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Australia Driving Guide 2020

Famous for its natural wonders, beaches, deserts, the bushes, and the Outback, yes, it is Australia. To enjoy this one of a kind travel experience, rent and drive your own car. It will be easier if you have an international driving permit and this complete travel guide.

Lisa Brown

January 23, 2020

INTRODUCTION

Australia is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. This location offers a unique mix of wildlife and flora, from stunning natural parks to Kangaroos and Quokkas. For this reason, around 10 million visitors are expected to visit Australia in 2020. 

With many different locations for you to visit, and a long-distance to travel to get to your destination, you will likely need to rent a car to navigate through this country successfully. Renting a vehicle will also give you the freedom to stop wherever you want on your journey. We’ve compiled this helpful guide to tell you everything you need to know about driving in Australia to make your visit a success. 

Renting a car will allow you to explore not just the big cities but also those all-important towns, villages and landmarks in Australia.

do i need an international driver's license in australia?

Driving in Australia with foreign license is permitted as long as it is written in English. When you are driving in Australia, it’s better to have a valid International license with you. If you don’t, harsh penalties can apply. These fines can often vary, depending on which state you are driving. Generally, though, you will face a fine and the possibility of going to jail. To prevent this from happening, you will need to get an International Driver’s Permit (IDP). Let’s look at how this process works.

Who Needs an IDP?

An IDP can be a precious resource, allowing you to drive in a wide range of countries around the world. In Australia, you will have to present an IDP if you come from a foreign country, which will ensure that Australian police will be able to understand your license. You will also need to keep your original license with you during the trip, being prepared to show it to officials to verify your IDP.

What Kind of Vehicles Can I Drive?

Your foreign license will limit the type of vehicles that you can drive in Australia. For example, if you are only licensed to drive automatic cars in your home country, you will only be able to drive these kinds of vehicles in Australia.

How to Get an International Driver’s License in Australia?

If you are planning on traveling to Australia for your holidays, you must get an IDP. Thankfully, obtaining one is relatively a simple process. You will need to go online and fill out a few simple forms at internationaldriversassociation.com. Then, you will have the IDP sent to you. If you urgently need your license, you can opt to fast-track the process.

How Long Until an IDP Expires?

In most cases, you will have a year before you will need to apply for a new IDP, giving you a plenty of time if you are planning for a short holiday. If you intend to stay in Australia for over a year, you will have to consider applying for an Australian driver’s license. You will also have to be sure that you get the right VISA to avoid any issues with Immigration.

If you forget or make a last minute decision that you want to rent a car while you are in Australia, it is possible to get an IDP through a premium fast track service, and it will be sent to you electronically in just a few hours.

Renting a Car in Australia

If you are planning to go on holiday to Australia, it’s recommended that you choose to rent a car. Since Australia is such a vast country, you must have a reliable way of transport. While the public transport system is relatively reliable, you will get more freedom from renting a car, which will allow you to stop wherever you want. To make sure that you get a good deal, let’s look at some of the things you will need to know about renting a car in Australia.

Where to Find a Rental Car

In Australia, it’s often pretty easy to find a rental car company. For example, they will be available at most airports. However, before you leave for your travels, you should double-check this. By searching online for your car rental agent of choice, you can easily organize a rental car when you arrive in the country. Book your car in advance, so you can get the model that you want.

What Type of Documents Do You Need to Provide?

When you rent a car, there are many legal requirements that the rental company will need to fulfill before they allow you to drive the car. For this reason, you need to be prepared to provide multiple documents. First, you have to show a valid driver’s license by showing a copy of your IDP. Next, you will have to prove that you have a way of paying for the vehicle; in most cases, a credit or debit card will be acceptable. Finally, you have to sign various rental agreements. Be sure that you understand everything that you agree to, so you don’t encounter any unexpected fees when you return the car.

What Type of Rental Vehicle Do You Need?

In Australia, there is often a wide range of rental vehicles available, making it difficult for you to know which one you should select on your holiday. If this is the case, there are few things you need to consider. First, you will have to think about the type of areas that you want to visit. While the city roads tend to be well-maintained, there are plenty of gravel roads in more remote parts of the country. If you travel to these areas, you might need to consider purchasing a sturdier four-wheel drive. Generally, though, you should try to choose a vehicle that you feel comfortable driving.

