P.S. I’m On My Way’s Melbourne City Guide
Reader Question: I’ve been reading your blog since forever and I remember one time you stayed in Australia for a long time. I am planning to move to Melbourne and I want your honest opinion about the lifestyle most especially the best neighbourhood to live in. I value your writing and your advice – I go to your blog whenever I need information about traveling! Thanks in advance and I hope you can come to visit Arizona.
Crystal Thompson, USA
Thank you so much for the kind words! It must’ve been way back that you saw I was in Melb as I haven’t visited in years but I am happy you are still running to this blog whenever you need info. I don’t have plans in traveling USA yet but I’ll definitely get in touch!
Here’s everything I know about Melbourne and I hope you’ll have a great time! I consider this as one of. the most livable cities in the world. Good luck!
P.S. I know the title suggest that this guide is only for long-term travelers but it is also applicable to people who are going for a short visit.
Arriving in Melbourne
Melbourne Airport, colloquially known as Tullamarine Airport, is the primary airport of Melbourne, and the second busiest airport in Australia. It has two runways. At Melbourne Airport, passengers using the immigration of Terminal 2 are able to use the unmanned e-gate for e-passport (IC Passport) holders.
People just scan their own passport and take a photo. You have to stand in the queue at the manned immigration lane in case of any problems with the photo. Immigration for departure is able to use the same system. You do not need a long time for immigration queues.
Surprised at how quickly I got through Melbourne Airport arriving on Qatar Airways at 5.30 pm. It seemed this flight got so lucky as walking towards immigration it was clear no other flights had arrived although an SIA plane was parked next to our gate with a lot of activity going on.
On entering the immigration concourse it was completely empty so immigration was a breeze 2 mins and done. Baggage reclaim was empty and bags were on the conveyor within 10 mins so was quick to get my bag. Customs in less than a minute after heading form to a rather stern-looking customs official and I was out.
Got lucky on this occasion but not so with heavy traffic at this time of night. It is a busy airport with four terminals and 24-hour operations, a high number of flights arriving and departing every day. Keep up-to-date with the latest flight times, delays, and cancellations with Skyscanner’s flight status board. International passengers must proceed to the entry control point. This point is signed from the moment you depart the
Keep up-to-date with the latest flight times, delays, and cancellations with Skyscanner’s flight status board. International passengers must proceed to the entry control point. This point is signed from the moment you depart the aircraft and is located after duty-free, on route to the baggage reclaim hall.
SmartGate can be used only by travelers who are aged 18 years or over and have completed their incoming passenger card.
The Skybus service is a 24/7 shuttle that runs to and from the Coach Terminal at Southern Cross Station, which is located on Spencer Street in the Central Business District. There are two places at the airport where you can be picked up by the shuttle – either next to the Virgin Australia terminal or the Qantas/Jetstar domestic terminal.
Public Transport Victoria
This is a much slower, but cheaper option to get from the airport to downtown Melbourne. Go to the Skybus terminal and buy a Myki Card.
Car rental in Melbourne
If you want to be able to travel more independently during your visit to Melbourne, you might consider hiring a car. You can find one at the airport as there are several car rental operators.
Taxi from Melbourne Airport
Probably the quickest way to get from the airport directly to your hotel is to jump in a taxi cab. You can catch a taxi from the designated taxi ranks at the airport, which are located on the ground floor outside Terminal 1 and between Terminal 3 and 2.
Getting around Melbourne
Most visitors stay at the city center, the commercial hub of Melbourne where most of the museums, theatres, restaurants, bars and shops are located. Melbourne’s grid layout makes it an easy city to navigate, with most attractions within walking distance. The Night Network also operates on weekends with after-hours transport to many locations.
To get around Melbourne using public transport (trams, buses, and trains) it is necessary for all visitors to purchase a Myki smartcard. There are no longer “tickets” available for purchase. The City Circle Tram is a free service but please note that Myki is not valid on the Skybus to and from Melbourne Airport.
Myki is Melbourne’s ticket to travel on the city’s trains, trams, and buses. It’s a plastic smartcard with a stored value which can be topped up and re-used again. You may purchase your Myki online at the PTV website, premium train stations, retail outlets displaying the Myki sign (including 7-Elevens), or by calling 1800 800 007 (free from landline) in Australia.
For flexible travel, buy a Myki Explorer pack from Melbourne Visitor Centre, Federation Square, the PTV Hub at Southern Cross Station (corner Swanston and Little Collins streets), SkyBus terminals, and some hotels. Packs include a pre-loaded Myki card with enough value for one day of travel in Zone 1 and 2, instructions on how to use Myki, a Melbourne tram map, and discount entry to Melbourne attractions.
