Sunday, February 14, 2016

10 practical tips to Save money in Melbourne!

Australia is a relatively expensive country for Indians to visit. However during my visit, from what I observed, I have listed 10 things in Melbourne that can help you save a few dollars during your visit. These are focused on Melbourne, many of these apply to other Australian cities also.

1. Use free Hotel transfer: Hiring taxi from airport is a rip off. Hire a Skybus ticket (AUD 18 per person). This also entitles you to free hotel transfer from the bus terminal (where airport bus will terminate). This way for AUD 18 you can reach your hotel- will cost much more otherwise. If you are staying with friends then identify a decent hotel nearby, mention it and ask for drop.

2. Use Free tram service in CBD as much as possible
: Central CBD has free tram services now. You can hop on, hop off as much as you like as long as tram doesn't leave the free tram zone. Free tram service connects you to several interesting/worth visiting places around CBD, so you don't have to spend on taxi or other mode of transport. Very good service, make full use of this.
3. Pickup discount coupons from information centre: Walk into tourist information centre, browse around. You will find many coupons/leaflets that can get you 10-15% off on various attractions. You can discuss your plan with the staff at information counter and get their feedback. If you have planned something wrong or planned poorly, they can advise corrections. Saves lots of trouble and wasted time.
4. Fill up free drinking water: A bottle of drinking water (500-600ml) costs between 2.5 to 4 AUD. In a day from morning to evening you will need minimum 3 of them per person. Instead of buying fresh bottle every time, you can refill from public water booths. In Melbourne tap water is pottable and there will be many stations like shown below (below one was clicked in Senate Garden, Canberra though)- carry an empty bottle, refill whenever possible. Tip- taste the water before filling to ensure that you care comfortable with it. I found chlorine smell on the higher side in few cases.
5. Avoid taxis like cancer
Taxis are a lot expensive and their effective value add is on lower side. I would strongly suggest to avoid them as much as possible to save lots of dollars. Reasons for me saying so is as below:
  • Minimum fare when you hire a taxi is about 4.x dollars day time, can get to 5.x dollars in night- for this amount there is not a single free km involved. So meter starts running as soon as taxi starts moving. For 1 km distance, expect a taxi fare of about 10 AUD. If you select a far away destination that needs 30 min by taxi, expect cash outgo of 50 AUD or much more, which will give you a heart attack if you convert to Indian rupee and compare. There will be a cheaper alternative like train or bus for most of the attractions.
  • Taxis can’t stop wherever they want. Even though your destination is right next to you, taxi needs to go to designated parking spot which could mean few hundred meters and few dollars extra
  • There will be restrictions on right turn etc- if you board the taxi at a place where turns are not allowed, taxi will have to turn left, go around a few blocks and then reach your destination- easily adding several dollars to the bill
  • Traffic conditions inside city limit are not good. There will be signal every few hundred meters. Time saved by taxi may not be significant for short distances- you are better off walking and improve your health too.
So only situations when you should hire a taxi are: you have lots of luggage to haul, or you are totally clueless about the direction/public transportation option to your destination or you have enough cash and do not mind wasting it on taxi for comfort.

I strongly recommend you download public transportation apps like PTV (Public Transport Victroia), TramTracker etc. Figure out how best you can reach using public transportation. Hire taxi only if required for the final part or as a last resort.

6. Know opening and closing hours to avoid wasted time n effort: Do a bit of research before hand to understand opening hours of attractions-many close by 4PM/5PM. Few like Parliament house have specific timings when they would let guests in. Few are open longer on weekends (like Immigration Museum), MCG will allow tourists only at 10 AM- knowing this will help you plan well and avoid unnecessary travel and waste of time.

7. Make full use of all night train services during weekends: Starting 2016, public transportation will be running all night during weekends (Friday night to Sunday night)- if you can keep your late night activities for weekends, then you can use public transport more and save on taxis

8. Think twice before buying hop on, hop off tickets
Hop-on, Hop off buses are very popular among tourists. For a fixed fee, you can keep changing buses and go from one attraction to another. However, for Melbourne, I suggest check twice before spending several dollars on this (About 30 AUD+). My rationale is as below:
- Most attractions in Melbourne are within walking distance from each other. There is no real need for a bus if you can plan well and walk a bit.
- Hop on/Hop off buses arrive every 30 minutes. if you miss one, you need to wait for another 30 minutes- total waste of time while you have trams every few mins.
- While majority of attractions are museums, you won't have time to visit all museums- most close by 4PM or 5PM, and not everyone will be interested in every museum.

I suggest pickup a map of hop on/hop off service and check how close the destinations are. If you can visit them on your own in a sequence, you can save lots of money. Alternatively there is Melbourne visitor shuttle service which is cheaper and offers a similar service- evaluate that too. If you still find value in it, then only go for these.
9. Get a local SIM card with data connection
I wanted to suggest that you can manage with Free public WiFi and no need to spend money on a SIM Card. Unfortunately it wasn't so. Free WiFi in Melbourne airport was good, in Skybus service, it was intermittent. There is no seamless free public WiFi in city. Many attractions have free WiFi, but waiting till you get into a free WiFi area, scanning for the networks, signing in every time etc is a big circus and not worth the headache. You battery will drain in the process and you lose precious time. For about 10 AUD you can get about 1 GB data which is adequate for a week's visit. I picked up a LYCA SIM- not very happy about it- data worked fine, but registration was a pain, didn't get extra topup as promised on the pack and had big trouble recharging. You can try your luck with LYCA or some other sim. This investment will be worth a lot as you can refer maps, check train availability or book tickets online where there could be some savings.

10. Know special deals
I found that immigration museum offers half price ticket during Fridays 5 to 9 PM. Browse free magazines available in information centre/hotel lobby to check if there is anything that interests you.

There will be lots of combo deals, but be sure you can visit all attractions included in combo deal, else will be loss of money.

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Arun Prasadh said...

Very useful tips. The taxi's cost a bomb everywhere.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Thanks Arun

Arun said...

Great Tips!

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