Haggling is not common in Melbourne or Victoria.
Dangers & Annoyances
Victoria is a relatively safe place to travel, but there are a few things of which to take note, particularly in summer with the threat of bushfires, sharks, snakes and sun.
There are occasional reports of alcohol-fuelled violence in some parts of Melbourne’s city centre late on weekend nights – particularly in King St and along Swanston St close to Flinders Street Station.
The VicEmergency website (https://emergency.vic.gov.au), hotline (1800 226 226) and app provide the latest information and alerts on incidents, including shark sightings and bushfires.
Bushfires & Blizzards
Bushfires happen every year in Victoria. In hot, dry and windy weather, be extremely careful with any naked flame – cigarette butts thrown out of car windows have started many fires. On a 'total fire ban' day it’s forbidden even to use a camping stove in the open. Locals will not be amused if they catch you breaking this particular law; they’ll happily turn you in to the authorities, and the penalties are severe.
Bushwalkers should seek local advice before setting out – be careful, or delay your trip, if a total fire ban is in place. If you’re out in the bush and you see smoke, even a long way off, take it seriously – bushfires move very quickly and change direction with the wind. Go to the nearest open space, downhill if possible. A forested ridge is the most dangerous place to be.
More bushwalkers actually die of cold than in bushfires. Even in summer, temperatures can drop below freezing at night in the mountains and Victorian weather is notoriously changeable. Exposure in even moderately cool temperatures can sometimes result in hypothermia. Always take suitable spare clothing and adequate water and carbohydrates.
Popular Victorian beaches are patrolled by surf lifesavers in summer, with safe areas marked off by a pair of red and yellow flags. Always swim between the flags.
Victoria’s ocean beaches often have treacherous waves and rips. Even if you’re a competent swimmer, you should exercise extreme caution and avoid the water altogether in high surf. If you happen to get caught in a rip when swimming and are being taken out to sea, try not to panic. Raise one arm until you have been spotted, and then swim parallel to the shore – don’t try to swim back against the rip.
A number of people are also paralysed every year in rivers, lakes and off piers by diving into shallow water and hitting a sandbar or submerged log; always check the depth of the water before you leap.
Despite the fact that Victoria has more than 2000km of coastline and roughly seven species of sharks (including great whites and bronze whalers), the risk of a shark attack in Victorian waters is extremely low. The last fatality from a shark attack in Victoria occurred in 1956 at Portsea.
The 2016/17 summer saw record-breaking numbers of sharks spotted due to warmer waters and bait schools swimming closer to the shore. Great white shark sightings forced the closure of some popular Great Ocean Road beaches – including Torquay, Anglesea and Fairhaven – at peak holiday times (including Christmas Day). Sharks were also spotted at Melbourne beaches, including St Kilda and Elwood.
Stay up to date on shark sightings at the VicEmergency website or app (https://emergency.vic.gov.au) and swim at patrolled beaches between the flags.
Snakes & Spiders
Bushwalkers should be aware that snakes and spiders, some venomous, are quite common in the Victorian bush, but the risk of getting bitten is very low. Snakes are usually quite timid in nature, and in most instances will move away if disturbed. Wear boots and socks to cover the ankles when walking in summer.
If bitten, a pressure bandage and immobilisation is the best course of action while awaiting medical care. All snake bites can be treated with antivenom. Spiders to watch out for including the redback and white-tail varieties.
Power supply is 240V 50Hz.
Emergency & Important Numbers
Callers from outside of Australia need to drop the first ‘0’ in a mobile-phone number and the ‘0’ of Victoria’s 03 area code.
|International access code||00|
|Police, fire & ambulance||000|
|Parks Victoria||13 19 63|
|Vic Emergency||1800 226 226|
Entry & Exit Formalities
All visitors to Australia must have a valid passport and visa (New Zealanders receive a ‘special category’ visa on arrival). Tourist visas are free and valid for three months. The easiest way to obtain a visa is to apply for an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA), which can be done online (www.eta.immi.gov.au) for a service fee of $20 or through your travel agent.
- What to declare at customs Cash amounts of more than $10,000, foodstuffs, goods of animal or vegetable origin, including wooden products and medicines. All drugs and weapons are prohibited. Failure to declare quarantine items can mean an on-the-spot fine or prosecution.