Age Requirements

You might be wondering what is the legal driving age in Australia? The driving age in Australia for unsupervised driving is 18 years in most provinces. However, most rental companies require you to be over 21 years old before you can rent a car. If you are under 24, you might incur additional fees. For this reason, younger drivers are encouraged to consider multiple options to make sure that you are getting the best possible deal.

Fees

When you rent a car, you will need to consent to a range of fees. To make sure that you understand your obligations, you should make sure to read any forms carefully before you agree to anything. Also, you should be aware that, due to the Australian Consumer Law (ACL), the companies will need to advertise an accurate price for their cars. While this might not include any additional extras, it will give you a better idea of how much you can expect to pay.

For this reason, if you notice multiple prices advertised for the same car, it’s wise to budget for the higher option. You should also make sure to note any pre-existing damage. Please take pictures and make sure that the rental car company makes a note of it, ensuring that you don’t get stuck paying to repair damage caused by another driver. Finally, you should make sure that you understand your obligations when you rent the car. For example, some companies might expect you to return it with a full tank of gas. If you don’t do this, you could be facing higher fees.

Get Your International Driver's Permit in 2 hours

An IDP is a legal requirement to drive or rent a car in several foreign countries. It is also a United Nations regulated travel document for your safety and ease of travel.

Driving Direction in Australia

In Australia, you will be expected to drive on the left-hand side of the road, with the driver being seated on the right-hand side of the vehicle. If you aren’t used to driving in this way, it can be a challenging transition for you to make. For this reason, it’s recommended that you start on quieter streets, allowing you to adjust to this new way of driving slowly.

Driving in Australia Vs. Driving in the US: What’s the Difference?

Driving in Australia vs USA is similar in some aspects and different in others. For example, road signs tend to be the same style, as we’ll discuss later. However, there are some key differences that you should know. Driving in Australia with US insurance won’t give you any coverage. You need Australian car insurance coverage before you can take your car to the road. Additionally, driving in Australia with US license is good, but it is better to have an international driver’s license.

Navigating Roundabouts

For an American driving in Australia, it’s far more likely that you will encounter a roundabout in Australia compared to the US. For this reason, you will have to learn the correct procedure for going around them. If you are approaching a multi-lane roundabout, you will need to select the correct lane, depending on the direction you intend to travel. If you want to turn left, go into the left-hand lane. If you’re going to go right, you will need to use the right lane. If you are going straight, you will be able to use either lane. Then, you will need to use the correct indicator signal. Use the left and right indicator to show other drivers the exit you intend to take. If you are going straight, you don’t need to use any indicator. After giving way to any traffic on the roundabout, you can enter. Once you have reached your desired exit, use the left-hand indicator before you leave the roundabout.

More Wildlife

Though many international tourists love the unique animals in Australia, they can be a potential hazard when driving. In more rural parts of the country, it’s common to see animals like kangaroos on the side of the road. If you spot them, be vigilant. Sometimes these creatures can jump out in front of the car, forcing you to stop suddenly. If they are already on the road, make sure to wait until they left the road before continuing. In some cases, using your horn will allow you to startle the animal into moving away. Thankfully, there will be signs warning you where animal sightings are most common, allowing you to keep an eye out in these areas.

Use Kilometers

When driving in Australia, you will have to use kilometers as the standard measure. For example, speed limits are displayed in km/hr. If you hire a car, this will display km/hr on the dashboard. However, if you are driving your US car in Australia, it can be more challenging to gauge the speed accurately. For this reason, you might want to consider having a speedometer installed.

Toll Roads

In Australia, you will be able to use a range of toll roads. These are designed to get you to your destination faster. However, every time you drive on the road, you will be expected to pay a fee. Unlike in US, there are no cash toll booths, as the whole system is electronic. As you drive through the toll section, the electronic tag on your vehicle will be scanned. Then, your account will automatically be billed. In some cases, the rental car company will have electronic tags on your vehicle, automatically adding the fees to your account. However, you should check this before you leave, as around $30 will be added to any unpaid fees if not.

