Melbourne Travel Guide
Updated on 23/9/2020:
I am grateful to be able to call Melbourne home for the past four years. Melbourne is undoubtedly a city for foodies — that’s why I love it so much! That being said, this bustling city has so much to offer for everyone from all walks of life! From food to hikes to party to shopping to hot springs to nature to alternative to road tripping to wildlife to an endless list of things, Melbourne will blow your mind.
This Melbourne travel guide strives to give you an idea of how to save money while travelling in Melbourne and how to get the most out of your trip to Melbourne!
Because of the sophisticated city planning, it’s important to decide where you are staying. Melbourne is one of those cities where you have a Central Business District (CBD or a.k.a the city centre) where all the fun things are in action all the time. Accommodation in this area can be expensive, but well worth it because of the convenience of public transport and abundance of eateries and shops.
In the inner city area, there are many suburbs that I personally like as well. Places like Fitzroy, Brunswick, St. Kilda and Richmond are all amazing to base at if you find accommodation in the CBD is a little too expensive.
I wouldn’t suggest staying at outer suburbs if the accommodation is just a little cheaper. Although there’s only 4 million people living in Melbourne, this city covers a large area and commuting is gonna take you a long time if you live in the outer suburbs.
A dorm bed in a hostel in the CBD or inner suburbs (St. Kilda and Brunswick) will cost AUD 25-35. If you don’t mind the hostel being a bit older or less centrally located, you can get a bed for AUD 20.
I had friends who stayed in Ritz Backpacker at St. Kilda and they loved it as the kitchen there was one of the best they have seen for a hostel standard. It was also located next to the drop-off point of the St. Kilda Sky bus express to the airport.
Another 2 friends of mine stayed at Elizabeth Hostel. It was very centrally located and Queen Victoria Market is just right in front of the hostel. They enjoyed their stay although they said that the carpet smelled a little.
Airbnb has seriously become one of the most popular accommodation options, mainly because of the flexibility that Airbnb can offer. The best part? You get to hangout with the owner if you are lucky! They can also give you handy tips about the city, as well as telling you the tourist traps in Seoul so you won’t get ripped off!
If you are using Airbnb for the very first time, you can sign up through this link to get a 25 dollars worth of credit to spend for free!
Although the public transport system gets on my nerves once in a while, the overall experience with PTV has been pleasant. The network is extensive and you can visit most places in Melbourne by just using PTV. Another thing that I have to add is that PTV has a cap system, which means that if you have spent $8.20 today, subsequent travels will be free.
You’ll need a PTV card, which is the transport card for all buses, trams and trains. A few services that aren’t included in PTV include V-line and Skybus.
Cheap transport from Tullamarine airport to Melbourne CBD
Skybus cost $18 per person and the price is creeping up slowly. Moreover, it’s not covered by Myki. However, there’s a way that’s not known by most travellers!
After your arrival, get a Myki explorer pack from the Skybus kiosk (make sure you don’t buy a Skybus ticket!). It costs 15$ and there’s $9 credit that comes with the card. In the pack, you’ll receive:
○ a ready-to-use myki card with one day’s unlimited travel in metropolitan Melbourne
○ handy maps (train, tram, city centre)
○ offers from popular attractions with info on how to get there by public transport
○ souvenir wallet
You can find more details at https://www.ptv.vic.gov.au/tickets/myki/buy-a-myki/myki-explorer/
After getting the pack, walk towards the direction of T4 terminal until you reach a carpark-like building. This is a bus stop and you can catch bus 901 to Broadmeadow station. Get off at Broadmeadow station and take a train towards the city. You can continue your journey thereafter.
Skybus stops at many stations so make sure you check which direction you are going to. If you are staying at one of the hostels at St. Kilda area, it might be worth it to just take the Skybus to St. Kilda because it stops right in front of many hostels.
Dandenong Airport Transfer
If you are living in the South Eastern suburbs of Melbourne, you can consider Dandenong airport transfer as well. I heard the service is really good and if possible, they will stop as close to your destination as they can!
Travel within the CBD
Within CBD, all trams are free. These trams are located in the free tram zone and thus you don’t have to tap on and off.
