Why you’ll love living in Sydney

Sydney was recently named the 4th most liveable city in the world*. And for good reason! The weather, the career opportunities, the friendly people and dynamic culture  – it’s a great place to study, work and explore. Here’s why.

*Global Liveability Index 2023

Scenic sunrise views over Sydney Harbour and the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney. ©Destination NSW

Great weather year-round

The beautiful landscapes and warm weather are among the top reasons international students choose to study in Sydney.

Seasons in Australia are opposite to the Northern Hemisphere. Summer happens from December to February, when temperatures reach 30°C and above – perfect for beach days. And in winter, from June to August, the days remain sunny for the most part, with average temperatures between 8.8 - 17°C. But if you want to visit the snow, Sydney is a 5-hour road trip from Australia’s most popular snow resort, where you can ski and snowboard.

One of the world's safest cities

Sydney also has a great reputation for safety. Ranked the 4th safest city in the world^, you’ll feel free and secure to explore the city and all it has to offer. You will be surrounded by welcoming and friendly people and be supported by the community culture of this city. At major events and in the busiest parts of the city, there are often police and security staff on-site and CCTV to keep people safe. 

Plus, at UNSW Sydney, we have security staff on campus 24/7 and safety services such as night shuttle buses to escort you to nearby stations after dark.

^Safe Cities Index 2021

Diverse and welcoming culture

Australia prides itself on its unique, diverse culture. As an international student, you’ll get the true Australian experience by studying and hanging out with locals. Pick up Aussie slang, learn to surf, join a fitness group, try out new fashion trends and enjoy our laid-back lifestyle while soaking up everything you can get from your studies. 

You’ll also have the chance to meet people from diverse cultural backgrounds and exchange ideas with them. Throughout the city, you will be amazed by the distinct cultures in different suburbs – enjoy authentic pasta and woodfire pizza in Leichhardt, known as ‘Little Italy’, or spoil yourself with a Korean BBQ feast at the ‘Little Korea’ Strathfield, or immerse yourself into the Southeast Asian culture at ‘Little Saigon’ in Cabramatta.

Opportunities for career growth

Australia is becoming one of the most innovative nations in the world and has a strong economy focus on job growth. This country is also famous for its work-life balance and is one of the top-rewarded places to work. As Australia’s economic and financial hub, Sydney is vital to many global companies' regional strategies in Oceania and Asia-Pacific. 

As an international student, you may be eligible to apply for a Post-Study Work Visa to work full-time in Australia upon graduation. While you’re studying at UNSW, ranked first place in Australia for employment outcomes (QS World University Rankings, 2024), take advantage of our career development resources and Work Integrated Learning programs to build your employability skills from day one. Our strong industry partnerships can help you find the right opportunity to launch your career globally. 

More reasons to love Sydney

  • Dear Sydney,

    You are the gem of the south, gleaming your beauty brightly and beckoning me to explore. 

    I love the shape of the Opera House, the line of the Harbour Bridge, the light that draws your skyline and the warmth of people in this city.

    When I close my eyes, I see the waves of Bondi Beach, I feel the ocean breeze through my hair, and I smell the sea from the bottom of my heart.

    Under the flourishing blooms of purple jacaranda, I wander on the winding streets of the inner city. I take a sip of the coffee from Surry Hills’s café, I pass by the trendy designer stores at Paddington, and I stop at the Galleries of UNSW Paddington Campus.

    Chasing the yellow star in the sky, it directs me up the path of the university mall to the tree of knowledge of the John Niland Scientia Building at UNSW. This beautiful campus is where my dream starts, where I am guided by mentors, where I meet like-minded people who support my growth as the person that I want to be.

    Dear Sydney, I can’t wait to see you!

Things to do in Sydney

Once you’ve finished your classes and assignments, you can explore what the city has to offer. Sydney has a rich cultural life, so there’s plenty to do, no matter your budget or interests.

Picnic in the Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney ©Destination NSW

  • During uni days, there are plenty of food options on campus that can quickly feed you between classes. We have everything from salads, kebabs and pho to sushi, burritos and fried chicken. Plus, fresh juice and bubble tea! Check out our full list of food options on campus.

    Sydney is a hot spot for culture and cuisine. Did you know the ‘world’s most Instagrammed cake’, the Strawberry Watermelon Cake, originated in Newtown? It’s a quirky Inner West suburb of Sydney where many international students hang out.

    There are dozens of dining precincts to check out around Sydney. Spice Alley in Chippendale is a thriving outdoor market with hawker-style food stalls selling Malaysian, Indian, Chinese and Asian-fusion cuisine. For a more high-end meal, Barangaroo has some of the city’s top restaurants. Darling Quarter is another dining precinct with many cuisines to suit your cravings. 

