Getting Around Melbourne: A Guide to Public Transportation

Tram in motion at Sunset, City of Melbourne, Australia
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Don’t underestimate the size of Melbourne, Australia. Travelers may only stick to Central Business District and its surrounding neighborhoods—but the city extends so much further than that, stretching around Port Phillip Bay for 3,857-square miles.

Melbourne is kind of like New York City, in a geographical sense, because a lot of Melburnians live in the outer suburbs and travel into the city for work. The daily commute isn’t ideal by car, so people in the city opt to use the Public Transport Victoria train, tram, and bus system instead. Eighteen regular service train lines run north, south, east, and west into and out of the city. It’s an impressive and efficient system for such a big city. 

Here’s what you should know about getting around Melbourne.

How to Ride the Metro Melbourne Train Lines

Most people who use public transportation in Melbourne hop on the train. There are 18 Metro train lines that jut out of the city center and into the outer suburbs. The two main stations are Flinders Street and Southern Cross. Riding the train is a convenient alternative to driving, although a train ride could take just as long (if not longer) to get you where you want to go due to frequent stops.

  • Passes: First, you’ll need to buy a myki card for AU$6. It gets you onto trains, trams, and buses throughout Melbourne and regional parts of Victoria. You can purchase one at 7-Eleven stores, a ticket booth at a premium train station, or on myki machines. Next, load the card with money to get from one stop to the next. You can do this at the ticket booth or at the myki machine. 
  • Fares: The lowest amount of money you can add to your myki card is AU$10. That will get you two rides as the default fare for the train is $4.40 one way. Children, seniors, and students are eligible for discounted tickets. However, keep in mind that the price for each train ride is different, depending on how far you travel and when you travel. A smart thing to do if you’re visiting for a week is to buy a seven-day myki pass for AU$44. This will save you from continually topping up your card. You can check fares using the myki fare calculator.  
  • How to Ride: Once you’ve purchased and loaded a myki pass, you must tap your card onto the center of the reader as you enter the railway platform. When you get off at your desired stop, simply tap off the same way you tapped on. Metro police conduct random checks on every train to see if passengers paid for their ride. If you don’t tap on before entering the platform and an officer catches you, it could result in a hefty fine. 
  • Hours of Operation: The train lines operate from 5 a.m. to midnight, Monday through Thursday. The night network runs Friday through Sunday, with trains operating every hour after 12 a.m. 
  • Service Changes: It’s typical for the Metro train to have periodic service changes. Delays may happen due to construction on the tracks, public events, or disorderly conduct by passengers. In the event of a service change, there will be announcements made throughout the station and written on the monitors. Sometimes, buses replace trains between specific stops, but there is always clear signage to help you navigate your way. You can check to see if your train line is running on time using the Public Transport Victoria journey planner
  • Transfers: Transfers are relatively easy to complete when using the Metro train. You can hop off one train and onto another without re-tapping your myki card. If you get confused about a transfer, ask a Metro train station employee (you’ll spot them in neon orange jumpers). They’re usually on the platforms during hours of operation to help passengers with their journey.  
  • Accessibility: PTV train stations are accessible to people with disabilities. Ramps, designated seating, and a combination of audio and visual announcements are available at larger stops. If you have hearing difficulties, you can use the National Relay Service. For more information about accessibility and mobility aid specifications, check out the Public Transport Victoria website

You can use the journey planner on the PTV website or app to plan your route and find out real-time departure and arrival information.

Riding the Melbourne Metropolitan Bus Network

The public buses in Melbourne are another standard mode of transportation. There are 346 routes within Melbourne and regional Victoria, so it covers more than the train. You can get to shopping centers, hospitals, sporting venues, and other Melbourne attractions via bus. This map shows the different bus routes within Melbourne. You can use the Public Transport Victoria journey planner to help you find the specific stop you’re looking for. 

The public bus takes the myki card as a bus pass, so make sure it’s loaded with money before you get on the bus. Fares are the same as the train. Note that riding the bus will take significantly longer than the train. Traffic, stop lights, and stops will add an extra 10–20 minutes to your journey. 

Airport-Specific Shuttles

Melbourne has a fast, frequent, and cheap airport shuttle called the SkyBus. It’s a big red bus with WiFi onboard and plenty of seating. From Melbourne Tullamarine Airport, there are six SkyBus services: Melbourne City Express, Southbank Docklands Express, St Kilda Express, Peninsula Express, Western Express, and Airport Bus Eastside. The Melbourne City Express bus, for instance, departs every 10 minutes and transfers passengers directly from the airport to Southern Cross Station (and vice versa). It takes about 30–40 minutes and costs AU$19.75 one way.

Trams

Melbourne city trams are convenient for traveling to a specific destination within the city and the surrounding neighborhoods. The best part? It’s free within Melbourne CBD. Outside of this free tram zone, the tram takes the myki card, with fares the same as the train. Keep in mind that you cannot purchase a myki card on a tram or at a tram stop. 

Use the Metropolitan tram network map to help you get to where you want to go. Locate the area where you want to go, then check the route number and destination on the front of the tram.  

Ferries

Taking the ferry in Melbourne is a great way to get on the water and travel across the peninsula. From Melbourne CBD, you can take a one-hour cruise to Williamstown, an outer suburb known for being the city's first seaport. It costs AU$24 one way and departs at various times, depending on the season. There’s also a 90-minute cruise from the city to Portarlington, a historic little town on the Bellarine Peninsula. This costs AU$16 for an adult one-way ticket.

Melbourne sits along the Yarra River, where you can hop on a water taxi to shuttle to different stops along the waterway. It operates seven days a week and departs every 15 minutes from 9 a.m. to midnight. It’s a popular way to get around during the summer, so it’s recommended to book a water taxi ticket in advance.

Taxis and Ride-Sharing Apps

If you’re in a hurry, taxis and ride-hailing services are available throughout Melbourne. Local cabs, such as 13cabs, are white cars with bright orange writing on the sides. Ride-railing services such as Uber, DiDi, and Ola operate all over the city, including the surrounding suburbs. It’s a common and quick way to get around.

Car Rentals 

Renting a car to use within Melbourne CBD may not be the best idea. The city is dense with traffic, parking can get pricey, and the town has something called “hook turns,” which, if you’re not familiar with, are very tricky to navigate.

On the other hand, if you want to explore the Great Ocean Road or other outer suburb attractions, it might be a good idea to rent a car for the freedom to explore. Melbourne has car rental companies such as Budget, Hertz, Enterprise, and Avis. You can rent a car from the airport or within the city. Don’t forget, Aussies drive on the left side of the road! 

Tips for Getting Around Melbourne

Getting around Melbourne isn’t very difficult. The city has an impressive amount of public transportation options with informative signs and friendly employees to help you navigate your way around.

  • Be wary of rush hour: Traveling during rush hour can be a bit of a headache. Peak traffic on public transportation and the roads is Monday to Friday from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. During this time, the roads leading into and out of the city will be jam-packed with people traveling to and from work. If you’re traveling by train, be attentive towards the express services.
  • Melbourne CBD is very walkable: Melbourne CBD is easy to walk around because the streets are set up like a grid. If you’re following a map, it’s very straightforward, and sometimes quicker to walk than take the tram. 
  • If given the option, choose the train over the bus: The train is a bit more reliable without the traffic and quicker without so many stops. 
  • Download the Public Transport Victoria app: This will help with planning your journey throughout the city and the surrounding suburbs. It is available on both Google Play and the Apple Store.
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