5 things you should explain to your parents before they visit you in Australia

For me, one of the best things about studying overseas is having my parents visit me. They recently came to see me in what was their second trip to Melbourne, but unlike their previous visit, my parents decided that they wanted to stay in Australia for a little longer. This meant that I wouldn’t have as much time to spend with them, given my own commitments to uni, and neither could our family friends here.

To help my dear parents, my sister and I drew up a plan that would help them navigate their way through Melbourne. And in a lot of ways, this guide could be used for any new person visiting Australia for the first time – including new international students!

So feel free to use our guide to help your parents get around if you’re not able to be with them the next time they’re visiting Melbourne!


Although card payments are accepted at most places in Australia, many parents will be more comfortable paying for things in cash.

And if they are prepared to pay with cash it might be best just to warn your parents that they may end up with a lot of coins by the end of the trip. If by then they do find loose change everywhere, at least you’ll end up with some extra lunch money or money to top up your myki!

Conversely, should they want to buy things in card, it might also be worth letting them know beforehand the common places that might not accept card payments (we found this usually extended to Asian groceries and restaurants, for example). A bit of research on your end will go a long way to support your parents.

Getting around

My sister and I gave my parents each one weekly myki pass for their daily travels. Your parents may differ, depending on how long they’ll stay in the country.

Since we wouldn’t be with them all the time, we advised them to have a look at the instructions for top-up machines at train stations, just in case they weren’t comfortable with speaking English. And if they were still lost, we told them to check the PTV app – which we downloaded for them – for more assistance. We also downloaded Uber for them so that they could get around with a bit more ease.

Of course, not all parents will be tech-savvy and will be averse to app usage entirely. As an extra measure, we also wrote our phone numbers and home address on a piece of paper that our parents had to keep in their pockets, just in case things went wrong.

Food shopping

Melbourne’s a city of incredible cultural diversity so finding a restaurant that suited their needs wasn’t difficult. I imagine this will be similar with your own parents. In any case, it’s worth exploring the city and doing your best as a host to spoil your parents with a cosy family dinner.

Expenses-wise, dining out might not be the best option all the time and your parents may even just be happy making things at home. If that’s the case, introduce them to a range of popular supermarkets in your area. If there’s a Woolworths, Coles or ALDI near you, you’re in luck! And should your parents want to cook something at home, at least you’ll know that mum’s cooking is awaiting you when you’re home from uni!

Shopping & entertainment

My mum loves shopping and my dad loves music. In Melbourne, both of these things are easy to come by. With plenty of shopping centers like Emporium, Melbourne Central and DFO as well as shopping strips along Collins St and Bourke St, my mum certainly had plenty to look at and buy from. I even drew up a map with all the best locations to shop for her.

As for live entertainment, Melbourne is certainly not short of amazing street performers. We found dad was entertained just by walking around seeing all the different kinds of buskers that were out along Bourke St!

Of course, your parents may differ. Maybe they’ll enjoy exhibitions and museums or other public tours of famous Melbourne landmarks, like the Parliament House. These were all things we brought to our parents’ attention too!

Cultural etiquette

One of the biggest things we had to teach her parents was the language and etiquette of Australians. Compared to life in Vietnam, Australians were more polite, we felt, and so we told my parents to expect to hear a lot of “thank you” and “sorry” from everyday Aussies. We also told them to not be surprised if someone says “bless you” if they sneezed.

Small things like this will help them know what to expect and not feel out of place. Other things you may want to consider informing your parents about, with relation to cultural etiquette, include standing on the left side of a busy escalator to give way to those in a hurry or letting passengers out of public transport first before boarding.

Are there any specific instructions that you would give to your parents? Something that would help them get around Melbourne a little easier? Let us know if there is anything that we have missed out in the list that you think all parents should know!

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