Melbourne taxis are easy to spot, as they display a lamp on the cab roof and most are painted yellow, silver or white.You will know if the taxi is available if the rooftop lamp is lit. Rideshare trips with the Uber app are also increasingly popular in Melbourne.
The metro trains run between the outer suburbs and Flinders Street Station in the city. The city loop is Melbourne’s underground system, with five stations in the central business district: Southern Cross Station, Flagstaff, Melbourne Central, Parliament, and Flinders Street. Southern Cross Station is Melbourne’s hub for regional and interstate trains.
Passengers can board trams at signposted stops displaying maps, route numbers, and a timetable. Route numbers are also displayed on the front of the tram. Traveling within the central area of Melbourne by tram is free, though you will need a myki card if you plan to start or finish your journey outside of this central area.
Melbourne’s generally flat terrain renders cycling a popular option for getting around. Melbourne has just introduced a new public bike share program throughout the city. You will find instructions and prices at each bike dock. Remember to watch out for those tram tracks (wheels can get caught). There are great bike tracks along the Yarra River to explore. Please note that bike helmets are required throughout Victoria when riding.
There is only one company that operates water taxis in Melbourne and it is a great way to travel to some of the city’s events or games to avoid the traffic. It can also be a fun trip to docklands with a group of friends. They run a regular service between Southgate and Rod Laver Arena / Melbourne Park / MCG for events such as the Australian Open Tennis, concerts, and AFL matches.
Melbourne buses run frequently to major hubs, including shopping centers, schools, hospitals, leisure, and sports venues, and some of Melbourne’s biggest attractions. For people traveling to the countryside, Victoria’s V/Line service gives access to regional towns and scenic attractions across the state.
Note that prices for transport vary so I didn’t include prices. The costs below are estimates. It’s just for you to have an idea of what the cost is like.
Best Melbourne neighborhoods
It lies north of Melbourne’s Central Business District. What I love about Brunswick is, here, grandmas compare tomatoes in Mediterranean grocery stores while young songwriters busk outside. Most mornings are filled with the smell of Middle Eastern spices wafting from bakeries down cobblestone alleyways and past restored workers’ cottages.
On the weekends, students queue for vegan brunch as families gather at places of worship across the street. Sometimes it seems all anyone does in Brunswick is hop from one new cafe to another, switching to bars toward evening and working up an appetite.
It is an inner suburb of Melbourne. You won’t see Carlton’s residents cutting their pasta; in this neighborhood’s outdoor restaurants, spaghetti is twirled expertly with a fork and savored to the last bite. Centrally located Lygon Street boasts espresso and pastries just like your nonna made them, I still lust over it.
Seeking hideouts to quietly canoodle, couples picnic in Princes Park, and longtime residents sidestep preppy college kids for the relatively calm oasis of Rathdowne Street.
Central Business District (CBD)
CBD means business but also knows how to relax. This place is an abundance of hidden cafes, restaurants, and bars packed in its narrow laneways. Every weekday, business tycoons, trams, and tourists rush through frenetic streets. The much-welcomed weekend signals the change from business attire and briefcases to casual clothes and cocktails.
With its nonstop activity, the CBD offers endless amusement for locals and tourists alike. I explored the Central Business District with its unique alleyways which are like an open maze.
I peeled back the inner-city onion that is Collingwood and discovered layers of local history, infamous characters, quirky creativity, and effortless charm. Collingwood is constantly on the cutting edge with each pop-up restaurant, quirky bar, and innovative art gallery.
New trends are showcased inside gilded buildings, reflecting the area’s industrious past and ensuring its illustrious future. The cafes and bars in Collingwood are unpretentious. On every sidewalk and down every alley new ideas are being explored. The preferred mode of transport in Collingwood is on wheels, not feet and I enjoyed rolling on wheels.
Bike racks, bike shops, and, well, bikers, can be seen on almost every corner. Skaters, too. Every wall in Collingwood is also a canvas. I absorbed myself in the street art here that comes in many forms.
Gleaming along the Yarra River, the Dockland’s modern apartment towers brush shoulders with busy cranes, retail outlets, and the iconic Southern Star Observation Wheel. With every new restaurant, bar, and seasonal festival, this neighborhood is slowly coming into its own even though locals have come here for years to pay homage to Melbourne’s stunning skyline.
The Docklands makes the most of its riverside location. It has parks and piers, boardwalks and docks, and simple benches where I soaked in the setting sun along the water. It’s just so close to everything!
