How to travel to Sydney Airport for $10 by Train

How to travel to Sydney Airport for $10 by Train

Disclaimer: Please be aware this post discusses a process that may considered to sit in a "grey area" (legally speaking).

Train to Sydney Domestic/International Airport for $10

Here's a neat and simple trick to travel to Sydney Airport (either International or Domestic) for $10 by train. The steps are actually quite simple and it does not require much additional effort. This does not work taking the train from either Airport stations.

This has previously been discussed on various forums such as Reddit and Ozbargain so is actually not a new "trick". In fact, I am genuinely surprised that this still works today.


My TLDR/Summary for this post are simply the steps, as follows:

  1. Buy a brand new Opal Card with the minimum top up amount ($10) from a retailer (e.g. Convenience Store, Woolworths)
    • If you want it to be able to pay $9.50 for this, follow the guide here. This involves purchasing the Opal Card from Woolworths using a Woolworths eGift Card purchased at 5% off.
  2. Tap on at whichever train station you are travelling from
  3. Tap off at the airport - the amount shown will be in the negatives
  4. Throw the Opal Card away

You could, alternatively, use an Opal Card you already have. However, to optimise this you'll want to get the balance below $10, but above the minimum required balance for travel. You can work out what the minimum is below.

Want to understand how this hack works? Here's some further reading.

  • The Opal Card has no deposit and is effectively a "free" travel card for travelling on public transport in Sydney (unlike Melbourne's Myki). An Opal Card with $10 credit costs $10.
  • The Opal Card ordinarily does not go into a negative balance, but is able to because..
  • The minimum balance required to travel is dependent on these factors:
    • Mode of transport (e.g. Train, Bus, Ferry)
    • Time of the day
    • Day of the week
  • The minimum balance required is determined by the minimum possible fare on the mode of transport at the time and day of the week you are travelling. As an example, the cheapest train fare during off peak hours is $2.36 ($2.42 from 3 July 2017)
  • This also theoretically means you could use an Opal Card you already use/own, provided the balance is less than $10 but more than $2.36 to travel to the Airport stations for less than $10
  • The issue with doing this is that this Opal Card is most likely registered to your name - i.e. if you go into negative, Sydney Trains & co. know who you are!
  • You could of course, unregister your Opal Card from your account and use it in this way if you please.

FAQs:

  • Q: Does this work if changing modes of transport?
  • A: Yes, subject to the minimum balance requirement outlined above which is determined by mode of transport, day of the week and time of the day

  • Q: Does this work if arriving in Sydney, leaving the Airport stations?

  • A: No, because the minimum balance required factors in the "Station Access" fee - and therefore the minimum required balance is ~$15

  • Q: What are some alternatives?

  • A:

    • [Domestic Airport] Catch the train to Mascot and then:
      • Walk (~15 minutes)
      • Catch an Uber/GoCatch
      • Catch the 400 bus
    • [International Airport] Catch the train to Wolli Creek and walk/Uber/GoCatch or train to Rockdale/Banksa and then catch the 400 bus
    • 2+ of you travelling from the city? Get an Uber/GoCatch
  • Q: Is this legal?

  • A: Probably not illegal, but against the rules of Opal Card usage, I'd imagine.
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