Gosh! This blog is definitely long overdue!! Since our family vacation to Melbourne earlier this year, I had been meaning to compile a list of personal tips for anyone who would be visiting Melbourne. Anyway, better late than never!
Here’s my list of 20 tips for visiting Melbourne…
#1: Get your ETA cheap!
If you are visiting Australia as a tourist, you’d need to apply for an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA), which costs around A$20 per application from the Australian Immigration. Whilst you can apply for it online 24/7, the key tip that many people don’t know is that the ETA can be obtained much cheaper if you apply for it from this site called Easy ETA. This site promises a 24-hour processing time and with a 50% discount as well! Initially I had my doubts about this site but I checked out its reviews from many other users and was convinced by its validity. Applying for the ETA was a breeze and we saved a lot of money too!
#2: Renew your Driving Licence
if you intend to drive in Australia, you do NOT need to apply for an International Driving Permit, which would cost you RM150 for a yearly application. What is typically required by the Australian law as well as the car rental companies is an ‘English translation’ of your existing Driving Licence. Now, if you are a Malaysian and your Driving Licence is all in BM, you are holding the OLD version. Simply go renew your licence to get the NEW version, which would already have an English translation of the relevant details!
#3: The Birthdate Education
Yup. You may have realised that whilst our NEW driving licence has all the details nicely translated into English, it still does NOT list down our BIRTHDATE! Will this cause any complications? Well, some car rental companies may not be so strict and let this detail go. However, in the case of some car rental companies who insist on seeing your ‘translated’ date of birth, simply educate them by pointing to your MyKAD number on the driving licence, and coolly explain that your birthdate can be found there. Then just pause and wait for their shocked reaction of approval. 😛
I conducted my brief ‘tutorial’ when I registered for a local SIM and the telco seller was really impressed by this simple Malaysian ‘efficiency’! *ahem*
#4: Rent A Car!
if you are intending to visit the suburban areas like Yarra Valley, it would be advisable to rent a car. Surprisingly, rental cars in Melbourne is quite affordable and it gives you the flexibility to move around at our own time. Besides, taxis over there are EXPENSIVE!
The car rental agency we used when we were in Melbourne was Auz Rental Cars.
#5: Hanging Out Correctly at Puffing Billy
One of the the most popular tourist attractions for kids in Melbourne is the Puffing Billy – an old steam powered train that travels from Belgrave to Gembrook. Although it moves pretty slowly along its tracks, many kids (and adults too!) love it because we get to ‘hang out’ our feet outside the train as it moves! Now, the tip here is that if you are traveling from Belgrave, you should hang out on the RIGHT side of the train and if you are travelling from Gembrook, try to get to the LEFT side of the train. Why? The view on those sides are just so much better. Trust me!
#6: Take the Free Circle Tram #35
If you happen to go into the Melbourne CBD, make it a point to include taking the FREE City Circle Tram ride (Tram No. 35) as one of the earliest things on your itinerary. it takes no more than 30 mins ( I think) and it includes very informative narrations of places you can go visit all along the way! Not too long ago, the tram route was also expanded to include the Docklands! So if you are planning to stay in the CBD or vist places around the CBD, it is essential to familiarize yourself with this FREE TRAM ZONE. Heck, you may not even need to purchase any myki if you plan your inter-city routes well!
#7: Go Early Instead!
You might find yourself shocked to see many tourist attractions (and even shops!) close very early in Melbourne. One simple tip is you could redesign your itinerary so that you visit these places EARLY instead! Although most places/shops/etc in Melbourne typically close by 5pm, they do open for business REALLY early. I remember making the effort to scavenge through the Queen Victoria Market from 7am (they open at 6am!) because there was no way I would have been able to visit it during normal times!
#8: Eat More Lamb and Beef…and MILK!
I’m not exaggerating this. I can honestly say I am a MEAT person through and through and I personally found the LAMB and BEEF in Melbourne to taste so much better than the other meats, especially chicken!
Drinking milk there is probably a no brainer. Fresh milk in Australia just tastes so GOOD and costs so CHEAP that it would feel like a sin if you do not gulp down a glass or two every day!
#9: Buy Ice Cream
When people think of Australia, they would think of all the wonderful dairy and meat products from the farm animals there – milk, beef, cheese, butter, etc.typically comes to mind first. Strangely, many people often forget ICE-CREAM!!! Yup, we managed to buy a ‘premium’ branded tub of Bulla for about 1/3 the price you’d pay for in Malaysia. Delicious!!
