With the Australian dollar at an all-time high, “budget Sydney” may seem like a bit of a contradiction. But even if you’re strapped for cash, the best of Sydney can be done cheaply and without skimping on the fun. Whether you’re visiting relatives, going to study or planning a vacation, there are oodles of things to do on the cheap, and with this handy guide, you’ll even have a few dollars left over for a Fosters and a meat pie on the way back to your hotel. Snooze Located right in the heart of the action, Vibe ( www.vibehotels.com.au ) offers contemporary and stylish rooms from $1,014 per night (USD130). Enjoy the funky rooftop pool, relax in the sauna or grab a meal in Curve Bar, where the bubbly waitstaff are all too happy to mix you a cocktail or deliver a fresh and affordable meal while you watch the Sydneysiders scurrying by. If you’re a lover of boutique hotels, the Pensione ( www.pensione.com.au ) offers simple, comfy rooms from $717 (USD92) per night, as well as a guest lounge with laundry facilities, a kitchenette and wifi access. For even cheaper accommodation, book a dorm or private room at Big Hostel ( www.bighostel.com ) in Sydney’s central business district from as little as $202 (USD26) per day, which includes a light continental breakfast. Big Hostel is perfectly positioned on the doorstep of major attractions, cool restaurants and nightclubs, and offers guests a lounge and dining area, a discount travel center and rooftop parties. Munch There are tons of hip, inexpensive places to eat in Sydney. Check out Bar Italia (169-171 Norton St., Leichhardt, 02-9560-9981) – a vibrant, cozy restaurant in Leichhardt, Sydney’s Little Italy. It serves up scrumptious, plentiful portions of pasta and has a fantastic gelato bar. If you’re staying in the city, wander over to Fujiya (L/1, 605 George St., Haymarket, 02-9283-2268) a tasty Japanese serving all the favorites at about $145 (USD18) a head. Get there early on a weekend, before it gets busy, and knock back the yummy chuhai cocktails. Hop on a train to Redfern station and stroll over to Cleveland Street, with its plethora of affordable restaurants. The Lebanese joint, Habibi’s (272 Cleveland St, Surry Hills, 02-9699-3200) has set menus from $174 (USD22), including delectable desserts and coffee – and with private cushion rooms at no extra cost and belly dancers at weekends, it’s a great and cheap night out. Guzzle Sydney has a fantastic nightlife and there are some fabulous places to grab a few drinks while taking in the scenery. Tucked away on level four of the CBD’s Skygarden Shopping Centre, Roof Bar ( www.roofbar.com.au ) is a unique garden bar with a happy hour at rock-bottom prices: from 5pm on Thursdays, grab some house drinks for $21 (USD2). Lads will enjoy the free pool on Tuesdays, the ladies will flock to Wednesday’s cocktail night, and with free munchies for all on Fridays from 6pm, Roof Bar is on the money (or lack thereof). On Darling Harbour’s Cockle Bay Wharf, the popular Blackbird Café ( www.blackbirdcafe.com.au ) offers $86 (USD11) all-day food deals from Monday to Wednesday and on Sundays, as well as cocktails (during cocktail hour from 6-7pm). Don’t miss happy hour, with half-priced drinks Monday to Saturday from 5-6pm and Sundays, 3-6pm. Just over the Harbour Bridge, Thursday at the Greenwood Hotel , North Sydney ( www.greenwoodhotel.com.au ) sees trendy, young Sydneysiders enjoying free admission and happy hour from 8pm, with $21 (USD2) house spirits and dancing to hip -op tunes in the courtyard or house sounds in the cocktail bar. It’s a great way to kick off the weekend early. Play Sydney is renowned for its stunning beaches and beautiful weather, and visiting the suburb of Manly is a must. Take a ferry ( www.manlyaustralia.com.au ), stroll along the promenade, grab some fish and chips, and head down to the beach for a dip. For the fitness nut, take the Manly to Spit scenic walk, offering 10km of bushland and beautiful harbor views. Or for something a little less strenuous, try the 15-minute North Head walk. Also by the water is Luna Park ( www.lunaparksydney.com ), a historic theme park that opened in 1935 on the harbor’s edge. Entry is free, and if you’re keen on rides, purchase a Sampler Pass for $145 (USD18), allowing unlimited goes on the carousel and other carnival amusements. Then, pop next door and cool off in North Sydney Pool (4 Alfred St South, Milsons Point, 02-9955-2309, overlooking Sydney Harbour and the Harbour Bridge. An adult ticket costs $39 (USD5), or for $72 (USD9.20) you can access the pool, sauna and spa. Sure the “Bridge Climb” over Sydney’s Harbour Bridge is a little expensive, but you can walk up one of the pylons to the Pylon Lookout ( www.pylonlookout.com.au ), 87 meters above sea level, for only $68 (USD8.70). Before heading back to your hotel, walk through the Royal Botanic Gardens ( www.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au ), then suck up some culture at the Art Gallery of New South Wales , where entry is free for most exhibitions ( www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au ). Next, grab some great bargains at the markets and secondhand shops. Glebe Markets ( www.glebemarkets.com.au ) has groovy, pre-loved clothing and arts and crafts (every Saturday from 10am), or hit up Paddy’s Markets ( www.paddysmarkets.com.au ) for reasonably priced clothes, accessories and souvenirs (Thu, from 10am and Fri-Sun from 9am). Also, Market City ( www.marketcity.com.au ) in Chinatown and DFO ( www.dfo.com.au ) in Homebush are overloaded with factory stores offering up to 70 percent off clothing, shoes and accessories. A Day Away If you’re here for a week, then consider a day trip outside Sydney. Wine lovers should make the two-hour journey to the Hunter Valley ( www.winecountry.com.au ). Rover Coaches ( www.rovercoaches.com.au ) will take you on a boozy day-long wine tasting tour for $645 (USD83). If stunning scenery is more your thing, then get on a train to the Blue Mountains ( www.bluemts.com.au ) and check out the Three Sisters – a striking rock formation that forms part of an Aboriginal dreamtime legend – or the Jenolan Caves, where tours start from $167 (USD21). The Central Coast ( www.cctourism.com.au ), about an hour-and-a-half from Sydney, is lined with beautiful beaches. Get a train to Gosford, then a bus to Terrigal or Avoca Beach, and learn to surf at the Central Coast Surf School ( www.centralcoastsurfschool.com.au ) with your mate for $436 (USD56) per person. Zoom Getting around Sydney is easy. Pick up a $115 (USD14) DayTripper ticket ( www.131500.com.au ) for unlimited travel on trains, buses and ferries. If you’d prefer to have someone else choose the itinerary, hop on the Sydney Explorer ( www.sydneypass.info ) bus that visits famed attractions including the Opera House, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kings Cross and the Rocks. Prices start from $282 (USD36) for a one-day ticket that includes admission on the Bondi Explorer passing through Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs, out to Watson’s Bay, and to the world-famous Bondi Beach. Taxis aren’t worth the price (USD1.50 or HK$12 per km) – and when public transport is so simple, why not see Sydney as the locals do?