Whether you are planning to only spend a weekend in Melbourne or arriving with the hopes of finding a long term lease, finding a room can be difficult and confusing. There are many booking sites- some that you know about, some that you might never have heard about. It’s often hard to figure out where to start looking.
I’m going to provide some helpful tips and tools for booking rooms in Melbourne, although some of these are transferable to any location in Australia or even the world.
Short Term Options
What websites you use to find a bed for your short stay in Melbourne will depend on your budget and the level of service you are looking for. I’ve started with the most budget up to the more expensive option of hotel rooms.
I’ve mentioned this before as a way to save money in Australia. There are 31,191 hosts in Melbourne listed on couchsurfing at the moment- that is a lot of options. You’ll get to experience Australian hospitality first hand and be apart of the great couchsurfing community. However while there are many hosts it can be difficult to find one during peak times such as over the summer. You can increase your chances of being accepted by writing a personalised request (no copy and pasting- read their profile and formulate your request around this), sending out requests 2-3 weeks in advance and becoming a host yourself before you go to build your profile and references.
Hostel Booking Sites
The two main hostel booking sites worldwide are hostelworld.com and hostelbookers.com. Anyone who has travelled extensively will tell you that hostelworld wins hands down as their rooms are consistently cheaper and they don’t charge as many fees. They also seem to be more organised and you are less likely to arrive and find you don’t have a room. If you are looking for the more fancy sides of hostels a search on yha.com.au is useful. The YHA chain is particularly good for travelling families or if you are in a larger group- we used them for our last trip to Adelaide.
AirBnB and similar sites
Air BnB is a great compromise between booking a hotel room and staying in a hostel. You can either purchase a room in a house with a host or even book out the entire place. There are literally thousands of rooms that you can book in Melbourne using this website. There are also other sites similar to Air BnB that might not have extensive listings but could be better last minute when most of the Air BnB options are booked. Some of these are VRBO (44 listings in Melbourne), Roomorama (241 listings in Melbourne), Wimdu (368 listings in Melbourne), 9Flats (44 listings) and Stayz (491 listings in Melbourne).
Hotel Booking Websites
There are so many hotel booking sites out there at the moment and it can be confusing about which ones offer the best deals. I was curious myself to see where I could get the best price so I did a comparison of 4 hotels in Melbourne using the websites Expedia, Booking.com, Wotif, Hotels.com, Priceline and Hotwire. I used a Saturday night for the booking date as this is the busiest and most expensive night of the week.
Doubletree by Hilton
Novotel Melbourne on Collins
Ibis Melbourne Little Bourke
What I learnt from this little experiment is that there is no perfect booking website. There was no consistent winner of best value or best price- except for maybe staying away from Hotwire as they seemed to be consistently more expensive. It didn’t take me very long to do a quick search of all of these sites. My advice would be to use a site like tripadvisor to select a hotel that looks like it fits what you want and then do a search on all six sites for the best price. Another note is to not use trivago- I found the listing to be consistently more expensive than they were on an individual booking site.
Long Term Options
Many people arrive into Melbourne on a working holiday visa looking to stay in the city for an extended period of time. Given the sheer size of the city (it expands out at least an hour in every direction from the CBD) and the huge differences in price and quality this can be a difficult task. You don’t have to pay a fortune to live in Melbourne- while there are rooms that will easily set you back $1000 a month, if you are willing to live in the suburbs and commute you can easily pick a room in a shared house up for $400-$500 a month (this is what I pay in Clayton about 30 minutes out of the city).
Which area should I live in?
This is a difficult question and it all depends on your budget and your job. You probably won’t know where you are going to work when you arrive in Melbourne. The safest bet is probably to presume you will be working in or near the CBD. If you work backwards from there then the decision about where to live is based on how far you are willing to live out of the city. I think the most important piece of advice is to try and ensure you live a reasonable walking distance from a train station- this will make the daily commute a lot easier. It can also depend on your personality- areas just north of the CBD like Brunswick, Carlton, Fitzroy and North Melbourne have a reputation as being ‘hipster’ areas (think Soho) whereas areas like St Kilda are known to be full of international backpackers. There are also a few high crime areas such as Dandenong, Sunshine, Cranbourne and Frankston but they also have some really nice sides so I wouldn’t dismiss these places out of hand.
Finding a room in a shared house
Given that you aren’t sure how long you will be sticking around for its probably best to simply find a room in a shared house than try to start your own house (furnishing can be difficult). I find the best website for this is Gumtree– it’s basically the Australian version of Craigslist and you can sell anything on the website. You will want to navigate to the Roomshare/Houseshare section of the website. Here you can search by area, price, and whether or not it is a furnished room which can be really helpful. It’s free to use and you can send emails or call people who are advertising a room in their house. Don’t ever commit to a room until you have checked it out and met the people. This way you are able to see what the people are like, exactly what the house is like and make sure they are a legitimate advert (unfortunately scams occur everywhere on the internet). This might mean that you have to stay in a hostel for a few more nights but it’s the safest way to find a place. Another alternative to gumtree is flatmates.com.au but they charge you to enquire and I’ve found from experience the listings tend to be higher range than the ones on Gumtree.
A note on furniture
It’s usually best to find a furnished room, especially if your stay is only temporary. However if you can’t find anything furnished then look for cheap secondhand furniture on Gumtree. Some people often give away things like mattresses for free- I’ve even found people that will deliver them to you for a small fee.
The difficulty with finding accommodation when you are a traveller is you are probably uncertain about the length of your stay. Therefore it’s best not to sign on to a lease but get a month-to-month contract. This means you will only have to give the landlord or the leaseholder of the house a month’s notice before you leave. Most places will also ask you for a security bond- make sure you get a receipt for this from them so you can ensure you get it back when you leave. It’s important to clearly discuss the terms of the house before you commit to anything.
Finding accommodation in Melbourne doesn’t have to be difficult if you equip yourself with the right information and right booking and do your research!