Fueling the Vehicle 

In US, drivers are used to paying for the fuel before putting it into their car. In Australia, you will need to put in the gas, then pay the attendants. If using a rental car, you should make sure to double-check what side the tank is on, to make sure that you don’t have any problems when filling up.
Wait for Green

Finally, US citizens driving in Australia are used to being able to turn right on a red light if the road is clear. However, it isn’t the same case in Australia, and this is considered a serious traffic offense. You will have to wait until you get a green light before you can turn

What Are the Most Important Road Rules to Remember When Driving in Australia?

Though many people from countries like the U.S. will be familiar with the basic road rules in Australia, there are still many driving rules in Australia that you should know. The roads tend to be highly regulated, with many laws governing driving behavior to help ensure driver safety. As we’ll see, violating road laws in Australia is a severe offense. To make sure that you don’t have any issues let’s look at some of the most basic road rules you should be aware of when driving in Australia.

Don’t’ Use Your Phone While Driving

In Australia, using your phone while driving is a serious offense. It’s illegal to hold or touch your phone while driving, including the times when you are stopped in traffic since it can be distracting. If you don’t comply with this rule, you will face a range of harsh penalties, depending on which state you are located. For example, if you are driving in Queensland, you could receive a $1,000-fine for using your phone while driving. Also, new cameras are being installed on roads to try and catch people on their phones, which increases the chances that you will be caught. It’s recommended that you put your phone into Do Not Disturb mode to ensure that you can comply with this rule. If you need to take a call, you will need to park the vehicle on the side of the road.

Stick to the Left

When traveling on a highway, you will be required to stay in the left-hand lane. However, if you intend to overtake a slower driver, you will be able to move into the right-hand lane. It should be noted that you won’t be able to exceed the speed limits, even when overtaking.

Seat Belts Are Mandatory

You must make sure that everyone is wearing a seat belt before you start driving. In Australia, if a police officer spots you without wearing your seat belt, you could face very harsh penalties. For example, when driving in New South Wales, you could be fined $330 for every passenger that isn’t wearing a seat belt. Also, you won’t be allowed to take off the seat belt until the car has been parked.

Monitor Horn Usage

In Australia, it’s illegal to use the horn unless necessary. The only time when you will be allowed to use the horn is if you have to warn other road users of a potential problem. Another acceptable use is when warning animals off the road. If you are found misusing your horn, you may receive a fine from the police. Although, in most cases, you are more likely to receive a warning.

Drinking and Driving Is Illegal 

Australia is famous for its vibrant pub and club scene. There are multiple places around the country for you to have a drink with your friends. However, if you intend to drink, you might want to arrange an alternative form of transport home. 

Driving under the influence is a significant problem in Australia, with police frequently organizing Random Breath Testing (RBT) stops. When you reach one of these stops, you will be directed into a separate lane. Then, a police officer will present a device, which will record the amount of alcohol on your breath. In Australia, you will need to be below 0.05% Blood Alcohol Content (BAC). If you fail the initial test, you will be accompanied to a police station, where another test will be conducted. If you are over the limit again, you will face penalties. These will often vary depending on many factors. For example, the state you are in can affect the kind of penalties you will receive. Also, the more you exceed the legal limit, the harsher your penalty will be. If you have committed the same offense multiple times, you will face stricter punishment. For example, in New South Wales, high range drink driving (over 0.15% BAC) will attract a fine of $2,200, and your license will be disqualified.

Emergency Vehicles

When driving in Australia, you will often encounter emergency vehicles, especially in major cities. If you notice the lights and sirens in the mirror, you need to get out of the way, when safe. Often, this means pulling over to the side of the road to give them plenty of room to pass by. Remember that emergency vehicles don’t have to stop at traffic lights, so you might want to be cautious if you hear sirens around these intersections to prevent an accident. In some cases, these vehicles might use the wrong side of the road to avoid traffic.

WILL I UNDERSTAND TRAFFIC SIGNS DRIVING IN Australia?

When driving in Australia, you will likely be highly familiar with most of the road signs; especially if you come from a country like the US. For example, you will know the hexagonal shape and red coloring of a stop sign. However, there are a few other signs with which you might not be as familiar. Let’s look at some of these signs to be sure that you remain safe when driving in Australia.

