney outskirts can take around 45 minutes in good traffic.


Some motorways, tunnels and bridges in Sydney charge tolls.

The M4, M5 and Eastern Distributor Motorway northbound have tolls that can be paid in cash, between $2.50 and $5.

The Harbour Bridge and Tunnel, Cross City Tunnel, Lane Cove Tunnel, M7 and the Falcon Street northbound motorway entrance use electronic tolling only and if you use these you need to decide how you will pay the toll. You can easily avoid the Lane Cove Tunnel, M7 or Falcon Street on-ramp if you like. It is hard to avoid the harbour crossings if you are going to Manly, or the Northern Beaches or the zoo by car.

The choice is to have a temporary pass or a pre-purchased tag.

- Visitors can purchase a pass (also called an e-pass) up to 48 hours after travelling on a toll road. A pass involves registering your licence plate number and credit card on the website, and when your licence plate is scanned on an electronic toll road, your credit card is charged. The Sydney Motorways website provides links to pass providers. You can get a visitor e-pass that lasts for up to 30 days. The cost is $1.50 to register online, and 75c on top of each toll as a processing charge. You can't use an e-pass on motorways that accept cash.
- A tag (also called an E-tag) is an RFID transponder stuck to the inside of your windscreen, and linked to a account you set up. You can purchase a visitor's tag from any motor registry before travelling on a toll road for $5 and set up an account linked to your credit card. It is worthwhile considering if you are staying in Sydney for a while, or if you are using other tollways interstate.

A capital 'E' marked on the lane indicates it accepts a tag and a lower case 'e' indicates it accepts a pass.
Be careful, watch ahead which lane to choose! Sometimes you are already on the wrong lane and can't change anymore. So you might be on a 'E' or 'e' line and if you don't have a pass, you'll get send a ticket to your registration address! That will even get more expensive. The signs for the 'E'/'e' lines are not very tourist friendly posted!

If you are in a rental car and do not pay the toll, the rental car company may charge an administration fee in addition to the toll and the fine to your credit card if you do not make the effort to pay. Take care to cancel your pass account if it is linked to a hire car registration number. The RTA will allow you to specify start and end times for the e-pass period to avoid these problems.


Parking your car in the Sydney CBD is always possible but expensive. Expect to pay up to $70 per day or $25 per hour at some central parking lots, and around $25 even with specials. Reduced parking charges are made for early bird parking, where you must enter and leave within prescribed times. For example you can park all day at the Opera House for $16 provides you enter before 10AM and leave between 3PM and 7PM. There is no grace period, so you can't get out even one minute before 3PM, and you will be charged the day parking rate of $42 if you are 10 seconds late. Most city parking lots offer reduced flat fees (around $15-$25) for evening and weekend parking.

CBD hotels invariably charge for parking for the guests.

Similar prices are charged in North Sydney.

Parking in many major suburban centres and beaches can be a matter of spending time cruising and searching for parking spots. All day street parking is rare around the city suburban shopping centres.

Some train stations have all day free commuter parking. A major stations this can be full by 8AM. Smaller stations with less frequent train service tend to have better parking availability. Weekends are generally no problem.

Parking at some beaches on summer weekends can often be near impossible. Some beaches are in suburban neighbourhoods, without large car parking facilities.

Parking fines in Sydney are $80 if you exceed the allowed parking time. Reloading the meter, or moving your car within the same parking zone will not get you out of a fine. If you park illegally and wait with your car, you may find you have the licence place photographed and fined before you have the chance to move on, don't expect a warning. If you park illegally in a disabled spot, the fine is $375. If you do get fined for exceeding time, you will not be fined again the same day--so enjoy your parking spot.

Be aware of parking in clearways, which are no stopping zones on main roads during peak periods. Fines will be around $400 to reclaim your car after it is towed away. Clearways also offer parking opportunites if you try to park at 10AM or 7PM when the clearway periods end.

Sydney video in DivX Quality:

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