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Living in Melbourne

A Comprehensive Guide About Living in Melbourne

From the best neighborhoods to rent in, to how to get your Tax File Number, this guide tells you everything you need to know about living in vibrant Melbourne. Read on to learn about the culture of this city (be prepared to go to brunch) and the practicalities of day-to-day life, so you feel ready to relocate.

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If you have decided to create a new life in Australia, Melbourne will be high on your list of cities to live in. The capital of Victoria State, this city is renowned for being an expensive, but fun-filled cultural area to call your home. With close proximity to beaches, a booming job sector, and some of the finest cafes and restaurants in the world, once you step foot in the city you are unlikely to look back.

Expats are welcomed and usually find it easy to settle here, but if you want to know more specific information this guide covers tips for living in Melbourne. You can find out about the lifestyle of the city, including how expensive it is, as well as practical information about renting, healthcare, and public transportation. If the thought of poisonous snakes and spiders are on your mind, the section on safety in the city will be a reassuring read.

Life as a Foreigner in Melbourne

Melbourne is considered the most livable city in Australia; a place best experienced by staying there long-term. This idea of exploring different areas, rather than just the central business district, is an important aspect of what it is like to live in Melbourne versus briefly visiting. Each neighborhood has its own charm, and there are hidden delights across the city waiting to be discovered.

Foreigners find that the city is easy to navigate, and the locals (known as Melbournians) are welcoming. You can ask for directions on the street and chat to friendly people in a bar without feeling out of place.

Is Melbourne Expensive?

As with most large developed cities, the cost of living in Melbourne is relatively high. It is not as expensive as living in cities such as Hong Kong and Singapore, and it is also not the costliest place in Australia—Sydney holds that title. Still, the city consistently ranks in the top 100 most expensive places in the world for expats to live.

We explore how much it costs to rent in the Housing section of this guide, but on average you should expect to pay 600 AUD (400 USD) for a two-bedroom apartment in the city center. Eating out and meeting friends for brunch will take up most of your spending, with a meal and drinks for two setting you back anywhere from 50 to 100 AUD (32 to 65 USD).

Is Melbourne Safe?

Though the Australian media paints Melbourne as a dangerous place in terms of crime, the city itself is considered one of the safest places to live in the world. There is a large police presence and violent crimes are rare. Instead, theft and fraud are the two most common offenses.

In Australia, humans are not the only potential threat to your safety. Sharks are found in the waters around Victoria, but attacks are rare. Poisonous spiders and snakes are an unusual but possible sight throughout the city, and you should always be careful in wooded areas with lots of leaves and rocks. Again, you should not worry as it is rare to be bitten. If you are, you should seek medical attention immediately.

Women’s Safety

Melbourne is considered a safe destination for women. Public transportation is also considered safe to travel on by yourself. You are advised to take the same precautions as you would in any city such as not walking alone late at night, especially through parks and poorly lit areas.

LGBT+ Safety

Australia is considered safe for the LGBT+ community. For expats looking to settle long-term, same-sex marriage is legal and there are strong anti-discrimination laws. Similarly, Melbourne is an LGBT+ friendly city and has a large and active community. Each year the city hosts Midsumma Festival, a three-week celebration of LGBTQIA+ arts and culture.

The Melbourne Lifestyle

Melbourne is a friendly and laidback city with all the welcoming qualities of Australian culture that delight expats. In 2018, Time Out found it to be the happiest city in the world, with 92% of people enjoying living there. With over 50% of Melbourne’s residents being born overseas, this bodes well for expats looking to start a new life in the city.

The city is known as Australia’s cultural capital thanks to its diverse population, narrow streets full of shops and artwork (known as “laneways”), and impressive museum and gallery collections. Every weekend can be filled with something different when you live here, which is useful as the city is located on the southern tip of the island and so it is relatively remote.

Standard of Living

Expats generally have a good standard of living in Melbourne. Depending on your income you may have to budget on nights out. However, the quality of housing is high, the transportation infrastructure is good and being expanded, and the city’s medical and education systems are world-class.

Pros and Cons of Living in Melbourne

Melbourne is well known as an international city with a vibrant culture. Expats have been moving into the city for many decades now—and have previously voted it the best place in the world to live as part of the InterNations Expat Insider survey. So, what is a draw to the area? And what might make you turn away?