Parking Signs

When driving in Australia, you must find a place to park your car while you explore the local area. The good news is that there are plenty of car spaces available, though you need to be able to recognize them, making it more complicated by the number of parking signs available. First, you might notice a sign that has the letter P without any other numbers, which means that you can park in this area. Alternatively, when you see a sign featuring an S in a red circle with a diagonal slash through it, it means that you won’t be able to park in that area. You may also notice signs that have times on them, like 45 minutes, meaning that you will only be able to park in that area for the specified time. An arrow indicates the areas that the parking regulations are enforced. If you overstay your parking times or park in the wrong place, you might receive a ticket. If you are parking on the street, you will have to make sure that you aren’t blocking anyone’s driveway.

Loading Zones

You might also notice some loading zones around the cities, designed to give trucks somewhere to load and unload their cargo, which means that you won’t be able to park there.

U-Turn Permitted

If you are traveling in the wrong direction, and want to turn around, you will have to look for a U-turn permitted sign at the traffic lights. When you notice one of these signs, you will need to move into the correct lane and turn on your indicator, as though you are making a turn. Make sure that you have a clear view of the oncoming cars, so you can find the best time to make the turn. You will have to give way to any vehicles or pedestrians in the area. When safe, complete the U-turn procedure.

How to Use Your Headlights

Driving at night in Australia is very safe. However, depending on which locations you are visiting, you will need to learn how to use your headlights. For example, in the cities, you will be able to keep them on a low beam. Often, there are plenty of street lights available to illuminate the street. However, in more remote places, you will need to get used to using high-beams, ensuring that you can see the road clearly, spotting any animals on the roadside. You should also make sure to dim your lights when another car is approaching, or if you are following behind someone.

Give Plenty of Space to Cyclists

Finally, it’s relatively common to find cyclists on Australian roads. When you do this, you will have to make sure that you pass them safely. To do this, you will have to leave at least 1 meter between you and the cyclist. If you don’t do this, you can be fined by the police. For this reason, you might have to wait until there is a break in the traffic before you overtake them.

What Are the Speed Limits in Australia?

In Australia, speeding is a severe offense. Police have the right to pull you over and issue a fine if you are caught speeding. Also, there is a range of traffic cameras which the government uses to detect vehicles that are traveling over the speed limit. Generally, the more you exceed the speed limits, the harsher the penalties will become. For example, in New South Wales, if you are 10 km/hr over the limit, you will be fined $114. However, if you are more than 45 km/hr over the limit, you will face a $2,350 fine. To ensure that this will not happen, let’s look at some of the most common speed limits that you will encounter.

Highways

When traveling on a highway, you will be able to achieve the fastest speeds. In most cases, this will be around 100 to 110 km/hr. If you are on holiday in the Northern Territory, you might go on the Stuart Highway. Since the road is so straight and flat, there are some parts where you will be able to travel as fast as you want.

Cities

In more congested areas, you will need to reduce your speed between 50 to 60 km/hr, ensuring that you can remain vigilant, in case you encounter any unexpected hazards.

School Zones

Another area of potential confusion is around school zones, as this might be unfamiliar to other cultures around the world. These rules apply to the roads immediately around the schools, which tend to be well-marked. In these areas, the speed limit is 40 km/hr, during school hours. These hours will be listed on the signs. It should also be noted that these limits only apply on school days, so you don’t need to reduce your speed on the weekends. Also, you might notice people in high visibility vests around zebra crossings in front of the schools. They are there to help students’ crossroads safely after school. When one of these attendants walks onto the road, they will hold up an orange stop sign. You are required to remain stopped until they leave the crossing, and you can drive again.

Speed Limit Signs

Australia is relatively vigilant about posting speed signs. These will tell you the correct speed limit for that area. You will be expected to maintain this speed until you see a new sign. It should be noted that the maximum speed limits are posted on these signs.

Get Your International Driver's Permit in 2 hours

An IDP is a legal requirement to drive or rent a car in several foreign countries. It is also a United Nations regulated travel document for your safety and ease of travel.

Are Australians Dangerous Drivers?

Compared to other parts of the world, Australia has a very safe road network. As we’ll discuss, police are very vigilant about monitoring streets, making sure that any potentially dangerous behavior is stopped quickly. Because of this, it is ranked as the 15th safest country for motorists in the world.

