What to Expect When Travelling to Melbourne: Expectations vs Reality

What to Expect When Travelling to Melbourne: Expectations vs Reality

From transportation tips to grisly graveyard reveals, here’s a guide to debunk the myths of the world’s Most Liveable City.

Crowned the ‘Most Liveable City’ for the seventh year running in 2017, Melbourne boasts of far-reaching spaces, thriving art and cultural scenes and sparkling beaches for all to take pleasure in. With something for everyone, it’s no wonder that the city is among the list of popular tourist destinations every year.

Despite all you’ve heard about Melbourne, it’s always wise to do some research yourself before visiting a new country to avoid disappointment. Read on to find out some little-known facts about everyone’s favourite city to better prepare for the adventure you’ve been waiting for!

Expectation: English is a common language, so you should have no problem navigating around

Travellers, rejoice! With English being the country’s national and de facto official language, it’s thus no surprise that the majority of Australians are well-versed in the language. The people of Melbourne are no exception, so it shouldn’t be difficult to find someone who’s on your linguistic wavelength to help you navigate through your stay.

Reality: Sometimes, Australian English seems like another language altogether

Image credit: Ron Mader

Australian slang dates back to the earliest settlements of English speakers in Australia, where it gradually gained prominence in society as a quintessential way of creating a common identity for those who speak it. As a result, Australian English is often imbued with a load of colloquial terms that might prove incomprehensible to those unfamiliar with the way they speak.

As an outsider, don’t worry about those moments where you find trying your very best to understand why the locals are choking back a laugh at your nonchalant comment of just rooting around in the sale aisles. I mean, what on earth is going troppo or a drongo/yobbo, and why in the world would I want the concierge to knock me up?

Prepare yourselves for the inevitable rounds of Guess The Word when you’re trying to keep up their enthusiastic directions to the nearest Maccas or telling you Tassie is way too huge for just an overnight trip.

Expectation: Caucasians dominate Melbourne’s population

 Image credit: Australian Paralympic Community

As a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, Australia belongs to the Western world despite being located in the down under. It’s thus a common assumption for us to that Western countries thus tend to have a higher proportion of Caucasian residents.

Reality: Australia sees a rich cultural diversity

Image credit: Velaia

Did you know that Australia’s earliest settlements began as a result of Britain’s attempt to look for an alternative place to relieve its congested prisons? After Britain lost its colonies in what is currently known as the United States, a penal colony was established in Botany Bay with a few shiploads of convicts and British soldiers. Today, Australia is very proud of its position as a migrant continent that is made up of many different cultures.

Let’s not forget about the sizable population of aboriginal people, where more than 66% of them reside in New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria. Today, a majority of these communities move between permanent settlements by the sea during different seasons and others at the headwaters of the coast rivers. They still face a mass of racist attitudes and discrimination as a result of their history of invasion and poorer social status, making it even more important for their presence and contributions to Australia’s development to be remembered.

Expectation: The high temperatures will drive you insane

Image credit: KayVee.INC 

Mention that you’re travelling to Australia and you’ll hear remarks of surprise regarding your decision to go from one sweltering country (read: tropical) to the next. There’s no lack of reports regarding the heatwaves that sweep across the country during the summer and the damage it has brought to both Australia’s inhabitants and its infrastructure.

Reality: The weather’s pretty bearable (mostly)

You might be pleased to know that Australian weather isn’t really as unforgiving as you think. In the summer, temperatures typically range between 14-25 degrees Celsius in most places, occasionally rising past 30 pretty similar if not more welcoming than Singapore’s own, really.

That being said, travellers should not underestimate Australian weather when they’re packing their bags. Australia’s ozone layer is thinner than most countries’, so don’t forget to slather on sunscreen even when it’s only cloudy outside to minimise your exposure to sun damage. Winters around here are pretty mild in comparison to Europe (around 15 degrees Celsius), but strong winds and night temperatures going below 10 degrees Celsius can definitely get uncomfortable.

Take note of the current season especially when you’re looking to pay Melbourne a visit you can experience up to four seasons in a day! The alternation between sunshine and rain over twenty times in a single day is not uncommon. Never leave your accommodation without sunglasses, a small umbrella and an extra layer in your backpack!

Expectation: If you don’t drink, there’s not much to do after dark

If you enjoy sleeping in, we urge you to rethink your lifestyle choices, especially when visiting Australia. Daylight is precious, as many tourist attractions and shops alike cease operating relatively early, so if you decide to wake up at noon and saunter out for lunch at two, you’re not going to cover a lot of Melbourne.

You could go bar-hopping or try out one of the many clubs available in the CBD, but there’s only so much alcohol that your body can take before you’re out of things to do!

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Reality: Nightlife is more than just alcohol and loud music

  Image credit: Luna Park Melbourne

While shops and most attractions may close early, that doesn’t mean you need resign to holing yourself up in your hotel beds to stream a few hours of Netflix. Many food places are still open after hours, so foodies will be pleased to find places such as Pidapipó still open for delectable ice cream till 11pm, and the 24-hour ramen bar Shujinko Ramen for rumbling tummies at all hours of the night.

Not hungry? Cinema Nova near the Swanston Street tram lets you walk into 11pm sessions with drinks in hand to enjoy an empty theatre all to yourself. Luna Park tends to be a hit with the little ones, and the impressive amusement park set-up stays open until 8pm or 11pm, depending on when you visit. Or how about an overnight safari tour with none other than Melbourne’s Werribee Open Range Zoo? Pack your bags and get ready for a night of camping under the stars in their African Savanna replica, where you get to spend time with the park’s animals and avoid the crowds that swarm the park during the day.

