A Beginners Guide to Driving in Melbourne

Melbourne is one of the most liveable cities in the world but it’s probably not one of the most drivable cities. If your new to Melbourne and your planning on renting a car for your trip then this post is for you. Driving in Melbourne has its intricacies, from trams to hook turns, toll roads to rail crossings, you need to be on your toes if you’re new to the city. This article will cover everything you need to know as a first time driver in Melbourne.

Driving in Melbourne

The Bolte Bridge on the CityLink tollway

Driving from the airport into the city

There are a couple of options for driving into Melbourne CBD from the airport. The easiest and quickest option requires you to take the CityLink toll road which will cost you around $15 depending on where you exit CityLink. You can pre-purchase a pass from the CityLink website or you can pay up to 3 days after travelling by calling 13 54 65. Make sure you take note of the exit you use as you will need to know this when you postpay the toll. If you forget to pay within the 3 days you’ll be sent a late toll notice with around an extra $12 administration fee.

The other way you can get into the city takes about 10-15mins longer but avoids any toll roads. We’ve created a map of this route so you can decide if this is the option for you. Check it out here.

Driving around Inner Melbourne

Tram In Melbourne

Trams

There are some things you need to be aware of if you’re a first time driver in Melbourne. The most unique thing about it is the trams. Melbourne has the third largest tram network in the world and most of the main roads in and around the city have tram lines. The trams run down the inner side of each lane and you need to be very careful when you get held up behind one. The tram stops regularly to pickup/drop-off passengers and when it stops you need to stop too. You’ll probably notice a lot of people under taking the tram and this is fine but you need to a) make sure the tram isn’t about to open its doors and let passengers out and b) that you have enough room in the left lane to safely get past the tram. Many people park their cars in the left lane of Melbourne’s roads so you can quickly come unstuck if you undertake the tram and there’s a parked car in your way.

Traffic light etiquette

Speaking of parked cars in the left lane… This is also a hazard if you are trying to go straight in the left lane at an intersection with traffic lights. Jerk drivers often undertake other cars from this lane even if there are parked cars shortly after the intersection. This means the drivers going straight in the right lane have to let them in before they wreck into a parked car and can make for some aggressive merging. To avoid this hazard stay in the right lane (of a two lane road) if you are heading straight through a traffic light unless there is a car turning right from that lane at which time you should go around them in the left lane.

Hook Turn in Melbourne

Watch for hook turn intersections

Hook turns are a way of turning right at an intersection from the left lane and are scattered across Melbourne. There are some in the CBD and also South Melbourne along Claredon St. Look for the sign pictured above that indicates a hook turn. To make a hook turn head into the intersection as far to the left as you can and wait for the traffic lights to turn red. Once they are red, check that no one is coming through the intersection and make the turn in front of the traffic that now has a green light. The traffic perpendicular to you before turning has to give way to hook turning traffic. It sounds kind of daunting but as long as you’re aware of the rule you shouldn’t have any problems. Take cues from the traffic in front of you and take it slow.

Traffic camera in Melbourne

Watch out for booby traps

Melbourne is plagued with traffic cameras and you need to be very wary if you’re prone to amber gambling. If you get snapped running a red light in Melbourne you’ll be fined around $330 (if you’re lucky enough not to t-bone someone). These cameras also detect speed so if you speed through an intersection you can also expect a heavy fine. You should also keep an eye out for no left and right turn signs. Many roads have restrictions on turns at certain times of the day so keep your eyes peeled.

Times and roads to avoid if you’re in a hurry

Times

Melbourne traffic can be a nightmare and if you’re trying to get somewhere in a hurry you probably have a high chance of a frustrating journey. Like any city Melbourne has its daily rush during the week. You can expect the traffic to be heavy from 7am – 9am and again from 5pm – 7pm so avoid these times for the best chance of a free flowing drive. The traffic is generally more aggressive at these times too as the workforce battles to arrive to work and get home fast.

Unfortunately the weekends are also slow with Saturday being far worse than Sunday and the traffic peaking at around lunchtime and being heavy for most of the afternoon.

Roads

Melbourne has some notoriously bad roads that you should avoid (if you can) if your travelling at a time when traffic will be heavy. Don’t go to too much effort to bypass these roads as sometimes they will still be the best way to get where you’re going. This is simply a guide to let you know in advance that you will likely be in for a slow journey along these roads and there are many more too. We would like to build this list so if you have experience on slow roads that are not listed, please comment them below this post so we can add them.

  • Punt Road
  • Hard to avoid but try not to travel on Punt Rd when there is an event on at the MCG or other stadiums (unless you have a full tank of gas).

  • St Kilda Rd
  • Generally not a bad road until you get to the end when heading into the city during peak times or on a Friday or Saturday night. Taxi’s love it.

  • Chapel St
  • Slow at pretty much all times but you probably won’t be on it for a long distance and it may be a destination you’re heading to.

  • Brunswick St
  • Trams, parked cars, 40km speed limit, hipsters… Slow and pretentious.

  • Bridge Rd/anywhere in Richmond
  • Leave the car at the hotel and catch PT to get to Richmond…

  • Fitzroy St
  • The gateway to St Kilda and traffic light hell.

Click here to view these roads on a Google Map we have created. Don’t take this list too seriously, if the shortest route is to take one of these roads as long as it is not at a peak traffic time you won’t burn through a full tank travelling down them.

Parking in Melbourne

Finding a park in Melbourne will be easy if you hire a private detective. Otherwise it can be difficult. A good option if you’re driving into the city is to park at Crown Casino. They have reasonable rates and you can get free parking if you’re a a Crown Signature Club member. It’s free to join if you’re interested.

Parking buildings are the least stressful of the parking options but they can be expensive. If you’re parking on the side of the road make sure you check the parking sign and then check again. Parking fines in Melbourne can be upwards of $120 so you want to be sure that you know how long you can be parked. The councillors have done their best to make the signs as confusing as possible so if you’re unsure ask someone nearby.

Hot tips for driving in Melbourne

Our three hottest tips for driving in Melbourne would be to 1) keep a level head 2) go with the flow of traffic and 3) don’t hesitate. Melbourne drivers lean towards the aggressive side so you need to be confident in the decisions you make on the road. Keep your wits about you and you’ll be able to make the most of driving in this great city.

  • Abautomatics

    Great tips for the beginners to drive in Melbourne. The article covers all aspects related to driving in detail.

  • I wish I had read this article before renting a car and driving in Melbourne! The hook turn totally throw me. I would suggest that all first time drivers in Melbourne watch the hook turn a few times before attempting it. Once you see it, it’s not so bad but if you’re in the car driving and people start moving into the left lane for a right turn it’s totally confusing.

    The description of Brunswick St. cracked me up, “Slow and pretentious”. Ha ha.

    • rentacheapy

      Thanks for the comment Lauren. Hook turns can be tricky that’s for sure! Waiting for a light to turn red before you turn is rather counterintuitive.