Consistently ranked as one of the world’s most liveable city, Melbourne is brimming with attractions that appeal to visitors and locals alike. A great destination for sports enthusiasts with the Australian Open (tennis), the Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix (car racing), the Melbourne Cup (horse racing) and the AFL Grand Final (Aussie rules football) all hosted within the city. On top of being the sporting capital of Australia, Melbourne is also the culture capital with many great art galleries, museums, cafes, and restaurants. The spectacular landscapes of the Great Ocean Road are also close by, so we decided to combine the two into a single trip. Here is our budget breakdown, hopefully giving you an insight on the cost of travel in Melbourne and the Great Ocean Road!
Currency Info: In October 2019, the exchange of the Australian Dollar is around:
- Canadian Dollar: $0.90 AUD to $1 CAD
- US Dollar: $0.68 AUD to $1 USD
- Euro: $0.62 AUD to 1 EUR
We got a return flight with Jetstar from Sydney to Melbourne’s second airport (Avalon) for $116 AUD. Australian domestic flights prices are a lot more reasonable than certain countries (cough cough Canada) due to the abundance of budget carriers such as Jetstar and Tigerair.
To book the flight, I use Skyscanner. They price check with over 1,200 travel companies, and usually give the best prices. They also have Price Alerts where they can notify you as soon as fares change on the flight you’re looking at.
Food & Drinks
Melbourne is a very diverse city and it definitely shows in its food culture. The city is filled with affordable, high quality restaurants representing almost every corner of the world.
Melbourne also has a long and rich coffee culture due to the large amounts of Italian and Greek migrants arriving in the aftermath of World War II. You can head to most cafes and get a great quality latte, flat white, or cappuccino. Most coffee drinks start at around $4 AUD.
Unlike Canada and the US, tipping is not compulsory. Although a tip for good service is always welcomed.
Aside from the food that made it to Shelly’s Top 5 Eats in Melbourne, here are other dishes we tried:
- Fish dumplings from ShanDong MaMa $19 AUD
- Baos starting at $2.5 AUD from Wonderbao
- Montreal-style smoked salmon bagel at Mile End Bagels $13.5 AUD
- Dishes starting at $6.8 AUD at the Melbourne spin-off of Michelin-starred Singaporean food stall Hawker Chan
- Croissants from the highly rated Lune Croissanterie starting from $5.90 AUD
If you want to save money on food (who doesn’t?), check out these apps that helped me save money on some restaurants:
- EatClub: Through this app, restaurants can fill their spare tables and customers can eat out for up to 50% off!
- Liven: This works more like a rewards app, where you eat with their many restaurants, cafés, and bar partners and earn Liven cash, which you can use to pay for future purchases. I find Liven to have more quality dining partners compared to EatClub. Sign up with my referral link and get $10 AUD worth of free food!
We rented a car from Avalon Airport for three days for the Great Ocean Road trip. It cost $91.05 AUD for a standard car. When we checked in, we were upgraded to an SUV as a standard car was not available. With the rental car, we spent an additional $80.22 AUD on gas/petrol. I did not get any insurance as my American Express Platinum card offers car rental insurance as one of their benefits.
The rental car was from Budget, which I booked using Rentalcars.com. I find this site useful for finding the best prices in Australia. I found that they show more rental companies and better prices compared to other sites like Expedia and Kayak.
Australia drives on the left. I already had this experience driving in South Africa, but it was Shelly’s first time driving on the left and she was able to get used to it pretty quick. One new experience for both of us was that the levels on the steering column are also opposite on Australian vehicles. We consistently turned on the windscreen wipers when we were trying to signal. Also it is important to note that unlike in Canada and the US, any kind of turn (left, right, U) on a red light is illegal–I found this out the hard way, after being pulled over by a cop. Luckily, he left us go with a just a warning.
To get from Avalon Airport to Melbourne, we took the shuttle bus, Skybus. The journey time was around 70 minutes. The bus was quite comfortable and spacious. It cost $24 AUD one way or $45 AUD for return. If you are coming in from the closer Melbourne main airport (Tullamarine), the Skybus is only a bit cheaper at $19.75 AUD one way.
Within Melbourne, we got the local transit card, Myki. Unlike Sydney’s Opal Card, there is $6 AUD fee to get this card. Getting around the city is easy with Melbourne’s iconic tram network, which is the largest in the world. There is also the Free Tram Zone within the Melbourne CBD, where you can get across the city and to many popular attractions for FREE!
There are many attractions outside this zone and along with visiting Shelly’s family in the suburbs, each of us spent an additional $24 AUD on fares on the card. I forgot how much of a balance was left.
Hopetoun St Airbnb in Warrnambool $62.10 AUD per night for a private room
This Airbnb is a great stay for anyone doing the Great Ocean Road over multiple days. The place is quite clean and cozy. Lizzy was a great and friendly host, making us feel at home. Bonus points for the two cute doggos. For those who have not tried Airbnb yet, sign up with my referral link and you will get $50 AUD off your first booking!
Apollo Bay Eco YHA $38 AUD per night per bed in a 4 bed dorm room.
This felt more like a resort than a typical hostel. It has a rooftop terrace, two large communal kitchens, BBQ facilities, a TV room, an organic herb garden, and a comfortable living room. The dorm rooms were basic but clean. The hostel is located 5 minute walk away from the centre of Apollo Bay where you can find restaurants, bars, and grocery stores.
The Nunnery Accommodation $27.42 AUD per night for 4 nights for a bed in a 6 bed dorm room.
