Melbourne For Less Than $25 A Day

Melbourne is commonly referred to as Australia’s most-European city. While a traveller coming from Europe might laugh at this, anyone who has visited the rest of Australia will no doubt understand why people say this; the cool-temperate weather, the laneways dotted with cafes and the prominent arts scene all contrast with the sun-soaked beach-loving Australiana image of other cities.

Sunset over the Yarra River
Sunset over the Yarra River

 

One aspect where Melbourne (and Australia generally) does compete with Europe however is in terms of cost; despite being an island just south of Asia (or an extension of Asia, depending who you ask), travelling in Australia can really hurt the hip pocket. But Melbourne can be done for less than $25 a day – and we’ll show you how!

First thing’s first – sleeping arrangements. A quick search will find that the cheapest accommodation in Melbourne is to be found at the Nomad’s All Nation’s backpackers near Southern Cross Station, at $21 a night for a bed in a dormitory. This already takes up most of the budget, so the best way to save money on this is to go CouchSurfing – although don’t forget to read all about the concept of CouchSurfing and check that it’s suitable for you. Most of the other expenses will be food-related. Unfiltered tap water in Melbourne considered safe to drink, and there are refill taps and drinking fountains all around the city, so fill up a bottle before you set out! Try to base yourself near the city centre to save money, and wear comfortable shoes as we’re walking a lot today!

Roule Galette
Roule Galette

 

Begin with a Nutella crepe for breakfast ($5) from Roule Galette in Scott Alley, just near Flinders Street. This cute little French crêperie is très Melbourne – laneway setting and all! If you’re really pinching pennies, you could go down the road to Breadtop on Elizabeth Stret near the corner with Collins Street for croissants and buns for less than $2.50 a piece. Head to RMB Cafe in Degraves Street for that famous Melbourne espresso ($3), and soak up the atmosphere – the Degraves Street ‘scene’ is all part of the experience!

RMB Cafe
RMB Cafe

 

When you’re done, cross the road and wander up Centre Place, poking around the hidden shops (don’t forget to look up – many stores and bars are upstairs above the cafes and accessed by a nondescript doorway on the side). Sometimes there are jazz musicians performing at the end of the street (more likely on weekends). Meander your way back to Degraves Street, then through to Flinders Street. Turn right towards the corner of Elizabeth Street, then take the pedestrian subway under the railway to reach the Yarra River. Directly in front of you is the spectacular Eureka Tower, one of Australia’s tallest buildings, completed in 2005. Turn right and walk along the riverfront, until you get to the second bridge. Along this bridge are glass panels which list the various nationalities represented in Melbourne’s multicultural population. See if you can find yours!

Melbourne is the arts capital of Australia
Melbourne is the arts capital of Australia

 

Once you’re on the south side of the bridge, known as “Southbank”, turn left and walk towards the Arts Centre, the Eiffel tower-esque mesh building on St Kilda Road. When you reach it, continue walking out of the city centre, and on the right is the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV International) with some free collections of international art. Across St Kilda Road, and a bit further down is are the Botanic Gardens and the Shrine of Remembrance (both free) – a stroll around either or both is a perfect way to see out the morning.

Centre Place
Centre Place

 

Walk back along St Kilda Road to Federation Square. Opposite the square is Lord of the Fries, a Melbourne institution – get Vietnamese, Indian or Belgian sauces slathered all over your chips ($6.20 for a regular). Sit in the square and tuck in! Next, walk around Federation Square, taking in the free NGV Ian Potter Centre (Australian art) and ACMI (the Australian Centre for Moving Image; a museum of cinema and television, also free).

Eureka Tower dwarfs Flinders Street Station and the free City Circle tram
Eureka Tower dwarfs Flinders Street Station and the free City Circle tram

 

Opposite Federation Square is the beautiful St Paul’s Cathedral – free to walk through and enjoy. When you exit the cathedral, directly in front of you is the facade of Flinders Street Station, a Melbourne icon. On the other corner is Young and Jackson’s, Melbourne best known pub, and home to Chloe, a locally famous nude portrait which has been hung here since 1909.

St Paul's Cathedral
St Paul’s Cathedral

 

Get on the free City Circle Tram (anticlockwise direction) outside the pub, and use it as a hop-on-hop-off service (there’s commentary onboard) – you’ll pass by the Victorian Parliament and a couple of other notable buildings before reaching the State Library of Victoria. Hop off here, walk inside (no large bags allowed), and check out the spectacular dome in the La Trobe Reading Room upstairs.

State Library's La Trobe Reading Room
State Library’s La Trobe Reading Room

 

By now it should be getting later in the afternoon, so walk back down Swanston Street towards Flinders Street, taking in the sweet stores of the Greek Precinct (down Lonsdale Street on the left), the colour and action of Chinatown, (on Little Bourke Street to the left), and the shopping heart of Melbourne in Bourke Street Mall (to the right). Finish up with dinner at Crossways, the Hare Krishna mission restaurant on Swanston Street near the corner with Collins which serves up delicious vegetarian meals for $7.50. If it’s summer, head down to Brunettis on the corner of Swanston and Flinders Lane, buy a gelato with your last few dollars and enjoy it in Federation Square as the sun sets. If it’s winter, head back to the Greek Precinct and you should have just enough cash left to indulge in a coffee or pastry!

