Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Diverse; this is one word that perfectly captures the essence of Melbourne. As the coastal capital of Victoria, Australia, Melbourne is a hip and dynamic melting pot of cultures, landscapes, food, and activities that always keep travelers on their toes. Whether you’re visiting the city’s Federation Square – a venue for arts, culture, and events – for a dose of unique character, or strolling down the Royal Botanic Gardens taking in the city’s charms, there’s never a dull moment there. Arriving in Melbourne over a decade ago via job relocation, Jun Tacio – head of IT at Prima Printing Pty Ltd – shares his tips for when it comes to making the most of your time in Melbourne.
Before you go
Be aware that Australia is located in the southern hemisphere. This means that the timing of different seasons is not in-sync with the northern hemisphere. Winter season runs from June to August, Spring is from September to November, Summer is from December to February, and Autumn is from March to April.
With that said, the southern states of Australia (New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania, Australian Capital Territory) have relatively colder weather than Queensland, Northern Territory, and Western Australia. So, travelers should pack the appropriate clothing depending on what time of the year and where in Australia you are traveling.
If you are heading to Melbourne, it is always good to have a warm jacket and a pullover handy. Locals here will tell you that Melbourne usually experiences four seasons in a day.
Must do’s and must see’s
Though Melbourne may not boast the grandest landmarks compared to Sydney, we have the famous Flinder Street Railway Station – a building that is more than a century old right in the heart of the city. The spot has become one of the most iconic landmarks in Melbourne.
A must-do in Melbourne is to join a bus tour and visit the 12 Apostles. It is not a religious shrine; rather, it is a collection of limestone stacks off the shore of Port Campbell National Park, by the Great Ocean Road. The trip along Ocean Road itself will remind you of traveling along Kennon Rd going up to Baguio City. Albeit, the snaking Ocean Road gives you an open ocean vista which Kennon Road does not have.
If you’re a foodie, then Melbourne is the place to be in Australia. Boasting a colorful variety of restaurants that cater to all palates, you can find high-end fine dining to fast-food style eateries here. One thing that separates Melbourne from the other cities in Australia are the laneways where you can find different restaurants, bars, and food stalls that will rival those only found in Europe.
Also, Melbourne is well known for its local cafe culture. The local cafes and barista prepared coffees will win over your discerning palate.
So I say, when in Melbourne, and if you have time, try the different restaurants and local coffee shops scattered around the city and the suburbs, you will not regret it.
What to avoid
Avoid bringing in fruits and home-prepared food into Australia as ‘pasalubong’ if you don’t want to get stuck at customs at the airport. Other commercial foodstuff should be declared on the customs entry form, or else they will be confiscated, and you will also be fined.
Traveling on a budget
It’s always best to get in touch with anyone you know who’s based in a city you plan to visit. However, in case you don’t know anyone here, and you want to save on accommodations, my advice is this: look for a place to stay outside the city as most hotel room prices are high in Melbourne. If you decide to stay outside the city, make sure to choose a place that is walking distance to a train station, as that will be the cheapest way to access the city.
For food and fruits, the most affordable option is to visit Queen Victoria Market in the city. It’s open from 6 am to 2 am, except on Mondays and Wednesdays. You will find fresh veggies and fruits, as well as cheap prepared meals. Ready meals are also abundantly available in any supermarket. For groceries and toiletries, look for the “Reject Shop” store in the city. They sell all kinds of products at half-price.
How to get around
The best way to get around the city is by walking. Melbourne is compact’ hence you can walk from one place to another easily. But if you don’t want to walk, then there’s always the tram. You can hop-on and hop-off the tram as long as you are within the free-tram zone in the city (which is almost 90% of the place). However, if you need to travel to other zones, you should get a MyKi card available from 7-Eleven stores and train stations. The train and trams are very reliable.
Best food and places to try
For local food, always go for the meat pies. You might also want to try a kangaroo steak or burger! Don’t forget to try the laneways when looking for a place to eat. The famous food laneways in Melbourne are the Degraves Street, Centre Place, Hardware Lane and Tattersalls Lane (part of Chinatown).
The Chelsea beach in Melbourne. No tourists to be found, only locals walk along this long stretch. People go about their daily walks and exercises during the mornings and afternoons here.
Caribbean Markets on Sundays. You need to have your own transport to get there. You can buy anything from bulky home furniture to tiny sewing buttons. Foodstuff and fresh produce are aplenty.
If you want to experience a quaint country town, then hop on a train or drive to Bacchus Marsh – a pretty little town 50km from the city.
The Boyd Community Hub along City Road is mostly overlooked by tourists. It houses a small library and an information center – it even offers free wi-fi. So, if you want to switch off or be alone, this is the place to visit. A tram stop is actually next to it.
Best time to visit
The best time to visit Melbourne is from October to November. This is the time when spring is transitioning into summer. Having said that, I personally prefer Melbourne during the winter as there are so many free shows and festivals in the city at this time of the year.
Due to the growing Pinoy population in Melbourne, Pinoy stores can be found in different corners around Melbourne and its suburbs. These stores sell Filipino food, canned goods, frozen meat, and fish products, not to mention Pinoy soaps and toiletries. These stores also serve as remittance centers for our kababayans, sending money back to the Philippines.
Several Filipino restaurants have also opened. Easily accessible in the city is GJ’s Grill that’s right beside Queen Victoria Market. There’s also Reynaldo’s Restaurant, which is a short tram ride to North Melbourne. GJ’s Grill serves all things inihaw as well as iconic Filipino dishes like sinigang. Reynaldo’s serves everything you can think of all-year-round, from lechon to pansit, to halo-halo.
There are also several Facebook pages such as Pinoy Eats in Melbourne, Pinoy-AU Melbourne, etc. where our kababayans get in touch and ask for help when needed. These pages have become a source of sharing information regarding money and immigration matters. Recently, they have become even more active with our kababayans selling home-made pandesal, puto, enseymada, etc.
Other essential info
The best way to go around the city is by joining the Melbourne Free Walking Tour. This will give you an informed overview of the interesting places in the city. You don’t need to book, just show up at the designated place and time. Check out www.imfree.com.au/melbourne/
Having arrived in Melbourne over a decade ago via job relocation, Jun Tacio now works as the head of IT at Prima Printing Pty Ltd.
Read the full edition of Illustrado Work & Play 2019 on www.issuu.com
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