Sarah Green details the go-to spots in Sydney, Australia, and how to blend in like you’re local.

As one of the planet’s most expensive destinations, Sydney can sometimes deter budget conscious visitors at the initial onset. But with a flurry of affordable boutique hotels cropping up, alongside a multitude of free attractions inundating the city, New South Wales seems have started wearing its frugal-conscious hat once again. Downtown hotel chains cost a small fortune (at least a few hundred dollars a night) for the kudos of being slap bang in the city center, so visitors are now venturing slightly off the beaten path and chartering into more affordable, local territory.

Visiting like a Local
Being a tourist in a new city doesn’t mean you need to wear a 1980’s camera slapped around your neck, with tanned legs at the front, white at the back and safari shirts. The days of looking like a typical visitor are now long gone and a global trend has rapidly accelerated from visitors wanting to experience a city like a local. For Sydneysiders, the native residents, they now don’t know who lives in their city versus obvious tourists, as the morphing together of similar travel attributes have reached an impressive synergy. Locals are renowned at taking the ferry to and from work around the Harbour. Tourists have been following suit for a few years now, using water boats to zip around NSW instead of typical double decker hop-on-hop-off buses. Cycling is huge in the city, not only because it’s healthy but as it’s sometimes a faster route to and from a destination.

You’ll now not know the difference between a local on a two wheeler or a tourist in town for a week. Both modes of transportation are affordable in comparison to renting cars or taking taxis, and the scenery along the way is more enjoyable. There are a number of bike rental places including this beauty, simply known as Bike Hire while TripView’s app will give you real time ferry (and all public transport) details.

Attractions, Near Compliments of Sydney
Throughout the year, one off and annual events take place every day with an incessant stream of entertainment for the masses. Some are major conferences and exhibitions, others are slapped together by locals who wing it in the hope that it takes off. On any given Sunday, Monday or Thursday, visitors can easily magnetize towards free or cheap events such as the regular Rock N Roll Alternative Market, annual spectacular Vivid Sydney and Bastille Day, The Rocks. For those  looking for a bit of Zen in their life, the free walks at the Botanic Gardens is a must. Don’t forget to wander into the Chinese Garden of Friendship and enjoy a few minutes of serenity. We tried to pinpoint a few more freebie attractions from this list on Weekend Notes but it was hard to narrow them down.

Deciding whether karaoke or afternoon acting classes would be highlighted or if free Monday movie nights and Dragon Boat Racing should be magnified, it was a tough decision. So we decided to feature them all. Then again, if you’re a music lover and really want to experience Sydney at its best, how about taking Guitar for Beginners? Something to post on your Facebook page as an original way to spend part of a vacay, right?

Resting Weary Heads at Night
As mentioned above, hotel costs are the biggest stickler, guaranteeing the horrifying balance on your credit card statement the month after booking a trip. Accommodation costs can literally eat up a good 50 percent of a holiday budget, alongside the time wasted scrambling around trying to find deals online.

Consumers spend average nine hours booking travel and we think that’s over eight hours too long.

When you’re planning your Sydney trip, account that the off beaten track hotels don’t need to be in a secluded area, surrounded by the equivalent of the Black Forest and requiring three trains and a helicopter to get you to your destination. There are easier ways to book budget friendly travel and here are three hotels that have kept visitor credit cards from melting.

Cremorne Point Manor – It’s one of Sydney’s oldest and most reputable hotels, situated in an affluent hood of Cremorne Point. Not only does this 4 star AAA rated boutique establishment have some of the most envious views of the Harbor, Bridge and Opera House but it’s right by the famous Maccallum Pool and walking trails. If you’re extra lucky, the hotel prides that guests can occasionally hear the lions roar at nearby Taronga Zoo. With only 29 bedrooms and rates starting $125 (unless you want to splash out on their stunning full floor Penthouse suite), you’re only a few minutes walk to the nearest ferry port. And that ferry takes around 10 balmy and serene minutes to get you to Circular Quay – where a good chunk of the sightseeing action is.

Glenferrie Lodge – How about staying in one of the trendiest locations in Sydney, on the same street as the Prime Minister’s residence and a hop, skip and jump away from trendy bars and restaurants? If this got you chomping at the bit, Glenferrie Lodge is going to be right up your alley.

Rates start at $79 (most rooms have shared bathrooms), it’s one of the city’s few pet friendly hotels and this 3 star hotel has a stunning, guest-only garden.

Pretty ideal for chilling with a glass of vino and talking banter with other visitors about hidden gem travel scoops you all discovered. As with Cremorne Point Manor, a short walk, a short ferry and you’re right in the bowels of the Opera House once again.

Dalziel Lodge – If a more relaxed and slightly, off beat hotel is what you need while wanting the option of bounding into the thick of tourist world, Dalziel Lodge may be your best bet.

This 3.5 star, sensational heritage building has been recently renovated. It has a beautiful guest-only garden and patio, a lounge and modern kitchen for you to keep those coffers down versus having to splash out on expensive dinners.

With rooms from $75 (shared bathroom), you’re pretty much guaranteed to meet trendy flash-packers also staying at the Lodge – and everyone knows flash-packers have the best budget friendly travel tips so double bonus to you, right?

If you want to gain triple points, account that the Lodge is near the famous Luna Park, which is near the ferry, which is (again) a short boat ride to the Harbour.

Seven Days of Aussie Heaven
Visiting Sydney doesn’t have to be expensive and shouldn’t be put off because of budget restraints. Flight price aside, you could absolutely enjoy the city for a week on just under $1000 including accommodation, public transit, free or cheap events and street food snacks.

The more you put one step in front of the other and get a bit lost in Sydney, the more locals you’ll meet and hey, you never know where else you could end up. Possibly a Sydneysider BBQ, free music festivals or a complimentary Zumba class!