This hostel has a great location for not being in the CBD (Central Business District). It’s a couple of minutes walk to the Free Tram Zone, where you can take to the CBD and is walking distance to the great cafes, restaurants, and bars of Fitzroy. Aside from the location, the hostel is situated in the former home of a nunnery (hence the name). They also have a pretty good selection for breakfast, with many different types of bread available. Just like many hostels in Australia, there are lots of backpackers “living” in the hostels. Often they work really early shifts, so make sure to bring ear plugs and eye masks so as not to disturb your sleep.
This is where my wallet was able to take a breather. From museums to street art to breathtaking viewpoints, most of the popular activities in Melbourne and Great Ocean Road are really cheap or even FREE. This included:
Great Ocean Road
This 234 kilometers stretch of road winds through rugged cliffs, lush rainforests and beaches. This makes the Great Ocean Road one of the most scenic and unforgettable road trips in the world! Driving with the vast coastline on one side, you will see several beautiful sights such as:
- The Twelve Apostles
- The Grotto
- London Bridge
- The Arch
- The Bakers Oven
- Loch Ard Gorge
- Cape Patton Lookout Point
I will make a separate guide on the Great Ocean Road, so stay tuned!
- The cities’ many arcades and laneways–Melbourne’s signature narrow laneways features spectacular street art and is home to many of its quirky bars and famous cafés. Its arcades (think mini shopping mall) are architecturally beautiful with many high end cafés, galleries and boutique shops. We visited these and think they are worth checking out:
- The Royal Arcade
- The Block Arcade
- AC/DC Lane
- Hosier Lane
- Blender Lane
- Guildford Lane
- National Gallery of Victoria–Australia’s oldest, biggest, and most visited art museum. The main NGV building houses their international collection while the Ian Potter Centre houses the Australian works.
- State Library of Victoria–a beautiful library with stunning architecture and pieces of artwork. Don’t miss out on checking out their spectacular reading room!
- Queen Victoria Market–largest open-air market in the southern hemisphere, where you can get anything! Make sure to get those donuts!
- Shrine of Remembrance–a shrine dedicated to Victorians who served during World War I, which has since became a memorial to all Australians who have served in war. It is a great place to pay your respects and learn more about Australia’s role in recent wars. This shrine is also situated on a hill, which gives a great view of Melbourne’s skyline.
- Royal Exhibition Building–this World Heritage Site was the first Commonwealth Parliament of Australia and is now a multi use venue. We checked out the interior while attending the Finders Keepers market.
- Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria–this sanctuary filled with 10,000 native and exotic plant species is a great place to rest and hang out.
- Federation Square–the city’s main square. During our visit, a Diwali festival was held here.
- Brighton Beach Bathing Boxes–IG-worthy backdrops of colourful beach huts, dating back to the early 1900s.
and free for students (for which I still am, ;))
- Melbourne Museum–a great mix of natural and cultural history, this museum is actually the largest one in the Southern Hemisphere.
- Scienceworks–in my experience, science museums are never free and usually have hefty entrance fees. This one might not be the biggest or best, but it was a nice way to spend a rainy morning.
In fact, this is my first time where my activities spend for a trip was negative (where I made money). We checked out Melbourne’s casino, the Crown Casino. Casino and gambling is a huge part of Australian society. According to BBC, over 80% of Australian adults engage in gambling of some kind, which is the highest rate of gambling in the world. Every large city has a casino and it is usually one of their main attractions. The Crown is one of Melbourne’s main attractions being the largest casino complex in the Southern Hemisphere! I am not a big gambler, but I was able to win $48 AUD playing roulette and war.
I would have loved to experience watching cricket or Aussie Rules Football in the MCG but it was neither AFL or cricket season when we visited. The Melbourne Cricket Ground or MCG is known to be home of Australian sport and with seating capacity of over 100,000 people, it is one of the largest stadiums in the world.
As we are living in Sydney in the moment, we did not have to incur the usual costs when entering a new country (SIM cards, ATM Fees, or visa fees). However, here are some costs to consider if you are visiting from abroad:
- ATM fee $4 AUD. This is the fee I paid from one of the Big Four banks (Commonwealth, Westpac, ANZ, NAB) when I first withdrew money in Sydney. I assume this will similar in Melbourne. Make sure you use a debit card that doesn’t charge you for any foreign transaction fees or withdrawal fees. If you are from Canada, I recommend getting STACK!
- SIM Cards with data plans starting at $15 AUD. Mobile plans are quite cheap compared to other developed nations. Companies like Telstra, Optus and Vodafone are quite competitive in their mobile plans.
- Australia is quite strict with their visa policies. Only Kiwis can get into the country without a visa. Most Europeans will need to get a eVisitor (subclass 651) which is FREE. Other nationalities such as Canadians, Americans, Japanese, and South Koreans will need an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) (subclass 601) which cost $20 AUD. Both holders can make unlimited visits to Australia, up to three months per visit, in a 12-month period.
The Sum of Melbourne and Great Ocean Road
The total spend per person for our trip to Melbourne and the Great Ocean Road came to $632 AUD /$567 CAD/$431 USD. Over the course of 7 days, it came to $90 AUD/$81 CAD/$62 USD per day. These costs do not include the cost of flights as not everybody will flying in from Sydney like we did.
There is no getting around it, travelling in Australia is expensive. Eating out in Australia can be quite costly and will add up. Try eating in and cooking your meals. Grocery prices are quite reasonable as a lot of produce and meat are sourced from within the country. The common supermarkets are Coles, Woolsworth and Aldi.
During our trip, we only drank from a hostel bar and tried some goon (cask or boxed wine!) Limit the amount of drinking in Australia. Alcoholic drinks are quite expensive in bars and restaurants. Beers cost around $9 AUD. However, there are lots bars that offer happy hours and you can get drinks starting at $5 AUD!