Friday, 17 June 2016

To Melbourne Airport the Cheap-Arse Way (2016 Update)

Here we go again! Every year the bigwigs at Melbourne Airport and Public Transport Victoria tinker with some aspect of the public transport options there, so I have to keep you up with developments.

So... it's time for another update to this blog's most popular post, revealing how to get between the city centre and Melbourne Airport very cheaply on regular public transport. 

Since the 2015 update some key factors have changed, including the fare to the airport (up) and the location of the airport bus stop (moved). So read on...

The 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.

So draw your chairs closer, lean in and discover how to save a tidy bit of cash.

For the cheap-arses among us, there is a much cheaper way into the city centre than the 20 minute $19 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 alight at Broadmeadows Station (timetable here).

Step straight out through the station 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 approximately every 15 minutes from about 5am to midnight (timetable here).

Note: on Saturdays and Sundays the 901 bus departure intervals are every 30 minutes; and on Sundays the 901 operates from Broadmeadows from about 7am to 9.30pm.

It's important to note that 901 buses going the other direction to Frankston use the same stop, so make sure the bus destination sign says 'Melbourne Airport'.

The bus terminates at a new public transport interchange on Grants Road, next to Terminal 4 at Melbourne Airport. It's obviously a very handy stop for flights aboard Jetstar and Tigerair, the budget airlines serving Terminal 4.

For international flights and Virgin Australia domestic flights respectively, Terminals 2 and 3 are about 10 minutes walk away. For Qantas domestic flights, Terminal 1 is a 15 minute hike. Although there's shelter at most points of the walk, you might need an umbrella if caught in the rain on the wrong side of the road as you go.

Why it isn't possible to have more than one bus stop in operation at the airport is one of the great mysteries of the universe, but that's a puzzle for another day.

From Melbourne Airport

You need a Myki smartcard to travel on Melbourne's public transport, and to get hold of one of these at the airport you have three choices.

1. 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 $3.90.

All buses should be equipped for this transaction, but if you strike a bus where it isn't set up or the equipment isn't working, there are two other options.

2. You can instead buy a Myki Visitor Pack from the Skybus ticket booths at the airport. Skybus is the premium departs-every-ten-minutes airport bus which heads to the city centre for $19, so this approach may seem 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.

3. The third option is to buy a Myki card from one of the three Myki ticket machines located at the airport. These are located in the arrivals area of Terminals 2, 3 and 4.

Again, the card itself costs $6 and you top it up with credit; you'll need at least $4 credit to reach the city centre and stay in the black.


The regular bus stop is within the new public transport interchange on Grants Road, near Terminal 4 (so allow 15 minutes walk from Terminal 1, and 10 minutes walk from Terminals 2 and 3). Look for the orange-and-white PTV sign inside the interchange.

Here you board the 901 bus to Frankston, which leaves approximately every 15 minutes from about 5am to midnight (timetable here).

Note: on Saturdays and Sundays the 901 bus departure intervals are every 30 minutes; and on Sundays the 901 operates from the airport from about 6.30am to 9pm.

"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).

Fares

The Myki fare between the airport and city centre in either direction is a mere $3.90. This sum is automatically subtracted from the card balance when you touch off along the route.

This fare covers both of Melbourne's fare zones, so includes 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, to travel onward within the same fare.

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.

To top up the card's credit, the easiest method 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 (it can also be topped up at train stations and at Myki machines at larger tram stops).

To work out how much credit you need during your visit, budget $7.80 per weekday (the capped daily fare) 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 travel over seven days for $39.00.

Going a-Broady

Another 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.

Don't 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.