Driving in Australia for The First Time
If you’ve travelled to Australia and you’re planning to drive yourself around for the first time, it would probably help to know what to expect. Alternatively, you could be an Australian citizen or a permanent resident who is looking forward to attaining a driver’s license.
Whatever the case, here are a few things you need to know about driving in Australia for the first time.
Obtaining a License
If you’re an international visitor, you can drive in Australia as long as you have a valid foreign license. However, the license needs to be written in English but if it’s in another language, you’re required to bring a formal English translation or an International Drivers Permit (IDP).
Otherwise, you will only be allowed to drive specific vehicle categories that are authorized by your overseas license. But the overseas license is only valid for 3 months after arriving in Australia; after that, you need to apply for an Australian driver’s license.
Depending on the rules of the state where you apply for the local driver’s license, you could end up doing a theory exam or a practical driving test.
On the other hand, if you’re an Australian citizen, you must pass a driver knowledge test and practical driving test to attain a provisional license; unless stated otherwise.
Driving is On the Left
If you’re from a country like the U.S.A or Canada where people drive on the right side of a two-way road, you might find it strange in Australia where people drive on the left side. Then again, most vehicles you find in Australia will have the steering wheel located on the right side; that way, the driver is close to the centre of the road.
If you’re not used to driving on the left side, it will be easier if you rent an automatic car.
Since you will be driving on the left side of the road, traffic on a roundabout goes on a clockwise direction. As a general rule, you should always give way to cars that are already on the roundabout before you proceed to enter the roundabout. It doesn’t matter the position of the car, as long as it was on the roundabout before you, it has a right of way.
The speed limit in most Australian states and territories is 100km/hr to 110km/hr; although in Northern Territory, you can go up to 130km/hr in major highways. In the cities, the speed limits are lower and you can expect a standard speed limit of 50km/h to 60km/h. For school zones, it’s not unusual to see speed limits of 25km/h.
What if you go beyond the speed limit? Well, it’s unlikely that you will get away with it since the police and speed cameras are almost everywhere. If you get caught, you could end up paying a fine and getting demerit points on your license.
In Australia, you’re not allowed to turn left on a red light traffic signal unless stated otherwise. Similarly, you cannot do U-turn at a traffic signal unless stated otherwise. However, in Australian Capital Territory and Victoria, you can do a U-turn on a traffic signal but on a right arrow sign.
Don’t forget to always give way to pedestrians crossing the road.
In some bridges, motorways and tunnels, you may be required to pay toll fees; especially around Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. Keep in mind that cash is not accepted but you need to pay the toll electronically using a transponder.
In case you drive without a transponder, your vehicle’s registration number will be captured by a road camera, and you will be given about 3 days to arrange payment or get fined.
Driving Under The Influence
The maximum alcohol blood limit allowed in Australia is 0.05%; although learners and provisional license holders have a zero limit. It’s common for the police to pull over drivers and perform random breath analysis; you won’t have much of a choice since it’s an offence to refuse.
If you’re caught driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, it’s considered a criminal offence and the fines are usually high.
Here is the thing; driving in the Australian cities is uncomplicated for most drivers unless you don’t like traffic congestions during rush hour. But as soon as you drive outside the city zones into the rural areas, it can be a little bit challenging.
In that regards, we recommend taking the following precautions, especially when driving in rural Australia.
- Avoid driving at night. Most wild animals native to Australia such as kangaroos, koalas, emus and wallabies are nocturnal. That means, they’re more active at night and that’s when they come out to cross the roads. If you must drive at night, reduce your speed and be vigilant.
- Watching for yellow warning signs. Most animal crossings near national parks and forests are marked with yellow hazard signs to alert drivers. If you approach a marked animal crossing, you should slow down.
- Plan your rural trips in advance. Before you drive to the inner rural areas, you should have a clue about the weather forecast and service stations along the way. The last thing you want is to get stranded in a remote location with no cellphone service.
- Take breaks on a long-distance trip. One of the most common causes of road accidents in Australia is driver fatigue. To avoid burning out during a long-distance trip, it will be helpful if you take breaks on resting areas by the roadside. It would also be smart if you pack water, food and blankets.
- Wear a seat belt. To state the obvious, all drivers and passengers must wear seatbelts. If you have children that are too young to put on a seatbelt, you can restrain them in safety harnesses, booster seats or capsules.