- Duty-free allowance Travellers over 18 have a duty-free quota of 2.25L of alcohol, 50 cigarettes or 50g of tobacco, and dutiable goods up to the value of $900 (or $450 for those under 18).
- State restrictions There are also restrictions on taking fruit, vegetables, plants or flowers across state borders. There is a particularly strict fruit-fly exclusion zone, which takes in an area along Victoria’s northeast border, stretching into NSW and SA.
For full details refer to the Customs and Quarantine section of the Australian Government website (www.australia.gov.au).
All visitors, aside from New Zealanders, need a visa to visit Australia. ETA or eVisitor visas can be applied for online at www.border.gov.au; each allow a three-month stay.
There's not too much to worry about in terms of etiquette in laid-back Victoria, though a few pointers won't go astray.
My Shout When in groups at a pub or bar, Victorians generally like to take it in turns to buy a round of drinks..
BBQs If invited to a BBQ, bring something to drink and some burgers or sausages (snags) or a salad.
Homosexuality is legal and the age of consent is 17. The straight community’s attitude towards gays and lesbians is, on the whole, open-minded and accepting.
The gay scene in Victoria is squarely based in Melbourne, where there are exclusive venues and accommodation options. Around the state, places such as Daylesford and Hepburn Springs, Phillip Island and the Mornington Peninsula have a strong gay presence and accommodation catering for gays and lesbians. Melbourne's Midsumma Festival in January is the state's biggest LBGQTIA+ festival and incorporates the annual pride march. Daylesford's ChillOut Festival in March is the biggest gay and lesbian event in regional Victoria.
Wi-fi access is increasingly common throughout the state. In Melbourne, free wi-fi is available at central city spots such as Federation Sq, Flinders Street Station, Crown Casino and the State Library. Most hotels, caravan parks and cafes in Melbourne and Victoria offer wi-fi, and in regional Victoria you'll find free internet access at the local library and sometimes at the tourist office.
Most travellers won’t have any contact with the Victorian police or any other part of the legal system. Those who do are likely to do so while driving. There is a significant police presence on Victoria’s roads, and they have the power to stop your car and ask to see your licence (you’re required by law to carry it), to check your vehicle for roadworthiness, and also to insist that you take a breath test for alcohol. The blood alcohol limit is 0.05%.
If you are arrested, it’s your right to telephone a friend, relative or lawyer before any formal questioning begins.
- Newspapers The Age (www.theage.com.au) is Melbourne's broadsheet, covering local, national and international news. The Herald Sun (www.heraldsun.com.au) is a big-selling tabloid strong on sport, especially AFL.
- Radio The Australian Broadcasting Commission (www.abc.net.au) is the national TV and radio broadcaster; tune into 774 AM in case of emergencies. Melbourne's Triple R (102.7FM, www.rrr.org.au) is Australia's largest community radio station and a great place to hear local bands.
- TV Commercial networks Seven, Nine, Ten and SBS all have more than one digital channel.
ATMs can be found in most towns, and credit cards are widely accepted.
ATMs & Eftpos
Most bank branches have 24-hour ATMs and will accept debit cards linked to international network systems such as Cirrus, Maestro, Visa and MasterCard. Most banks charge a fee (around $2 or 3%) for the privilege of using their ATM if you don’t have an account with them.
Almost all retail outlets have Eftpos, which allows you to pay for purchases electronically without a fee.
The Australian dollar is made up of 100 cents. There are 5¢, 10¢, 20¢, 50¢, $1 and $2 coins, and $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 notes.
Change foreign currency at most larger banks or foreign-exchange booths in the city and at Melbourne Airport’s international terminal. Most large hotels will also change currency (or travellers cheques) for guests, but the rate might not be as good as from other outlets.
The most commonly accepted credit cards are Visa and MasterCard, and to a lesser extent American Express and Diners Club.
For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com.
Tipping isn’t obligatory in Australia and you'll rarely be made to feel uncomfortable if you don't do so. That said, tips are always appreciated, especially where the service has been notable, in which case 5% to 10% is ample in restaurants. For hotel porters, $5 should suffice. Tipping is less common in regional or country towns in Victoria, although a little rounding up never goes astray.
