Paula Bronstein via Getty).
Sydney: once the wet-dream of night goers everywhere, now a wasteland of forgotten nights out and haunted, ghost-ridden streets (or so I’ve heard). I’m not originally from Sydney, but Queensland, with six years of Melbourne in between. I’ve had the privilege, and sometimes the horror, of experiencing nights out in three capital cities from the East Coast states.
While whispers of Sydney’s deadening nightlife ailed me upon arrival, things haven’t been that bad. Truthfully, it’s not exceptionally good, but it’s not exceptionally awful. There are things to get used to, and you have to work a little harder to have a good night, but in the end it’s really up to the attitude of the night goer.
This is what I’ve learned trying to make nights out happen in Sydney for the past year.
Do: Make sure you have a plan
Sydney is not a city built for spontaneity, it’s all about plans. Deprived nightlifers have already scooped up every ticket available (there’ll be none on the door), restaurants will already be booked out, and the amassing lines will make you pull your hair out. Too many times I’ve been left wandering the streets, asking, “So now what do we do?” and no one wants to end a night like an unfulfilling climax. Buy tickets, make bookings, plan transport, all beforehand.
Don’t: Count on public transport (This goes back to planning)
Public transport in Sydney fucking sucks. It’s either a janky bus or an overflowing train. Usually they cut across the city in all of the wrong directions and take half-an-hour more than they should. The only positive is that if you’re incorporating pre-drinks into the night, you’ll have plenty of time to do it. There are rarely any ticket officers, so your ride is essentially free.
If you’re flush with cash, ignore this one. Sydney’s expensive. Too many times, in a hungover haze, I’ve looked at my bank account and audibly groaned. Sure, being built on pub culture, Sydney has a certain devotion to happy hours and cheap beers (side note: Do go to happy hours), but everything else…nuh. From Ubers (which you’ll need if you’re going to one or more places) to $20 cocktails, Sydney is not one for the young and broke.
Don’t: Just stay in the inner city
Stay out of the city! There are a lot of suburbs on the outer that have good bars and places to eat. Newtown and Darling Harbour are NOT the epicentres of nightlife in the city. Spread your wings and journey out.
Do: Have a friend in the know
If you’re lucky enough to know someone in Sydney when you first move here, or even if you live here and don’t know where anything is, make a friend in the know (preferably an effortlessly cool, adventurous one that’s up to date). Alternatively, and a piece of actually helpful advice, follow the instagram pages of Sydney DJ’s, Musicians and Collectives you know. Those guys are always promoting their events.
Don’t: Expect to go to a club and it not be a pub or have pokies
The clubs here feel like school discoes, and usually they’re under a pub or are a pub. Sure there are some that aren’t but they’re one in a dozen. Also, I’m sick of seeing pokies (side note: don’t expect to not see pokies on a night out).
Do: Find the bars that have free music
Honestly this could pertain to any city but there are many, many places that have the odd Jazz night or up-and-coming artist looking to play – either just for the fun of it or to promote some new EP. While it’s not always good, it’s free! There’s always diamonds in the rough.
Don’t: Always expect to party until the sunrise
Traumatised from lockout laws, the clubs and bars here shut EARLY. While I have been to a few parties that go all night or till the AM, these are anomalies. Always make sure you have a friend's house for kick-ons, or just don’t expect anything at all.
Do: Expect police dogs
Sydney police have a certain penchant for ruining everyone’s nights. Not just by being there but by introducing sniffer dogs to oblivious partiers INSIDE VENUES. While this isn’t something that happens every weekend, be careful what you have on you as the fun police exercise their gross overreach of power.
Don’t: expect to get shots (usually) after 10pm and don’t expect to trick bartenders by ordering spirits on ice
If you like taking a sneaky shot every now and then, plan to do it before the party really gets started. Bartenders aren’t stupid, and while some may oblige, it’s very few.
Don’t: expect parties that advertise themselves as “warehouse raves” or “raves” to be free
In Melbourne, there’s a general understanding that a rave is something spontaneous, wild and, I guess, free. Please don’t call your “party” a “rave” if it’s really just some $40 party in some nondescript warehouse in Marrickville. While Sydney DOES have good, intimate raves, they’re usually always expensive. My advice, if you’re the naughty type, would be to turn up a little later to avoid having to pay, but also be prepared to be turned away.