Your guide to travelling between Melbourne Airport and the CBD

While Melbourne's SkyBus is popular, it's not always the most efficient or cost-effective way to travel from the airport.

By Chris Chamberlin, July 13 2021
Your guide to travelling between Melbourne Airport and the CBD

Whether you’re just visiting Melbourne or fly regularly from the Victorian capital, getting to and from the airport provides plenty of choices.

Convenience will be a factor for many – particularly when carting around a suitcase, or three – while cost is another: and one that can affect your choices when travelling as a larger group, versus a solo flyer.

Here’s what you need to know about zipping between Melbourne Airport and the CBD, including the price of each transfer.

Melbourne Airport SkyBus

One of the most popular ways to travel between Melbourne Airport and the CBD is by SkyBus.

As the name implies, it’s Melbourne’s main airport bus, with the Melbourne City Express service running non-stop between Tullamarine and the CBD at Southern Cross Station.

For most travellers, one-way fares cost $15 while a return ticket is $28.

Seniors get a discount of $1.50 per trip (that’s a fare of $13.50 one-way, or $25 return), while children travel for $2 one-way and $4 return. All tickets can be purchased online, or in person.

While SkyBus strikes a good balance between cost and convenience for solo travellers, that’s less true when flying with a companion or as a larger group, where the cost of three adult SkyBus fares is on-par with the price of a taxi or rideshare.

The company previously offered SkyBus Link – a complimentary shuttle service between city hotels and Southern Cross Station – but this has remained suspended since March 2020.

SkyBus’ other Melbourne routes also remain on hold, including the Southbank Docklands Express, St Kilda Express, Peninsula Express, Eastern Express, and Western Express.

Private car services from Melbourne Airport

For a comfortable journey from point to point with your luggage in-tow, private hire car services attract a premium price, but offer the shortest journey times between airport terminal and hotel: especially with a driver ready and waiting for your arrival.

Companies like Hughes – which normally provide complimentary Chauffeur Drive services to eligible Emirates passengers – accept online bookings with set rates.

When we obtained online quotes, Hughes priced an Executive Sedan at approximately $121 one-way, while Premium Sedans were around $148, and people Movers $159, including mandatory Government Levies not displayed in the prices first displayed through the online system.

Taxis at Melbourne Airport

Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport is home to the busiest taxi rank in Victoria, which means that lines can sometimes be long, but usually move quickly.

As part of your fare, you’ll pay a Melbourne Airport taxi surcharge of $4.50, when hailing a cab at the rank.

If you’ve pre-booked a taxi, you’ll pay $4.50 if your driver waits for under 30 minutes (or $4, if only waiting for 15 minutes or less) – but charges increase sharply thereafter: $24 for one hour, for example, and that’s on top of your taxi fare.

To skip any queues at the ranks, consolidated taxi booking apps like Placie offer live fare estimates across multiple taxi services.

Through Placie, you can also book and pay for your taxi, with the tax invoice landing in your email inbox. As well, first-time users can get a $20 discount off the first journey paid through the app, when registering here.

That discount goes a fair way towards a taxi fare between Melbourne Airport and the CBD, which Placie recently estimated at $56 for Black & White, $58.90 for Silver Top and $68.21 for 13Cabs.

Rideshare at Melbourne Airport

Ordering a rideshare vehicle is easy at Melbourne Airport – and you’ll find the public pick-up area by crossing the first road directly in front of the terminals, after baggage claim.

Prices can vary between rideshare apps, with discounts available for first-time users.

Uber recently quoted us $47.88 for a one-way UberX to Parliament Square, $54.37 for Comfort, $69.41 for UberXL and $75.15 for Premier (formerly Uber Black). If you’re a first-time Uber user, enter the promo code UberAU10 when you sign up to save $10 off that first ride.

Ola instead provides an estimated fare range for each journey, with the same trip showing for $44-$50 for a Prime Sedan (on-par with UberX), and $63-$71 for Prime SUV.

If you’re a new customer, enter the Ola promo code B666GMU to save $10 off your first ride – and don’t forget to link your Velocity Frequent Flyer number too, to earn up to four Velocity Points per $1 spent on airport trips.

Didi promotes itself as the low-fare rideshare, with an entry-level Didi Express journey quoted for us at $45.79 – a touch cheaper than UberX, for the same type of service – and $61.49 for Didi Max, where the saving over UberXL for a seven-seater ride is more noticeable.