Banks 9.30am–4pm Monday to Thursday, to 5pm Friday
Bars & clubs 5pm–late
Post offices 9am–5pm Monday to Friday, 9am–noon Saturday
Pubs noon–11pm or midnight
Restaurants lunch noon–3pm, dinner 6–10pm
Shopping centres 9am–5.30pm, often to 9pm Thursday and Friday
Tourist offices 9am–5pm daily
Australia Post Visit the website for up-to-date postage rates and the location of post offices. Stamps can be purchased at post offices, newsagents and some small grocery or general stores.
Victoria observes the following 10 public holidays:
New Year’s Day 1 January
Australia Day 26 January
Labour Day First or second Monday in March
Easter Good Friday and Easter Monday in March/April
Anzac Day 25 April
Queen’s Birthday Second Monday in June
AFL Grand Final Day Friday preceding the final in September or October
Melbourne Cup Day First Tuesday in November
Christmas Day 25 December
Boxing Day 26 December
- Smoking Banned in certain public places, including restaurants, pubs, cafes, around schools, childcare centres and hospitals, patrolled beaches, near kids' play equipment in parks and on train- and tram-station platforms. As of August 2017, smoking will also be banned at all outdoor dining areas.
- Area code: 03
- Country code: 61
- International access code (for dialling overseas): 0011
- Many businesses have either a toll-free number (starting with 1800) or a number (beginning with 1300 or 13) that is charged at local call rates; these numbers can't be dialled from outside Australia.
- A variety of phonecards can be bought from newsagents and post offices.
All Australian mobile-phone numbers have four-digit prefixes beginning with 04. Australia’s digital network is compatible with GSM 900 and 1800 handsets. Quad-based US phones will also work. Local SIM cards are readily available.
Victoria (along with Tasmania, NSW and Queensland) keeps Eastern Standard Time, which is 10 hours ahead of GMT/UTC. That means that when it’s noon in Melbourne, it’s 9pm the previous day in New York, 2am in London and 11am in Tokyo.
Daylight-saving time, when clocks are put forward an hour, is between the first Sunday in October and the first Sunday in April.
Public toilets are common in Melbourne and you'll find toilet blocks in a lot of regional towns and at many beaches across the state.
Refer to the very handy National Public Toilet Map (https://toiletmap.gov.au) to find public-toilet locations.
Regional centres throughout the state will usually have a visitor centre or tourist information booth in a central location. Also refer to Visit Victoria (www.visitvictoria.com/Information/Visitor-information-centres) for a list of tourist offices.
Travel With Children
With its manageable distances, abundant wildlife, child-centric attractions and activities, and a tradition of family-friendly holidays, Victoria is an ideal destination for families. Melbourne is a fine place to spend time with kids, thanks to its interactive museums, sweeping parklands and innovative playgrounds.
Best Regions for Kids
- Mornington Peninsula & Phillip Island
Smooth bay swimming and strawberry-picking in summer, mazes, wildlife parks, a puzzle world, a chocolate factory and those mighty cute penguins.
- Great Ocean Road
Warrnambool has childhood covered with its annual winter kids festival, Fun4Kids, and there are few better spots to view whales. Stop by the Great Ocean Road Chocolaterie en route to Anglesea or the Otway Fly treetop walk.
- The Murray
Echuca has paddle steamers chugging up the Murray and kids will enjoy watching waterskiers carving up the river; book them in for a lesson.
- High Country
Head here during the ski season; Mt Baw Baw and Mt Buffalo are particularly well suited for families.
Plenty on offer for kids in the city from Scienceworks, the aquarium and the Melbourne Museum to the Royal Melbourne Zoo and Luna Park. Add to that loads of parks, gardens and playgrounds.
- Geelong & the Bellarine Peninsula
Geelong's waterfront is a great spot for families with a kids' pool, Play Zone and a merry-go-round, while a short drive away is Victoria's biggest theme park, Adventure Park.
Families dining out together are a pretty common sight these days in Victoria, especially in Melbourne. Cafes not serving ‘babycinos’ (small cup of steamed milk) are few and far between, and a number of restaurants provide papers and pencils for colouring in. Many restaurants have a children's menu, and even upscale restaurants can often provide an option for children, if asked.
- Puffing Billy Steam train that chugs along the Belgrave–Gembrook line in the Dandenongs, and has long been a family favourite.
- Bellarine Peninsula Railway The Queenscliff–Drysdale line regularly sees special visits by Thomas the Tank Engine (and friends).
- Mornington Railway Steam train runs most Sundays.
- Wahalla Goldfields Railway Passing over scenic gorges and a number of bridges on its 20-minute journey.
