The complete guide to moving to Melbourne

Updated: Aug 25, 2017

For quality of life, you’d struggle to beat Melbourne – it’s been voted the most liveable city in the world for the last seven years - that’s some serious claim. But with beautiful green spaces, Victorian architecture and bohemian arts districts, it’s easy to see why. If you’re moving to Melbourne expect to fall in love with the Yarra River – and the free trams in the CBD – yes, free! But also, be prepared for the difficult choice of which café to pop in to next or the best spot for an after-work beer: Melbourne knows how to entertain.

Setting up home

Melbourne has been named the most liveable city in the world in by ‘The Economist’ magazine for the last 7 years. It’s not surprising really. From cool St Kilda to strolling along the Esplanade, Melbourne has the kind of effortlessly cool vibe other cities long for. Melbourne is divided in to roughly 15 suburban districts, each with its own unique pull. Depending on factors like where you’ll be working, the school you want to send you kids to, or the kind of things you like to do in your downtime.

The Docklands area is home to harbour-side apartments, restaurants and a marina amongst other things, it’s very much expanding and becoming quite a fashionable place to be. North Melbourne has more of a diverse cultural mix and is home to the historic Meat Market. South Bank and South Warf are really popular with visitors to Melbourne with lots of cafés and upmarket hotels – this has driven the residential prices up in recent years – but if it’s out of your budget to live there, it’s still a lovely place to spend an afternoon. Meanwhile Central Melbourne comprises of a busy mix of business and residential areas with plenty of shops, restaurants and bars.

TIP: Before putting down a deposit, try and explore the area you’re thinking of moving to. Does it fit your lifestyle: is the office/school/coffee shop easy to get to? Is there a park nearby to walk the dog?

To rent or buy

This all depends on whether you know your move is ‘forever’ straight away, or if you want to try your neighbourhood for size before committing to buy.

Thanks to the First Home Owner Grant, if you’ve not bought before, you might benefit from a grant of up to $20,000 or exemption on from stamp duty, which can really help cut buying costs. There are also other schemes if you’re buying a new-build. Have a look at the Victoria government website:

Grab a glass of wine and sit down with or even to just gauge how much bang you’ll get for your buck. It’s worth knowing that many places will hold open inspections and landlords can vet you based on your application. The market is really competitive, so be prepared for a little bit of a hustle to get your dream home. If you’re lucky your new employer or colleagues could give you some helpful info with specific recommended agents. Rental properties don’t usually come with any white goods, so depending on where you’re moving from, it might not be feasible to bring your washing machine and fridge from home. You might also want to register with 1 Form – this is a central application site that many agents use and will have you copying your details on to a million application forms


Melbourne has a completely deregulated energy market, which on the one hand is good, as competition for your dollars can lead to better deals. On the other hand, so much competition can make trawling through the options overwhelming, and spotting the right deal difficult. On average, your energy bill will be around $2800, and government figures show that as many as 9 out of 10 households are paying too much.

A good way to get a handle on the best deal is to use an energy comparison site. Victorian Energy Compare is a government-run website that provides the only independent tool to find the best deal for you:

Thankfully, this is where complication ends, as you don’t have a choice for water supplier. Depending on which area of the city you live in, you will be supplied by one of three corporations:

City West Water

South East Water

Yarra Valley Water

Water is always on, so there will be no need to arrange a connection to an existing property when you move in. If you need to set up your own account for payments, then this can all be done through the supplier’s website. Be aware though, Melbourne is subject to permanent water saving rules – in fact this applies across the entire state. These include regulations on hand-held hose use, watering of lawns, and use of water features. You can see a list of rules here:

Getting around

Public transport

Did you know Melbourne is famously home to world’s largest tram network? With 500 trams on 28 routes, it also boasts a Free Tram Zone in the Central Business District. The system also integrates with both train and bus networks. The city is divided into two zones. As a rough guide, a daily Myki fare for all zones is $4.92, whilst a weekly all zones pass is $41.00. And travelling around Melbourne isn’t just suited to your daily commute– it’s also all about play. The Night Network runs all-night trains, trams and buses at weekends, so you can make the most of Melbourne’s 24-hour city reputation, leaving more spends for cocktails.

TIP: Grab yourself a Myki smartcard card for use on Melbourne’s trains, trams and buses – a pre-paid card that makes getting around easy by simply touching on and off at Myki readers.


Getting a driving licence

Moving interstate will still require you to update your driving licence. The good news is, you do have three months to do this from when you take up residency. In the meantime, if you’re driving on your home/current state licence, you’ll need to make sure you have it with you any time you drive.

Converting your licence is by appointment only at a VicRoads Customer Service Centre, and currently costs $18.20. Details for the Melbourne centre can be found here: Helpfully, you can also book your appointment online:

At this appointment, your current licence will be verified, and you will be issued with a Victorian licence, which will carry the same expiry date as your current permit. If your interstate licence expired more than five years ago, you’ll need to take a knowledge and driving test.

It’s worth knowing you really need to be on time for your appointment. Arrive more than five minutes late and they won’t see you. Meaning you’ll have to make a new appointment – and pay another fee!

TIP: Although you have 3 months to change your licence over, don’t leave it too late – or you’ll run the risk of having to sit both your theory and practical tests again.

Registering your car

You’re also going to need to have your car – or other vehicle licenced when you move to Melbourne. Again, make an appointment with your VicRoads Customer Service Centre using the link above. You’ll need to have your VIN and engine number handy, as well as the make, model and registration number, and your Victorian licence number. This also carries an $18.20 fee.

