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> Melbourne Starter Kit, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
purplebuggy
post Aug 1 2009, 12:10 AM
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Melbourne is the Capital City of the state of Victoria, Australia. Melbourne is known as a cultural hub in Australia. Its cafes, arts scene and unknown alleyways are nationally renowned. General Information on Australia can be found in the following link to the Australia Starter Kit: http://www.travelpod.com/forums/index.php?...c=6793&st=0

Language: The first language for Australia is English. Due its multiculturalism many people have a second language. There are even streets known as China Town and the Greek Precinct with the city itself where activities such as Chinese New Year or Greece’s National Day are celebrated.

Money: The main currency is the Australian Dollar. You will find many money exchange offices in the city (just walk down Swanson Street and you’ll see at least a dozen!) but make sure you compare their rates before choosing. More information (such as the colour of each note of currency) can be found in the Australia Starter Kit.

Time Zone: Melbourne is located in the Time Zone known as Eastern Standard Time (EST) +10 from GMT. However from late October to late March Daylight Savings Takes effect in Victoria New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory, and South Australia which involves winding clocks forward one hour. This began in order to save power during war times and by altering the time by an hour, it allowed for more daylight during working hours and thus mean people didn’t use lights, etc. It is now a controversial issue as each Australian has an opinion on whether the country should have this in place. (Some states and territories do not practice Daylight Savings, others practice it at different times and therefore it can make up to a four hour difference between states at times.)

Entry: This is the same for anywhere in Australia. The Australia Starter Kit has all the relevant information on this. Be aware however if travelling between states that quarantine is very important. No fruit or vegetables can cross the borders due to a species of fruit fly that is very difficult to spot but can ruin entire crops. Also important is to check you are not carrying any hitch-hiking wildlife (cane toads in particular if coming from up-north). If you find any wildlife (injured, sick or travelling with you) contact a local wildlife contact number seen on signs on the side of the road. (These are quite common outside of cities).

Emergency Numbers:
000 (all emergency services)
112 (from mobiles anywhere)


Weather: Melbourne has the following seasons:
Summer: Dec – Feb
Autumn: Mar – May (For any Americans, Australia has Autumn… not Fall.)
Winter: Jun – Aug
Spring: Sep – Nov
Any information on weather in Australia (not just Victoria) can be obtained through the Bureau of Meteorology at http://www.bom.gov.au/
At the top right of the page is a list of states, click on Vic for any information on Victoria’s weather including average temperatures. Also note that Australia operates using Degrees Celsius.

Public Holidays/ Important Dates:
*01 Jan - New Years Day (holiday changes depending on the day it falls)
*26 Jan – Australia Day (the date celebrating the arrival of the First Fleet into Botany Bay)
*Early March – Labour Day
*Late Mar/ Early Apr - Good Friday/ Easter Saturday/ Easter Sunday/ Easter Monday
*25 Apr – ANZAC Day (holiday changes depending on the day it falls. It celebrates Australia’s past and present Defence Forces and those who have fallen in the line of duty. Marches take place in every major city on 25 Apr and most local towns in the week leading up to 25 Apr)
*8 Jun – Queen’s Birthday
*The first Tuesday in Nov – Melbourne Cup Day (Melbourne metropolitan only… but most other areas run unofficial half days. The actual race is run around 2pm.)
*11 Nov – Remembrance Day (not a public holiday. Celebrates the cessation of WWI on 11 Nov 1911.)
* 25 Dec – Christmas Day
* 26 Dec (holiday changes depending on the day it falls. Recovery day after Christmas… and the start of sporting events such as the Boxing Day Test.)

