The PAX Australia Guide to Melbourne – Part 1: Getting Around

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Image: mugley (Flickr/Creative Commons)

Image: mugley (Flickr/Creative Commons)

In one week, PAX Australia – the first PAX convention to be held outside of America – will be held in Melbourne. Being my home city, I’ve decided to help those who are coming to Melbourne for PAX Australia by writing some guides on what to do and how to get around Melbourne.

Today, this guide is purely on transportation – how to get from the airport to the city; and from the city to PAX Australia.

Getting from/to the Airport

There are three options that you can take: take a taxi, the Skybus and public transport. The Skybus is the most convenient option out of the three  – it costs only $28 for a return trip and a ticket lasts for 3 months. Skybus goes from the airport to Southern Cross Station, and back; and buses run every ten minutes.

The cheapest is most definitely the public transport option – but does involve you getting a Myki, and requires you to take a bus then swap to take a train since Melbourne does not have a direct train option (yet – we hope). All the bus stops can be found outside Terminal 1. The most frequent bus is the 901 Smartbus to Frankston, which comes around every 15 to 30 minutes, and get off when it reaches Broadmeadows Station. Continue your journey by train to the Flinders Street station. The total cost of the journey is $5.92 for a two-hour fare (or $3.50 if you travel on the weekend).

If you plan to take a taxi – you should use this handy tool to estimate your fare. I suggest you use it if the place you are staying is not accessible some form of public transport (and/or walking). It will be more expensive than the three options because of the Citylink tollway fee, the $2.00 airport fee and a service fee if paying by credit card – on top of the standard fare.

via Angus Kidman/Lifehacker

Getting to and from PAX Australia

Unless you happen to be staying relatively near the Showgrounds, the best way to get to the Melbourne Showgrounds (where it is being held) is through public transport. Of course, this will require you to get a Myki card.

PAX Transport Map

To get to the Showgrounds, the best method is to take the Route 57 Tram (West Maribyrnong – City Elizabeth Street) or the Route 57a Tram. Both will take you to the main entrance – which is stop number 33.

Alternatively, you can take a train to the Showgrounds. There will direct services between Flinders Street Station and the Showgrounds, stopping at Southern Cross and North Melbourne. They will run:

  • Between 8am and 12pm to the Showgrounds on Friday, Saturday and Sunday in 20 minute intervals (until 10:40am), then 40 minute intervals (10:40am – 12pm).
  • Between 6:20pm and midnight from the Showgrounds on Friday and Saturday in 40 minute intervals (until 10pm), then twenty minute intervals (10pm – 11pm), and finally 10 minute intervals (11pm- midnight).
  • Between 5pm and 7pm from the Showgrounds on Sunday in 10 minute intervals.

Outside those times, then you will need to catch a train to Newmarket Station on the Craigieburn line, then take the Route 57 tram. Again, the tram will stop right in front of the main entrance.

You can read more information about how to get to PAX Australia from Public Transport Victoria.

Wait, what’s a “Myki”?

Myki is Melbourne’s public transport ticketing system. It is similar to London’s Oyster card and Hong Kong’s Octupus card, where you tap a smartcard onto the reader at the start and end of your journey. However, unlike London and Hong Kong, it is the only ticketing system available and there is no short-term or disposable tickets available for tourists – which means that you will need to get a Myki card before you use Melbourne’s public transport system.

For tourists, there is a Myki Visitor Pack – which costs $14 for adults or $7 for concessions, children and seniors. It comes with a Myki card preloaded with $8 (or $4 for concession/children/seniors), discounts to 15 attractions around Melbourne, a ‘protective wallet’ and a map of Melbourne’s public transportation network.

You can get the visitor pack from the Melbourne Visitor Centre at Federation Square, the Skybus terminals at Melbourne Airport or in Southern Cross Station, or at the PTV Hub located at Southern Cross Station. You may also buy one from the concierge desk from your hotel or accommodation provider.

It should be noted you will not be able to use Myki on Skybus. You will need to purchase a separate ticket for it.

The Myki card comes with enough to travel around the city for one day ($7.00 for Adults, $3.50 for concession). Because you will most likely use it to get to PAX Australia, you should fill it up with enough credit for three days (or more, depending if you want to see some sightseeing).

In order to ‘top-up’ credit on your Myki card, you can go to your nearest 7-Eleven store (you can find one in almost every single corner in Melbourne CBD), the ticket windows in most stations, or through the Myki machines located in all train stations and some tram stops. Alternatively, you can add more credit online – but you should allow at least 24 hours.

Exploring Melbourne

For tourists, there are several ways to get around Melbourne’s CBD for free – the most obvious method will be walking from point A to point B. It’s not really much of a problem, since the CBD is easy to navigate and to walk around.

You can also take the City Circle tram. It goes around the city and the Docklands every twelve minutes, and it is free. However, expect it to be full most of the time – because of the tourists and of the locals who use it as well.

Melbourne City Council also has a Melbourne Visitor Shuttle Bus that also takes you around the city, and runs daily between 9:30am to 4:30pm with buses every 30 minutes (the entire trip takes about 90 minutes). The bus goes through some of the major attractions and cultural centres of the city – including the Arts precinct, the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Chinatown, the Greek Precinct and Lygon Street (known for its Italian food and culture). You can see the full route here.

However, in some cases – like visiting the Scienceworks Museum and Planetarium and Werribee Open Range Zoo – you will need to take public transport to reach these areas.

Is there an app for that?

Unfortunately, Melbourne is one of the few cities in Australia that do not have public transport information integrated with Google Maps. If you want to plot your destination, then you can visit the PTV website and use the Journey Planner. (It’s also responsive, so you will be able to use it on your phone).

For iOS users, there is a PTV app for you to download. This allows you to plan your journey from point A to point B via public transport, see nearby public transportation options based on your location, and see when the next bus/train/tram will be coming. Android and Windows Phone users, there isn’t an official PTV app with such functionality unfortunately.

For Android, you will need to download several apps to achieve almost the same functionality as the iOS app. There is Train Trapper, which will give you the latest timetable information about trains; Tram Hunter or the official tramTRACKER to get timetable information about trams (and your nearby tram stops); and TripGo or the PTV website to get directions.

And for Windows Phone users, we have a guide on that – but the apps do not have a journey planner, so you will need to use the PTV website for that.