You’re also going to need a lot of paperwork to take with you, including: A completed vehicle registration form

Identity documents, there is quite an extensive list here. Do make sure all your ID is in the same name or you may need further proof, Proof of ownership, a certificate to certify you own the vehicle and that it’s road-worthy. Oh, and tools to apply your new Victorian plates. Oddly, screws aren’t supplied. The fee for this will vary depending on your vehicle, but to help you budget, this tool will give you a rough estimate of the cost:

Parking Permits

Melbourne has three areas where residential parking permits are available – so if you want to make parking less of a chore, check out this useful page:

Toll Roads

As well as freeways, Melbourne has four toll roads. If you already have a toll road account and electronic tags installed in your vehicle, you’re good to go. If not, you can register an account with CityLink or EastLink Collection of tolls is automatic – either through a tag installed in your vehicle, or through number plate recognition. Toll roads are signalled with blue and gold signage rather than the regular green and white.

School Options

Kindergarten isn’t compulsory in Victoria, but is recommended as a great way to prepare your child for full time schooling. Fees can vary widely, but the state government subsidises all four-year-olds to reduce costs. You can search for a kindergarten near you here:

Your child will start Primary School in the year that they turn six and they’ll go from Prep to Grade 6.

If you opt for a government run school, your child will usually go to a primary school closest to home – however, you can choose another if there are places available. You should try to visit some schools first to see if they feel right for your child, that they are able to cater for any special circumstances, and that they have the programs you think will be best suited to your child’s ability. The Victorian government publishes performance summaries for all schools, which you can access here:

You can enrol your child in a school at any point in the year and you’ll need to apply directly to the school. Each can have different forms or regulations, so check with the school as to what their application process is.

It’s then on to secondary school from Years 7 to 10. However, all children in Melbourne must attend school until age 17 – in reality this means that they must either continue in approved education after Year 10, or be in full-time employment.

Again, your not-so-little-one will usually attend a government secondary school nearest to home, but you can choose another – perhaps with a specific educational focus or specialist facilities – if there are places available. Secondary schools teach the Victorian F-10 curriculum, which incorporates the Australian Curriculum, covering arts, humanities, maths, science, technologies, languages, and health and physical education. To keep on top of what your child is learning in real time, you can download the SchoolMate app, which breaks down each subject at each year level. This is available here:

Most students in Years 11 and 12 study towards the Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) – or in some schools the International Baccalaureate. However, there are more practical and vocational options available too, with the Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning (VCAL) and Vocational Education and Training (VET). You can find more information on all of these pathways at

Of course, you can also opt for Independent or Catholic schools. However, private schools in Melbourne are now easily topping $30,000 (not including application and enrolment fees), with annual increases outpacing wage inflation.


Electoral roll requirements – state and federal

You are eligible to vote in local council elections if you are 18 or over, and are resident in a rateable property in the City of Melbourne.

You will automatically be enrolled on the Melbourne City Council roll if you are already on the Victorian State electoral roll for your present address. If you need to enrol to take part Victorian state and local government elections, go to the Victorian Electoral Commission website:

To vote in Federal Elections, you will need to check your status with the Australian Electoral Commission at

In Victoria, voting is compulsory at all levels of government, and subject to fine if you don’t join the queue for the ballot box. It’s best to be aware of when you need to vote, then, and this can be easily checked at the Victorian Electoral Commission website:

Pets registration

When you’re bringing your furry friends interstate, there are a few things you’ll need to know:

Every dog and cat over three months of age must be registered with your local council. Handily, you can do this online at

Registration must be renewed yearly, with the annual period beginning on 11 April. A full fee is $150 for dogs or $96 for cats, but if you register after 1 January, there’s a 50% reduction in that year’s fee. There are also a range of other concessions – a particularly heart-warming one is a complete waiver of initial fees for animals from shelters in a bid to promote re-homing.

But before you can register your pet, it must be microchipped. This can be done by a qualified vet, or at local council microchip day.

Your dog must wear its registration tag at all times outside the house. They must also always be on a leash, unless at a designated off-leash park. Luckily, there are eight of these in Melbourne, and can be found at Clayton Reserve, Fawkner Park, Gosch’s Paddock, JJ Holland Park, North Melbourne Recreation Reserve, Princes Park, Royal Park and Yarra .

There are a range of fines to encourage responsible ownership. Failure to register your pet could cost you $317, with a $79 fine for not wearing their registration tag. And if your four-legged friend is a feline: you should be aware that you must stop your pet from entering a neighbour’s property if they ask you. Failure to do so could mean a fine of $79 or even your furry friend being seized.

Everyday life

Recreational activities

Victoria is known as ‘The Garden State’ and Melbourne benefits from a perfect blend of beaches, green spaces and wilder cool climate rainforest landscapes. Most people who live in Melbourne like to be outside, whether that’s swimming or sailing in Port Philip Bay or biking around the local parks. You’re also not too far from the Mornington Peninsula, home to sea-swept villages and great beaches. Wander through the Laneways of Melbourne to find some fantastic cafés, beer stops and even better street art. It’s easy to get lost in the nooks, crannies and little boutiques here, but that’s part of the charm. Plus, there are over 100 galleries, museums and artistic spaces in the city. This is all help by free trams in the centre, making it much more affordable to get out and explore your new city.


As Australia’s second biggest city, Melbourne has some good employment opportunities. It’s a massive financial sub, with several employers in the sector based here. Head offices of household names like Target and K-Mart are based in Melbourne, there is also a significant university, medical research and education sector including Australia’s largest university - Monash University. Melbourne is the largest sea port in Australia, handling over 40% of Australia’s trade and generative over $70 billion a year in trade. Manufacturing is still big business here – Boeing and Cadbury are just two of the internationally renowned names that employ here.