- Pioneer Settlement, Swan Hill Has everything from horse-and-carriage rides to a sound-and-light show.
- Flagstaff Hill, Warrnambool A maritime delight with shipwrecks and lighthouses, and its sound-and-light show is fun for older kids.
- Sovereign Hill, Ballarat Has an exhilarating evening light show and, by day, sports an authentic gold-rush feel.
- Cape Otway Koalas are bountiful in this region of the Great Ocean Road, and also at Kennett River and at Tower Hill near Warrnambool.
- Anglesea Golf Club Kangaroos can be easily spotted.
- Phillip Island Penguins are plentiful here; St Kilda’s colony shouldn't be missed either.
- Healesville Sanctuary A host of native animals that the kids might have missed seeing in the wild can be found here.
- Warrnambool Southern right whales play offshore from May to September.
- Ballarat Wildlife Park The Tassie devils, komodo dragons and native animals will thrill and delight kids.
- Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI), Melbourne Has age-appropriate video games and movies ‘on demand’.
- Melbourne Museum and Scienceworks, Melbourne Both have fantastic zones for younger kids and great exhibits for older ones.
- State Library of Victoria, Melbourne Has a terrific Play Pod, and you can also show the kids Ned Kelly’s armour.
- City Circle tram, Melbourne Free tram, or you can circle Melbourne on the Visitor Shuttle.
- Fisherman's Beach, Torquay Well protected and a family favourite.
- Point Roadknight, Anglesea A lovely, somewhat hidden beach perfect for kids.
- Point Lonsdale front beach While the back beach can get a bit wild, Point Lonsdale's front beach is a popular place for the family to splash around.
- Lorne Not only offers a great stretch of beach but plenty of activities on the beachfront, too.
When to Go
Victoria’s beach towns are hot, packed and brimful of other families during the summer school holidays. Provided you're OK with cooler and unpredictable weather, travelling in low season (out of school-holiday periods) means life is calmer, accommodation providers and restaurant staff are happy to see you and prices are rock bottom.
If you're travelling with infants, port-a-cots are often available at an additional cost of $20 to $30. Most hotels, however, only have a limited supply, so get in early to reserve one.
In summer, caravan parks are often filled with other families, which is great for kids to socialise.
If you're on a tight budget, YHA hostels have family rooms that sleep three to four, though motels with a double and single bed are usually cheaper. Whatever your budget, 'family room' usually means that you'll all be in the same room – if you'd prefer more space (which may be a mutual feeling if your kids are older), you can often find well-priced apartments with two bedrooms.
Although it's rare, a few regional boutique hotels have a strict no-children policy, which is usually made clear at the time of booking. When booking rooms through discount websites, make sure you check the ‘maximum occupancy’; often the cheapest rooms are for two adults only.
What to Pack
- Pretty much everything is available on the road in Victoria, although pharmacies may close early, so pack basic medications.
- Basic bedding (sheets and a pillow slip) can be useful if you need to turn the couch into a bed.
Before You Go
- Check accommodation is child-friendly.
- Book an early meal (6pm is probably the earliest you’ll get) in advance for popular restaurants and enquire about children’s portions. Even more upmarket restaurants can often provide a cheaper option for children if asked.
Travellers With Disabilities
Many of the attractions in Melbourne and regional Victoria are accessible to wheelchairs. Trains and newer trams have low steps to accommodate wheelchairs and people with limited mobility. Many car parks in the city have convenient spaces allocated for disabled drivers. All pedestrian crossings feature sound cues and accessible buttons.
Accessible Travel Online Resources
Visit Victoria For more information, check out the Accessible Victoria page at www.visitvictoria.com.
Lonely Planet Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guide from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel.
Weights & Measures
- Weights & measures The metric system is used.
Victoria is generally a safe place for women travellers, although the usual sensible precautions apply. It’s best to avoid walking alone late at night, especially when no one else is around. Alcohol-fuelled violence is becoming more common in Melbourne’s city centre. The same applies to rural towns, where there are often a lot of unlit, semi-deserted streets. Lone women should also be wary of staying in basic pub accommodation unless it looks safe and well managed.
Sadly, like many other places, Aussie male culture does sometimes manifest itself in sexist bravado, and sexual harassment isn’t uncommon, especially when alcohol is involved.
The following organisations offer advice and services for women: