This is my most dreaded experience. I think if there’s anything that would mar the image of Melbourne it would be its transport system.
Before the trip, I was greeted by many surprises when I told them that we would not be doing self-driving. I kinda know why the reaction but I am still glad that we did not. Why we did not drive was simple — Safety reasons. My dad has been anti-self-driving and he was traveling with us. His reason is simple, it’s dangerous to drive on roads that you are not familiar with. Point very much taken when we went on our road trip with our land tour operator (more on them later). The road to and fro Great Ocean Road is crazy. Even with my 10 years of driving experience, I would be sweating in the driver’s seat totally. The number of road kills we saw on the road was quite shocking as well. Safety aside, our big group of 8 also ruled out self-driving. We had to have two cars i.e. two drivers or a12/13-seater van which none of us is familiar driving.
So, transport became one huge issue for this trip. The 3 days 2 nights road trip was ok as we booked a land tour with a tour agency. But when we came back to the city it became a little tricky. We attempted to hire a 13-seater on a daily basis, but my oh my, it would set us back AUD 300 to 450 for a 8-hour hire per day.
So, we read a little more on the transport system in melbourne. To be very honest, it’s actually a city with a wonderful transport system. Well-connected and all. Main mode of transport would be the tram and metro. Best thing is perhaps the city tram number 35 which is FREE for all and linked to almost everywhere. The metro is also one extensive system but I won’t be able to comment on it because we did not take a single trip on it. There are 13-seater taxis and taxis everywhere as well. Apparently the bus services are not too bad but it’s also an option we did not explore.
Well, as you can see, traveling in Melbourne without self-driving shouldn’t be that bad right? I guess I totally regret not reading up more and plan our way of commuting a bit more.
As mentioned in my earlier post, according to the map, Melbourne is a place where everywhere is walkable from everywhere. It’s true. But I think the scale of maps really varies from the truth and not forgetting that we were traveling with two senior citizens, a lazy pre-schooler and a toddler, who is more gungho but has moods sometimes. Tram should have been a good option for us because we have a tram station near the apartment. So, silly us refused to buy the myki card and the tram service does not allow cash payment, as a result, we got to wait for the free tram all the time (20 minutes interval). And note that since the tram ride is free, it means that it will always be a crowded ride and sometimes bumpy if you met a tram driver in bad mood (my dad fell on one of the rides when the driver just can’t stop hitting the brakes properly). Also something to note is that the free service stops at 6pm, so you know you got to watch the time.
The taxi became our common mode of transport on the last couple of days. It’s a great service to have for a big group like ours as we can take the 13-seater taxi by just flagging down or just get the hotel to book for us. Well, I am not sure if it’s just us or it’s a general experience for most, flagging taxi can be a pain. Unlike places like Singapore and Hong Kong, we cannot flag down a cab from anywhere we like. There are designated areas to flag down cabs and we only realised this much later. Not only that, we learned in a hard way that most taxi drivers are quite picky on distance. For a few times our booking at the hotel were not accepted because our destination was too near in their opinions. This is quite strange considering that taxi fare is not exactly cheap. A 10-minute ride can cost anything from AUD12 to AUD20. What is most interesting was, we actually encountered taxi touts. This happened when we were waiting for our booking to come along at Radisson Hotel. There was already a taxi in front but because we wanted a 13-seater, we did not get. What that taxi driver did came a a shocker. He called his friend who drives a 13-seater to come by and BOTH drivers insisted that that was the taxi we booked when the car plate number was obviously wrong. We were just lucky that we met this wonderful concierge from the hotel who got us out of the mess. We also had an incident at Crown where no one wanted to pick us up even when we told them that we can split up into two taxis. The taxi drivers actually insisted that we take a 13-seater. Thankfully, Mr, the girls and I got into a taxi driven by a nice young Indian undergraduate who was quite shocked to find out what happened to us. My parents were not so lucky. Apparently, the driver was mad at them for boarding their taxi and refused to answer my father’s questions. Oh well, the good fella who dropped us managed to get another business at our hotel while the other fella missed out on the business because he rushed off after dropping my parents. So, it does pay to be more hardworking and empathetic.
As you can see, our impression of Melbourne Taxis is not that fantastic afterall. Based on our observation, we can’t help to attribute to the fact that many taxis are no longer driven by locals. Hmmm…
We certainly learned a lot from this trip to Melbourne. Thankfully, the transport issue is not deterring us from planning another trip in near future. But perhaps for the benefit of our future trip and friends who plan to go to Melbourne but not self-driving, what I thought we should have done.
1. Buy a Myki card and be more well-versed in the tram service. It also allows traveling on the Metro which I heard is a little more expensive but I believe it’s a little more efficient. Got to stop that idea of ‘why pay when it’s free’.
2. Use the Melbourne Visitor Shuttle. I actually read up on this but we did not use this service. I think this could have saved us a few heartbreaks and back pain. it basically drops tourists at various major stops including shopping areas and attractions.
3. Stick to land tours for trips out of the Melbourne city. We engaged Melbourne Australia Tour for our private 3D2N road trip. For the price, I think it’s still not too bad. Got to be realistic – you get what you pay for. More on them later on.