Sydney: Day 1 Flight and Arrival

Travel Period : 1 May – 7 May 2014

Scoot Flight 

After a pleasant on-board experience with SCOOT Airlines during our trip to Taiwan, it has earned our trust and become our first choice of budget airlines for our Sydney trip.

We opted to take a budget flight this time as we prefer to spend more on the accommodation and experience in Australia itself, than on the 7-hour flight. Our flight there would be a midnight flight so we would be spending more time sleeping on board anyway. As for the entertainment during our return day flight, we will have our Apple iDevices (fully charged!) to keep us entertained. Dar would have his drawing set to keep him occupied too.

We took the FlyBagEat option instead of the bare-bone Fly option, which gave us 15kg check-in luggage each and in-flight meal.

Check-in luggage is a must for us since the 7kg cabin baggage per person would be insufficient, especially when we needed to pack more warm clothing for this trip in Autumn. A good thing about their check-in luggage policy is that an individual luggage can exceed the 15kg weight limit, as long as it is not heavier than 35kg and the combined weight of all the check-in luggage do not exceed our total allowable limit (i.e. 15kg x 3 = 45kg for our case). Therefore, we need not worry about our heaviest luggage exceeding 15kg when packing.

As for the in-flight food option, we would prefer to fill our stomach on board than to spend time searching for our first meal upon arrival. This will allow us to make the best use of our time.

SCOOT’s check-in counter opens 3 hours before departure. Since our flight departs at the wee hour of 1.45am (well, that’s one of the downsides of taking a budget airline ^^|), we decided to arrive earlier at the airport to avoid the taxi’s midnight surcharge.

When it was finally time to board the flight, we were almost dozing off (“My eyes are closing and I can’t wait to sleep on board!”) since it was already past 1am. Boarding was swift and we were glad to have been assigned to the 3-seater window seats (that’s the advantage of traveling in threes) in the middle section with mostly unobstructed view, as we know Dar loves watching the scenery outside, when it was morning during our arrival time.

The flight took off on time and we had a pleasant journey, with help from our neck pillows and eye masks. At about 9am Australian Time (they are two hours ahead of Singapore’s), we were served our breakfasts of mushroom baked rice, green tea (one can choose Coke too) and a small can of Pringles potato chips (Dar’s favorite is the Original flavor and we could choose this or the Sour Cream flavor) as snacks.

Our flight arrived 20 minutes before schedule as we touched down at Sydney International Airport with a beautiful lake beside the runway. In fact, we were so early that the ground crew were not yet ready to welcome us. We thus had to wait another 5 to 10 minutes more before we were allowed to leave the plane.

Arrival and The Search for Optus

We were excited to finally arrive at Sydney Airport after the 7-hour flight and were glad we went through the customs smoothly, collected our check-in luggage and arrived at the Arrivals Halls. We were especially pleased with the crowd control while queueing at the Customs. It led to efficient processing of arriving visitors. That was so unlike the rude service we experienced back at Frankfurt International Airport.

“Where is the Optus shop?” This was my first thought after reaching the Arrivals Hall, as our eyes scanned around the area for the mobile shop which we were going to get our prepaid SIM Card from.

Optus, one of the largest mobile service provider in Sydney, has a $2/day plan with unlimited calls and text messages, and 500Mb of data for use daily. That is a good bargain compared to our plans in Singapore. With the SIM card, we will just have to top up the card with either A$10 or A$20, giving a 5 or 10-day access respectively.

We were dismayed however, when we saw a snaking queue at the first Optus shop we saw, located right at the exit of the Arrivals Hall. What’s worse, there was only ONE counter with ONE staff serving the many (potential) customers.

How could we still say ‘Yes’ to Optus even if we wanted to?

What’s making the wait even longer was that many of the queueing customers did not do their research prior to their trip and the staff had to waste more time explaining to them what are the plans they offer. Well, guess we can’t be expecting most other visitors to be as ‘hardworking’ as us…

After queueing for a while with no movement in the queue, we gave up waiting and moved on. As we walked towards the Airport Link Train Station, we came across another Optus shop. This time round, they were two open counters so we thought, “Hmm… It could only get better this time…”

And so, we queued on the shorter queue, expecting the waiting time to be shorter. How wrong can this move be? Answer: VERY! 🙁

Once the staff finished serving his current customer, he suddenly asked the entire group of about TEN Chinese tourists chatting and waiting by the far side (nearer to the OTHER counter) to come over, just because ONE of them was queueing in our queue!! We were so pissed off with their way of serving their customers and left the queue in disgust.

So how did we manage to get our Optus Card in the end?

I would share more about this in Side-Story: Misleading Hunt for the Optus Card.

Airport Link – Train to Hotel 

Putting our disappointment behind us, we told ourselves we would just go get our prepaid cards in the city after checking in our hotel. We then arrived at the International Airport Train Station and bought a Weekly Multi 3 and Weekly Gatepass for each of us (Update: They seem to have been replaced with the Opal Card), which are very convenient and economical for our itinerary (see? That’s the advantage of doing our homework in advance ^^)

The Weekly Multi 3 will cover all public transport in Sydney, including train rides to as far as Katoomba (Blue Mountains) and Picton (Trainworks). If we were to buy the cheaper Multi 1 or 2 passes, these train rides would not be covered as they are outside the designated zones.

A Gatepass is needed for each passenger taking a train ride to or from the Domestic or International Airport stations. Since a Weekly Gatepass costs cheaper than two separate single Gatepass and is valid up to seven days (we will be departing Australia on the 7th day), it definitely makes more economic sense to get this.

(Note: The above two passes could have been replaced by the Opal Card since our trip there)

Learn more about these passes and taking public transport in Sydney in this post.

