As one of the world’s most forward-thinking cities, regularly topping polls on characteristics like "most livable", you’d expect Melbourne to be a breeze to navigate; and the city doesn’t disappoint. Trains, trams (sometimes free!), buses and even boats whisk people between the metropolises' top attractions, while bikes can be rented from a number of convenient spots. 

Also notable in summer: trains, trams and buses in Melbourne generally have excellent air-conditioning so you'll cool down even if temperatures are in the high-30s (100 degrees Fahrenheit) outside. To help you experience everything the city has to offer this summer, here’s our guide to getting around in Melbourne.

Flinders Street Railway Station in Melbourne with tram, Eureka Tower and other modern buildings near sunset.
Flinders Street Station with a city tram heading north up Swanston Street © Sunflowerey / Shutterstock

Melbourne's train network

Melbourne’s trains are the fastest and most comfortable way to travel significant distances across the city. The city’s trains, along with the rest of the public transport, is coordinated by PTV, which has an excellent journey planner on its website.

Centrally-located Flinders St Station is one the main city hubs for Melbourne's 17 train lines, which skewer off in every direction. Trains start around 5am weekdays, run until midnight Sunday to Thursday, and all night on Friday and Saturday nights. Trains generally run every 10 to 20 minutes during the day and every 20 to 30 minutes in the evening – although during peak hour (7am to 9am into the city and 4pm to 6pm out), trains run every three to five minutes.

Catch an iconic Melbourne tram

Trams are intertwined with the Melbourne identity and an extensive network covers the city. They run roughly every 15 minutes during the day (more frequently in peak periods), and every 20 minutes in the evening. Services run until around 12.30am Sunday to Thursday and 1am Friday and Saturday on most lines; a night service is available all night (every 30 minutes) on Friday and Saturday on a handful of lines.

Trams are free to ride within the city centre. The zone is signposted on tram stops, with announcements made when you're nearing its edge to warn you that you should either hop off or pay with a Myki card (more detail on this below).

A man cycles next to the Yarra River in Melbourne, Australia. Across the river, Melbourne's main skyline is visible, with a number of towering skyscrapers.
Melbourne is taking steps to become increasingly bicycle friendly © Prasit photo / Getty Images

Better on a bike in Melbourne

Melbourne is up there with the most cycle-friendly cities in Australia, though work is ongoing to improve infrastructure and encourage more people to opt for two wheels rather than four.

For those visiting the city, bikes can be rented from spots like Humble Vintage, Blue Tongue Bikes or Rentabike. It’s worth noting Conventional bikes can be taken on trains (but not the first carriage), but only folding bikes are allowed on trams or buses. Helmets are compulsory and must be worn at all times.

Some of Melbourne's cycle paths follow former train lines away from the roads and many cycle paths take commuters through lush park lands, by shaded creeks and along the river – the perfect way to explore the city (and avoid sitting in traffic in the sun). Further information, and detailed cycle maps, are available from the Melbourne Visitor Hub.

Get more travel inspiration, tips and exclusive offers sent straight to your inbox with our weekly newsletter.

Driving in Melbourne 

Cars tend to be more of a hindrance than a help if you’re planning to stay within the confines of Melbourne, as parking is difficult, roads are busy and public transport is good. There is also the struggle of sharing the road with trams, with specific rules around stopping at intersections and overtaking (vehicles can’t overtake a tram running along the centre of a road that is in the process of stopping). See Vic Roads for further details on the city’s road rules. Note that on a hot summer's day, parking in the shade or draping a towel or blanket over your steering wheel is advised (it'll be roasting hot to touch otherwise). 

Parking inspectors are particularly vigilant in the city centre and popular suburbs, like St Kilda, Collingwood and Fitzroy. Most street parking is metered and it’s more likely than not that you'll be fined if you overstay your metered time, even by a few minutes. Motorcyclists are allowed to park on the footpath except in some parts of the city centre where there are signs.

Cars, and campervans, can be hired from companies with offices at Melbourne Airport and in the city or central suburbs. Options are numerous but include Aussie Campervans, Avis, Hertz and Rent a Bomb. You can usually save money by booking hire cars online in advance. Motorbike hire spots are less common, but outfits include Garners Motorcycle Hire, near the city centre, and EagleRider Melbourne, located in the eastern suburb of Ringwood.

The bus – and the night bus – home

Melbourne has an extensive bus network, with over 300 routes covering all the places that the trains and trams don't go. Most routes run from 6am to 9pm weekdays, 8am to 9pm Saturdays and 9am to 9pm Sundays. Night Bus services operate after midnight on weekends to many suburbs. You'll need a Myki card to use the buses.

