It's time to wrap up our visit to Melbourne. What a wonderful city (in spite of the black flies harassing us most days)! There is just so much to see here. It reminded us a lot of the United States, with its diverse ethnic cultures and many immigrant neighborhoods.
The one thing that we were not enthralled with, was the price of food....cherries were $44.90/kilo (2.25 lbs) ... Grapes were $12.90/kilo...tomatoes were $6/kilo... And beef was as much as $38/kilo. Part of this was due to wages...an entry level clerk at a McDonalds (for instance) got a starting salary of $15-$18 per hour,... With it going up to $25-$30 per hour on weekends, ... And as much as $50 per hour on holidays. It's crazy!
- After a long flight into Australia, taking a cab directly to the apartment, while expensive (the cost to us was $52 Australian Dollars plus tip), it allowed us to relax and recover much quicker than trying to figure out the public transportation system. Once we got to know the city, taking public transportation back to the airport was much cheaper ($32 Australian Dollars for both of us). We were able to catch a free shuttle to the central bus station from a hotel around the corner from our apartment. The airport express bus ran from this central station. Much more convenient but the logistics of doing this on the way in, after the long plane ride, would have been too frustrating.
-Bring a fan with you to Melbourne if you come during during their summer months (i.e. starting in December) as the black flies can be maddening.
- There are free walking tours of the city, offered by the Visitors Information Center in Federation Square (and they start there) which are limited to 10-12 people per tour. These are "totally free" (no tipping allowed), as they are sponsored by the city of Melbourne. Avoid the so-called "free tours" that start at the State Library of Victoria just down the street from Federation Square. They allow up to 30 participants per tour and "suggest" a $20 tip at the end.
- If you are planning on purchasing expensive souvenirs (e.g. Prairie hats or UGGs), price them out at the expensive stores, but then go to Victoria Market where you'll probably find them much cheaper.
- Within a specific zone of the Central Business District (CBD), the trams are free. Once outside of this zone (even if you got on the tram within the free zone) the ride will cost you $7.50. So become familiar where to get on and off in order to keep the ride free.
- There are many parks and gardens within the city. Make sure to visit as many as time allows as each is equally beautiful.
- Make sure to bring a hat and strong sun screen with you from home, as prices for these items are expensive in Melbourne.
- For specific tours outside the city (e.g. The Great Ocean Road, or Phillips Island, where the March of the Little Blue Penquins occurs), we recommend going with "A Tour With A Difference." They are well organized, quite professional, will pick you up and drop you off at your front door, and they have a maximum of 8-10 folks per tour. Other companies are more expensive and will fill up a large bus with three times as many people..
- We found that the fruits and vegetables we bought at Victoria Market, while cheaper than those bought at the Woolworth's grocery stores, did not last as long.
-Finally, watch the weather in Melbourne carefully. We experienced cool temperatures, rain, and then hot and humid weather, all within the same day.