Tourist Mistakes To Avoid in Melbourne

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If you haven’t been to Victoria’s capital city before, and planning a visit, you need to read this. Here are the most important tourist mistakes to avoid in Melbourne. Just follow these 10 recommendations from a local, and you’ll blend in like a local yourself, no worries.

Visiting Melbourne for the first time

Planning to visit Melbourne for the first time? Fantastic! You will have a memorable time in this amazing city. As a Melburnian I have put together some important info for you to know before you go. A local’s advice is invaluable, so I am giving you a heads up on what tourist mistakes to avoid in Melbourne. These will arm you well on your travels here, whilst keeping you out of trouble. 

1. Weather

Don’t assume the weather will be what you think at any particular time of year. Be prepared for all weather conditions. Melbourne is notorious for having 4 seasons in one day. Trust me on this. It’s best to wear layers, bring an umbrella or raincoat if you can, have sunscreen, a hat, and a scarf comes in handy too. I know you’re laughing, but you won’t be later when you get burnt, rained on and end up freezing to death all in the same day because you didn’t come prepared!

2. Transport

Don’t go anywhere without familiarising yourself with the Public Transport system before you go. You’ll be able to get around Melbourne easily with the network of trains, trams and buses. Trams within the central business district are free. Refer to the free zone map.

tourist mistakes to avoid in Melbourne
St Kilda, Melbourne

3. Myki card

Don’t forget to buy a Myki card for public transport before you get on, as you can’t get one on board. This card (pictured below) can be obtained online, or at vending machines located at metro stations, or from hundreds of shops, such as 7 Elevens, some post offices, lotto shops, and newsagents.

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4. Driving

Avoid driving in the city centre. It does get very congested, with cars, bikes, trams and pedestrians. Furthermore, you have to be able to do ‘hook turns’, which is a right turn from the left, when you see the sign (pictured below). Even us locals don’t really like doing these. Driving in the suburbs is perfectly fine.

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Read: UNESCO Site in Carlton, Melbourne

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View of Bolte Bridge from Docklands

5. Shopping

Don’t expect to go late night shopping any night of the week. Most shops and boutiques only stay open late on Thursdays and Fridays, till 9pm. Shops are open 7 days a week, generally from 9am to 5.30pm. Note, purchases you make include 10% GST tax, which tourists can claim back at Melbourne Airport, when departing Australia.

tourist mistakes to avoid in Melbourne
Tram in Burke Street Mall, Melbourne

6. Surf

Don’t be disappointed if you can’t surf at Melbourne beaches. Port Phillip Bay is not open ocean, so you won’t get the big swell. To get your surf on, you need to drive a little way to Phillip Island, Torquay, or along the Great Ocean Road for the best surf in the state. Also, be sure to swim between the red and yellow flags only, which are the sections of beach patrolled by lifesavers.

tourist mistakes to avoid in Melbourne
Williamstown beach, Melbourne

Read: Unique Melbourne Activities for off-beat things to do

tourist mistakes to avoid in melbourne - great ocean road
Great Ocean Road, Victoria

7. Alcohol

Do not drink alcohol in public places within the central business district (CBD) of Melbourne, unless at a licensed premises. Drinking your own alcohol (BYO) in public parks and gardens is acceptable, such as at picnics and barbeques, but only in a responsible manner.

8. Yarra River

As tempting as it might be, I recommend you don’t swim in the Yarra River in the city. Some sections of it get polluted, so it’s best not to risk getting sick. Boating is fine.

tourist mistakes to avoid in melbourne - yarra river
South Wharf and Yarra River, Melbourne

9. Water

You don’t need to buy bottled drinking water. Melbourne’s tap water is one of the best in the world. So you can save money and avoid the plastic bottles. There are plenty of water drinking fountains in the city to refill bottles.

10. Smoking

Do not smoke in public places, such as, restaurants, cafes, bars, nightclubs, casino, shops, malls, museums, libraries, hotels, public transport, beaches, and any other place where people will be exposed to passive smoking.

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Royal Exhibition Building
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Melbourne Arcades

That’s it for my 10 tourist mistakes to avoid in Melbourne. They are pretty straight forward, aren’t they. Feel free to ask me any questions in the comments below.

You can read more of my Melbourne articles here, with plenty of recommendations on what to see and do. Did you know Melbourne has a pink lake? To see koalas and kangaroos, the best place is Healesville Sanctuary. If wine is more your thing, you will love Melbourne wineries.

Accommodation around Melbourne

Additional Tourist Information

  • There is no direct train from Melbourne Airport to the city. Instead, you can take Skybus, Uber or taxis. 
  • Tipping at restaurants is not essential, but if you’re happy with the service you may leave a tip up to 10%.
  • Most city locations have free wifi.
  • Public toilets are free.
  • Legal drinking age is 18.
  • Legal driving age is 18.
  • Driving is on the left side of the road and cars are right-hand drive.
  • Check Visitor Information for details of what’s on in Melbourne now.

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5 thoughts on “Tourist Mistakes To Avoid in Melbourne

  1. Alexandra Wrigley says:

    One day, I want to visit Melbourne and maybe do a working holiday visa in Aus. I was shocked to know that you can experience many seasons in one day! How do you prepare? You must have to have lots of clothes/umbrella/suncreen at hand? Very useful tip!

  2. Molly Grace says:

    Great tips, especially about water quality in a river one might not think twice about swimming in! I’ve never been to Australia but it’s on my list!!

  3. Taylor says:

    This is a helpful guide! I am hoping to get to Australia in early 2021. I have distant family members in Melbourne, so definitely cannot wait 🙂

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