Discount offers regularly appear in the Didi app for existing users which can make those costs even lower, but if you’re a first-time Didi rider, save $10 off your first trip by entering the Didi discount code Chris10351 into the app’s Promotions tab before ordering a car.

(When using one of the codes above, we’ll also get a $10 discount off our next ride, so it’s a win-win.)

Hire cars at Melbourne Airport

As you’d expect, major hire car brands have a presence at Melbourne Airport, allowing travellers to collect and return vehicles at the terminal.

That comes with the added convenience of not needing to arrange a separate airport transfer, but which can be offset by the increased price of hiring on-airport – through “premium location surcharges” and the like – versus collecting or returning a car to locations elsewhere.

Especially for longer rentals, it pays to obtain more than one quote, and to compare the cost of hiring from different locations.

You could well save a significant sum by hiring from the city or suburbs, even factoring in the added cost of a taxi fare or rideshare between there and the airport, versus the premium pricing of an airport pick-up.

Also read: Hiring a car? Avoid the pitfalls with these 10 tips

Public transport for Melbourne Airport

Travelling on a tight budget? You can get between Melbourne Airport and the CBD for just $4.50 – but it requires a bit of walking and a lot of patience, with an average journey clocking up at 1.5 hours (versus 30-45 minutes on SkyBus).

Start by taking the 901 bus near Terminal 4 – aptly, the terminal serving most cost-conscious flyers – until you reach Broadmeadows Railway Station.

Then, hop aboard a train to the city along the Craigieburn line.

A Myki card is required, with a two-hour adult fare being $4.50, or $2.25 for concession card holders.

If you don’t have a Myki card, there’s a vending machine in the arrivals hall of Terminal 4 – or you may be able to register for a Mobile Myki via selected Android phones.

(Personally, we’d recommend sticking to a standard Myki card unless you know Mobile Myki works for you – which wasn’t the case during our most recent attempt, where the digital card couldn’t be accessed by any ticket reader, even with NFC correctly switched on.)

Pickup by friends and family at Melbourne Airport

Aside from your independent transfer options, passengers being collected from Melbourne Airport by friends and family can wait in one of two areas.

For a quick ‘jump in and ride’, the one-minute pickup road is best: just follow the signs to “public pickup”.

Some prefer to have a little more time to get into the vehicle – or to not be driving loops of the airport – in which case, the separate 10-minute car park is the winner. Drivers and passengers, follow the “10-minute pickup” signs.

It’s best to confirm with your lift where you plan to wait ahead of the pickup, to keep things easy, and so the driver doesn’t get charged for parking, if exceeding 10 minutes in that dedicated pickup area.

Does Melbourne have an airport train?

At the time of publishing, Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport does not have its own train service.

For the time being, connections to the city’s rail network are possible by taking the SkyBus to Southern Cross Station, or the 901 bus to Broadmeadows Station, where you can board a train service.

In the future, however, Melbourne Airport will be directly connected to the train line.

Construction on the Melbourne Airport Rail project is scheduled to begin in 2022, with a target opening date of 2029.

Routing via the Metro Tunnel on the Cranbourne and Pakenham lines, the Melbourne Airport train will begin at Tullamarine and stop at Sunshine, Footscray, Arden, Parkville, State Library, Town Hall, Anzac, Caulfield, Clayton, Dandenong, and then either Cranbourne or Pakenham.

Services are planned to run every 10 minutes, with a journey time between Melbourne Airport and the CBD of around 30 minutes.

Also read: Virgin’s Melbourne lounge to re-open “within weeks”

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller, and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins not just with a single step, but also a strong latte, a theatre ticket, and later in the day, a good gin and tonic.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Mar 2014

Total posts 192

I can also recommend Starbus...door to door shuttle to inner north, CBD and south yarra area

07 May 2021

Total posts 4

Crazy to think a city like Melbourne does not have a train from airport to CBD, even us here in Perth are will have one before MEL

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Jul 2021

Total posts 1

Another Public Transport option from the carpark near Terminal Four are the local buses to Airport West (Nos. 478, 479, or 482) and then hop on tram 59 for the journey into the CBD. My early Monday morning SYD-MEL has me taking a taxi into the CBD and then returning Wed afternoon in a more leisurely tram-bus combo. Round trip about $60! Roll on 2029 and the new train route!

Will the new railway have gate charges like brisbane and Sydney, if so the sky's may still be the best direct option to the CBD?


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