Living in Melbourne
Living in Melbourne has been a fantastic experience. However, it costs A LOT. It doesn’t help if you are coming from a country with a more inferior currency exchange rate. Coming from Malaysia, where our currency is weak, I have written this article as an in-depth guide to help you understand the cost of living in Melbourne.
It entails how much you are expected to pay for each of the categories below, what you can avoid paying, how you can save and more.
I will divide this into short-term and long-term rentals. This is because most legitimate properties will require an inspection before you move in – safer for you, safer for them. Hence, it will be best to have a short-rental before settling in.
Where to stay (by suburbs)
Which area to stay in is a very tricky question. It really depends on where you have to go to (work/university).
- You find that living in Melbourne city, especially within the CBD, it’s really, REALLY expensive. However, you’d find cheap accommodation options at times if you are willing to share a room.
- In the inner-city suburbs, they are more affordable and you get to enjoy the proximity to the city. I live in Prahran and I really love this suburb. It’s cheaper than South Yarra and South Melbourne but it’s not that far away. Tram lines are frequent. Collingwood is another hidden gem that is overshone by Brunswick and Fitzroy. Footscray and Flemington are also underrated. Richmond is a little bit more expensive but you can move a little further to surrounding suburbs like North Richmond or West Richmond to enjoy cheaper rent while having a strategic location.
- Other suburbs that I can recommend:
- Carnegie/ Caulfield: Many restaurants, not too far from the city. Connected by both trains and trams to the city and many other places. Monash University Caulfield campus is located here.
- Boxhill: The unofficial Asian town. Many Asian restaurants and a tertiary hospital. Well connected by trams and trains
- Glenferrie: Swinburne University is located here. Well connected by trams and train
- Dandenong: Another bustling town outside of Melbourne city. There is a fantastic market here. Cheap rent. Quite far from the city. Many shopping centres around this area. Good Middle Eastern, East Asian and South Indian food.
- Essendon: On the west side of the city. Well connected by trams and trains
- Camberwell: In between Boxhill and the city. Well connected by tram and trains.
- Glen Waverley: Another suburb with many Asian restaurants. There is a huge shopping mall that just opened recently.
- Springvale: Unofficial Vietnamese/ Cambodian town. Amazing Vietnamese and Cambodian food. Cheap rent. However, far from the city. Connected by train.
It’s time to use your connection now. If you do know someone who’s living in Melbourne, you could ask them if it’d be possible for you to stay with them for a few days whilst looking for good accommodation. If that is not feasible, you can also ask them to try inspecting some rentals to see if they are legitimate.
AirBnB was a lifesaver when I first came to Melbourne. I knew no one when I first lived in Melbourne. It was really hard to find a place immediately if you don’t know how and where to look for good accommodation.
I suggest renting an Airbnb for a month (especially because you can get a great monthly rate) so that you can properly look for long-term accommodation. It will be slightly more expensive but trust me, it will be worth it because you don’t have to rush into signing a contract of a long-term rental that you might not like.
If you are using Airbnb for the very first time, you can sign up through this link to get a 50 dollars worth of credit to spend for free!
I am a true advocate for Couchsurfing (find out more about Couchsurfing, it’s not as creepy as you thought). Couchsurfing has changed my life in every way and I am so glad to have found it at a very young age.
I am not saying that you should definitely stay with people on Couchsurfing. BUT, IT IS FREE. So if you are struggling with money, you can have a look at Couchsurfing and send requests asking people if they can accommodate you until you find a proper accommodation. Specify a deadline that you will move out so that people will be more receptive to the idea.
Even if you don’t want to couchsurf, you can totally just sign up for an account and post questions on the forum.
There are many websites that you can use to look for a place to rent long term. I use realestate.com.au simply because I think they have the most listings. It’s basically a comparing website that allows you to browse through the offers from different real estate agencies. You can also try using Gumtree or Reddit to try to look for a rental but should you choose to go down that path, be really careful because they might not be legitimate rental properties.
Make sure you read everything carefully before signing a lease. Horror stories about renting in Melbourne have been told over and over, with new stories popping out now and then. Make sure your bond is deposited properly with the Residential Tenancies Bond Authority to ensure that you get your bond back.
- Check if you are eligible for concession fare in Victoria (official website of PTV). If you are from overseas, it’s very unlikely that you can get concession fare.
- If you are an overseas student studying in a tertiary institution in Victoria, you are eligible for the iUSE pass. You basically pay around 900 AUD (in 2019) and you can use the public transport system (bus, tram, train) for the whole year. If you think you are gonna use public transport for at least 100 days (because that would be 880 AUD already) in a calendar year, the iUSE pass is worth it.
- If you are not eligible for the above and you have to get somewhere using public transport, try to arrive at your destination before 7:15am. That way, you are eligible for an early bird fare and your Myki card won’t be charged at all (though you still have to tap on).
- If you are working in the CBD, think about renting an apartment in the CBD. I understand that it’s really expensive to rent in the city centre but the thing is, within the CBD, there’s a free tram zone. You can go anywhere within the city proper without paying. If you think about it, 8.80 AUD x 30 days = 264 AUD per month on public transport. If the rent doesn’t differ that much, consider moving into the city.
- The daily cap is 8.80 AUD (in 2019). It is divided into 2 segments. If you finish your travel within 2 hours across zone 1 and 2, only 4.40 AUD will be deducted from your card. That means however many transfers that you make, you won’t be charged more than that. Once 2 hours run out and if you start your journey again, you will be charged another 4.40 AUD. As you have met the daily cap (8.80 AUD), you won’t be charged more again. So once you have hit 8.80 AUD, just travel as much as you can to make full use of it.
- The weekend daily cap is cheaper (6.40 AUD).
Eating out in Melbourne is a delightful pleasure. It is a paradise for foodies. In Melbourne, it’s easy to find top-notched food. Due to ferocious competitions between the restaurants, I could find good food for a cheap price (unlike other Australian cities). Food is the best thing I find about living in Melbourne, to be honest.
If you are looking for restaurant recommendations and the best apps to find good food and discounts (up to 50% off) in Melbourne, read my Melbourne Travel Guide.
The cheapest meal you can get in Melbourne is often from fast-food restaurants. Many Indonesian, Japanese, Taiwanese, Thai and other ethnic restaurants offer rice bowls, baos, noodle dishes which generally cost than 10 AUD. A McDonald’s meal runs around 10 AUD too.
For 15 AUD, you can get a chicken parmigiana at specific hours. You can also get a meal from pasta/ramen bars with that amount of money. If you are eating out as a group, head to Little Bourke Street as you can get terrific dumplings, stir-fry and other Chinese dishes and share it with your mates. Besides, you can check out if some restaurants have lunch menu as they are much cheaper (around 15 AUD).
For 20 AUD, you can do wonders. Research your restaurant properly before going out as 20 AUD can get you a nice meal in a nice restaurant. Korean, Thai and Ethiopian restaurants will set you off at that price. An egg benedict at most brunch places starts at 18 AUD as well.
For 30-50 AUD, consider it a date night. You can have wine. You can go to some buffet restaurants. You will definitely eat well. Just research your restaurant well.
I have listed many, MANY restaurants in my Melbourne Foodie Travel Guide so make sure that you have a read.
Lunch prep is a common sport in Melbourne because eating out is so expensive. Living in Melbourne has allow me to up both my cooking skills and my haggling skills. I love going to markets in Melbourne. All my senses are participating when I’m in a market.
- Saigon Village and Minh Phat Asian supermarket – these two establishments are next to each other. If you go to Saigon Village, you can get a bag of bananas (around 12 bananas) for 1 AUD, or 4-5 bell papers for 2 AUD. Fruits are incredibly cheap here if you come just before closing hours.
- Prahran Market – Prahran Market is one of the premium markets in Melbourne. However, on Sunday, at Pino’s Fine Produce you can get a box and fill it in with veggies and fruits and you pay $15. The quality of the produce is amazing. This market is more European so you can get good cheeses and pastas here.
- Dandenong Market – this market is the one that I used to go when I was living in one of the South Eastern suburbs. It is THE cheapest market that I have been to. The competition is fierce here and hence people lower their prices just so they can sell everything. Many restaurant owners source their produce from here because it’s much cheaper than anywhere else that I have seen in Melbourne.
