How Long Do I Need To Connect At Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport?

Traveling to Australia, or from it, is a very long trip. Traveling is further complicated by transferring through Sydney’s Kingsford Smith Airport, which has three unconnected terminals that serve either domestic flights or international flights. How long does it take to transfer and connect in Sydney?

How long do you need to connect at Sydney Airport? Photo: Skatebiker via Wikimedia Commons.

The layout of the airport

Sydney’s Kingsford Smith Airport used to be an old paddock and horse racing track (hence why the area is was initially called Ascot and later renamed Mascot). History lesson aside, this means that the airport has slowly expanded over the years in a relatively ad-hoc pattern, with terminal buildings built where they would fit.

Advantages of this mean that the airport has always remained super-close to the city (Sydney’s central business district is only a 15-minute train ride from the arrival area). Still, it does mean that connecting through the various terminals is relatively awkward.

Sydney Airport
Infographic of Sydney Airport showing the terminals. Photo: Sydney Airport

Sydney has three main terminals.

  • Terminal one – International flights.
  • Terminal two – Domestic terminal for airlines such as Jetstar, REX, and Virgin Australia.
  • Terminal three – Domestic terminal exclusively for Qantas.

Terminal one is located to the south of the airport, while two and three are next to each other to the north. A runway separates them, and two motorways connect the terminals around the perimeter of the airport.

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How do you get between terminals?

There are many ways to travel between the three terminals. The most common transfer is between the international terminal (T1) to the domestic terminals (T2+T3), but we will cover the inter-terminal domestic connection first.

Transferring between the two domestic terminals (T2 and T3) is easy; a small walkway links them together. If you are arriving via the terminal airside and need to transfer, you will need to collect bags and proceed through security at the other terminal.

Connecting to the international terminal is a bit more complicated, but there are several options. There is a shuttle bus linking T1 with T2 and T3, respectively, but you will need to clear immigration and customs first before moving to the transfer. Qantas and Virgin Australia offer bus transfers, but you will need to have the right ticket with their airline (or partners) to board.

Landside, there is a free shuttle bus linking all three terminals that operates every thirty minutes (which may not be very practical) or the metro train that connects the two terminals (which is faster but costs more).

Sydney Airport
A runway splits Sydney airport. To the left is the domestic terminals, and to the bottom of the photo is the international terminal. Photo: Mathieumcguire via Wikimedia

How long does it take to connect in Sydney?

Domestic to domestic terminal will take approximately one hour. This involves disembarking from the aircraft, transferring to the other terminal, and clearing security. It is relatively painless.

International to domestic, or vise versa, will take longer. For international connections, you will need at least two hours to move between the two terminals.

For those arriving internationally and connecting to a domestic flight:

  • You will need to clear customs and immigration, which can take upwards of an hour if busy.
  • You will need to transfer on the airside bus, which can take ten minutes when it arrives.
  • If you choose to connect the ground side, you will need to take the free shuttle bus (up to 30 minutes) or the train (five minutes). Note that the train costs money, and a station access fee applies at both stations.
  • You can also take a taxi for around $10 US between the two terminals.
  • Or you can walk, but walking will be alongside a major road (to the north, the highway to the south is inaccessible for pedestrians) and will take you over an hour. But it does take you under a flight path for those keen plane watchers. This way is not really practical.

Sydney Airport has plenty of options to facilitate connecting flights, and shouldn’t be intimidating for newcomers. Be sure to leave at least two hours for international connections, and you will be able to connect between each terminal.

What do you think? Have you connected through Sydney Airport? Let us know in the comments.