A few weeks back, I was fortunate enough to experience a 3-day solo adventure in Melbourne, Australia. As part of my preparation, I made sure I equipped myself with all the necessary information I could find to survive my first ever solo trip. Reading through all their details can be quite overwhelming but here are few tips I can share based from my experience.
Going to Melbourne
Coming from Sydney, the most common route to the airport (Kingsford Smith- Domestic) is to take the express airport transfer from the Sydney Central Station to Domestic terminal. This is quite an expensive choice ($17-20 AUD) but if you are in a hurry to catch your flight, this is the next best thing to taking a cab or Uber. The flight takes about 1 hour & 30 minutes; and note that budget airlines’ boarding area is on the very far end of the terminal so make sure to add a few minutes of walking time in your plans so as not to be late for your flight.
Transfer from Melbourne Tullamarine Airport to Southern Cross Station
Airport transfers in Australia are expensive because most if not all are owned by private companies. The most common & convenient way is to take SkyBus from Tullamarine Airport to Southern Cross Station & back. This normally cost $19 AUD per trip, but if you buy your tickets online it can save you up to $3 AUD for a roundtrip ticket.
When you purchase your Skybus ticket online, they will send the ticket & invoice via email. You can either have this printed or save it on your phone and show this to the Skybus driver before boarding. All they actually need is the barcode that they need to scan before letting you board the bus.
Similar to Sydney, there is a cheaper way to go to Southern Cross station from airport by taking a bus & train and would only cost you around $7 AUD (see blog post here) but personally, taking the Skybus is more convenient & hassle free as it offers comfortable seats, wifi-connection & a great view of the city while on route. The trip can take only about 30 minutes, depending on the traffic condition.
Each state in Australia has their own transportation system & travel card and in Melbourne they have the Myki card. You only have to buy & use this card if you will be traveling within the Zones 1, 2 and 3 area. More details about using the Myki card here.
Free Tram within Melbourne CBD (Central Business District)
The city offers the public free tram rides within the CBD area, which is a great saving for travelers who will only visit tourist spots within the city. Each station has a big writing indicating you are on a Free Tram Zone area so you can’t miss them. When riding the trams, the driver also announce every stop if you are still on a free tram zone area or if you are leaving the free zone & reminds you to tap off on the next station to avoid penalties. The most common tram is the City Circle Tram 35 which is one of the remaining trams in the city that still embodies the old type of trams of Melbourne so make sure to ride it for the experience. Note though that you are not limited to riding Tram 35 to get a free ride. As long as you get on & off a tram station that has a sign Free Tram Zone then you don’t need to pay.
Some tips when using the trams in Melbourne:
1. During off-peak hours where the train is not full of passengers, make sure to press the STOP button when you are near your station. Unlike in other countries where the train/trams stops every station regardless if there are passengers or not, this does NOT. When I was on my way to my AirBnB apartment, 1 station before my stop I was the only one left inside the tram & panicked when the tram did not stop until it got to its last station. I had to walk back 2-3 blocks because of this. My host explained “it is quite tricky” and that there are instances when passengers would really need to press the STOP button to let the driver know someone will be getting of the next station.
2. Aside from using Google Maps, download a PTV Journey Traveler app. Trams, trains & buses in Melbourne (or in Australia in general) are always on schedule unless there are unexpected tram works or maintenance.
3. Don’t worry if you accidentally tap on your Myki Card when you are on a free tram. Even if you tap on/off your Myki card when traveling within the free tram zone, it won’t deduct anything from your Myki money.
Free WiFI Connection in CBD area
Internet is life, especially if you are a traveling around and you want to share every bits and pieces of your adventure. The city offers free wifi connection around the CBD area so you don’t have to worry about getting lost, checking the train schedule or finding out where the most popular burger place in town is.
However, if there’s a need to buy a local SIM & don’t want to avail of your network roaming – note that Australia requires a SIM registration before you can use it. This means, you have to register your name, AU address, provide ID (passport or driver’s license) before you can activate your sim. Registration & activation is not much of a hassle and steps are pretty straightforward. There are also several prepaid plans you can choose from depending on your internet needs.
Shops close early in Australia
When planning your itinerary, make sure to consider the operating hours of the places you want to visit. Australia, as they value time with family, closes as early as 5:30 PM. Some of the tourist spots, for example the Queen Victoria Market, is closed during Wednesdays. Luna Park is only open during weekends & holidays during school period.