By Public Transportation
Trams are the major form of transport in the city; you probably will use a train or bus only if you are going into the suburbs. Melbourne’s transport system uses an electronic ticketing system called myki, a reusable smart card that stores either a myki pass (travel days) or myki money (dollar value) to pay for your travel. You “touch on” and “touch off” at an electronic machine on board the tram or bus, or as you enter the train station. When your myki balance gets low or your pass runs out, you just top up your card. Myki money is a dollar amount (minimum A$10), and when you touch on and touch off as you travel, the system calculates the best available fare for the journey. With myki money you aren’t restricted to zones, as you pay for what you use. A 2-hour trip in Zone 1, which will allow you to travel on all trams and trains within the city and close surrounding suburbs mentioned in this chapter from 5:30am to midnight (when transportation stops), will cost you A$3.50 or a daily fare of A$7. The maximum daily myki money fare is $12, for travel in Zones 1 and 2, but on a Saturday, Sunday, or public holiday, you will pay the off-peak rate of $3.50 per day. A 7-day myki pass will cost $35 to travel in Zone 1. You can get cards at Flinders Street or Southern Cross stations or at the MetShop. and top them up through the Public Transport Victoria website (www.ptv.vic.gov.au) or at the call center (tel. 1800/800 007); or top up as little as A$1 at myki machines in train stations and at selected tram platforms and bus interchanges.
You can pick up a free route map from the Melbourne Visitor Centre, Federation Square, or from the PTV Hub at Southern Cross station (tel. 1800/800 007 in Australia; www.ptv.vic.gov.au), which is open Monday through Friday from 7am to 7pm and weekends and public holidays (except Christmas Day) 9am to 6pm. There’s another hub at 750 Collins St., Docklands, open from 8am to 6pm weekdays only (except public holidays).
By Tram -- Melbourne has the oldest tram network in the world. Trams are an essential part of the city, a major cultural icon, and a great non-smoggy way of getting around. Several hundred trams run over 325 km (202 miles) of track.
Trams stop at numbered tram-stop signs, sometimes in the middle of the road (so beware of oncoming traffic!). To get off the tram, press the button near the handrails or pull the cord above your head.
The City Circle Tram is the best way to get around the center of Melbourne—and it’s free. The burgundy-and-cream trams travel a circular route between all the major central attractions and past shopping malls and arcades. The trams run, in both directions, every 12 minutes between 10am and 6pm (and until 9pm Thurs–Sat), except on Good Friday and Christmas Day. The trams run along all the major thoroughfares including Flinders and Spencer streets. Burgundy signs mark City Circle Tram stops.
By Bus -- The free Melbourne City Tourist Shuttle operates buses that pick up and drop off at 13 stops around the city, including Federation Square, the Melbourne Museum, Queen Victoria Market, Immigration Museum, Southbank Arts Precinct, the Shrine of Remembrance and Botanic Gardens, Chinatown, and many other attractions. You can hop on and off during the day. The entire loop takes about 90 minutes nonstop, and there’s a commentary. The bus runs every 30 minutes from 9:30am until 4:30pm daily (except Christmas Day, and with limited service on some public holidays).
Cabs are plentiful in the city, but it may be difficult to hail one in the city center late on Friday and Saturday night. From 10pm to 5am, anywhere in Victoria, you must prepay your fare. The driver estimates the fare at the start of the journey, gives you a receipt, and then adjusts it according to the meter reading plus any fees such as road tolls, at the end of your trip. Taxi companies include Silver Top (tel. 13 10 08 in Australia), Embassy (tel. 13 17 55 in Australia), and Yellow Cabs (tel. 13 22 27 in Australia).
Driving in Melbourne can be challenging. Roads can be confusing; there are trams everywhere; and there is a rule about turning right from the left lane at major intersections in the downtown center and in South Melbourne (which leaves the left lane free for trams and through traffic). Here, you must wait for the lights to turn amber before turning. Also, you must always stop behind a tram if it stops, because passengers usually step directly into the road. Add to this the general lack of parking and expensive hotel valet parking, and you’ll know why it’s better to avoid driving and get on a tram instead. For road rules, pick up a copy of the Victorian Road Traffic handbook from bookshops or from a Vic Roads office (tel. 13 11 71 in Australia for the nearest office).
Major car-rental companies, all with offices at Tullamarine Airport, include Avis, Shop 2, 8 Franklin St. (tel. 03/9204 3933); Budget, Shop 3, 8 Franklin St. (tel. 03/9203 4844); Europcar, 89 Franklin St. (tel. 03/8633 0000); Hertz, 97 Franklin St. (tel. 13 30 39 in Australia, or 03/9663 4205); and Thrifty, 390 Elizabeth St. (tel. 1300/367 227 in Australia or 03/8661 6000).