However, sometimes it’s not easy for travellers to figure out where’s the free tram zone and where isn’t free. Hence, to avoid fines, you can have a quick look at the official PTV webpage here. If you are using your PTV card for the whole day, you don’t have to worry because the cap charge is 8.20AUD so tapping on doesn’t cost you extra.
Travel within Melbourne
Travelling within the city is not a problem because almost every is within the reach of PTV.
○ Dandenong ranges
○ Puffing Billy
○ St. Kilda
Those places where there’s no public transport, it’s highly recommended that you rent a car. If you are travelling solo, try posting your request on Couchsurfing and said that you are keen to rent a car and do a day trip or something. Or sometimes, some people might already have posted similar request and you can just tag along! Places that are out of reach of PTV will be:
○ Philip island
○ Great Ocean Road (although you can take a V-line to Warnambool and continue from there)
○ Bendigo and Ballarat
○ The Grampians
○ Mt. Buller
○ And many more….
More and more car riding services are making a big presence in Melbourne. Ola gives a first free lift, Taxify gives 50% for the first ride, Uber’s competitive price and just the sheer number of Uber drivers. It’s good to just download them all and see what goodies you can get.
I think Uber is not that cheap but if you have a group of 4, Uber is gonna be really worth it (fingers crossed there’s no surge). As Uber has been in the game for a long time, I find that it’s pretty hard for other ride-sharing services to beat the number of drivers that Uber has on the road.
Renting a car in Melbourne is easy. I normally use Vroom vroom vroom to compare the prices between different company. Sometimes the price indicated doesn’t include insurance charges so make sure you read the terms and conditions properly.
Food and drink
I can stay on this section all day every day. Melbourne is just so blessed with the multicultural food scene. From sampling some authentic Peruvian ceviches to indulging in true blue Persian Ghormeh Sabzi, you will be amazed by the wide array of choices.
Zomato is widely used in Melbourne. They show you the menu, the average price for 2, the details of the restaurant, the reviews and everything that you need to know before going to the restaurant. It’s basically a PA for my belly.
Take the reviews with a pinch of salt. Make it as a guidance as to where you can go. Discrepancy of the scoring system between different cities are apparent. Recently when I was at the tearoom in the hospital that I am at, the nurses were saying something like “4.0/5.0 (the rating on Zomato) in Sydney is probably like a 3.5/5.0 in Melbourne.” There’s no doubt that Melbourne is the foodie city of Australia.
Eatclub and Liven are apps that allow you to dine in with discounted price. For example, Liven offers vouchers for you to dine in whereas Eatclub will offer flash deals. Some of the flash deals are really good – I scored a deal to eat in a Lebanese restaurant with a 50% of the total bill. Dimmi also offers booking like that as well. Just look at the “Offers” tab and hopefully you get amazing deals like 50% off! July is Melbourne’s restaurant month so go on Dimmi to enjoy 50% off if you are coming to Melbourne in July!
I highly recommend using Zomato. I will categorise this section according to their price tag. If you want to have a look at the top 13 ethnic restaurants on my list, click here.
A good city must have a good market. Or a few of them.
I love Queen Victoria Market, but I love South Melbourne Market even more! Although QV market spans a larger area, I still think that I had better experience wandering at South Melbourne Market.
I also like Dandenong Market but that’s a little far from the city centre.
Cheap and good
- Naked for satan serves amazing Spanish food and it’s cheap on specific days too! If you dine in for lunch on weekdays or for dinner on Sundays, all the menu item will just be 9$! And each pintxos will just cost 0.50$!
- Don Don is one of the first Japanese Bento restaurant that I went to and the beef sukiyaki bento box was so good. It costs just $7 if my memory didn’t fail me.
- Mekong, which is a really busy Vietnamese restaurants serve 10$ pho. Although it’s not as good as the one in Springvale, it’s still worth the money. If you by any chance will head down to Springvale, go to Pho Hong Vuong. The pho there is out of this world
- WonderBao features typical bao (buns) that you can get in Malaysia/ Taiwan. They are seriously cheap and filling.
- CJ lunch bar is a Korean restaurant that serves homey korean food for cheap. The lunch deal that you can get there is really worth it.
