Melbourne, Australia is a sister city to my hometown of Boston. Known for coffee and culture, from fine dining to street art, this dynamic city brings fun and enjoyment to any visitor! My last visit to Melbourne, Australia was years ago and left only a taste of what this city has to offer. With a population of over 4 million, this city is buzzing with life, so here I am bringing you a travel guide to Melbourne, Australia with food allergies.
Before this trip, I knew I wanted to avoid Qantas airlines if possible. Although I’ve heard they’ve improved, I had a horrendous experience with them years ago and didn’t want to repeat that if it was preventable.
I flew United Airlines from Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles where I had a four hour layover. This was a good amount of time to purchase a water, use the bathroom, and find a lounge. If you don’t have Priority Pass, I would consider looking into it. Whenever I need to microwave food in between flights, I can usually find someone there that is nice enough to microwave it. I avoid airport restaurants because it is too risky. My recommendation after years of travel is to always bring your own food. That is the safest option.
I was allowed to pre-board on United. When I called the week prior to my flight, United said they do not accommodate food allergies, so going into the trip I had low expectations and also knew I didn’t want to make a big deal about them. I knew I would do what I needed to keep myself safe. I asked if they served bags of nuts (they don’t), and they did let me pre-board. (Note: This is why we need a consistent policy across the board for all airlines. I never know what to expect.)
Arriving at the Melbourne Airport
When I arrived at the Melbourne airport there were a few things to note:
- They have an electronic passport system. Scan your passport in the machine and it will print off a little ticket. When you go to the next step (where you insert the ticket and look at the camera), make sure you make the same facial expression that you did in your passport photo. If it doesn’t recognize you, then you will have to re-due it. (Note: I hadn’t realized I smiled in my passport photo, so when I didn’t smile, it didn’t recognize me. Look at your passport photo prior to going through).
- Make sure you don’t have any food that is perishable with you. Fruits, vegetables, cheese, etc. is not allowed into the country. I only had packaged food and all my bags still had to go through the scanners. My packaged food (granola bars, oatmeal, etc.) was fine and not a problem.
Transportation from the Airport
To get into the city, it is easy to take a bus. I paid $19.50 AUS for a one-way ticket with SkyBus Melbourne City Express from the airport to Southern Cross Station. From there you can take other shuttle buses with free transfer service depending on location. They run frequently and it was an easy way into the city and likely cheaper than a taxi. There is also UBER in Melbourne.
The easiest way to get around the city is the tram system. Buy a MyKi card and top it up at a 711 and you will be good to go. There is an entire area that is in the “Free Tram Zone” so you may not even have to spend much money on transportation while in the city. It is very convenient and easy to use. I wish more cities had a similar system. (Note: If you rent a car, be aware that not only are your likely driving on the opposite side of the road from what you are used to, but that making turns in the city is more confusing than anywhere else due to the tram system. If you can avoid renting a car while in Melbourne, I suggest it.)
My first meal in Melbourne was in the Carlton area. My friends picked me up after arriving in Melbourne from the airport. We did not plan ahead with restaurants, however Carlton is known as the Italian area in the city, which also happened to be where I stayed in the city. Since Italian food is the easiest for me, that worked out perfectly. We walked down the street and chose a restaurant with outdoor seating and ended up at Villa Romana. Before sitting I asked if they would be able to accommodate my food allergies and they gave a reassuring yes. I gave them my chef card which was taken seriously. They also listed the ingredients to me and double checked anything they were unsure about. I ordered the Pappardelle al Ragu and it was delicious.
- Da Guido Melbourne La Pasta– After having a late lunch, I ended up getting a late dinner in the neighborhood where I was staying. I had searched restaurant reviews and this is where it lead me. My food allergies were taken seriously and they were able to tell me the ingredients in everything I ate. The only food they were unsure about was the bread.
- Guido 365 Ristorante Pizzeria– Although I did not go here, it is in the same restaurant family as the one above. I think they would also take allergies seriously since the server gave me the card before I left and told me I should be able to eat there safely.
