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While Melbourne has an impressive metropolitan public transportation system, unfortunately, Melbourne is one of the few cities on earth without a railway link between the airport and the city. However, there is a Skybus service, which offers transport to and from the airport via a major interchange point in the city (Southern Cross railway station) at $18 per Adult person each-way. (See http://www.skybus.com.au/) Apart from this, there are many other private bus services offering transport between Melbourne airport and the districts around Melbourne, (including the nearby suburban and the [not so near] country areas from which they originate.)
Apart from this, the Melbourne Public Transport system is efficient, inexpensive, safe and extensive. The system consists of trains, trams (including two conversions of former rail lines that are now akin to 'light rail') and buses. The trams criss-cross the city and are probably what you will use most unless you head out to the outer suburbs; on weekdays you can expect one every 3-12 minutes, on weekends about every 12-15 minutes until nightfall when 20 minutes is a typical wait. The free City Circle tram goes around the Central Business District, including Docklands.
The area of the Public Transport system is divided into two fare zones. Zone 1 covers all the inner suburbs and (virtually) all of the tram network and extends approximately 10-15 kms out from the Central Business District (CBD). The middle and outer suburbs are within Zone 2.
The public transport fare system in Melbourne (and gradually being extended to the V/Line country commuter belt, but not to the longer distance train lines or connecting V/Line coaches) uses a smart-card known as Myki (pronounced 'my-key'). This is
comparable to the smart cards used in London, Hong Kong, Singapore and some USA cities . Myki has a non-refundable upfront cost (for
the card) of A$6 for adults and A$3 for concession holders (typically children, Australian seniors, students and welfare recipients). As the upfront cost is not refundable, this differs from some overseas systems. Adult overseas visitors are not eligible for concession fares.
As no single trip tickets are available, everyone must use a Myki “stored value” smart-card for even the shortest journey on public transport. Also, since a Myki card and the credit on it is not refundable, unlike in some other systems, a visitor may need to leave "Marvelous Melbourne" with their Myki card and the "value" stored therein as a "souvenir".
One can buy and top up a Myki card at about 800 retailers, including all 7-Eleven stores, the ticket office window at "Premium" stations (those staffed for all trains – which include all stations in the CBD), staffed V/Line commuter railway stations or from a blue Myki card vending machine located at all train stations and at major tram and bus interchanges. (The machines issue only full fare Myki cards.)
The minimum top up value is $1, except on line - where the minimum top up value is $10. The maximum top up value is $250
One may also buy and top up Myki cards on Melbourne metropolitan and provincial city route buses, including on bus routes 901 (SmartBus), 478, 479 and 500 that serve Melbourne's Tullamarine Airport (Bay 7 opposite Terminal 1). The 901 route runs every 15 minutes on weekdays and half hourly on weekends, connecting with Metro trains at Broadmeadows railway station. It is a cheap alternative to the expensive SkyBus. See www.ptv.vic.gov.au
Myki cards cannot be purchased on board trams or at most tram stops. In the suburbs, an agent may be hard to find if you are staying at a friend or relative's place and want to travel into Melbourne's CBD by tram or from an unstaffed railway station. In such cases, an option is to purchase at myki online before your visit and to have a card posted to your home or to your friend/relative's address.
A further option for visitors is a Myki Visitor Pack, which includes discounts to various Melbourne attractions. These are available from the Melbourne Visitor Centre at Federation Square, Southern Cross railway station and the SkyBus terminals at Melbourne Airport. Please note that Myki cards cannot be used on the commercial service provided by Skybus to and from Melbourne Airport. However, Myki cards are valid on the slower local buses and on the semi-fast and frequent Route 901 SmartBus, which arrives and departs from a stop at Bay 7 outside Terminal 1: see www.ptv.vic.gov.au
The Myki Visitor Pack should also be available from the concierge at any good Hotel and also at Backpackers Hostels.
The Visitor Pack includes:
* a full fare (or concession/child/Australian seniors) Myki card, pre-loaded with enough value (Myki money) for one day’s travel in Zone 1, which includes the entire tram network.
* discount offers at 15 attractions including Melbourne Aquarium, the National Sports Museum, Eureka Skydeck and Puffing Billy, possibly saving visitors up to more than $130
* a protective Myki wallet designed by a renowned Melbourne cartoonist - Mark Knight
* a public transport map and information on how to use Myki.
A full fare myki Visitor Pack costs $14 and includes $8 myki money for travel.
A concession, child or Australian seniors myki Visitor Pack costs $7 and includes $4 myki money for travel.
It must be emphasised that short trip tickets are not available so you have no choice but to buy a non-refundable myki smartcard.
Myki smartcards within Zone 1 can be used on any of the three types of transport (bus, tram and train) and are valid for unlimited travel (including transfers and return trips) within a 2-hour period, a day or week (called '7 days' in the myki brochures). Holders of Australian seniors' cards receive discounted daily travel. Seniors' tickets are valid anywhere on the public transport system, except Skybus.
As a guide, the cost of travel in Zone 1 varies from $2.42 for two hours to $7.00 for all day travel. Over the entire public transport network (Zones 1 and 2) the maximum fare for all day travel is $11.84.
On Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays the maximum daily fare for any "Adult" person anywhere in Melbourne is $3.50.
There is no need to worry about zone boundaries or how long you have traveled, since the Myki system automatically calculates the "best available" fare for your journey.
Fare evasion has been rampant in Melbourne and visitors may be tempted to try to get away without having a validated Myki
card, especially on the trams. However, be aware that if you get caught without a validated myki when inspectors do a spot check, there is zero tolerance and you will have to pay a hefty
fine of $212. Giving an inspector (known as an "authorised officer") the tourist excuse of "I did
not know" probably will not get you very far. The Victorian Government has made it clear that fare evasion has a serious adverse effect on the State's finances, hence the "zero tolerance" policy. However, authorised officers have a job to do and they are no more invasive or oppressive than in any city elsewhere in the world.
Whenever you travel, you must validate your Myki at a railway station barrier or validator,
or on board a tram or bus, by “touching on”. You must also touch off, except on
trams for a trip wholly within Zone 1 (the vast majority of tram trips). If in doubt, always “touch-off”.
On buses, you need to “touch-on” with your Myki at a lime green coloured "validator" near the front entrance, close to the driver. (There may be two of these validators at a bus entrance.) On trams,there are several lime green coloured validators near each door. At railway stations, there are myki validators at the entrances and exits. Remember to ”touch-on” and “touch-off” each time, since this enables the system to calculate the lowest fare for the time and zones you have travelled.
When touching on or off, hold the card against the lower part of the
validator for a few seconds, until you hear several “beeps”. The display will (very briefly) show the current
value on the card - plus, when you touch-off, the cost of the journey you have just completed. At railway stations the barrier (if any) will then open.
Do not “swipe” or merely “tap” the card against the validator, as this will not give sufficient time to complete the transaction.
Be warned: your myki card must have a positive balance for you to commence your journey each time. So, if you know that your balance is small, check how much is deducted for each trip.
If you “top-up” through the Myki telephone call centre (1800 800 007) or through on-line means but then do not use it on the transport system for 90 days, that top up credit will be archived and will be unavailable for use at a myki terminal until about 24 hours (at least) has elapsed after you then use the card again for the first time after this period. This should not cause single visit tourists a problem but it should be remembered by regular visitors.
(The reason for this is that it is necessary for the value concerned to be stored on the miki card as well as being known to the system. The only way in which the value on the miki card can be updated is to physically present it to an updating device/terminal.)
A 2 hour trip purchased by touching on your loaded myki in the evening - after 6pm (1800) - is valid for the remainder of the night.
After (approximately) midnight Sunday -Thursday, you may need to hail a taxi, since public transport stops running after (roughly) midnight. Public transport FROM the city runs until about 0100. However, through the early hours on Saturdays and Sundays there are Night Rider buses available (all departing from Swanston Street near St Paul's Cathedral). Myki is valid for NightRider buses. (See http://ptv.vic.gov.au/getting-around/...
Many of the sights and places of interest in Melbourne are easily within
walking distance of each other. So, if you are seeking to save money or simply to have some exercise after a night of drinking and noshing on meat pies, get
out and walk. There really is no better way to get a feel for a new place than
by exploring on foot, because you're in control and can stop whenever you like
- or check out the hidden small side-streets and alleys which abound in Melbourne.
Another good thing to do is to explore Melbourne city by using one of the tourist transportation services. Try the Melbourne Visitors Shuttle, operating daily every 15 minutes from 10am (1000) to 4pm (1600) and visiting 15 interesting stops around Melbourne. You can get on and off at any one of these stops. Ask at the Information Centre at Federation Square for a brochure detailing the places of interest or download one on-line. (See http://www.thatsmelbourne.com.au/visi... However, this bus service now has a $5 all day fare for Adults, but Children (under ten years of age) can travel for free.
The City Circle free tram (route 35) does a circuit of Melbourne and also has a commentary. Here again, you can alight at any place of interest. The City Circle trams are the old W Class types - with some of them now being more than 70 years old. The route is usually busy and the trams can be crowded. A brochure is also available for this, or you can look at the routes and timetables online.
For more detailed information of Public Transport in Melbourne please refer to www.ptv.vic.gov.au which may assist you in planning your journeys.
The introduction of the Myki smartcard public transport fare system in Victoria has been controversial but it now seems to work well. Fare evasion has become part of the Melbourne culture but visitors are strongly advised not to be tempted to follow the practices of some of the locals, because there are regular inspections on and off the vehicles and the fines are severe. Having said that, Melbourne's public transport system should meet the needs of most visitors and is a good way of seeing the city, with someone else doing the driving!
Melbourne is generally a safe city and there are no areas into which visitors would be advised not to venture. However, by international standards, Melbourne is a spread out city - with parkland and open areas. Therefore, it is wise to be aware of what may be going on around you, without being too concerned.
Public transport can be an excellent way of seeing Melbourne without having to worry about the often horrendous road traffic congestion.
Visitors should note that, in common with other transport systems, maintenance and improvement of public transport (and road) infrastructure often takes place in the Summer holiday period. This may result in the curtailment of services, delays and the replacement of Train or Tram services by Buses - as a temporary measure. In Melbourne, this period occurs after Christmas and, often, throughout most of January.