Being a backpacker in a big city… can’t say that I went trough the experience without a lot of frustrations. You have to be prepared to spend most of your time working (if you are lucky enough to find a job that gives you the hours). I’ve been pretty unlucky in my job search and had 2 differents jobs below minimum wage for more than 6 months. Therefor, I had to find ways to save money to be able to enjoy myself.
#1 : Food and Booze
First of all, working in hospitality, specially in a Café, can be really exhausting. Having to get up at 5.30 every morning, running around all day, dealing with obnoxious clueless restaurant owners and demanding well-trained foodie Melbournians! It has to offer some consolations! Thankfully, working in a Café or a restaurant often comes with free food. And, yes, this has to be considered. To leave at the end of the week with a bag full of sandwiches, spanakopita, salads, muffins can help you, either to save on dinners or to make a lot of friends at the hostel. And this has been proven to work.
Every backpacker here already swear by the Goon, I know! Yes, the disgusting wine in a box that taste like alcoholic kool-aid. Well, there is an alternative!
Head to Dan Murphy; the paradise of any human being. You can find good french wine and imported beer that aren’t too expansive, from Brooklyn Brewery to Chimay. You can also buy a case of 12 ciders for 20$. But the big breaktrough for me was Clean Skins!
Really, I know, it looks pretty bad and embarrassing. The bottle is ugly and it shouts broke ass backpacker. Can’t be worst than a carton of Goon though no?
Clean Skins wines come from Australian winemakers, small and large. It’s batches of wine that they needed to clear. All they do is take off the label. It’s pretty much like gambling, which adds excitement to the process (Alright, I’m getting carried away). But still, you can find a wide variety of decent wine for a ridiculous price. It’s way better than paying the same price for guarantied bad quality. I have often bought a 15$ bottle and immediately regret not having chosen the 4$ Clean Skin instead. It’s worth a try, trust me.
For the food, Woolwsorth and Coles are the cheapest.
Good too mention also that Coles offer a reduction on the fresh products everyday starting at 10 PM.
There is also Lentil as Anything. I haven’t tried it yet but a lot of backpackers live of this place every night. You basically show up and pay the amount you want to get feed on vegetarian delights and they have 3 different addresses in Melbourne.
Bimbos Deluxe offers 4$ pizza all-through the week.
Chinatown and his cheap-bites is always a safe bet.
The Shangai Dumpling House on Hardware lane is a institution.
It is near the corner of Swanston street and Bourke street.
4$ for vegetarians dumplings! Love it!
Happy Hours and Bottle Shop
A new trend in Melbourne is the type bottle-shop bars that allow you to buy from the bottle shop and bring the wine bottle in the bar to enjoy for a friendly price. A good thing is also that they close pretty late.
Exford Hotel, in the city, closes at 3 AM every night. A good tip that you might need on a crazy night when everyone is too broke to head to the pub.
My heart still goes to The Evelyn Hotel.
They have cheap gigs every nights and I spent an awful amount of night sipping on spanich tempranillo, sitting outside, watching the Fitzroy hipster crowd wandering around Brunswick street. Great spot for people watching!
As for the Happy Hours, they’re everywhere. You can always found a list on the Time out website. A safe spot on the monday night is the The Workers Club on Gertrude street. 6$ a jug in Melbourne is not to be neglected. Beer tastes like water… I know, but you won’t realize it after the third jug.
Thursday night is also a good night in Fitzroy.
The Evelyn hotel does 2.50$ for a pot of beer and LuWow on Johnston street does 4$ for any rum + mixer.
#2 – Free Wifi
You can always head to the usual Starbucks, Macdonalds, Hungry Jack (Burger King for the rest of the world) but I prefer my little spots.
Click here for a list of my favourite cafés in Melbourne that offer ambiance, food, good coffee AND Wifi. Props!
Also, the all libraries of the city offer free membership and wifi.
#3 – Clothes and other stuff
At first I couldn’t find anything cheap and of quality. Cotton On is really the worst shop for quality and it’s not even that cheap.
Fortunately, Salvos is always a life saver and H&M finally made it to Australia!
Also to mention, its the biggest store in the world and everything is pretty affordable. Sweden, I love you!