As a born-and-raised Melbournian, I will tell anybody that listens that this is truly the best city! Melbourne has been voted the ‘most liveable city in the world’ by the Economist for 6 consecutive years now. However, Australia is not a budget-friendly country for travelers. With a decent cup of coffee costing between $3-$5, it can be easy to see where all of our money goes (You must have at least ONE world-famous Melbourne coffee!) This post is the attempt of a local Melbournian helping you navigate my hometown on $20 AUD or less a day. Includes tips for what to eat in Melbourne under $15 AUD and what to do in Melbourne for free. FREE downloadable Google Map that you can use offline at the bottom!
Guest Post courtesy of native Melbournian Kirstin from The Roaming Street! Keep reading for insider advice for visiting Melbourne and the best things to do in melbourne on a budget!
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Free things to do in Melbourne
Get Lost in the Laneways
One of the most popular pastimes in Melbourne is to ‘get lost in its laneways’. By far, the most popular branch is off Bourke Street Mall. Bourke Street Mall itself has many upscale shops and is always full to the brim with street entertainers. The laneways that break up Melbourne’s somewhat boring grid layout are always an adventure. The laneways just off Bourke Street Mall are exquisitely maintained, and be sure to notice every detail from the bannisters to the ceilings!
There are more hidden gems with local street art and graffiti around the city. My personal favourite laneway is Degraves Street. You’ll find the nice cafes for breakfast or coffee just off Flinders Street. Keep your eyes peeled for some amazing ~$5 coffee and croissant deals!
Flinders Street Station
Impossible to miss! Flinders Street Station is the major public transport hub in Melbourne, famous for its beautifully old facade, the clocks, and the steps… You’ll overhear locals saying ‘I’ll meet you at the steps’.
Royal Botanical Gardens
These beautiful gardens are a short walk down Flinders Street Station via a bridge over the Yarra river. The gardens are bordered by ‘The Tan’, our most popular running track! The gardens are lovely to wander. Bring your own picnic from the local supermarket (Coles or Woolworths) to save money!
St Kilda Beach
St Kilda Beach is an area teeming with hipsters and chilled out beachgoers. While not the cleanest or prettiest beach, the area is bustling with restaurants, bars, events and even a small theme park (Luna Park). You’ll find spontaneous music festivals and pop-up markets here in summer! You can walk along the shoreline, down the pier, or along the Esplanade. The Esplanade is where the restaurants can be found. (Note: this is outside the free tram zone so you will need to top up your Myki card.)
Best Places to Eat in Melbourne Under $15
You’ll want to head out of the city centre to one of three areas for good, cheap food in melbourne. There are many great restaurants and bars in the city, however they tend to be more expensive.
Don’t forget to have brunch (Try poached eggs with avocado on toast) with a cup of famous Melbourne coffee; it’s a Melbourne must.
My personal favourites include:
Lygon Street is in Carlton, on the opposite side of the city to Chapel Street. It is famous for its Italian restaurants and you’re guaranteed a hearty bowl of pasta or great pizza. Keep an eye out for Brunetti & La Spaghettata in particular. True to Melbourne form, be sure to turn down some of the side-streets, branching off of Lygon Street, to find some hidden gems. Lygon Street also does a mean breakfast or brunch!
Brunswick Street runs parallel to Lygon Street, a few blocks down. You’ll find lots of University students--and cheap eats. Brunswick Street is a hipster’s paradise and it is a great place to find a quality vegetarian/vegan meal in Melbourne. My favorite is the Vegie Bar. My true-blue Aussie, steak-loving boyfriend tried one of their specialties, the quinoa burger, and loved it! The food is always hearty, delicious, and never more than $16 for a main. Ask for the satay sauce and the incredible homemade berry cheesecake (However, be quick, once they sell out there is no more). For more desserts, check Toni’s guide to Melbourne’s best desserts.
Cheap Day Trips from Melbourne
Williamstown Beach isn’t so much a beach area, but a cool place to sit and watch the sunset with views of the city as well as the Westgate bridge. Take a stroll down the pier on a summer night and maybe take a dip in the water.
If you’re looking for something a bit different and want to experience day-to-day life in Melbourne’s outer suburbs Dandenong is the most multicultural city in Australia and my hometown. It is teeming with different cultures, cuisines and people. It is an hour train ride from Melbourne, and has good public transport options. Make sure to visit on a Tuesday, Friday or Saturday to visit the famous Dandenong Markets, get a hot jam donut and browse the stalls. Dandenong offers a lot, even go-karts, an aquarium with stingrays and sharks, and some very cheap shopping and eating. You can buy fresh Afghani bread (the size of an arm's length) for $1! If you're travelling solo, visit during the day.
Tips for getting around Melbourne with public transit
You will most likely begin your journey at Flinders Street Station. Melbourne city centre isn’t all that big, so you can easily walk from one end to the other. (It’s also a grid, so it’s hard to get lost.) All tram travel within the grid (and even certain spots outside) is free. Trams run until just past midnight although they get packed at peak times. (Taxis are very expensive, so stick to apps instead.)
If you prefer to venture out a bit further, you will need a Myki card. Myki is your only option to pay for a bus, tram or train; they will not take cash! As of March 2017, the myki card itself will cost you about $6 and a daily fare will cost you $8.20. (It is possible to buy your Myki card beforehand.) A 1 day visitor pass will give you discounted entry to some local attractions although buying weekly/monthly passes is better for longer stays. Another alternative is the Melbourne Bike Share, which has bicycles stationed all over the city with only a $3 daily registration fee to use any of these bikes for a 30-minute ride to any other bike station in the city.
How to get to Melbourne from the Airport
Transport from the Melbourne airport is not ideal. There is a shuttle bus (Skybus), it costs $19 and takes 20 minutes each way. If you wish to be thrifty, you can purchase a Myki card at the airport before taking a bus and a train. Bare in mind though, this takes over an hour.
Where to stay in Melbourne
Check out a fellow Melbournian’s guide or read about beautiful day trips (with a car) up the Great Ocean Road from Melbourne.
Download your free Google map with Kirstin's recommendations below!
Have you been to Melbourne? Any other favorite places to add?
Enjoyed this post? This was written by guest author, Kirstin!
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Karen and Jacob. American expats and cat lovers from New York City and Kentucky who lived in Amsterdam.... Now in Paris with moving back to the Netherlands this month.
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