Shrine of Remembrance
Shrine of Remembrance

 

Extreme budget travel for less than $10 a day? Go to Coles Central supermarket on Elizabeth Street and get ready to self-cater! If you stay a couple of days in Melbourne, buy enough groceries to last you and you’ll find it cheaper overall. Buy $2 croissant for breakfast, some bread rolls and cold meat for lunch and make sandwiches. 7 Eleven sell passable coffee for a dollar a cup, and you should still have near enough cash to fill up at Crossways for dinner each night!

Yarra River
Yarra River

 

About the Author

Fullscreen capture 20082014 135753UrbanDuniya is an online journal featuring travel articles, review and photography founded by Tim Blight. Urban denotes a local approach, whereas Duniya is an Arabic word for ‘world’. For more info, visit UrbanDuniya and follow Tim’s journey across the world on social media channels.

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37 Comments

  • As a Melbournian I’m impressed – I didn’t think it was possible to do our city for $25 a day!

    And very clear instructions for moving around the CBD, good job. I would second a trip to the Queen Victoria Market though, even if only to look around, and maybe a walk through the Fitzroy Gardens near Parliament House. Perfect place for a picnic too.

  • Some great tips and Degraves st is a great area to lose yourself in. Although I’m starting to worry that if someone followed this diet they are not getting all the five food groups.
    Victoria Market is a must and is walkable as long as you’re already up near say the State Library. The prices are genuinely good there and the quality awesome. You may even be able to get a cheapish lunch.
    Having said all that – With a few more bucks in your pocket you’ll really be able to see the best the city has to offer and get a bit further out to places like St Kilda for example. There you’ll find historic Luna Park, the Palais Theatre, Acland st and the St Kilda beach is probably Melbourne’s most popular when the mercury starts to rise. And the beach is free!
    great post Tim!

    • Yes, this diet is certainly more of a “cheap and tasty highlights” thing, not an every day diet!! I think for longer excursions in many places, to do things cheaply it makes sense to self-cater; hence the Cictoria markets comments above.

      And yeah, I really struggled with highlighting the best of Melbourne’s suburbs for less than $25 a day – mostly thanks to the costs involved with the myki ticketing system. This cost could be spread across several days if you stayed there long enough – but a few more dollars in the budget would absolutely put places like St Kilda, North Fitzroy, Collingwood and Carlton within reach. More time or more money really helps when visiting cities in developed nations!! Thanks for reading Andrew

  • Even I thought that Melbourne is a mini Europe (even though I haven’t been to Europe yet)! This post refreshed so many memories. I remember when my sis wanted to shop while I wanted to wander, I came to St.Paul’s Cathedral and explored the area around it. Wow, what a day it was…

  • I was chatting with Tim about this on the weekend, I am blown away that it is possible to actually do Melbourne for $25 a day. I think I would struggle to do that in most major cities in Australia. Wowza…. Can’t believe you have cafes serving espresso for $3.00, almost unheard of. I am so looking forward to visiting Melb, especially if I can do this cheaply. Happy week ahead! Cheers, Anna

  • Great reflections Tim. There is little doubt that Melbourne is a very expensive city so people have to be wise and resourceful as you say.

    I’ve been going to Melbourne for years and it keeps growing on me.

    I recognise many of the places you suggest and the free tram is a great thing. The city is so vibrant there is always street entertainers and things to see.

    Federation Square often has festivals and people on stage so a good place to hang out.

  • Melbourne is my favorite place in the world! I was always on a budget there cuz everything was so expensive so I always went to Lucky Coq for the $4 pizzas for dinner (from 7-10!!). So tasty! There is also always something happening at Fed Square- australian open, concerts, sport games to watch with tons of free little promo items to get :) I love Melbourne

  • I went to Melbourne many years ago and I remember falling in love with the Centre Place area, is it where the famous graffiti street is too? It has been way too long and I don’t remember anymore.. I also loved the St. Kilda area. Great tips here, I realized there is so much I haven’t seen there and I’d love to return one day with Dale this time who has never been before.

  • Oh yes, Melbourne is so expensive. So you really did a good work finding all these cheap options! Nonetheless, it’s such a great city which I’d recommend to everyone heading to Australia.

  • Really can’t wait to visit Melbourne, I have heard so much about it and by the looks of this article as well it looks like the sort of place we will love. I have heard much also about how expensive Australia can be but again you have showed that this doesn’t have to be the case! Great stuff!

  • Wow I didnt even know about Roule Galette and I fly to Melbourne about once a month! Instead I usually just chomp up at the French creperie opposite St. Pauls. It’s a small round stand right on the main street which can easily be detected by the throngs of people waiting for their crepe. A nice lemon and sugar one would cost you only about 3-4$

  • Melbourne, Australia, is a passionate city. The way Melbourne people go about living is with gusto, style and passion as well as they love to play a game.

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