I’ve had a theory for some time; locations with indifferent weather breed the brightest and most industrious people.
It explains how a damp Britain colonised much of the world. Why wintery Canada, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland and Finland are in the top 10 of the U.N.’s World Happiest Report. And why Melbourne, a city with notoriously fickle weather, consistently tops The Economist’s list of the world’s most liveable cities.
Despite having the unfortunate reputation of producing all four seasons in one hour, let alone one day, Melbourne’s contemporary culture is one of the world’s best. The Victorian capital has a smorgasbord of arts, sports and, of course, dining options to discover year round.
Melbourne has more cafes, restaurants and eateries per capita than any other city in the world. I know, what a ridiculous stat! But one that is immediately apparent when you start exploring the CBD’s many laneways, arcades and rooftops.
If you’re a sports nut, look no further. Melbourne hosts a bevy of world-class events including Australian Open Tennis, the F1 Australian Grand Prix, regular International Football matches, Melbourne Cup horse racing and the AFL Grand Final (the equivalent of the FA Cup or Superbowl for the locals).
Then there’s the arts culture. The city is littered with galleries, museums, theatres, libraries, street art and public sculptures; all of which are backed by a thriving music scene.
Melbourne has more cafes, restaurants and eateries per capita than any other city in the world. melbourne.vic.gov.au
With all of this going on, it comes as no surprise that the cost of living in Melbourne is high; in the world’s top 20 cities in fact. So unless you’re looking to bust open your hard-earned savings, it’s best to plan ahead.
Get the lowdown.
How to get there
Unless you’re a massive train or bus buff, flying into Melbourne from interstate (and internationally, obviously) is your best bet. While the plane vs. train/bus ticket price is comparable, the time it takes to reach the CBD is a complete blowout. For example, from Sydney, it takes 11-12 hours on the train/bus, compared to a tick over 2 hours via plane/airport transfer.
From the airport, I recommend two methods of getting into the CBD; the convenient way and the cheap way.
The convenient way
SkyBus is a transfer service running from the airport to the city (as well as a handful of other nearby destinations). There are plenty of places to purchase your ticket and catch your bus from just outside the airport terminals. These buses drop you off at the inner-city Southern Cross Station. Then a shuttle bus transfers you to your hotel/hostel, or you can just walk out of the station and jump on a free tram. Simple! All other information can found on the SkyBus website.
The cheap way
Now, I warn you; this does require a bit of stuffing about. There are no direct lines of public transport into the city, but it is possible to get into the CBD via bus, then train.
First, you will need to purchase a myki card, which can be done so inside the airport; these are used on public transport throughout the city (more on this under ‘Transport’). Step outside any of the terminals, turn right… and keep going… and going. You’ll eventually find a large car park/transport hub out the front of Terminal 4. At the far end of this building, on the ground level, you’ll find the 901 bus stop (timetable here), heading to Frankston. Touch on with your card, wait for two stops and get off at Broadmeadows Railway Station. You’ll likely have to go underneath the tracks to get to Platform 1. Then it’s on a train heading into the city, terminating at Flinders Street. This route will take a little longer, but will only cost you much less by the time you make the round trip back to the airport.
At this stage, Uber only has the expensive UberBLACK service running from the airport, while a journey from the city to the airport will cost you around $40-$55.
One word; trams. They’re everywhere in Melbourne. They criss-cross the city, providing free transportation within the CBD (yep, you heard right), and spout out across the greater metropolitan area. Melbourne’s train and bus services ably support the tram system but take one look at the millions of streetcar-ladened postcards in souvenir stores, and it’s obvious who is the poster boy for Public Transportation Victoria.
PTV use a ‘touch on touch off’ system called myki, which has a variety of passes and discounts. The card will sting you $6 upfront, but it’s the only way to use public transport in Victoria; plus it’s refundable. At the absolute most, the card has a maximum daily cap of $8.20, which is reasonable for unlimited travel. If you’re planning on staying entirely within the CBD, don’t bother buying a card.
All myki information, including fares and passes, can be found on the PTV website. I also highly recommend downloading the PTV app to view real-time services and help plan your journey.
As expected, there is a massive array of budget-conscious accommodation throughout Melbourne. Even at the busiest times of the year, you’ll generally be able to find something to suit your needs. There are nearly 50 hostels and 300+ Airbnb’s to sift through, in and around the CBD. While the nearby suburbs are a great place to find convenient house sitting opportunities.
Melbourne has free WIFI across the CBD. That’s right! Get access to your emails, social media accounts, book accommodation; all without having to run around looking for an internet café. You have a maximum of 250MB per device/per day, so you’re not going to be able to download that HD movie you’ve been eyeing off. But it’s handy and simple to setup.
You can find all other information on the VicFreeWifi section of the Victorian Government website.
If you’re looking for somewhere that’s a little more steady, stable and secure I thoroughly recommend the State Library of Victoria. I snuck in here on several occasions when I needed a quiet place to work. The internet is free and the speed was ace.