Transport:
Melbourne has a decent public transport system (though many locals will disagree…). It includes trains, trams and buses. The following link will provide information on all types: http://www.metlinkmelbourne.com.au/
Tickets: The ticketing system can be confusing for first-time visitors. The state is put into ‘zones’ which delegate the cost of your ticket. The main areas around the city are Zone 1. You can travel anywhere in the zone, on any form of transport during the given time on your ticket. Zone 2 is the outer suburbs of Melbourne. If you are travelling any further, you will likely require a “V-line” ticket. Ask at the counter of major train stations about whether you need this. People at your station will generally help if you are unsure which zones you are travelling in. Times available are 2-hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, 6-monthly and yearly (the latter two generally only used by students). The machines query the type of ticket (full fare/ concession); the time (2-hour/ daily/ weekly); and the zone (Zone 1 or Zone 2). Note that trams will only take coins, not notes.
Make sure you validate your ticket at each change of transport. Many ticket inspectors will understand that it is complicated to do this but you might get one having a bad day... Ask fellow passengers for help if you aren't sure.
Trains: The main train station in Melbourne city is Flinders Street Station. All trains run through this station. All V-line trains run through Southern Cross Station (previously known as Spencer Street Station). Though generally safe, be aware there are some trouble spots around stations at night so be cautious. The carriage nearest to the driver is known as the safest. There are also designated safety areas on train platforms that are always monitored by video, you will find these by the yellow lines on the ground.
Trams: In metropolitan areas, this is another easy way to get from A to B. Ask the drivers if you are unsure if it goes to your location. Most are helpful and will tell you if it does, or tell you which number is best to travel on. There is the option of a free tram that does a circle of the city called, surprisingly, the City Circle Tram. This goes around the edge of the city, past major tourist attractions (Museum, Melbourne Central Shopping Centre, Docklands, Etihad Stadium (previously Docklands Stadium and then Telstra Stadium…), Flinders Street and Cook’s Cottage to name a few.) and offers an insightful history of the area in a recorded voice-over. They are very recognisable as the old “W-Class” trams and painted a dark red colour.
Buses: Very similarly run to trams but run in the areas not covered by tracks.

Planes:
The most well known airline in Australia is QANTAS (the “Flying Kangaroo”). http://www.qantas.com.au/travel/airlines/home/au/en
There has recently been a rise in the number of budget airlines however that may offer much cheaper flights. If you like the comfort of knowing everything is included, these may not be for you but in terms of a cash-strapped traveller – they may be a great bargain with fares sometimes being offered for as little as $1 (plus taxes) for domestic flights. Catches with these cheap fares can include no check in luggage, no in-flight entertainment or meals, limited range of flight times, cancellation fees, etc.
These airlines include:
Jetstar (run by QANTAS) http://www.jetstar.com/au/en/index.aspx
Virgin Blue (run by Virgin Atlantic) http://www.virginblue.com.au/
Tiger Airways (run by Singapore Airlines) http://www.tigerairways.com/
When flying into/ out of the country also be aware that there are liquid controls. The QANTAS website has information regarding this. You can still carry your water bottle when only travelling domestic however so rejoice!

Driving:
Many will choose to buy or hire a car to see the sites. (Hiring a car is probably the best way to see places like the Dandenongs and Great Ocean Road.
A few companies to choose from are:
Avis http://www.avis.com.au/car-rental/avisHome/home.ac
Thrifty http://www.thrifty.com.au/
Europcar http://www.europcar.com.au/
Hertz http://www.hertz.com.au/rentacar/reservati...nOnHomepage.jsp
Budget http://www.budget.com.au/default.aspx
Be aware that driving in the city of Melbourne involves an interaction with trams. In some intersections you will have to learn about “hook turns” where you need to pull over to the left (enough to allow people want to go straight to pass), wait for the lights to change and turn right. It’s very complicated for those who have never attempted it before but it makes sense when you’ve seen a car get hit by a tram… For any queries on licensing, VicRoads is available at: http://www.vicroads.vic.gov.au/Home/