Pros
  • Great for sports enthusiasts. Melbourne is often voted the sports capital of the world. Sports venues in the city include the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne Park (where the Australian Open tennis competition is held), and the AAMI park, dedicated to soccer and rugby.
  • An incredible dining scene. The city’s thriving restaurant scene is part of the exciting nightlife, which has something for everyone. A diverse population means that you can eat excellent food from across the world, particularly Asian cuisine. You can also try some traditional Australian dishes while you are there; be sure to find fairy bread and eat foods containing vegemite.
  • Café culture. Prepare yourself for a caffeine addiction. Melbourne is the coffee capital of the world, and Melbournians know their flat whites from their lattes. Hanging out in a coffee shop with your friends is commonplace, and you are as likely to meet them for a brunch as for a cocktail.
Cons
  • Rush hour. Try not travel between the peak hours of 07:00 and 10:00, and 16:00 and 19:00, as the traffic and public transportation systems can get incredibly busy. Locals often moan about this negative aspect of their city, and if you cannot start work early then you may just have to accept a slower commute.
  • Expense. Australia is not a cheap country to live in, and making Melbourne your home is no exception. Rent is high in the city, as are day-to-day living costs.
  • Unpredictable weather. Melbourne is famed for having “four seasons in a day”—you should be prepared for your relaxing time sunbathing in glorious weather to be interrupted by clouds and rain.

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Tips and Practical Information

Moving to Melbourne involves more than getting your Australian visa and booking a flight. There are smaller settling-in tasks that you will have to complete once you arrive. In this section you can learn about the items that will be on your to-do list after you land. Need any more help? Book a relocation consultation call with our experienced relocation experts today.

Fiscal Numbers

One of the first things to consider when you get to Melbourne is where to get your fiscal number. The name for this is the Tax File Number (TFN), and anyone wanting to earn money in Australia should register for one to help maintain their tax records. If you do not register, you are likely to pay more tax.

If you hold a foreign passport, you can apply online for a TFN with the Australian Taxation Office. Your TFN will stay with you for life, whether you stay permanently in Australia or move abroad again.

Why Do You Need a TFN?

Your TFN is important for more than just paying taxes. It is vital for banking in Australia. Though you do not need a TFN to open a bank account, banks are required by law to withhold tax on the money going into your account if you do not provide one. This means that by opening an account with an Australian address you are likely to be considered a tax resident, regardless of your status. Learn more about how to open an Australian bank account in our Banks and Taxes Australia guide.

Government Registration

As an expat, you do not have to register with the police when you arrive at your new address in Melbourne. However, it is useful to register details such as your TFN and Medicare information at my.gov.au. This site helps you to easily access government services.

Other Relevant Tasks

  • Register for Medicare within a week of arriving in Melbourne. See the Health section of this guide for more information.
  • Purchase a local SIM card. There is more information in our Connectivity section below.
  • Buy your Myki public transport pass. Learn more about transport in the relevant section at the end of this guide.

Supermarkets and Malls

There are many malls, known as “shopping centres,” in Melbourne. The largest and most well-known is Chadstone Shopping Centre. If you are in the central business district you can also explore the Emporium Melbourne and the Royal Arcade. Smaller sites housing many shops, such as in Melbourne Central Station, are also popular.

Common supermarket chains found in the city include:

  • Woolworths
  • Coles
  • Costco
  • Aldi

Connectivity

Melbourne is connected by three main network providers: Optus, Telstra, and Vodafone. These providers operate throughout Australia and offer deals on their websites. Limited 5G networks are available in some stations across the city, though 5G is not widely available yet. 3G and 4G have good coverage, especially in the city center.

Phone Network Providers

There are three main mobile network providers in Melbourne.

  • Optus: good across the Victoria region, but anecdotally is said to be slower in Melbourne city itself.
  • Telstra: almost total coverage across Australia and has 1 million Wi-Fi spots nationally, but the most expensive provider.
  • Vodafone: the smallest of the providers.

You can pick up pay-as-you-go and bundle SIM cards in most post offices, electronics stores, gas stations, and supermarket chains. It is also possible to order online, direct from the provider.

Internet Providers

The big three mobile network providers listed above also provide home broadband. Optus and Telstra are the most highly recommended of the three. You can also look for alternative providers, including Belong and Dodo.

Housing

Choosing where to live in a new city, especially one as large and diverse as Melbourne, can be confusing without help. In this section of the guide we explore accommodation in the city, from how to find an apartment to average rental prices in different Melbourne neighborhoods.

What to Expect When Looking for Accommodation

In recent years, the housing market has been booming in Melbourne. Prices have risen year-on-year, making it second only to Sydney as the most expensive area to buy or rent in Australia. However, 2020 has seen a downturn in the number of people immigrating to the city. This created less demand, meaning that house prices have fallen slightly. This is expected to recover across the year.