    Suburbs like Leichhardt and Haberfield have excellent Italian food, Eastwood and Burwood are famous for their authentic Chinese flavours, and Strathfield has lots of great Korean restaurants. Surry Hills and Alexandria are full of Instagram-friendly cafes, and Newtown and Marrickville serve some of the best coffee you can get in Sydney. 

    Darling Harbour and Circular Quay both have lots of rooftop bars and restaurants with great views over the water if you want to enjoy some leisure time in front of the iconic Sydney Opera House. You can also find the oldest pub in Sydney at The Rocks. 

    Carriageworks Night Market, Sydney ©Destination NSW

  • If you love shopping, you’re coming to the right place. Sydney’s Pitt Street Mall is one of the most famous shopping areas in the country. You’ll find a range of department stores and smaller boutiques. Bondi Junction is another favourite spot for a day of shopping. Further out of the city, the Westfield shopping centres in Chatswood and Parramatta are huge and will keep you busy all day.

    Sydney also has plenty of outdoor markets where you can find unique, pre-owned clothing and handcrafted jewellery and art pieces. Glebe Market is one of the most famous. Paddington is a must-go place if you are a fan of independent designer brands. Plus, op-shopping (or thrift shopping) is a popular activity on weekends.

  • Getting outdoors is the perfect way to spend the weekend after a long week of studying. Sydney has plenty of parks to wander through, including Centennial Park, located between our Kensington and Paddington campuses. There’s also the Botanic Gardens near the harbour, Sydney Park in Alexandria and Glebe Foreshore. You can also get the ferry from Circular Quay across to Taronga Zoo to enjoy some animal experiences with koalas and kangaroos or take the boardwalk to Balmoral Beach.

    Garigal National Park, Sydney ©Destination NSW

    When it comes to beaches, Sydney is the envy of the world, with over 100 beaches along the coastline. From UNSW, you can easily get to the famous Bondi Beach or Coogee Beach from campus in 30 minutes. The International Student Welcome Centre also runs the Coogee to Bondi Walk tour, where you can meet new friends and learn how to stay safe on Australian Beaches.

    For a great day trip, Lane Cove National Park has some great walking trails through beautiful Australian bushland. For a longer trip, spend a weekend in the Blue Mountains or Kiama for a city getaway. There’s plenty more to explore in NSW.  

Cost of living in Sydney

It’s a big investment for international students to study in Australia, but with a bit of planning, you can manage the costs and spend wisely.    

A meal at an average restaurant in Sydney will generally cost between $20-$50, excluding drinks. Food on campus is usually more affordable than eating outside, with many options under $20. A lot of pubs or food courts have special offers throughout the week with discounted meals and drinks. 

Sydney-siders typically spend $160 on groceries every week. However, if you shop in season or visit one of the many farmer's markets around the city, you’ll find cheaper fruit and vegetables. 

Sydney is a very walkable city. If you need to use public transport, an average 10-12-minute journey costs around $5. Buses, trains and the light rail are the cheapest ways to get around. There is a 30% off-peak discount if you choose to travel at less busy hours. Taxis and ridesharing apps are plentiful but can be expensive during peak times. 

Rent is one of the largest expenses you’ll have in Sydney. The average renter pays around $550 a week for a one-bedroom apartment around the Kensington campus, plus utility bills. That’s why on-campus student accommodation can be a convenient and affordable option when you move to Sydney, as they are bill-included and some also come with catering.

As an international student, you can work for up to 48 hours every fortnight. As of 1 July 2023 the National Minimum Wage is $23.23 per hour before tax. It’s not a bad idea to accumulate some real-world work experience aside of study by working part time. In fact, a lot of domestic students are doing this.

This Cost of Living Calculator is a handy tool for estimating how much money you may need.

There are buses and light rails around UNSW campuses.

Perks for international students in Sydney

Sydney is a very student-friendly city. Just by showing your UNSW student card, you can get discounts on a range of products and services, just like domestic students. When you arrive, you can sign up for Arc membership at UNSW to unlock exclusive perks. Or you may consider signing up for a program like Student Edge or UNiDAYS to access discount codes and deals from thousands of retailers. A lot of retailers and restaurants also offer generous student discounts.

On top of all that, you can score discounted tickets to sporting events, concerts, art shows and other activities, like going to the movies, visiting the zoo or taking a jet boat ride on Sydney Harbour. 

Wherever you go, it never hurts to ask for a student discount. Just make sure you carry your UNSW student card with you. 

Ready to start your adventure in Sydney? 

Live in one of the best study destinations and reveal your true potential at a global top 20 university.

Special thanks to Destination NSW for supplying images and footage.

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