A Visitor’s Guide to Melbourne

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Image: Buildings by the waterfront, Melbourne.

I was in Melbourne recently to attend a conference; it was the first time that I’d travelled overseas since returning to NZ at the end of 2005 after my OE. Things have changed. They’ve changed rather a lot! A smartphone, a temporary visa loaded with $AUD, an e-passport & social media at my fingertips meant that this was a very different travelling experience indeed.

Being as attached as I am to my phone, I gagged a little bit when I discovered WiFi access at the hotel was an exorbitant $25AU/day that work refused to pay for. For me, being without Internet access is like gouging out an eye!

So, heart palpitating, I headed off to Telecom NZ, @stevegallagher in tow—my data sherpa—who helped interpret the baffling data/price charts. The trainee consultant we spoke with was extremely helpful, kind and knowledgeable. He explained it all very simply. The upshot was I could pay $NZ6 per day for unlimited (fair use – what is fair?) data.

having experienced the Christchurch earthquakes first-hand, I take a “be prepared” attitude to my access to information

This was a relief. I was prepared to pay that as I wanted to be able to call/text my family and tweet. A lot. I’ve yet to receive my bill, so it’ll be interesting to see if my use was considered fair … @stevegallagher reminded me I could then use my iPhone (personal) as a hotspot from which to connect my iPad (work owned) to work. Genius.

I put away my beta-blockers at this point and started looking forward to the trip.


Aside from arranging for an e-passport and having all of those regular things like tickets and accommodation sorted out, my preparation for the trip involved quizzing friends, searching the app store and the web for information about Marvellous Melbourne. I also packed lots of plugs and cords, and ensured my Mophie and solar charger were at capacity. This may seem like power-back-up-overload, but having experienced the Christchurch earthquakes #eqnz first hand, I take serious a “be prepared” attitude to my access to information.

Image: Lovely crumply wall of concrete, Melbourne.

What tech did I use on the trip, and how did it stack up?

Loaded for travel’ visa card:  My boss had just recently been to Boston for a conference and swore by this card. You can load several currencies on it, pay the exchange rate once, and then just spend in the local currency. You can send a bill payment to it through Internet banking if you run short, and it comes with two cards – one to carry and one to hide in your hotel room in case you come a-cropper.

The only thing that would have been really helpful was if there was an app to easily check the balance. I’d saved the URL to my screen but that just didn’t cut it.

e-passport: My e-passport was trucked out for the first time on this trip. One slight problem; I initially forgot to sign it! I was quietly sent away to sort that out (*blush*). Leaving Auckland, the passport scanned with no issue. A little ticket was produced from the scanning machine, I had to insert this into another machine to have my face was scanned & photo taken (no doubt there is some data matching going on in the background).

It didn’t work on entry to Melbourne though. Kiwis be warned; there seems to be an issue with some NZ e-passports created in June.

Myki: I was told about the trams—that they were easy to use—and so they were. Though I did forget to “touch off” a few times so it probably cost me more than it need have. Adding money was simple (the travel visa worked once, then I used cash). It was interesting to observe that a few locals didn’t touch on, and one day a particular stop was swarming with day-glow orange Yarra Trams staff busting people as they got off the tram.

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Image: NGV, Melbourne

How did I use my devices before and during my trip?

Here’s a wee list of what I used (on my iPhone and iPad) and a description of what I used them for:

AirNZ mPass: loaded all my flights in here for safekeeping. This saved me rooting around in my bag for bits of paper.

Find my iPhone: In case I lost my iPhone (I have previously and this was really useful)

Prey: In case my iPhone was stolen I would be able to track it down (or my husband would).

Viber: When I found out each text I sent would cost me $NZ0.80 I downloaded Viber. It was pretty good—only cutting out a few times. I used it for voice and text only but it is possible to send photos and video as well.

Telecom app: I didn’t actually use it but I felt better having it sitting there reassuring me that I was on a $6 a day data plan.

Image: Street Art from the Lanes, Melbourne

Google Maps: I saved key destinations on here that I hoped to visit. I loved that tram stops were indicated on the map so I could see exactly when I needed to get off the tram. When I was walking around I used it to plot where I was so I could work out what direction I need to walk in. I also used it to find the restaurant I was meeting @catspyjamasnz and @kimtairi at, or to find galleries or shops I wanted to visit.

Weather: It’s always good to have a weather app on hand and Melbourne By Foot had recommended being prepared for all weathers. I was lucky. The weather was fantastic.

Tram Tracker: This wasn’t super intuitive but I did use it to find out how long a tram was going to take to arrive. I’m sure with practice I would have adjusted to the app’s UI.

Scan: Used this app to scan QR codes in galleries. I particularly enjoyed the Top Arts exhibition at the NGV studio.

Kindle: I had a few books in here for light reading and could access them either on the iPhone or iPad.

iAnnotate: I’d saved the conference programme (.pdf) in this app and was able to highlight sessions I wanted to attend, and also add comments on the fly.

Twitter: I tweeted @melbournebyfoot before arriving from my personal account. From my work account @healthscilib I tweeted about the conference (#anzahpe13).

Twitter conversation with @melbournebyfoot

Hootsuite: the dashboard was useful for keeping an eye on the conference hashtag and other channels on @healthscilib account. Not so good for tweeting from however!

Facebook: For family and friends not on Twitter I could share what I was up to.

Notes: I had a page in here called Melbourne that was my wish list of things to do that included recommendations from friends. Each day of the conference I set up a new page and took notes in it over the course of the day. I dropped in links to websites, papers and books that were mentioned. I could then email this back to myself and my colleagues.

Camera on iPad: took photos of presentations at conference and tweeted these to the conference hashtag #anzahpe13.

Camera on iPhone: I took photos, tweeted a few (which pinged to Facebook) and used the camera to take photos of conference posters and emailed these to relevant academics at @Otago. I also took a photo of my room number in case I forgot it…

Storify: I wanted to curate tweets, links and photos from the conference but the search function on Storify was not playing nice and wouldn’t search on the hashtag. I ended up creating this once back in Dunedin on my laptop [here].

Email: I checked my email accounts, private and work, and made appointments for consultations in the calendar for my return. The bookings in the calendar weren’t all successful when time changes switched over. I kept my booking forms in email (eg. flights, walking tour and duty free) so I didn’t have to carry around bits of paper.

Internet: I checked a mind boggling number of websites but a couple that were particularly useful were:

  • Booked Dutyfree online before leaving the country (we were out of Scotch so had to remedy that)
  • Federation square – loved the social media presence and activities there
  • NZ newspapers

What I didn’t find / would have been good:

I really didn’t want for much, except more time to explore. No doubt there are many other services I could have engaged with. Feel free to add a comment or suggestion. A couple of things I can comment on though are:

  • Federation Square WiFi was intermittent
  • More WiFi in general around the city would have been great, particularly at the conference venue (hotels and event organisers, please take note)
  • I should have used “Map my walk” or a similar app when on the Melbourne By Foot walking tour as had trouble finding my way back to shops I wanted to visit – a failing on my part, not the tech!

All in all it was a great trip and I very much enjoyed my time being a teched-up traveller in Melbourne. When I sat down and thought about the apps/services I used, I was surprised at how much I relied on the technology and the easy access I had to information from my pocket. I’m really looking forward to coming back soon.

Reckoner had its humble beginnings way back in June of 2013.

Founded by James Croft, along with Peter Wells and Anthony Agius they created what would go on to become one of Australia’s most highly regarded and award winning independent tech blogs.

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