If you’re planning on spending any time in the world’s most liveable city, you won’t be surprised to read that it can be expensive. There’s nothing wrong with a weekend splurge trip but, if you’re here for any longer, you’ll want to know how to save some of your hard earned money. Well, you’ve come to the right place as I’ve got all the tips for getting the most out of Melbourne on a budget. I’m not holding out to be an expert but I lived here for three months and had to save wherever I could!
Free Tram Zone
The Free Tram Zone will be your best friend by the time you leave Melbourne. It covers all of the Central Business District (CBD) as far west as the Docklands and as far east as Spring Street. Check out the map here. There are plenty of regular trams that criss-cross the CBD so you’ll be able to get wherever you want pretty quickly. Personally though I’d avoid the City Circle Tram (35) which is a bit of a mecca for tourists. It’s always packed and has no air-con! However, if you can manage just one stop you’ll be able to experience one of Melbourne’s heritage trams.
If you are heading out of the Free Tram Zone, to say Fitzroy, I’d recommend getting the free tram as far as possible and then walking the extra distance. This will save you a significant amount of money. There’s no point paying $4.10 to go an additional two or three stops. It’s not worth risking staying on the tram without a valid ticket either as you risk getting fined $238.
$6 Unlimited Travel
Sticking with public transport, save all of your long distance exploring for the weekend. There will come a time when you will need to explore outside of the FTZ (eg St Kilda) and for that you’ll need a Myki card. The card costs $6 to buy and, once topped up with money, you simply touch on and off on buses, trams and metro trains. During the week the cost is $4.10 for two hours with an $8.10 daily cap. That’s by no means expensive but, at the weekend, that daily cap reduces to just $6. We used trams, buses and metro trains to travel from Southern Cross Station to Coburg then Thornbury, Collingwood, Richmond and Brighton Beach. A round trip of about 65km.
Free Things to Do in Melbourne
Melbourne is full of attractions to keep your days occupied but, if you’re on a budget, you’ll want to try and avoid some of the places that charge entry fees. Don’t get me wrong, you have to go to museums and attractions that do charge (you can’t miss the tour of the MCG) but Melbourne has so many great things to do that are completely free. Here is just a small list to get you started:
Explore street art in the laneways – Hosier Lane & Duckboard Place
Wander the Royal Botanic Gardens
Admire the La Trobe Reading Room at the State Library of Victoria
Pretend you love ‘art’ and visit the National Gallery of Victoria
Spot fairy penguins making their way ashore at St Kilda Pier
Get lost in the suburbs in Fitzroy or Richmond
Free Drinking Water
Keep your eyes peeled for water fountains all across Melbourne, both in the city and throughout the parks. Why spend $2-4 on a small bottle of water when you can fill up your own for free.
There’s no denying it, alcohol is expensive. If you’re a big drinker and on a budget, you’re really going to struggle. In the nice bars, I’m talking $10 for a schooner of beer, $20 or more for a cocktail. We went for a few drinks one night and quickly spent $200. My tip is therefore to search out bars and restaurants offering happy hour (usually 4pm to 7pm) and you’ll get discounted drinks. We managed to find cheap $7 pints of beer and $10 cocktails which helps if you’re here long-term.
We’d all love to eat at Chin Chin or Dinner by Heston Blumenthal every night but, if you’re on a budget, the reality is your overdraft will be maxed out before the main course. We’ve eaten out probably more than we should have (Melbourne has some amazing burgers) but the only way to save money is to cook yourself. If you’re staying in an apartment, you’ll have access to a kitchen just as though you were home. I’d recommend making the most of it and make your own tea. The supermarkets are not overly expensive and, if you head to Queen Victoria Market an hour or two before closing, you’ll get great deals (like half price) on meat! We’ve saved a fortune by doing this.
There you have it, six great tips for visiting Melbourne on a budget. Now get out there and explore!
Let me know if you have any other tips on saving money whilst travelling.