Thursday, November 8, 2018

Using the Sydney Australia Tap On Tap Off OPAL Card

First thing I'm going to do is put the link for the New South Wales transport authority that can be used to plan itineraries on the bus, train, and ferry system. I used it extensively while still home to get an estimate of what our transportation costs would be so I could put the appropriate amount of dollars on our Opal cards.

Once in Sydney, I used the NSW transport authority site to find out the numbers of the trains and buses we would need to get from 'here to there.' Very easy to use and very helpful.

When we arrived at the airport, I bought our Opal cards at the WH Smith store, located after the customs area. For a couple of reasons, I decided to overestimate the amount of AUD$ we would need on the card. Essentially, (not having a smartphone) I didn't want to deal with checking what the balance was and then finding a place to top off the cards if necessary.

Well, it turns out that keeping track of the balance is really easy because every time you tap off when exiting a bus, train or ferry there's a small monitor that tells you what the balance is. And every station had a kiosk for buying or topping off a card. Topping off the card would have been a very simple thing to do and I could have put less money on the cards to start with. 

So we did end up with money left over on the cards but not because I didn't do a good job estimating our pre-cruise transportation costs. We ended up with money left on the cards because of a couple of things I didn't expect. For instance, our plan for the day of arrival (figuring we'd be tired and just want some easy sightseeing) was to take the ferry to Parramatta, wander a bit, then take the ferry back. But instead, we ended up staying on the ferry for the return trip back to Circular Quay. I really thought that when we tapped the Opal card on exiting the pier back at Circular Quay that it would deduct round trip to Parramatta. It didn't. Only one-way was deducted.

Ditto with a ferry ride to Manly. We rode over getting some nice water views of the Sydney Opera House and then rode back. Again, only charged for one way. We didn't realize that there was no tap off on rides to and from Manly because they were nonstop.

And after our ferry ride, we took the bus to the train station and then the train back to our hotel area. Because we got on the bus less than an hour after tapping off the ferry and then tapping on the train less than an hour after tapping off the bus, there was no charge. These were transfers and the ferry fare covered both additional fares. 

OK ... no problem. We'll just hang onto the cards and use them for more train/bus/ferry rides for the day we had post-cruise. That day we rode all over and was surprised that after a small deduction, all the fares were $0.00! Well, what I found out later was that being a Sunday, adult fares were capped at AUD$2.70 for the entire day!

So my recommendation is to start off with the minimum that you think you will need. And then top off as you go along.

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