NOTE: For the latest information, see my 2015 update to this blog post by clicking here]
It's time for another update to this blog's most popular post, how to get from the city centre to Melbourne Airport cheaply on regular public transport.
Since the 2013 update some key factors have changed, including the airport bus stop location and elements of the ticketing system. So read on...
cost of getting to and from airports throughout the Western world can
be outrageously expensive, and Melbourne is not immune to this problem.
However... there is a way of getting to and from Melbourne Airport
cheaply, though various vested interests
would rather you didn't learn what I'm about to tell you.
So draw your chairs closer, lean in and discover how to save a tidy bit of cash.
the cheap-arses among us, there is a much cheaper way into the city
centre than the 20 minute $18 Skybus journey, though of course it takes
longer (about 60 to 70 minutes, depending on connections).
This is how it works...
To Melbourne Airport
From any station in Melbourne's central business district, catch a train along the Craigieburn line and get out at Broadmeadows Station (timetable here).
straight out through the station building to the bus bay which is just
to the right as you clear the building. Here you catch the 901 bus to Melbourne Airport, which leaves every 15 minutes from about 5am to midnight (timetable here).
bus terminates at a regular suburban bus stop at the airport. Though it was previously located
in an inconvenient spot about 500 metres south of the international
terminal, it's now been moved to a better location on Departure Drive just past Terminal 1, used by Qantas and Jetstar.
This has reversed the previous situation, whereby the bus was handy for Tigerair services from Terminal 4. The bus stop is now a 600 metre walk north of Terminal 4, though less of a walk for international flights (Terminal 2) and Virgin Australia flights (Terminal 3). It's obviously very handy for Qantas and Jetstar flights.
Why it isn't possible to have more than one bus stop in operation at the airport, god knows, but that's a discussion for another day.
From Melbourne Airport
need a Myki smartcard to travel on Melbourne's public transport, and to
get hold of one of these at the airport you have two choices.
The easiest option is to buy a card directly from the 901 bus driver, who can also add credit to the card. The card costs $6 to purchase, and on top of that a two-hour fare from the airport to the city centre (and onwards to anywhere in Melbourne within the time limit) is $6.06.
All buses should now be equipped for this transaction, but if you strike a bus where it isn't set up or the equipment isn't working, there's a second option.
You can instead buy a Myki Visitor Pack
from the Skybus ticket booths at the airport. Skybus is the premium
every-ten-minutes airport bus which heads to the city for $18, so this approach seems a little unintuitive.
However, you can get the pack from Skybus.
The $14 purchase price includes the standard $6 purchase price for the
card, plus $8 of travel credit on standard public transport (ie not
Skybus itself). That's more than enough to get to the city centre on a regular bus, then
travel onwards to anywhere in the Melbourne metropolitan area.
The visitor pack also includes discount vouchers to major Melbourne attractions and a decorative Myki card wallet, so that may add to the incentive to pick one up.
The regular bus stop is opposite Terminal 1. It's not right next to the terminal's kerb, but in one of the traffic islands further out - look for the orange-and-white sign. Here you board the 901 bus to Frankston, which leaves every 15 minutes from about 5am to midnight (timetable here).
"Touch on" the card (as the jargon goes) against a Myki reader on board, and take a seat.
When the bus reaches Broadmeadows Station,
touch off the card, get out and walk into the station, touching on the card again. Take the underpass to Platform
1. From here a train will take you
straight to the city centre (timetable here).
Myki fare between the airport and city centre in either direction is
$6.06, which is automatically subtracted from the card balance when you
touch off along the route.
Note that this $6.06 is a two-hour fare covering both of Melbourne's fare zones, so it has the
advantage of being able to be used on all public transport for the
duration of the two hours. Hence you could transfer to another train, a bus or a tram when you reach the city centre.
On Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays the Myki fare is
capped at $6 for unlimited all-day travel across Melbourne,
making the airport trip a few cents cheaper.
Give me credit
The catch is that you must buy a Myki card
for that non-refundable $6 purchase price; though of course
you’ll be able to keep using it during your stay in Melbourne, and
retain it for use on any future visits.
top up the card's credit, the easiest way is to step into any of the
million or so 7-Eleven outlets in the city centre and ask the person behind
the counter to do it.
If you're only sightseeing in
the inner city, budget $7.16 per weekday (the capped daily fare for Zone 1)
and $6 per weekend day or public holiday. If you like, the 7-Eleven
staffer can alternatively add a pass to the card covering all Zone 1 travel over
seven days for $35.80.
good thing about the 901+train option, is that it gets you straight
into the "being in Melbourne" vibe – you can eavesdrop on some entertaining conversations on the train to/from Broady, which has a
reputation for being one of Melbourne's tougher suburbs.
let that put you off catching the train to/from Broadmeadows though, as
it's a staffed station. Do exercise reasonable vigilance however,
especially if travelling after dark.
Another catch is
that the train+bus option isn't really suitable for people with large
amounts of luggage; but if travelling with reasonably small and portable
gear, go for it.
So happy flying - and enjoy the cheap ride to/from Melbourne Airport.