- Boxhill Market – Located in the unofficial Asian town, you can get all the Asian veggies and fruits that you can possibly think of. It’s located in a supermarket so it’s convenient for you to get other things for your pantry as well.
Other places that you can shop at include:
- Aldi – out of all the other supermarket giant chains, Aldi is the cheapest. You might find the taste of some of the products a little subpar as compared to products from other supermarkets. Aldi sells many world-renowned Australian wines for a very cheap price. You can get wine as cheap as $2 per bottle.
- Hong Kong Supermarket – My cooking tends to be more on the Asian side. This amazing supermarket which I can find EVERYTHING I need for my cooking has served me well. Price is not cheap here.
- Coles – I normally get my Australian essentials here: Milk, Weetbix, pepper, sugar, flour, ketchup and other stuff that I use every day.
Alcohol and nightlife
I have to say that the nightlife in Melbourne isn’t as great compared to some European and Asian cities. Street drinking is not allowed and is strictly enforced. This makes pre-drinking a very important sport before everyone hits the club.
Nightlife in Melbourne can be really cheap or really expensive. As I said, you can get good bottles of Shiraz/ Chardonnay from Aldi for just $2. Get the One Road Shiraz for just $7 – it was crowned as the best medium-bodied dry red in Australia!
UPDATE 17/06/2019 – Aldi’s famous champagne named Veuve Monsigny Champagne Brut has been voted to be better than Moet! This is a huge thing considering Moet has one of the best champagnes in the world. On top of that, a bottle of Veuve Monsigny is just 21.99$ all year round!
If you fearless of a hangover, get a goon bag. It’s literally the cheapest that you can get lit.
People have said that prices at Dan Murphy’s are the cheapest. It’s generally true except for some other special alcohol like sake and soju.
If you do shop at Coles, check the docket deals because you might get super cheap deals at Liquorland at times. I once got 12 bottles of good beer for just 10$.
The cheapest soju in Melbourne can be found at KT mart. It’s only 7.50$ as compared to 10-12$ per bottle.
Club scenes in Melbourne are great, but also, tedious. It’s not as relaxed as compared to other cities in Australia. Think strict dress codes, gender ratios, expensive cover charge, tiny clubs… Although there are free clubs in Melbourne, they have strict bouncers that are harsher than the admission committee of my university. $10-$25 cover charge is not uncommon.
Luckily the public transport runs all night during the weekend and some public holidays. The frequency is lesser but it gets you home. There are some night buses running as well.
Uber in Australia is generally affordable. However, during surge time (aka before and after party), it gets incredibly expensive. I still don’t know how do people pay even with a surge of 1.8x. They are many other car-sharing companies (Ola, Didi, Taxify). Get their welcome offer so you can have a free ride!
Travelling within Australia
Travelling within Australia is not cheap. Sometimes I think that it’s more worth it to buy a flight ticket to get out of Australia and travel there.
Flight ticket within Australia is not as expensive. It is the expenditure that will incur when you are at the destination. The costs of the flight ticket I have gotten so far are listed as below. Bear in mind that I am subscribed to many newsletters so once the discount is out, I buy them straight away. It might be many months in advance and hence the cheap price.
- Melbourne to Gold Coast = $102 return (Tigerair Tuesday)
- Melbourne to Sydney = $59 return (Return for Free by Jetstar)
- Melbourne to Brisbane = $83 return (Jetstar)
- Melbourne to Hobart = $39 return (Return for Free by Jetstar)
- Melbourne to Perth = $50 one-way (Tigerair Tuesday)
- Melbourne to Adelaide = $49 return (Jetstar)
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Check out my other posts about Melbourne and Australia!
Born and raised in Malaysia, Aaron is a medical student who desperately preaches about “Travelling doesn’t have to be expensive” – well, he has a full-on blog about it. When he is free, he checks for the cheapest airfare that would get him out of Australia. Aaron indulges in local cuisine so much that he has to lose some weight before and after he goes travelling. Read more about him here!
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