Melbourne is a city that has very much grown from the centre and sprawled outwards. Public transport in the city centre of Melbourne is good but not so much once you head out of town.
If you are planning any day trips with a family, it might pay to hire a car – just be warned if you are parking it in town, parking costs can be steep!
Public Transport in Melbourne
Most visitors stay in and around Melbourne’s city centre. The grid layout makes the city easy to navigate, although it’s often hillier than you expect if you are sightseeing with little ones!
Get yourself a myki card
A myki card is needed for travel on all of Melbourne’s trains, trams and buses. You pre-pay money onto this plastic smart card, which is then deducted each time its used. You can top up your myki card online, over the phone or in person at various shops (including 7-Eleven) and at top-up machines in train stations and selected tram stops.
Myki cards can be purchased online in advance for a small amount $6/$3 AUD (only for Australian credit card holders), or pick them up from premium train stations or any retail stores advertising myki.
Do kids need a myki?
Yes, children aged 5- 17 will need their own myki and will receive concessional fares, as well students and seniors. Children 4 and under do not need one.
Do I get any extras with my myki?
Not with a standard myki, but a myki Explorer Pack (available from the Melbourne Visitor Center in Federation Square, Southern Cross Stations or SkyBus terminals) will get you transport in zone 1-2 for one day, plus discounted entry to 18 attractions across the city – you can see the full listing of attractions included here.
The myki card is only valid for one day of transport use, but can then be topped up like a normal myki – well worth taking this option for the ongoing discounts.
One of the most popular ways to get around the inner city is on Melbourne’s iconic trams. Most of the traditional old trams have been replaced by sleek, light rail versions in all but the city circle route, where you can catch a heritage tram with commentary.
Note trams within and around the CBD only are FREE to use. If you head into Zone 1 or 2, you will need to tap in with your myki (and inspectors show no mercy or ignorance that you’re a tourist, you’ll get an on the spot fine).
Metro Trains Melbourne
Heading further out of the city, trains are a popular option to key Melbourne suburbs. There are 5 underground stations in the CBD, with all trains into central Melbourne taking this loop. Watch which way around the loop trains are going or you could find yourself with a long wait! Melbourne trains use the myki card and tickets are available for Zone 1/2 and Zone 2.
Buses also operate around Melbourne’s suburbs, and V Line services operate in regional areas too. Visit the Public Transport Victoria website for regional bus information.
Public Transport taxis are easy to spot; they are mostly painted yellow, silver or white and marked with a rooftop lamp. Taxis can be booked to a designated address, picked up from a signposted cab rank or hailed from the street side if it’s safe for them to pull over. A lit rooftop indicates that it the taxi is available for hire. Melbourne taxis are all metered with drivers in uniform.
Note you may pay extras on top of the fare displayed for tolls and late night surcharge. If you book a cab between 10pm and 5am, the driver is entitled to ask for a fare deposit upfront based on an estimator.
Ridesharing apps such as Uber are legal in Melbourne and an increasingly popular alternative. There is UberX, a standard service, and uberBLACK, a premium service. These are cashless systems as you’ll pay by credit card through the app.
How to get from Melbourne Airport to the City
From Melbourne Tullamarine Airport (MEL), there are surprisingly limited public transport choices. The SkyBus or taxis are pretty much your only options unless you hire a car or driver.
SkyBus is about a third of the cost of a taxi, and they have thoughtfully got family fares. A single fare, which includes one adult and up to 4 children is $19 AUD, whilst 2 adults and up to 4 children is $38 AUD (you can save a little buying online in advance).
SkyBus City Center operates 24 hours a day and drops off at the corner of Spencer & Bourke Streets in the CBD. Services to St Kilda and Frankston have restricted operating hours.
The airport is between 25-45 minutes from the CBD, but this can be highly dependent on traffic conditions. If you are travelling in peak morning and evening times, allow yourself plenty of extra time. SkyBus recommend you leave up to 1.5 hours for the journey back to the airport.
How much is a taxi from Melbourne Airport to the city?
You can expect a taxi to cost around $55- $65 AUD, including the airport taxi surcharge. They are in plentiful supply at the airport and do not need to be advance booked.
Hiring a Car in Melbourne
Melbourne is one of those cities you may benefit from having a car if you’d like to take day trips beyond the city centre. If you will be parking in the city, download the PayStay app for cashless street parking.
If you are new to Melbourne driving, make sure you give way to trams and study up on how to do a hook turn! (a special road layout in the CBD, designed for right-hand turns that won’t block the tram lines). Speeding is also scrupulously monitored, so make sure you don’t veer over the signposted limit or expect hefty fines.
Melbourne has a number of tollway systems. These are all electronic, no cash pay booths. If you’re hiring a car, your etag will be included in the vehicle and payment system explained.
Want to know more about Melbourne with kids? Where are the best areas to stay? What to do?
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