#10: Stay in Apartments
Accommodation in Melbourne isn’t cheap, especially in the CBD. A cheaper and much more practical solution would be to stay in apartments, and there are plenty of them in Melbourne! Why practical? With apartments, you’d have the luxury of doing your own laundry, cooking, etc., and more importantly giving you a much larger space for large families! We stayed for about a 5 days in Adina Apartment, Northbank, and all those amenities (especially the washer and dryer!) made our stay very pleasant.
#11: Get Souvenirs from Queen Victoria Market
Refrain from buying Australian souvenirs from anywhere else. At the QVM, you will get the best pricings and better range. We learnt this the hard way when we started buying some souvenirs from other places before we had a chance to visit the QVM. Sigh. Anyway, do go early and the sellers might even give you additional discounts for early bird customers!
#12: Experience the Night Market at QVM
Speaking of the QVM, many people do not know that on certain Wednesday nights throughout the calendar year, they will run unique night markets there. Yup – NIGHT. When we were there in March, they called it the Summer Night Market (typically between November to March). I believe the Winter Night Market runs sometime between June to August. Do check out the QVM website for the exact dates/season of these night markets but it generally runs from 5 – 10pm. Why is it so special again? You will experience a wide variety of international street foods, street bands and an unbelievable atmosphere!
#13: Shuttle to Werribee Open Range Zoo
Personally, I found the Werribee Open Range Zoo to be one of the more exciting zoos I’ve ever seen. The safari ride into the open range area to get up close and personal with wildlife was a totally unbelievable experience, especially for kids. Unfortunately, when we were in Melbourne, we realised that accessibility was quite a problem. Going there by taxi would be uber expensive; taking a train with some changes and taxi shuttles with three kids in tow would be nightmarish and ultimately taxing on us. We were fortunate to discover (at the very last minute) that there is a Werribee Park Shuttle that departs from the national Gallery of Victoria every morning that only costs A$25 per adult; and A$15 for kids under 10.
#14: Getting the Best Seat at the Penguin Parade
Another must-see attraction in Melbourne is the Penguin Parade on Phillip Island. Unfortunately, the actual ‘parade’ becomes quite a challenge when you realise there are so many kiasu tourists who would go in extremely early to the viewing area and camp themselves on the bench as close as possible to the beach landing area. A tip our guide from Little Penguin Bus was not to get discouraged. Just find yourself a place to sit (or stand!) when the parade begins. As time goes by, most people will slowly move away from their seats (guess it’s not easy to squint your eyes in low-light conditions for too long!). Be alert to this ‘standard feature’ and stealthily move yourself to better viewing locations
#15: Get a Local SIM!
I guess most regular travellers already do this but I guess it’s no harm to advise it anyway – get a local Australian SIM when you reach there. They have pretty cheap and competitive rates and well-thought off range blocks like one-week, one month, etc.
#16: Have those A$2 Coins Handy
One of the more popular sightings in major tourist attractions in Melbourne are those Souvenir Pressed Pennies Machines. You simply pop in a A$2 coin, choose the design of your choice and crank up the machine lever to ‘make’ your own souvenir! If you are really into this, do keep those A$2 coins ready. In some places it may not be so easy to get spare change for that! Personal warning: These machines are really addictive and kids simply love them! Paying A$2 for a unique souvenir sounds CHEAP but after you complete your tour itinerary of Melbourne, you might not think it was such a cheap souvenir after all…:-p
#17: Bring Australian Meat Home
Typical souvenirs you would probably bring home from Australia are plush koalas and kangaroos, boomerangs, leather stuff, chocolates, etc, right? Why not bring home some of the best meats found on the planet! Remember to pack along your cooler bags for convenient packing!Who says you cant bring home some of those Australian goodness right?
#18: Buy Tickets Online and Save!
As you are planing your tour itinerary back home, it would be prudent to check out the ticket prices of some of the attractions you are heading too. More often than not, you’d be able to purchase your tickets online at a much discounted rate!
#19: Free Zoo Admission for Kids on Weekends
If you are planning to take your kids to any of the three zoos in Melbourne, make sure you plan it in such a way that it is on a weekend because all kids below 15 go in for FREE!!
#20: Prepare for the Weather
The weather in Melbourne is strangely very unpredictable. I recalled a really weird sequence in the middle of a sunny hot afternoon. Suddenly a burst of showers appeared out of nowhere for only about a minute. Then the rain disappeared and the chilly winds came out once more. Tip: If you will be outside, bring appropriate clothes to adapt to these strange Melbourne weathers. Here’s an image which says a lot about the Melboutne weather. 😛
If you missed our family adventure in Melbourne, head on over HERE for the full details!