- Universal is a cheaper Italian restaurant located at Lygon street. I come here for the Schnitzel. It’s beautiful, it’s amazing. After the meal, treat yourself with some gelato from Pida Pipo/ Il Fredo!
- If you are up for some Indonesian succulent grilled ribs and satay, head straight to Kedai Satay. It’s a semi self-service restaurant which explains the cheap price tag. Kedai is also a halal restaurant.
- What is a visit to Melbourne without a typical Melbournian brunch!! If you are reading this in 2018 and travelling to Melbourne in 2018, lucky you because Hawthorn café Muharam has just made all the brunch item $11 for the rest of the year!
- Obviously this list won’t be complete with the good ol’ ramen. Hakata Gensuke has the best ramen that I’ve tried out of Japan and it costs less than 15$ to get yourself and amazing bowl of Tonkotsu ramen.
- DoDee Thai offers amazing Thai boat noodles that will instantly bring you to Thailand. It’s only 7.9$ (although the serving is small) and that means that you can order other things to fill your tummy up!
- Shanghai street dumplings have one of the most extensive menus that I’ve seen in Melbourne. And it’s pretty cheap too!
- GJ’s grill for Filipino food! The sinigang and the grilled chicken is just the best.
- If you ever travel down to Dandenong market, get the Sri Lankan Kothu Roti!
Not that cheap and amazing
- Portello rosso. If you ever come to this restaurant, please please order the lamb ribs and the croquettes. I don’t know what magic they put in there but it’s out of this world! They are partnered with Liven (which is how I know this place) so keep an eye out for vouchers!
- Changgo. This Korean BBQ place is somewhere that I go to whenever I miss Korea too much! Make sure you wear something non-wool/cotton because you are gonna smell like Korean BBQ after eating there!
- Hochi Mama is a Thai and Vietnamese fusion restaurant and it’s really busy. Get the feed me menu and you get to choose more items at a lower price! I really suggest the pork hock and the red curry and the soft shell crab salad.
- B Churasco. This restaurant offers authentic Brazilian BBQ. With the staff serving you chunks and chunks of succulent meat, I can assure you that you’re gonna have a fantastic time here!
- San Telmo – Argentinian restaurant in the heart of Melbourne. It’s pretty expensive so I would say this is a date kind of night!
- Peko Peko South Melbourne – I had my birthday party at Peko Peko. That’s how much I love it. Peko Peko is a Taiwanese gourmet restaurant and they serve pretty authentic Taiwanese food.
- A little out of the way but definitely worth it, Ali Qapu Persian restaurant serves amazing Persian food that reminds me of my trip to Iran.
- If you fancy some Eritrean/ Ethiopian cuisine, go to Little Africa. The way the owners plate their food and the passion they have for their food just amaze me all the time.
- Gami Chicken or SamSam both offers crazy good Korean fried chicken! Remember, you are on a vacation, not a diet!
- Saké @ Hamer Hall is another restaurant that’s on Dimmi and it’s amazing. Please have their Nori Crisp special. It will blow your mind.
- Italy 1 at Camberwell is my latest addition to this list — I have been to Italy and I can vouch that the quality of food here at Italy 1 is on par with the Italian food you get in Italy.
Citibank: I am a firm believer of Citibank (I don’t get any money from them for saying this but I hope you can see this, important person of Citibank). Citibank has made its presence in all the continents except Antarctica because they trade using penguins over there. Using Citibank has allowed me to withdraw money without extra ATM fees in all the Citibank ATMs in the world. Plus, the rates are fairly good. I just love the convenience it gives me.
Currency exchange in Melbourne is not the best. You will get pretty good rate, and then they will tell you “oh, we charge 3% commission or something”. The best thing is get some money before you travel to Australia.
I used Travelex once but the rate was really bad as compared to my other travel card.
ATMs are everywhere here in Australia. The big three are Commonwealth Bank, Westpac and ANZ. All these banks have partnering banks overseas so it’s good to check which one is your bank affiliated to.