Cafes, restaurants, bars, public transport, shops, CBD, etc. It’s a really laid-back and safe neighborhood that is accessible 24/7 but quiet at night time.
Where to stay in Melbourne
There are a lot of hotels in Melbourne that are suitable for any type of traveler. However, I only do hotel stays if I wanted to be alone and get away from interacting with people.
Personally, I did a lot of Couchsurfing, homestay with local families, and house-sitting but these types of accommodations entail a certain type of responsibility. For example, when I was Couchsurfing with a friend, I was kind of obliged to talk to them all the time (hence didn’t have time to work) and also participate in their activities.
Homestays are pretty much the same as you are also required to be with them all the time to get the full experience. If I wanted privacy (but still get free accommodation), I looked for house-sitting gigs. Melbourne is one of the best house-sitting cities in the world as there is a myriad of families going abroad who are looking for people to care for their pets in exchange for a free stay.
Things to do in Melbourne
#1: Soak in Brunswick City Baths
As the mercury rises, an essential part of any Australian summer is a dip in the local swimming pool. Suitable for swimmers of all ages and skill levels, Brunswick City Baths also offers a range of fitness programs, and a childcare program if you need some time alone in the lanes. It’s a perfect spot to cool off during the soaring temperatures of Victoria’s summers.
#2: Take the Vintage City Circle Tram
I was thinking about taking a tour around the city but couldn’t figure out the most convenient route, and then I took the City Circle Tram 35. Melbourne’s vintage tram goes around the city, stopping at almost all the major attractions of Melbourne CBD.
More than just a way to the city’s attractions, these are heritage trams and completely free! These trams are authentically vintage, being over 50 years old, which means no air conditioning is installed in them.
#3: Watch street performances
The most striking features of Melbourne are its street performances and there is no greater concentration of street performers in Melbourne than in the CBD. Walk along Bourke Street Mall for the biggest performances in front of the General Post Office. Melbourne’s CBD’s streets are known to discover new talent since many of the artists also have CDs and YouTube channels.
#4: Follow Melbourne’s Historical Trail
Melbourne may be a concrete jungle of skyscrapers, but it is also adorned with Victoria’s oldest buildings. The General Post Office and the Parliament House were both built in the 1850s, while the Old Treasury Building is more than 150 years old.
#5: Stargaze at Melbourne Star Observation Wheel
Take flight through the Melbourne skies and see the city from a different perspective. It is a unique introduction to the color, history, and culture of the city and beyond. Whether you are a regular or are a first-time visitor to the cultural capital, it’s a spectacular way to get your bearings.
#6: Shop consciously
Australia is one of the countries that do sustainable tourism. They are very big on eco-friendly products such as bamboo toothbrushes, sunblock that doesn’t harm the ocean, and all that shebang! There are many eco-friendly shops in Australia that produce high-quality products.
In fact, they are the ones who brought this culture to Bali!
Meeting people in Melbourne
Melbourne at times can be a difficult place to meet new people and make friends. Initially, I felt the awful irony of being surrounded by thousands of people while still feeling lonely and isolated. In reality, there is no boundary to the infinite methods of meeting potential new friends. I have met people on trains and while snorkeling.
One way to meet new people and interact with them is the Melbourne Social Club. They have run thousands of events in Melbourne, offered hundreds of city discount benefits, and helped many charities while enhancing Melbourne’s social lives over the last 11 years of organized activities.
Their Melbourne events are not just for singles in Melbourne, they’re a social club for everyone in Melbourne interested in fun! Events include day trips, weekends, drinks nights, outdoor adventures, sailing, skiing, ghost nights, trivia, dancing, comedy nights, sports, racing events, dining experiences, wine tours, and cruises.
I made so many good friends in Melbourne and I want you to meet them! If you are going to Melbourne anytime soon, please drop me a line at trisha[at]psimonmyway[dot]com. I will definitely introduce you to a cool gang!
Safety in Melbourne
Melbourne has just been awarded the most liveable city in the world for the third year running. So it can’t be all that dangerous. Emergencies can happen without warning and with devastating effects, so it is important to prepare yourself.
There will be no problems at 6 am. I have been walking alone on the streets. There will be quite a few people around. You will see drug addicts, beggars, and junkies on the road but they will not create a problem for you.
In Melbourne, I always kept these numbers handy :
- Public transport & timetables 131 638
- Emergency Fire Police Ambulance – Telephone 000
- Emergency Services (SES) – Telephone 132 500
- Non-Emergency Police – Telephone 131 444