Compared to most other major cities around the globe, Melbourne is incredibly safe. Although recent spates of drunken weekend violence around nightclubs have raised the city’s profile in the national media, the majority of Melbourne’s CBD is safe to walk alone at all hours.
Throughout the city, the police presence is strong, the streets are well lit and broad and there is little threat even in the dark alleys for which the city is famous. Newcomers though, especially women, will probably feel more comfortable walking in pairs or groups than alone. This is understandable. It is advisable if you are alone to walk confidently, even if you are strolling. Anywhere in the world, it is always the easily intimidated who are targeted.
Street harassment is less common for women than in most European countries, although be aware than Australia is a young nation, and groups of drunk men are known to behave like teenagers. Although they are often loud and breathe beery breath all over pretty girls, they are harmless and respond willingly enough to a gentle, or not so gentle, “Go Away”.
A couple of other common sense precautions include not letting a friend walk home who is too drunk to stand, and when catching a cab home alone, it’s wise to SMS a friend the driver’s details (as displayed on their placard). Crimes tend to be opportunistic, so do not leave valuables unattended in your car for long periods of time, especially in plain view. Pickpocketing is extremely rare, but has been known to happen in tourist areas (Federation Square), so keep an eye on your bag or wallet.
You are more likely to be hit by a tram when you are in Melbourne than mugged. Keep your eyes open for these when you cross the roads, especially if you have come from a country that drives on the right and are still not used to the flow of traffic. It’s also important to note that trams stop in traffic, so take care when disembarking from the middle of the road and crossing to the sidewalk as motorists may continue (illegally) past a stopped tram.
The notorious, infamous Melbourne specific traffic rule of the Hook Turn has been known to cause injury and death to those unfamiliar with it. At intersections with hook turns, cars wishing to turn right will do so, after the light has changed, from the left-most lane. This can be especially dangerous to those continuing to drive or ride a bike straight through an intersection with a yellow light, or eager pedestrians who cross before allowing motorists completing a hook turn to pass.
Australia has a wide number of beasties, large and small, who will do you great harm if cornered, confronted, or simply given an opportunity. While some dangerous species (such as salt-water crocodiles, jellyfish, and sharks) can be avoided by staying well away of their habitats, venomous snakes and spiders are a pervasive nuisance that can be found in even the most built up areas of Australia.
If you suspect you or somebody else has been bitten by a poisonous creature do not wash off the venom as this will help assist with identification. Call an ambulance immediately on 000 or from a mobile phone on 112. Keeping calm and limiting mobility may slow down the venom’s effects.
For more information on threats from specific wildlife, see the Health Risks section.