Housing Types

If you are looking for an apartment in Melbourne, you should search in the central business district and inner-city areas. Apartments are known as “flats” or “units” and are not often found as part of high-rise buildings. Still, they can be incredibly small (some have been criticized for being under 12m2), and the idea of enforcing a minimum floor size for apartments is regularly discussed by local and state lawmakers.

In the suburbs, you are more likely to find terraced houses or standalone, detached houses, some of which may be described as townhouses. These houses are large and therefore expensive. It is possible to rent an entire one yourself, although landlords often rent to multiple people who share to reduce the cost of rent.

Where to Live in Melbourne

Choosing the right neighborhood to live in is important in Melbourne, as different neighborhoods across the city are like small towns. Each offers something different to its residents, and you are likely to spend a lot of time in that area. Pick wisely and you will rarely need to go into the city center without a specific reason—to work, shop, or visit attractions, for instance.

Considering the long commute time in the city, a good way to narrow down your search is to look at neighborhoods close to your work or children’s schools. Living in the center might be better if you are a night owl, but the rent will be more expensive. Moving to the suburbs will usually mean you get more space for your money.

Below are four popular and recommended Melbourne neighborhoods, including some of the most expensive and cheapest areas. Rent is listed as “per week” as is standard in Australia.

Malvern

The birthplace of Australian singer Jason Donavon, Malvern lies southeast of the central business district. It is full of cafes, delis, and small boutique shops, making it a fantastic area to browse at the weekends. If you are into outdoor or sports activities, you also have access to Central Park, the Malvern Urban Forest, and the Harold Holt Swim Center.

For commuters, Malvern has a train station and access into the center by three different tram routes. Families will like that the leafy area has larger houses and excellent schools, making it a great place to raise children. Indeed, the largest group of people residing here are families, though there is an increasing number of young professionals calling the area their home.

Renting a three-bedroom house in the neighborhood will set you back around 825 AUD (540 USD) per week. Purchasing a three-bedroom property costs around 2 million AUD (1.31 million USD).

Kew

Did you know that Kew used to be a city? Now a historic neighborhood lying 5km east of Melbourne’s central business district, it is only a short tram ride to the city center. This proximity and access to public transportation combined with the large Victorian and Edwardian style homes that line the streets of Kew make it one of the pricier neighborhoods to rent in.

Known to be a safe, family-friendly neighborhood, Kew has renowned local elementary and high schools. There is also access to golf clubs, football/soccer clubs and cricket clubs in the area, and beautiful parks to explore on the weekends. Once you move in, you won’t want to move away.

For rentals, expect to pay on average 695 AUD (455 USD) per week for a three-bedroom property. Buying a house that size will set you back around 1.8 million AUD (1.18 million USD).

Fitzroy

Found to the north of Melbourne center, Fitzroy is known as a bohemian area. There are plenty of independent stores and cafes that are run by characters from the local community. You can choose to live in a larger historic building here or in a more modern converted warehouse; it is an eclectic area for people who are happy to go with the flow.

Thanks to this, the area is generally populated by younger people and young professionals. They enjoy places like Brunswick Street, an area filled with bars, record shops, and bookstores, or whiling away the day in one of the many local cafes.

The popularity of the area means that it is not cheap to rent in. Expect to pay around 860 AUD (560 USD) a week for a three-bedroom house. To buy here will cost you around 1.4 million AUD (917,000 USD) for a three-bedroom property.

Sunshine

The area with the nicest name on our list, Sunshine is an increasingly sought-after neighborhood home to many couples and older families. It takes around 25 minutes to travel the 12km (7.5 miles) into the city center, and there is a train station for people who do not want to drive.

The crime rate has improved substantially in the neighborhood over the past decade, making it increasingly popular with families. It is also very multicultural, making it a foodies heaven. You can eat your way around the world from the comfort of your neighborhood.

It is relatively cheap to live in Sunshine, at around 756,000 AUD (495,000 USD) to buy a three-bedroom property, and around 380 AUD (250 USD) per week to rent a house the same size.

Average Rent in Melbourne

In Australia, rent is discussed in terms of how much you pay per week. The average cost of all properties rented in Melbourne was 420 AUD (275 USD) per week. If you are living inside the city center, you should expect the price to be above this estimate. For instance, a two-bedroom apartment in this area costs on average around 600 AUD (400 USD) per week.

The median value of houses for sale in the city is around 695,000 AUD (455,000 USD), with median prices rising to closer to 1 million AUD (655,000 USD) in the city center.

