Last updated on March 3, 2024 by Stefano Ferro, founder of MEL365, following extensive travelling in Melbourne

Top Practical Tips to Keep In Mind When Staying in the Melbourne CBD

Melbourne might not have an iconic opera house, but where it lacks in monuments, it makes up for in culture. Melbourne is often touted as the cultural capital of Australia, and when you visit the Yarra Valley, Philips Island, and St Paul’s Cathedral, you’ll see why. 

But before you enjoy your trip, you should take some time to consider the practicalities of your stay in the cultural capital – things like using the free tram system and packing for all seasons in one day. After all, it’s nice to have the planning out of the way while wandering the streets and finding something to eat.

Here are our top practical tips to keep in mind when staying in the Melbourne CBD.

View of Melbourne CBD from St Kilda
View of Melbourne CBD from St Kilda

Phone SIMs, Wi-Fi, and VPNs

First, let’s start with how you should plan to stay connected in Melbourne. Australia has garnered a pretty poor reputation for lacking in network infrastructure. Unlike Singapore or other travel hubs, Melbourne lacks free Wi-Fi.

It does have good coverage within the CBD and at the airport, but outside, you’ll need a SIM card. This allows you to use a 4G network connection in built-up areas. You can buy a SIM card at the airport or most supermarkets. 

In the case of VPNs, you can use them to secure your connection while travelling, and access websites you use at home. We recommend looking at VPN reviews online to find the best VPN for Australia.

Select Your Travel Season

Summer is the best time to visit Melbourne. It’s time for suntans, cocktails by the river, and sunny walks through the city. The Australian summer runs from December to February, reaching highs of 30c and lows of 14c at night.

But all that said, Melbourne is notorious for its unpredictable weather; even a sunny day can turn to rain. Because of this, it’s worth packing a jumper, umbrella, or raincoat along with your swimsuit. 

The other thing that you should consider when booking your stay is the festivals. Melbourne holds many of the country’s biggest festivals, and there will be at least one that you’ll love each year.

There are wine and food festivals, film festivals, music festivals, global sporting events, and more. The Melbourne Cup falls in spring, while the Australian Open takes place in summer. Knowing what events you’d like to experience can help you select your perfect travel season.

Flinders Street Station
Flinders Street Station in Melbourne CBD

Getting Around

Inside the CBD, is a special Free Tram Zone filled with a network of free trams for you to ride all day. They’re both pretty and punctual and great fun for tourists. You’ll have to buy a Myki travel card outside the tram zone to use public transport. To use them, simply tap on and off at the start and end of each trip (just watch the locals). 

Together, these systems cover almost every street in the city. Most tourists will have no problem using these two systems to get anywhere, from the Zoo to the beach to the Yarra Valley. But if you’re planning to spend a lot of time outside of the city centre, a car rental will save you waiting around for the quieter bus lines.

What to Eat and Drink

Melbourne is the country’s food capital, adding a little flare to even the most common dishes. Burgers come with beetroot and cheesecakes with Golden Gaytime crumble on top. And yes – a trip to Melbourne would be incomplete without trying both of these local delicacies.

There is also a bevy of breweries and vineyards to visit. To list a couple, the Carlton Brewhouse, Paradigm Hill, Mountain Goat Beer, and 10 Minutes By Tractor. The three regions to consider for wines are the Yarra Valley, the Mornington Peninsula, and the Macedon Ranges.

And the nightlife is just as bubbling. There are rooftop cinemas (Lido on the Roof), fairytale-themed bars (StoryVille), trendy hole-in-the-walls (Hell’s Kitchen), and more. So, whatever you feel like eating or drinking, there will undoubtedly be a style that suits you.

Where to Stay

Accommodation prices will be higher the closer to the CBD you stay, but they’ll also be higher quality. Even the Ibis Hotel (a budget hotel chain) in the CBD is quite reasonable – though the one by the airport is not. 

And then there’s The Windsor Hotel. This 140-year-old marvel of Victorian architecture marvel is Melbourne’s most unique luxury stay. Even if you’re not booking a night at The Windsor, you should still check out its stunning lobby.

The Intercontinental and The Langham also vie for Melbourne’s top spot, but all the hotels in the CBD are clean and well-maintained.

Melbourne City Panorama
Melbourne City Panorama

Is Melbourne Safe?

Melbourne has been rated as a low-risk city to walk around both alone and at night. If you’re staying in the CBD, you can enjoy well-lit, clean streets with a comfortable atmosphere.

For many, the biggest concerns are the heat during the summer– keep hydrated and sun-protected– and the flooding during the winter. Additionally, you should learn the swimming safety rules of the beach, which require you to swim within the lifeguard’s flags.

Conclusion

Although Melbourne has no quokkas or coral reefs, it more than makes up for it with its urban delights. Melbourne’s style and variety make it the premier Aussie holiday spot for millions of tourists every year. Whether you come for the music and movie festival, the wine, or the foodie scene is up to you.

Stefano Ferro - MEL365.com Founder and Editor

About the Author

Stefano is a seasoned travel expert and the visionary founder of MEL365.com, a leading travel website with traffic across 6 continents. With a rich background in the travel industry, Stefano spent four pivotal years at Amadeus Travel Distribution System, gaining invaluable insights into travel technologies and distribution.

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