- Charcoal Grill on the Hill– The chef, Fabian Caminiti, has a nut allergy and was wonderful to work with. He told me all of the ingredients and I was even able to try some meat platters that I wouldn’t typically have the opportunity to because of unknown ingredients. It is a bit expensive but definitely worth it. The owners were wonderful and said they welcomed others with food allergies.
Coffee (& a sandwich)
- Bond Store Cafe– There are endless choices, especially since Melbourne is known for coffee. We ended up in this fun warehouse cafe having a coffee and a late lunch and loved it.
I am not a shopper, however if I was one, there are a number of stores all around the CBD (Central Business District). The only store I really bought anything in was called The Hat Project which was outside the Queen Victoria Markets. (Note: The sun is intense in Australia. I tried to wear sunscreen and a hat when possible.)
- Grocery Stores:
- Beauty: Since I am new to Philly and don’t have any “go-to” places for nails and waxing yet, I decided to wait until I arrived in Melbourne to figure it out.
- Waxing: I went in to the Melbourne Visitor Hub at Town Hall (tourist info office) to see if they had any recommendations. They suggested a place called Paint N Powder that is above a perfumerie (if perfume bothers you, I would suggest a different spot). It is located conveniently diagonal to the big H&M through the Royal Arcade. I spent $50 AUS which seems pretty decent compared to the US.
- Nails: A friend and I went to Orchard Road Nail & Beauty (231 Lygon Street, Carlton, VIC). This was a great experience and I would definitely go back if I lived there.
Sights to See:
- State Library Victoria: The library was built in 1856 and is the fourth most popular library in the world and considered a Melbourne icon. I sat in the La Trobe Reading Room with its glass ceiling, a real period piece of the time and enjoyed the quiet buzz of people working and browsing the book collections.
- Queen Victoria Market: This market was extremely impressive. It has been in existence for 140 years and contains more than 700 small businesses. You can pretty much find anything and everything here. I bought flowers to bring to a dinner and a hat to wear at the beach. Meats, cheeses, fish, fruits and veggies are also here on display. I didn’t make it to the night market, however Wednesday evenings sound like a lot of fun!
- Melbourne Museum: I went to see the “Mandela My Life: The Official Exhibition” at this museum. (Note: If the exhibition travels to a museum near you, I highly recommend it). The museum itself is beautifully built with many exhibits for both children and adults. There is also a playground outside the museum.
Neighborhoods to Visit:
- Carlton: Lygon Street is full of Italian restaurants and is the Italian community hub of Melbourne.
- Southbank: It’s a great area to wander along right by the Yarra River. There are restaurants and bars, the Royal Botanic Gardens and interesting bridge architecture.
- St.Kilda: I went to dinner in this beach town and had such a lovely evening. We went to the Pier after sunset and watched the penguins come in from the ocean.
- Fitzroy: I went for the afternoon to roam around with a friend. There are tons of great shops to browse in. We went to Builders Arms Hotel on Gertrude Street for a glass of wine before heading back into the center of the city.
Go here to find out what events are happening in the city.
On My Next Visit:
There are always going to be places that you don’t have time to get to. If you rent a car and have more time to explore I would suggest the following:
- If you love wine:
- The Yarra Valley is only an hour away by car from the city and is known for its wines. There are over 90 wineries in the region. Something else that looked like fun was a hot air balloon ride. If I had rented a car and had more time I would definitely explore this area!
- The Mornington Peninsula also has many wineries in a gorgeous setting. The wedding I went to was located there (although we never made it to any of the wineries).
- Ballarat: Known for the gold rush, I remember reading about this historical town when I studied in Australia. It is a 90 minute train ride from the city.
Royal Botanic Gardens: There are two different locations for these gardens.
Eureka Skydeck: Apparently a great view of Melbourne on floor 88.
- Australia’s emergency number for police/fire/ambulance is 000
- Major hospitals: Epworth Hospital and Royal Melbourne Hospital
- U.S. Consulate # 03 9526 5900
Note: Please remember that these are my travel experiences and should be used as a guide to help you with your travel planning. I hope you are ready to plan your next trip.