Finding a Rental Apartment in Melbourne

Finding your perfect property in Melbourne is likely to take a lot of time and effort. You will face fierce competition for good properties in great neighborhoods. This means that acting fast to organize viewings and submit your application to be a tenant is important. Alternatively, you can engage a home-finding service to take on these time-consuming tasks on your behalf.

If you are looking to buy, the process for finding your property will be largely the same as in other international cities and will include needing to undertake detailed neighborhood research. Though buying property at auction is popular, most homes in the city are sold by private sale. These negotiations must be conducted through a registered real estate agent.

Property Listing Websites

Though you can search for properties offline, in newspapers for example, the easiest way to find an apartment in Melbourne is through a property listing website. Websites with listings for private sale, auction, and rent, include:

  • realestate.com.au
  • domain.com.au
  • realestateview.com.au
  • homely.com.au
Viewing Days

You are not likely to secure a house in Melbourne without viewing the property first. Most rental agents will organize days where several people can view the property, rather than showing people around individually. Make sure you beat out the competition by applying there and then, bringing all the necessary documents with you. Our Renting in Australia guide has more details about documents you will need.

Things to Consider
  • Rent prices are listed per week. You will need to have at least the first two weeks of rent along with a deposit (often the equivalent of four weeks rent).
  • Take videos and pictures of the house before you move in. Make sure that any issues, such as stains or leaks, are noted by the landlord or real estate agency.
  • View as many suitable properties as you can. This will help you to build up a better understanding of what is available for your money while you wait for a landlord to accept your application.
  • It can take a couple of weeks to process your references and other application documentation. Make sure that you have temporary accommodation to cover at least your first month in Melbourne.
  • Melbourne summers can be very hot. It is better to rent a place with air conditioning.

Furnished or Unfurnished Rentals?

Housing in the city will be rented in one of five ways:

  • Fully furnished and equipped: everything is provided, including cutlery and bedding.
  • Fully furnished: all furniture is provided.
  • Partly furnished: some furniture is provided, such as a cupboard or tables.
  • White goods only: equipment like a refrigerator and washing machine (“white goods”) are provided, but no other furniture will be in the property.
  • Unfurnished.

Unfurnished properties are common and the cheapest way to rent an entire property. They are also likely to be rented on a long-term basis. You are more likely to find a fully furnished and equipped property when renting short-term through companies such as Airbnb.

Finding Furniture

Melbourne has many large international and national furniture stores. Many of these stores stock Scandinavian style furniture, a mainstay of Melbourne trends. They include:

  • IKEA
  • Freedom Furniture
  • Matt Blatt
  • Space
  • Fred International
  • West Elm

For local furniture store recommendations, you can look for stores like Jardan, and Great Dane Furniture. Yard sales are also a common and reliable way to purchase used furniture and furnishings.

Healthcare

The healthcare system in Melbourne is the same as in the rest of Australia, though you have greater access to clinics and hospitals than in rural areas. Permanent residents have full access to the public healthcare system, while expats without resident status will need private healthcare. Get to know these systems in more detail by reading our Healthcare in Australia guide.

Medicare

Medicare is the government-run healthcare insurance scheme. It provides universal and world-renowned public healthcare for citizens and permanent residents of Australia, meaning that you can access health services for little or no cost.

If you are eligible, you must register for Medicare within a week of arriving in Melbourne. You will need your passport, travel documents, and permanent visa to do so. It is possible to sign up online or at a Medicare office.

Main Hospitals in Melbourne

The state of Victoria has over 200 hospitals, both public and private. Most of these are found in Melbourne, with the city boasting almost 60 public and around 50 private hospitals. The biggest and most renowned are the Royal Melbourne Hospital and The Alfred Hospital.

Finding a Doctor

Finding a doctor, known as a General Practitioner (GP) in Melbourne, is relatively simple. Search online for your nearest doctor and then call to book an appointment, unless it is an emergency. Unlike most countries, you do not have to register with a specific doctor in Australia. You can also see a doctor without a Medicare card if you have private insurance, or if you are willing to pay privately to cover your costs.

Seeing a specialist is different if you have public or private healthcare. If you are in the public healthcare system, you will have to be referred by your GP. You can book directly with specialists if you are using private healthcare. Learn more about how InterNations GO! can connect you with a GP and other professionals across Melbourne as part of our settling-in services.

Transportation

From driving to public transportation and cycling, this section explores everything you need to know about getting around in Melbourne. This vibrant city has an extensive and expanding infrastructure with multiple options for commuters and the general public alike. You can make your way across the city with ease—though, with traffic and public transportation delays, it can often be a longer journey than planned.