Convenient Lift to Train Platform

The train soon arrived and we took it to Central Station (just a 13-minute ride; how convenient!), where our accommodation Mercure Hotel is at. Dar was very excited to see and be seated in the double-decker train, the type of trains which almost all of Sydney’s regional trains are. He would choose the lower deck seats so that he could be closer to the train platforms and tracks. We had a nice comfy ride on their cushioned seats.

“Where should we go from here?” The thought ran through our minds when we arrived at Central Station, as I have forgotten to check out the correct direction to head to our hotel from this station. Central Station is huge and there are many exits. I had expected to rely on Google Maps on our phones but without any 3G/4G connectivity available (we didn’t expect not able to get a prepaid card at the airport), we could only rely on traditional paper maps, which I, well… forgot to print a copy of. 🙁

We ended up taking a huge detour around the station with our luggage, before we finally saw and reached the hotel (15-min walk). Along the way, we caught our first glimpse into Sydney’s city sights. People walking in a hurry and busy traffic on the road.

If we had taken the correct exit (i.e. towards Railway Square), we would have reached there easily via an underpass directly from the station in about 5 minutes! An important lesson learnt — To make ample preparation on directions to our hotel for our next trips. This is especially important since we would be moving about with our luggage.

Finally, our hotel!

{ Accommodation }

Location : Mercure Sydney Hotel
Choice due to: Within walking distance to the Central Train Station and nearby attractions
Nearest Station: Central Station
Costs: Twin-Bed ; 763 AUD for 4 Nights

[ CAT ] : We booked directly with the hotel and got the best rate for 4 nights. The last night was cheaper than the rest resulting in a cheaper total pricing compared to when we booked via agent sites. With the included continental breakfast for us (two adults included, with children eating free), this was a good rate.

We were satisfied with our room as there were two large beds suitable for the three of us. I was surprised by the purple and large mirror used in the room which gave it a romantic feel. The large window gave a good view to the streets below and day/night blinds were provided.

We love the spacious bathroom and Dar acquired a nightly routine to play in the bathtub while we surfed on our iPads or work on travel blog entries. The Wi-Fi is not free so we used the Optus Card from my mobile to do our hot spot sharing of Internet access.

Emerging from the room the first day, we went to check out the indoor swimming pool with water that is heated. There was no people around at that time and being a Thursday, there were not many guests. It would have been perfect as if it was a private pool for us. Safety is a consideration though since it is at an isolated area up a flight of stairs. I don’t feel safe for Vin to go there by himself with no one around. Alas, we had limited time in our sight-seeing and were anxious to continue our find for the Optus Card. During our stay, we walked so much during our sight-seeing that we had no energy left when we returned. Hence, we didn’t have the chance to use it at all, which was disappointing.

Breakfast 

The breakfast was great and varied as it was an international buffet with some changes in food daily. We were able to enjoy Western food like sausages, bacon, scrambled eggs, hash browns, bread and jams. I also tried the Chinese food dishes such as porridge with condiments (plain taste) and boiled eggs. There were also gluten-free bread and food (clearly labelled). Even though there was a spread, we didn’t eat a lot as we were in a rush to head to our sight-seeing activities. Besides, we wanted to save our stomach for food tasting elsewhere in Sydney.

Con: They charged us wrongly for a room service of food which we didn’t order at all. During our checking out, the manager promised to cancel immediately and refund us when we declared this was a wrong charge. As we were heading to the Blue Mountains by train, we were in a rush and thought we could trust her and left. Yesterday, we discovered they hadn’t taken that charge away so we are resolving the issue. (Already 15 days later) Well, we emailed them and they replied today they will refund us. #Updated: They had since done so.

Very Disappointing service for a well-known hotel chain. We had stayed in various hotels over the years and this is the first time such a thing had happened to us. Please make sure to get their cancellation receipt next time and check every item on your bill.

To us, this ‘wrong calculation’ happened in Australia more frequently than in other countries we had been to. We had this happened to us at another eatery too where they charged us for something we did not order.

{ Next Post: Side-Story on Our Quest for Optus Card }

  1. kai June 6, 2014 at 11:40 pm

    HI, nice blog you have here! Very informative for my upcoming trip! Anw, do you remember how much is the weekly gatepass? Are we able to get the weekly gatepass at the normal ticket counters? I have read about the weekly gatepass but can’t seem to find any official information regarding it. Thanks in advance!

    1. Vin June 7, 2014 at 11:05 am

      Hi Kai,

      Thanks for the support and encouragement! Glad we are of help to your upcoming trip!

      Regarding the Weekly GatePass, we did not manage to find any info on official sites too but through some forums, travelers to Sydney mentioned that it does exist.

      Here is the pricing you requested:

      Weekly GatePass (Unlimited airport transfers for 7 days) — Adults ($21 each) / Child ($19)

      More information can be found here.

      1. Kai June 7, 2014 at 11:16 am

        Hi Vin,

        Thanks alot for your help! I really look forward to reading your subsequent posts!

        1. Vin June 7, 2014 at 10:33 pm

          Kai,

          You are welcomed! Your kind words are our best form of encouragement! ^^

          We hope you will also LIKE our Facebook Page to keep yourself updated on our latest posts! Thanks! ^^

  2. Wayee April 7, 2016 at 8:18 pm

    Thanks for sharing your travel experience in Sydney. Can I ask why taxi has not been a consideration since your family of 3 in a cab will cost about $40 to $50?

    1. Vin April 11, 2016 at 4:13 pm

      Hi Wayee,

      We didn’t really consider taxis as the metro and bus infrastructure are easily accessible and convenient in Sydney.

      Furthermore, the Weekly Multi 3 pass entitled us to travel for free on these public transport, so it certainly helped us save up a lot! (It appears that the pass has been phased out and replaced by the Opal Card though)

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