Taxis and ride-sharing services

Melbourne’s taxis are metered and require an estimated prepaid fare when hailed between 10pm and 5am (you may need to pay more or get a refund depending on the final fare). Toll charges are added to fares. 

Two of the largest taxi companies are Silver Top and 13 Cabs. Several ride-sharing services operate here, such as Uber, DiDi and Shebah, which features an all-female fleet of drivers offering rides for women and children.

A ferry transports tourist down Melbourne's wide Yarra River. In the background, several high-rise buildings are visible.
Ferries are a fun and relaxed way to take in the sights of Melbourne © William West / Getty Images

Melbourne also has water transport

Ferries and water taxis run on the Yarra River, which runs through Melbourne, offering a fun and relaxing way to traverse the city.

Water taxis run between Abbotsford, in the centre of the city, and Williamstown, a western suburb, calling at numerous landings and jetties en route, as well as on the Maribyrnong River as far as Essendon.

Additionally, Westgate Punt crosses the Yarra between Port Melbourne and Spotswood, and passenger boats link the Southbank promenade and Williamstown's Gem Pier several times a day.

Tips for buying a Myki card

Melbourne’s buses, trams and trains use Myki, a ‘touch on, touch off’ travel-pass system. It's not particularly convenient for short-term visitors as it requires you to purchase a $6 plastic Myki card and then add credit before you travel, but once you’ve got your card, travel becomes very simple.

Note that Myki cards aren't needed within the city centre's free tram zone, bordered by Flinders St, Spring St, La Trobe St and Harbour Esplanade, and extending further around the Queen Victoria Market and Docklands. See the PTV website for a detailed map, and listen for announcements on the tram for when you're entering and exiting the free zone.

Travellers could consider buying a Myki Explorer ($16), which includes the card, one day's travel and discounts on various sights; it's available from SkyBus terminals, PTV hubs and some hotels. Otherwise, standard Myki cards can be purchased at 7-Elevens, newsagents and major train stations.

The Myki can be topped up at 7-Eleven stores, machines at most train stations and at some tram stops in the city centre; online top-ups take some time to process. You can either top up with pay-as-you-go Myki Money or purchase a seven-day unlimited Myki Pass ($45); if you're staying more than 28 days, longer passes are available. There are large fines for travelling without having touched on a valid Myki card; ticket inspectors are vigilant, unforgiving and sometimes undercover.

For timetables, maps and a journey planner, see the website of PTV. Handy smartphone apps like tramTRACKER or CityMapper will help organise your outings.

Melbourne skyline from Williamstown
A top summer's day experience: taking a ferry to Williamstown beach © iStockphoto / Getty Images

Accessible transportation in Melbourne

All trains and most buses are accessible by way of ramps. If using trains, you need to be at the front of the platform as the train pulls in for the driver to see you and put the ramp out. Trams are more hit and miss: although there is an increasing number of low-floor, wheelchair-accessible trams, accessible tram stops outside the CBD are few and far between. 

Visual and aural announcements on all forms of transport are inconsistent: newer stock is better equipped, but aural announcements are still rare. The journey planner on the PTV website (also available as an app) has a useful filter for wheelchair accessible services and stops.

13 Cabs offers wheelchair-accessible taxis, but be aware that – especially during peak hours and in the evenings – you may have to wait a very long time. 

Holders of current and valid interstate or overseas disability parking permits may park in reserved disability parking spaces for the specified time, and may also park in ordinary parking bays for twice the specified time upon payment of applicable parking fees (often waived for permit holders – see signs on parking meters for confirmation).

Elsewhere, pavements are generally in good repair and kerb cuts are standard throughout the city and suburbs. The city centre and suburban shopping centres are relatively well endowed with tactile paving markers. Pedestrian crossings feature sound cues and accessible buttons.

Travellers Aid centres inside Flinders St station and Southern Cross station are particularly helpful for those with special needs and offer a variety of facilities for travellers, including fully accessible toilets (with ceiling hoist and adult-sized change table), accessible public Internet computers with JAWS software, wheelchair/scooter recharging facilities and wheelchair/scooter hire.

For more information, download Lonely Planet’s free accessible travel guide to Melbourne.

You might also like:
The best beaches in and around Melbourne
When is the best time to go to Australia?
7 amazing road trips from Melbourne

This article was first published June 2021 and updated November 2021

Buy the Ultimate Travel List

The second edition of Lonely Planet’s bestseller presents an all-new ranking of the greatest places to visit on Earth.

Buy the Ultimate Travel List

Explore related stories