Driving

Expats are able to drive in Melbourne as long as their car is roadworthy, is registered with VicRoads and insured, and if they have the correct driver’s license. For instance, after six months of living in the city you must transfer your international license to an Australian one. For more information on transferring your license and other driving-related matters, read our Driving in Australia section.

Melbourne is generally an easy city to drive in, though you should be aware that due to the tramlines it is common to find “hook turns” (where you cross an intersection to make a right turn from the left-hand lane). Also be aware that some roads, such as CityLink and EastLink, are tollways that cost money to use. A huge benefit of owning a car, however, is that from the city you can explore one of Australia’s best drives: The Great Ocean Road, which runs through the state of Victoria.

Quick Melbourne Driving Tips
  • Drive on the left side of the road.
  • The central city speed limit is usually 40kmph (25mph).
  • Random breath tests are in place across the city, with the blood alcohol limit being 0.05.
  • Be careful of trams, and pedestrians who are exiting the trams. You can only overtake trams on the left.
  • Everyone in your vehicle must wear a seatbelt at all times.

Car Share and Ride Hailing Apps

Several apps exist if you wish to car share or hail rides across the city. Popular car share apps include:

  • Car Next Door
  • Flexicar
  • GoGet
  • Popcar

Common ride hailing apps from across the world operate in Melbourne, including:

  • Uber
  • Didi
  • Ola

A women-and child-only rideshare called Shebah also operates.

Taxis

Melbourne taxis are painted either yellow, silver, or white, and have a lamp on the cab roof. You can hail a taxi in the street if the roof lamp is lit, or it is easy to find one at the designated taxi ranks across the city. You can also pre-book a taxi over the phone.

Costs are shown on clearly displayed meters. In Melbourne, you should expect additional fees including a late-night surcharge (for journey’s between 00:00-05:00), a fee for booking via phone, and fees for using toll roads. You may also be asked for an upfront deposit if you are taking a taxi between 22:00 and 05:00.

Public Transportation

It is easy to travel across Melbourne on public transportation any time of the day. Our top tip is to purchase a Myki card for 6 AUD (4 USD) and top it up to pay for different types of transport more easily. This allows for flexible travel between buses, trains, and trams across the city.

Trains and trams run between 05:00 and 00:00, Monday to Thursday, while the Night Network offers twenty-four-hour public transportation on weekends.

Trains

Melbourne has an extensive train network, with 16 lines and the “City Loop” in the central business district. This means it is excellent for people who live in the suburbs or further out of the city to commute quickly to the center. Indeed, more people commute to work by train than any other public transportation. The loop line is the busiest in the network and Flinders Street is the busiest station.

Train journeys cost 4.30 AUD (2.80 USD) per trip, with a daily spending cap of 8.60 AUD (5.60 USD). You can use the V/Line trains to travel outside of the city and visit Victoria State. Fares vary, and not all of the routes outside of Melbourne city accept payment via Myki card.

Trams

Melbourne has the largest tram network in the world, with over 250km (155 miles) of track.  There is a “free tram zone” in the central business district, where you do not have to pay to use the tram network. A map of the free zone is available at the Public Transport Victoria website. Tram journeys cost 4.30 AUD (2.80 USD) per trip, with a daily spending cap of 8.60 AUD (5.60 USD).

Buses

The bus network in Melbourne is extensive, making them an easier (and often more comfortable) way to get from A to B than the busier trains. Bus lines extend into the suburbs, and at the weekends there is a limited night service. Single journeys cost 4.30 AUD (2.80 USD) per trip.

Cycling

A flat city, Melbourne is a great place for cyclists. There are 135km (84 miles) of cycleways, over 2,700 bike hoops for parking, and electric bikes are available for hire across the city. Cyclists must obey the same road laws as drivers and you cannot cycle on a footpath, unless cycling with a child or prevented from riding on the road due to a medical condition. You must also wear a bike helmet at all times.

Melbourne Airport

Melbourne airport (MEL) has four terminals that serve both domestic and international flights. It is the second busiest airport in Australia and is accessible from the city by road.

Do you want to relocate? If you have never moved abroad, the process will be overwhelming, and if you have, you know the burden that lies ahead. Whatever stage you are at, InterNations GO! can help you with a complete set of relocation services, such as home finding, school search, visa solutions, and even pet relocation. Our expert expat team is ready to get your relocation going, so why not jump-start your move abroad and contact us today? Best to start early!

Updated on: June 17, 2020

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