Local Laws/ Customs:
*Generally the same as most western countries in that everyone is to be treated with respect.
*The drinking age is 18 years – the person must have photographic ID.
*All automatic weapons are illegal.
*If taking photos of Indigenous people (eg. Aborigines), ask for their permission as some believe it “captures the soul.” Also a deceased Aboriginal’s name should not be spoken, nor their photographs be shown. (You may notice that at the start of some TV shows a warning is mentioned that “the names and pictures of deceased persons may be in this programme” for this same reason.
*Don’t always take offence to someone who may call you an insulting word. Listen to the tone in their voice. Often Australians will call their friends insults as a form of endearment so be careful in judging too quickly. If you do take offence, let the person know politely, they will likely apologise if it was meant kindly or in jest rather than in anger. See the Australia Starter Kit for some more information.
*There is an ongoing battle between Sydney and Melbourne as to who is better. This has been going on since colonial times and even decided where the capital of Australia was to be built (between the two because the issue couldn’t be resolved!) If you have just been to Sydney, expect that Melbournites will comment how bad it is and that Melbourne is better. You will never win an argument of this type, even if Sydney is better in your opinion… so don’t try.
*Melbourne lives on sport. If you don’t follow an Aussie Rules team – you will be allocated one unless you decided on the spot you go for another one. Although you can try, most people don't follow Rugby in Victoria - it is widely followed in NSW and Qld however.
*If someone tells you to “Slip, Slop, Slap” this is them saying be careful of sunburn. The advert from the 80s said to “slip on a t-shirt, slop on some sunscreen and slap on a hat” later it was added to “wrap on some sunnies” but most people wont add this. Take it that they’re looking out for you.

Communication:
Internet: The internet is widely available in Melbourne with many internet cafes around the city. (Some offer it for free, I believe Telstra stores often have free internet ‘while you wait’) and many hotels offer wi-fi or at least an internet connection for those who have a computer with them.
Telephones: Public Telephones can be found in various places but are becoming a thing of the past. If in need of one, your best bet is to head for a major train station. Australia has state codes that precede the actual telephone number. Using a random number as an example
Locally you can call: 9876 5432
From interstate you need to call: (03) 9876 5432
From overseas you need to call: +61 2 9876 5432
Each state has a different STD number these are:
Vic: (03); NSW (02); ACT (02); QLD (07); NT (08); WA (08); SA (08); Tas (03)
Mobile Phones: These are very widely available and can be either prepaid or on plans. For travelling, prepaid is probably the easiest. Prepaid cards can be bought everywhere from supermarkets to petrol stations to electronic stores. The phone will work anywhere in the country on the same sim card but be aware if you travel to remote areas, coverage isn’t likely to be very good. Companies in Australia include, Telstra (reliable but very expensive), Optus (Telstra's rival), Virgin, 3 mobile, among others.
Americans and Japanese phones may have issues from what I’ve heard but I would confirm with your local service provider before you go if this is the case…

Accommodation:
The internet is the cheapest way to book accommodation. They can allow you to book hotels/ motels/ hostels at any variety of prices in almost any location. Check where you want to go compared to the location of the hotel, or even its location compared to transport, etc before booking. A great place for checking this is Where is: http://www.whereis.com/index.htm where you can put the address of the hotel and find out what is nearby. Also, check past stayers reviews at Trip Advisor: http://www.tripadvisor.com/
Some sites for booking accommodation include:
Last Minute: http://www.lastminute.com.au/home.html
Wot If: http://www.wotif.com/
Expedia: http://www.expedia.com.au/

Places To See
Melbourne offers many tourist opportunities from National Parks to Neighbours tours. Here are some that might interest future visitors:

Melbourne City
*Arts Centre http://www.theartscentre.com.au/Default.aspx offers a what’s on for theatre in the city.
*National Gallery of Victoria http://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/ will let you know of current and future exhibitions at its many locations
*Southbank – an area of many restaurants, shops and cafes, generally for an upper market night out. Can be seen from Flinders St Station
*Crown Casino – located at the end of Southbank for a bit of a gamble, hotel, movies, bowling, nightclubs, etc
*St Paul’s Cathedral – across from Flinders St Station. Beautiful gothic architecture in the middle of the city
*Melbourne Museum - http://museumvictoria.com.au/melbournemuseum/ has information on permanent and temporary exhibits. Permanent ones include Dinosaurs, the Melbourne Story (including the body of Australia’s favourite racehorse Pharlap), Bugs Alive, Forest Secrets, Koori Voices (Aboriginal history), and many more.
*Lygon Street – known for amazing cafes and restaurants – this is the street where locals eat!
*Shopping - Brunswick Street (anything quirky or vintage can pretty much be bought here); Myer (Melbourne’s own department store now Australia wide); Melbourne Central (your standard shopping centre); Bourke Street Mall, Elizabeth Street, and various arcades (don’t forget to wander through the arcades!); Queen Victoria Markets (open every day except Monday and Wednesday. Buy fresh foods, souvenirs or general market buys)
*Botanical Gardens – take a run around the whole garden on “the Tan”, visit the fruit bats that’ve made “The Bot” their home or have a picnic on the grass.


The Suburbs (day trips)
*Scienceworks and Planetarium – In Spotswood (easy by train) http://museumvictoria.com.au/scienceworks/ A hands on science museum, great for kids and the young at heart. Permanent exhibits include Sportsworks, Nitty Gritty Super City (for the little-littleys), Pumping Station, and more. The Planetarium offers shows about the Southern Skies for different ages groups and has a ‘What’s in the Sky Tonight’ done by a member of staff at the end as well.
*Melbourne Zoo - http://www.zoo.org.au/ Personally the best zoo I’ve ever been to and it’s still improving. A great mix of native and exotic animals, worth a full day (but bring your own lunch. In summer, the zoo is open late and bands play in the cool evening
Werribee – Werribee Open Range Zoo http://www.zoo.org.au/ a little bit of Africa in Australia; Werribee Mansion http://www.parkweb.vic.gov.au/1park_display.cfm?park=197 a castle in Australia and a history going back to pre-colonial times.
*Healesville Sanctuary - http://www.zoo.org.au/ visit the native wildlife of Australia in the bush. A well established park that also helps injured wildlife such as many of those hurt in the 2009 ‘Black Saturday’ bushfires.
*Dandenongs - http://www.parkweb.vic.gov.au/1park_display.cfm?park=49 visit the Mountain Ash Forests and quaint little villages. Great for bushwalking. The best bit is taking a ride on the steam train “Puffing Billy” http://www.puffingbilly.com.au/
*Mornington Peninsula – http://www.visitmorningtonpeninsula.org/ Visit the many wineries of the region or have a day at the beach
*Neighbours Tour - http://www.neighbourstour.com.au/ Because for some reason people like the soap TV show “Neighbours”. You can even meet one of the stars!


A little further out (more than a day trip recommended)
*Phillip Island - http://www.visitphillipisland.com/ Watch Fairy Penguins come home from their daily feed and waddle up the beach to their nests. Have a surf at Woolamai or Shelley Beach or take a trip to a local winery.
*The Great Ocean Road - http://www.greatoceanrd.org.au/ Visit the 12 Apostles (or however many are left today!), spot a whale, see the shipwrecks, swim at the beaches, see rainforests and waterfalls!
*Any national Parks in Victoria - http://www.parkweb.vic.gov.au/

Sports events
If you’re in Melbourne, take the opportunity to experience some type of sporting match. Here are some suggestions:
*Melbourne Cup Carnival - http://www.melbournecup.com/melbourne-cup-carnival/ The biggest day is the first Tuesday in November where the Melbourne Cup Race is run at about 2pm, but Derby Day, Oaks Day (traditionally Ladies Day) and Stakes Day are also huge… if only for watching the fashion. Ladies – buy a hat (it’s pretty much compulsory). Picnics are recommended.
*Boxing Day Test Match - http://www.cricket.com.au/ Always held at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) and always on the day after Christmas. Bring your sunscreen and a hat and find someone who knows what’s happening so they can tell you what’s going on. (Bring your lunch too but no alcohol, it is restricted inside the ground but can be bought) Cricket matches are played in the summer months when AFL isn’t being played.
*AFL – http://www.afl.com.au/Default.aspx Played in the cooler months (when Cricket isn’t being played) the Grand Final is held in September each year. Most supporters will like to dress in their teams colours Like cricket, find someone who can explain what’s going on.

If you have any questions about Melbourne or Victoria, I'll be happy to (try to) answer them!
Have fun travelling!

pb
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