They drive on the wrong (left) side of the road. I can no longer tell left from right, chances are, you won’t be able to either. Look both ways before crossing the street (and then check again), the pedestrian does not come first here! (supposedly they do, but I don’t believe that …and that may be due to the copious amounts of jaywalking) Also, the driver’s side in a car is on the right. Get it? I still attempt the North American passengers’ side before taking a minute to orient myself. Or just sit in the back, you can’t get that one wrong (Actually…I managed that dubious accomplishment last week). Keep that in mind if you’re planning to hire (rent) a car to get around down under.
A uniquely Melburnian phenomenon is the hook right. On the road, to make way for the trams, in order to turn right, you must get into the left most lane, and then wait. This is specific to some streets in the CBD and surrounding streets. As a pedestrian, I always wonder why the car is coming up alongside me, until someone reminds me of the hook right.
Melbourne has a great tram system, it works on the honour system but you can get inspected and fined if you’re caught without a ticket, known as a metcard. A local urban myth to scare the international students is that if you’re caught 3 times without a valid metcard, you can be deported. If you buy the multi-trip ticket, you can save yourself a trip on the cost. The city is testing out a new system, similar to Octopus in Hong Kong, or Oyster in London, called Myki. There is a multitude of bugs in the system, not least of which that they didn’t name it after some kind of sea creature. (Wellington, New Zealand calls their system Snapper). Metcards work on a zone and time basis. Zone 1 covers the city and inner suburbs, Zone 2 covers the outer suburbs and Zone 3 goes into regional Victoria. You can get a card for 2 hours (but if you activate it a few minutes after the start of the hour, it’ll be valid for a full 2 hours at the next hour. For example, if you validate at 10:05am, it’s valid until 1pm) or daily, weekly, monthly, etc. If you activate a 2 hour multi-trip card twice in one day, then the second trip is valid until 3am the next day. If you activate a 2 hour card after 6pm, it’s valid until 3am the next day. For most travellers, a zone 1 daily is the best bet (there’s also the city hopper but it has some fairly arbitrary boundaries). Also, on weekends, if you get the 5x daily weekend ticket, it works out to about $3 for travel on Sat/Sun. You’ll most likely have to pay full fare for metcards, concession is only available to those carrying a concession card.
(To confuse you a little bit more – places like movie theatres, museums, tourist attractions, etc, offer concession prices but that applies to students and pensioners without needing a concession card. Those just need proof, like a student ID)
There are also buses and trains. I avoid the buses as much as I can, an incident left me wandering around Kew, thanks to the bus and the unmarked streets in the suburbs. Trains are relatively simple to use but are crowded during rush hour, and continuously late. As I write this, the management of trains is being handed over to Metro (the same company that runs MTR in Hong Kong) from Connex. All I can say is good riddance Connex. (I wrote this paragraph before Metro took over. Now that Metro’s been in charge for a few weeks, it hasn’t really been any better)
Cycling is common, and car share schemes are on the rise. If you’re planning to go outside the city to see the penguins or other regional attractions – hire a car or join a tour.
Around the CBD and the inner suburbs, walking is fairly easy. The city is flat.
There are plenty of options for going to and from the airport. Taxis are expensive but convenient. There’s the Skybus that goes from the airport to Southern Cross station, and there’s usually a free transfer to your hotel from there (depending on the hotel) but be prepared to wait. Another option is a shuttle van – Starbus, Jetbus, Airporter, etc – that’ll be more direct than the Skybus but cheaper than a taxi. Check the websites for details. (If it comes across as an advert for these things, it’s not; I’m just basing these things on my experiences. A friend recently had a disaster with the shuttle vans that resulted in me hollering at her from my window to get a taxi when the company called because they messed up her pickup. But overall, I’ve done well with Starbus)