Expectation: You can only learn about Melbourne’s history and culture at art galleries and museums

If you’re a city-dweller who’s in love with the quintessential things about being in a city, Melbourne’s the perfect place for you. If you’re a history geek or cultural maniac? Not so much. Conventional Melbourne travel guides only seem to expound upon food, architecture, and scenery, and the only culture you’re probably going to experience is the curious words that only Australians use to communicate.

The Melbourne hashtag on Instagram seems to revolve around ambrosial food, intricate architecture, grand scenery and a shopaholic’s heaven. Really, who could blame them? Your mouth waters at the sight of that colourful plate of fairy pancakes, your hands itch to pick up that sleek pair of boots on sale in Fitzroy and you rush towards that outlandish piece of graffiti and grab your like-minded friends to take an artsy snapshot of you.

Reality: The city is rich with history and heritage if you dig deeper!

                                                                                     Image credit: Filipe Castilhos

Remember Australia’s humble beginnings as Britain’s convict storehouse? That alone points to all the cool origin stories that Down Under harbours within itself. Melbourne’s not all about the aesthetics or fresh air – there’s so much about the city that tourists could be aware of if only they ventured a little out of their way to find them.

Traipse down to Melbourne’s many laneway galleries to admire the artwork and speak to street artists that tend to hang around the area on the social acceptance of their art; where is the line between street art and graffiti? Or if you’re into the taboo and looking to spook yourself, why not take up one of Melbourne’s Crime Tours? You’ll be whisked into the middle of Queen Victoria Market thinking that you’re stopping for refreshments, only to find out that the Victoria markets are built on Melbourne’s old graveyards. Fun Fact: Bad construction practices have prevented their upgrades, as any time they dig a metre or so below the surface, human remains are disturbed and uncovered.

Expectation: The Great Ocean Road is a must-visit epic attraction best explored on a tour

No Melbourne escapade can be complete without a trip out to the Great Ocean Road. This spectacular drive stretches a colossal 243 kilometers from Torquay to Allansford and was built by returning soldiers from World War 1. It is the world’s biggest War Memorial, and travellers can look forward to a series of magnificent natural wonders such as London Arch, The Twelve Apostles, Bells Beach and the Great Ocean Walk.

You don’t have to worry about getting around with the plethora of road tours available in Melbourne. Simply have a look online or head down to Federation Square, where you can easily get information on a tour that best suits your needs and wallet.

Reality: Tours don’t actually provide the best sightseeing experiences…

Sorry folks, Australian road trips are truly best experienced by car – take it from a personal anecdote. Being part of a full day tour took away the magic of basking in the presence of the various attractions because my friends and I were constantly being hurried along to the next destination. To top it off, we ended up falling asleep most of the time while in transit from one location to another, missing out on the whole point of a road trip. If you really want to make the most out of your stay, make sure at least one of you can drive and embark on your own road trips!

Tip: If you’re not wild about crowds (that will be there, mark my words): there are other things to see around Melbourne that aren’t the Great Ocean Road. Travel up North into the countryside of Daylesford to putter around in a country town surrounded by eucalyptus trees and kangaroos, or go South to Mornington Peninsula to lounge in the heat of natural spas.

Expectation: City-hopping is pretty convenient

Australia’s cities are generally well-connected to one another, so there’ll be no problem if you and your squad decide to city-hop. The fastest and most convenient way to travel to another city from Melbourne is by plane, where you can find tickets for under $100. If you’re looking for an experience, taking an overnight train or making a self-drive to your next city is also an interesting option.

Reality: City-hopping can take up a lot of time and money

We’ve got to lay the facts out for you – city-hopping is perhaps more suited for travellers who’re looking to hang around in Australia for longer periods of time or have more dough to spare. For starters, sleeper services that come with a private shower and meals cost around $300 for a one-way trip. A huge chunk of your money can just go flying out of your wallets before you even arrive at your next destination!

Visitors would do well to remember that Australia is very much a whole continent in its own right as well as a country. A trip from Brisbane to Perth takes over five hours by plane or around three whole days of driving. Australia simply just can’t be covered in a mere week or two!

Expectation: You are at high risk of venomous snake bites and angry kangaroos

We’ve all seen the memes and Tumblr posts – Australian wildlife is a whole different ball game altogether. From arachnids larger than the size of your hand to a blue-ringed octopus lurking around rock pools at the beach, being on your guard seems like the best decision you could make to prolong your lifespan.

Reality: Only three people succumb to wildlife-related accidents in Australia each year

Not everything in Oz is deadly and can be found everywhere, so you can heave a sigh of relief. The only ones that come in abundance are spiders, so if they look dodgy to you, just stay away from them. Paying attention to warning signs about jellyfish and wandering animals while you’re on the road will also go a long way to keep you from any mishap.

Interested in getting a close-up with the wildlife anyway? Visit Ballarat Wildlife Park for an afternoon with excited baby kangaroos, or snap away at the penguins if you head down to Phillip Island (or catch them for free at St Kilda’s pier!).

Inspired yet? The Most Liveable City is among many other beautiful counterparts in Australia, all of which are worth the travel. Whether you’re a city-dweller or a nature enthusiast, there’s always a slice of something uniquely Melbourne for you to discover. Set off with some sunscreen, your trusty umbrella, and a curious mind and get ready to view the city in a new perspective!  


About Author

Alvina Chan
Alvina Chan

Alvina wishes she got a tan from lazing around the beach with a book and mango juice, but instead she’s got it from hours of outdoor sports without sunscreen. Since she's currently low on the dough, she scratches the travel itch by stalking travel vlogs and fantasising about meeting her European online pals in person. Other times, she’s just trying not to accidentally die yet again in Overwatch.