Calling for Help

While it’s unlikely that you won’t encounter any problems when driving in Australia, you should still know whom to call in case of an emergency. In most cases, you will have to contact 000, allowing you to connect with a call center, who can dispatch assistance. In most cases, these operators will also be able to provide advice over the phone until emergency services arrive. Also, if you have a smartphone, you might want to download the Emergencies Plus app while in Australia. This app will make it easier for you to connect with emergency services; it will also allow you to send them your location, which is very useful for tourists, who might not be as familiar with their surroundings.

Get Your International Driver's Permit in 2 hours

An IDP is a legal requirement to drive or rent a car in several foreign countries. It is also a United Nations regulated travel document for your safety and ease of travel.

What to Do During a Police Stop in Australia

When driving in Australia, you will likely see multiple police cars. While getting stopped can be a very nerve-racking experience, don’t worry about it. Australian police are highly courteous and act in a highly professional manner. Let’s look at the procedure that you will need to follow if you get stopped by the police.

Pull over When Safe

When you notice flashing lights and sirens, you will need to pull over to the side of the road when safe. Once you’ve pulled over, the officer will get out of the vehicle and approach your window. Depending on your state, you might have to hand over your license and a copy of your IDP, which will allow them to check that you are allowed to drive. They will also check the registration of the vehicle, to make sure that it hasn’t been stolen or involved in any other incidents. Remember to be courteous when speaking with officers, so it will prevent the situation from getting escalated, and give you the best chance of achieving an outcome that will suit you. Once they have checked your license, they will explain the situation to you, telling you why they pulled you over. Then, they will discuss what will happen next and what they expect you to do.

Comply with Any Requests

When discussing your situation, the officers may give you an alcohol or drug test. It’s best to complete these tests. If you refuse a check and don’t have a valid medical reason for doing so, you could be fined around $500. Depending on how severe the offense is, you might need to be taken back to the police station. If this is the case, you will need to go and sit in the back of the police car. In most cases, the police will have four hours to decide whether or not they are going to place you under arrest. Generally, though, they will issue either a fine or a warning, leaving you free to continue enjoying your holiday.

What Happens if You Get Arrested?

In the case of some serious offenses, you might find yourself facing legal proceedings, or even be placed under arrest, which can be a very nerve-racking experience. However, it would help if you stayed calm. If English isn’t your primary language, you can request a translator to help you understand police questions. Also, you don’t have to answer any police questions that you feel might incriminate you. This silence can’t be used against you in court and can’t be taken as an indication that you are concealing information.

Paying Fines

As we’ve seen, there are multiple reasons why you might get a fine in Australia. If this happens, you will have to know the right way to pay it, as any unpaid fines can often spore additional expenses. In most cases, you will have to pay the fine promptly, within 28 days of it being issued. Though there are a few ways you can pay for it, the most convenient method for tourists will be visiting an Australia Post store. These are relatively easy to locate, available in most cities and towns. There, you will be able to pay any amounts owing using either cash, credit, or debit card. If you can’t get into an Australia Post store, you will be able to take care of the fine online using BPay.

What Happens if You Leave the Country with Unpaid Fees?

Finally, receiving a fine in a foreign country can be a stressful experience. For this reason, some people may ignore the penalties. If it is a relatively minor offense, like low-range speeding, it is unlikely that an arrest warrant will be issued, meaning that you will be able to leave the country. While the government might be able to seize any money in Australian bank accounts, they don’t have any powers in a foreign country. However, if you decide to return to Australia for a future holiday, you might not be allowed to enter the country until these expenses have been paid. In addition, they will accrue interest and other charges over time. It’s strongly recommended that you deal with any fines as soon as possible to prevent these issues.

Get Your International Driver's Permit in 2 hours

An IDP is a legal requirement to drive or rent a car in several foreign countries. It is also a United Nations regulated travel document for your safety and ease of travel.

Experience the Beauty of Australia

Australia is known as one of the best tourist destinations in the world, offering a stunning natural beauty. From sandy beaches to cuddly Koalas, there is plenty to delight any tourist. Because of this, millions of tourists visit each year, contributing around $57.3 billion to the Australian economy. To make sure that you see everything this beautiful country has to offer, you will have to rent a car. So, use this information to drive safely and legally in Australia so that you can enjoy your holiday.

Don’t believe everything you see in the movies. Australian drivers might have a few bad habits, but aggression is definitely not one of them, so drive with a smile on your face and enjoy the open road.

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