An Update on my First Week in Oz

So I have arrived safe and sound in Sydney finally! After all my planning and saving I can’t believe I’m finally here.


It’s day five and I think I’m only getting over the jet lag now! Our flights were extremely long with two stopovers in Amsterdam and Hong Kong. Darren – the lucky thing – slept most of the flights, while I sat wide eyed beside him, shaking him awake every time the food trolley passed by!


Flying over Hong Kong city.

Getting through emigration


We arrived in Sydney about 8pm Sunday night – 11am Irish time. We made our way to immigration with passports and our visa approval letter. We weren’t asked for proof of funds, address of our intended place to stay, whether we had a return flight or any other forms of documents.


The whole process was extremely quick and I couldn’t believe this is all we needed for a year’s working holiday in Australia. When I applied for a J1 Visa to America, I had to visit the US embassy in Dublin for an interview, surrender my passport for inspection and also had documents stapled into its pages and stickers stuck on the front of it! My US visa took up a whole page in my passport compared to the nice discrete stamp I received from the Australian immigration.


Darren went on our connecting flight to Sydney.


First night in Sydney
I was extremely lucky to have some friends living over here in Sydney and we organised with them to collect us from the airport. This was SO handy as the jet lag was crazy and we were so tired after our three flights.

But it wasn’t home to bed as Ireland were playing France in the Euros at 11pm! So it was a race to the store to grab some booze for the match – literally a race as the liquor stores here close at 10pm. Sydney has new strict alcohol laws here with 1.30am lockouts and 3am last drinks.

If you can’t organise a lift from the airport, don’t worry as the trains work really well over here. Use the Google Maps app or TripViewLite app to navigate your way through the public transport.




Second day
My two friends Natalie and Niall were kind enough to offer us a bed in their house until we find our feet! At the moment we’re sleeping the sitting room, but in a couple of nights one of the guys living here is going home to Italy for one month and he needs someone to cover his rent. From next week we will be moving into his room until the 4th August.


Our bed for the next week.


Our second day was a bit of a write-off as we slept most of it. I was a bit taken aback to see sheets of raining bucketing down outside when we did finally wake up! People kept warning me about the Sydney winter here, but I just laughed it off. I wish I had listened! I did bring a few jumpers, but I’m thinking I’ll have to buy a heavier jacket soon, as it can get pretty nippy here in the mornings and at night!

Third day

By Tuesday we were over the worst of the jet lag and decided to venture into the city. We currently live in the suburbs west of the city, but a 30-minute train ride and we’re into Central Sydney. A necessity for living in Sydney is an Opal Card. It works on all public transport in Sydney – trains, buses and even ferries. It’s simple to use: tap on before you get on and tap off when you leave.



Darling Harbour is beautiful; a must visit.



We hadn’t sorted out Australian SIM cards yet, but were happy to find that Three Network have abolished roaming charges in seven countries including Australia, so we happily used our Google Maps to navigate our way around the city easily.



To think this is winter in Oz!



The rain eased off , out came the sun and soon enough it was reaching 18 degrees! headed down to Darling Harbour, not a far walk from the train station so don’t bother with a bus. Sipping our coffees and soaking in the morning sun we nearly fell over laughing when we saw a group of construction workers setting up a “winter wonderland” complete with fake snow and an ice rink….in June!!!



I wore a jumper, hoodie, jacket and scarf in on the train and by the time we reached the city I was cursing I didn’t wear a tshirt!



From here we went to the aquarium at Darling Harbour. To be honest once you’ve seen one aquarium you’ve seen them all, but it was a nice experience and we saw a few sharks! If you’re tight on cash I’d give this one a miss as it’s $40 and over in under two hours.




We took a stroll over to Sydney Harbour from here, it’s a long enough walk but taking a route through the Sydney CBD was worth a look.



Sydney Business District.


The Opera House was absolutely gorgeous. We couldn’t stop laughing at all the Australians walking around in their heaviest clothes, while we had to stop to buy sun screen!! We shamelessly spent ten minutes taking touristy pictures in front of the Opera House and documented the day on snapchat (Keelin21)!



We strolled all the way up the Harbour and back and stopped in one of the restaurants for lunch. Be warned, prepare to spend a good few bucks on lunch here! Although most places did a lunch special between 2-5pm.


Be warned…the seagulls attack anyone and anything at the restaurants!


Fourth day 

One thing Darren and I absolutely love is the zoo…cheesy I know! Every country we’re in we visit one, and are regulars at the Dublin zoo, so Sydney was no different!




We visited the Taronga Zoo, one of Australia’s largest tourist attractions. At $46 a ticket, it’s not too pricey for what you get. We spent about five hours walking around the 52-acre park and didn’t get to see it all! As it’s winter here the zoo was surprisingly very quiet and felt like we had the place to ourselves at some points! I dread to think what it would be like in high season, so I was delighted to get one-on-one time with some kangaroos and not be pushed away by the crowds.




When I was a kid I came to this exact zoo so was a trip down memory lane to return. One interesting change I noticed was the interaction with the animals. Last time I was here I got to hold and cuddle the koalas.


This time we paid an extra $25 for “an encounter” with one koala. However this didn’t include any touching as strict protection laws have since been introduced into New South Wales. A few quick photos and information session with the keeper is all we were allowed.



I would not recommend paying for any encounters with the animals at the zoo. It’s an extra expense on top of your ticket fare and a quick Google will bring up better places where you can have more personalised encounters with animals elsewhere.


The kanagroos were friendly and relaxed so we got up close and personal with these for free.


Fifth day
Thursday was a lot cooler so we got a few chores done: grocery shopping, opening bank accounts, preparations for jobs, etc. In the afternoon we hopped on a bus out to Bondi Beach and I immediately fell in love with the place. It’s a lot quieter at the moment so it will be interesting to see what it’s like in the summer time. There’s a big Irish community here with lots of Irish pubs and restaurants and familiar accents.




When we got off bus, I couldn’t believe how tiny Bondi Beach actually is. Our beaches at home are twice the size at least! But it’s still beautiful and we had a nice peaceful afternoon watching the surfers ride the winter waves.


Next week
We were lucky enough to get jobs without really trying! As I’ve mentioned before I am taking a year out of the media, so I managed to pick up a job in an Irish cafe as a barista without any coffee experience! You can pay to do barista courses here so I have one booked for next week then I’ll be starting work! Darren got a job in construction and he has just completed a course online (white card), which is necessary to work in construction.
So for now I’m going to enjoy the weekend before I start work next week, and get out as much as possible as it’s meant to be raining all week next week! Keep an eye on Sun Scribes for another update and hopefully a plan for some upcoming trips too!


Here are some pictures of my time here so far, hope you enjoy them!




Keelin Riley
Keelin Riley

Keelin is an Irish travel writer with a degree in journalism and a background in the Irish media. Keelin’s travel writing has been published in various media publications, and when she’s not off gallivanting around the globe, she enjoys keeping Sun Scribes up-to-date for all those fellow budget travellers out there!

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