One thing about ATM that people have to consider is fee charged per withdrawal. The components of the charges are as below:
1. Extra charge incurred from your bank
2. Extra charge incurred from the bank that you are withdrawing from (for example, if you are using a Westpac ATM, they will charge you a certain percentage)
3. Let’s not forget about the not very amazing foreign exchange rates offered by major banks
So do your research well!
Australia doesn’t have a big tipping culture. I heard your subtle “phew” there.
However, some restaurants do encourage tipping. If you are paying by card, they will hand you the machine and ask you to complete the transaction. During that time, you’ll be asked if you wanna tip. If you don’t feel like tipping, you can just click “no” politely. Most people are fine with it.
Bureau de change
Currency exchange in Melbourne is not the best. It can be deceiving to just look at the board and goes like “wow, the rate here is pretty good!”
Yes, you can get pretty competitive rate, and then they will tell you “oh, we charge 3% commission or something”. The best thing is get some money before you travel to Australia.
The best place that I have found was United Currency Exchange on Swanston street (the stretch between Little Bourke and Lonsdale). Their exchange rate to South East Asian currencies are generally good. I have heard some of my friends who travelled to Melbourne mentioned that Crown Casino offers pretty good rate too. I have never tried it by myself but it makes sense that they offer this kind of service.
You have heard about the infamous goon bag. But what if I tell you that it’s not the cheapest thing that you can get to get tipsy/ drunk? I have passed the goon-bag-age because my body CAN NOT TAKE BAD HANGOVERS ANYMORE. Btw, you can’t drink on the streets. Heavy fines await. But you know, people still do it.
Australia is a wine-producing country so drinking wine will not go wrong if you follow this guide! Aldi is definitely my go-to. They have so many award winning shiraz and pinot grigio and most of them cost less than 10$! If you don’t mind cheap wine (the quality is decent too), you can get the cheapest wine for 2.69$. I normally get:
○ One road south Australia Heathcote Shiraz $6.99
○ One Road Coonawarra Cabernet Merlot 2015, $6.99,
○ Claire creek chardonnay $4.99
Craft breweries have also been in trend for a long time in Melbourne so just search “craft beer Melbourne” and I’m sure you’ll be returned with results that I’d recommend anyways.
I love the Maekgolli (Korean rice wine) at Joomak. If you have never tried it before, I highly recommend it. You can also get Korean Soju (alcohol derived from wheat).
Naked for Satan also has an extensive bar though it’s a bit pricey.
If you fancy liquor, get a few bottles from the airport before you pass the immigration! It’s pretty cheap because it’s all tax free! Once you passed immigration, there’s no turning back and alcohol in Australia is generally expensive!!! So get it before you regret!
Nightlife in Melbourne has its own charm. From a trash club to a “dress to impress” kind of club, there’s something for everyone.
Clubbing is not your kind of thing? No problem! There’s Izakaya (like Izakaya Den), Irish pub (Irish Times pub), Bavarian bar (Munich Brauhaus), Korean wine bar (Joomak)… The list will just go on and on!
– Rats is a pretty trash club but the tunes are pretty good. 10$ entry gets you far.
– Toff in town is another free club that plays more slow R&B. it’s a 6/10 for me but remember, it’s a free club.
– Yah Yah is one of clubs that’s located at the famous stretch of party street in Fitzroy. It closes at 5am and there’s even kebab/ McDonald’s/ burger to get your (early) breakfast sorted after the party!
– Sircuit is a gay club that doesn’t charge cover if there’s no major event. It’s just next to Yah Yah. If the line’s too long at Sircuit (uncommon), you can always go to the Laird, which is just the next street. The Laird is another gay club but it tends to be quieter.
– Scarlett is the dress to impress club. It attracts a large Australian-born Asian crowd for some reason. Cover is expensive there but they have pretty good deals at times, especially when it’s your birthday! Be sure to check it out if your trip coincides with your birthday!
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I hope that this Melbourne Travel Guide will help in planning your travels to this amazing city!
Wanna hear what another Melbournian has to say about Melbourne and travel tips in Melbourne? Click here!
If you are going to Sydney too, make sure you check my self guided Sydney Walking Tour itinerary!
If you love ethnic food, here it is!
Love a good market but find Queen Victoria market too touristy? Check South Melbourne Market out!