Sydney: once the wet dream of night owls everywhere, now a wasteland of forgotten parties and haunted, ghostly streets (or so I’ve heard). I’m not from Sydney, but from Queensland, with six years from Melbourne in between. I’ve had the privilege, and sometimes the horror, of experiencing parties in three East Coast state capitals.
While whispers of Sydney’s deadly nightlife had me worried when I arrived, things weren’t so bad. Truth be told, it’s not exceptionally good, but it’s not exceptionally awful. There are some things to get used to, and a little more work to get a good night’s sleep, but in the end it really comes down to the night owl attitude.
That’s what I’ve learned trying to host parties in Sydney for the past year.
Do: Make sure you have a plan
Sydney is not a city built for spontaneity, it’s a matter of plans. Destitute night owls have already collected all the available tickets (there won’t be any at the door), the restaurants will already be full and the queues will have you tearing your hair out. Too many times I’ve been left wandering the streets wondering, “So now what do we do?” and no one wants to end a night as an unsatisfying climax. Buy tickets, make reservations, plan transportation, all in advance.
Don’t rely on public transport (it comes down to planning)
Public transport in Sydney sucks. It’s either a rickety bus or an overflowing train. Usually they cross town in all the wrong directions and take half an hour longer than they should. The only saving grace is that if you incorporate pre-drinks into the night, you’ll have plenty of time to do so. There are rarely ticket agents, so your ride is essentially free.
If you’re full of cash, skip this one. Sydney is expensive. Too many times, in a haze of a hangover, I’ve looked at my bank account and groaned audibly. Sure, being built on pub culture, Sydney has a certain devotion to happy hours and cheap beers (side note: go to happy hours), but everything else… no. From Ubers (which you’ll need if you’re going to one or more places) to $20 cocktails, Sydney isn’t for the young and broke.
Don’t: Stay in the city center
Stay out of town! There are plenty of suburbs outside that have good bars and places to eat. Newtown and Darling Harbor are NOT the epicenters of the city’s nightlife. Spread your wings and travel.
Do: Have a friend 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 (from preferably a cool and adventurous friend who is up to date). Alternatively, and a really helpful tip, follow the Instagram pages of Sydney DJs, musicians and collectives you know. These guys are always promoting their events.
Don’t: Expect to go to a club and not be a pub or pokies
The clubs here look like school discos, and usually they are 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 see no pokies at a party).
Do: Find bars that offer free music
Honestly, this could apply to any city, but there are many, many places hosting jazz nights or up-and-coming artists looking to play – either just for fun or to promote a new EP. Even if it’s not always good, it’s free! There are always rough diamonds.
Don’t: Always expect to party until sunrise
Traumatized by lockdown laws, clubs and bars are closing EARLY. Although I have been to a few parties that last all night or until morning, these are anomalies. Always make sure you have a friend’s house to get you started, or expect nothing at all.
Do: Expect Police Dogs
Sydney Police have a penchant for ruining everyone’s nights. Not just by being there, but by presenting sniffer dogs to oblivious revelers INSIDE THE PREMISES. While it’s not something that happens every weekend, watch what you have on you as the fun police wield their excess power.
Don’t expect to receive shots (usually) after 10 p.m. and don’t expect to trick bartenders into ordering spirits on ice
If you like to take a sneaky shot once in a while, plan to do it before the party really starts. Bartenders aren’t stupid, and while some may oblige, it’s very little.
Don’t expect parties that advertise themselves as “warehouse raves” or “raves” to be free
In Melbourne there is a general understanding that a rave is something spontaneous, wild and, I guess, free. Please don’t call your “party” a “rave” if it really is a $40 party at some warehouse in Marrickville. Although Sydney has some good, intimate raves, they are generally still expensive. My advice, if you’re the naughty type, would be to arrive a little later to avoid having to pay, but also be prepared to be turned away.
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