Australia Driving Guide
Australia is a unique beautiful country. Explore all of it by driving when you get your International Driving Permit.
Australia, the Land Down Under, is the world’s smallest continent and the world’s largest island. It is almost as large as the United States, but its population is about the same size as that of New York state. Most Aussies live within an hour’s drive (about fifty kilometers) of the coast, where most of the country’s cities are located.
If you want to explore the island without wasting most of your time on public transport, renting a car would be ideal. However, you need to take note that Australia drives on the left side of the road on two-way roads. Moreover, Australian driving without a license for tourists, as a driving rule, is strictly prohibited. More so, you also need an International Driving Permit (IDP) if you are driving in Australia solo along with your driver’s license.
How Can This Guide Help Me?
If you are planning a trip to Australia soon, this guide will give some essential travel information. This includes the rules regarding driving licenses, the different traffic rules, driving etiquette, road conditions that you can expect to experience, top destinations, and a plethora of activities that you can do in the country.
Australia lies in the Southern Hemisphere, just south of Southeast Asia, dividing the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. The Commonwealth of Australia is the only country that occupies an entire continent. Its capital is Canberra. Due to its size, Australia has various landscapes – tropical rainforests, mountain ranges, and deserts in the middle. The country comprises the continental mainland, plus the island of Tasmania and other smaller islands.
Australia has no official language, but the majority of Aussies speak English. Apart from English, the other dominant language spoken at home is Mandarin. Emerging languages include Punjabi, Filipino, and Arabic. The country’s most multicultural city, Sydney, has about 30% of its population that does not speak English at home.
Australian English differs slightly from other English varieties in grammar and spelling; it is a major variety of the language, spoken with a distinctive accent and lexicon. Indigenous Australian languages are said to have numbered around 250 at the time of the first European contact. Fewer than twenty are still in daily use among all age groups. “General Australian” English is the standard dialect of the country today.
The Land Down Under has a total land area of 7,686, 850 square kilometers, or 2,967,892 square miles. Australia is the sixth-largest country in the whole world by total land area. The island continent itself has about 34,218 kilometers (21,262 miles) of coastlines. Most of Australia experiences four seasons, while the tropical north experiences wet and dry seasons.
Summer is from December to March (average temperature is 29°C), autumn is from March to May, winter runs from June to August (average temperature is 13°C), while spring is from September to November. The northern part of Australia has a tropical climate – hot and humid in the summer, quite warm and dry in the winter. The south meanwhile has mild summers and cool and sometimes rainy winters.
The earliest explorers who opened Australia to the western world were the Portuguese. During that time, the country was unofficially known as Terra Australis Incognita (Unkown Southern Land). Later on, other powerhouse explorers, including the Spanish, Dutch, and British, developed an interest in the economic potential of Australia. The first British settlement was established in New South Wales during the late 18th century, and this started the British conquest of Australia. It wasn’t until October 1942 that Australia gained autonomy from Great Britain through the Statute of Westminster Adoption Act.
Australia’s population number 25,466,459 (July 2020 estimate). Ethnic groups are broken down as follows: English (36.1%), Australian (33.5%),Irish (11.0%), Scottish (9.3%), Chinese (5.6%), Italian (4.6%), German (4.5%), Indian (2.8%), Indigenous (2.8%), Greek (1.8%), Dutch (1.6%), Filipino (1.4%), Vietnamese (1.4%), Lebanese (1%), includes Australian aboriginal (.5%), unspecified 5.4% (2011 est.) Australians of European descent make up approximately 76% of the total population.
The government is a federal parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarchy. Its constitution is one of the world’s oldest. Power is divided between the federal and state, and territorial governments.
The federal government has three branches:
This is Federal Executive Council, composed of the Prime Minister (Scott Morrison, since 2018) and other ministers of state-appointed by the governor-general on Parliament’s advice.
A bicameral Parliament, composed of the monarch (Queen Elizabeth II, represented by the governor-general), the Senate, and the House of Representatives;
This composes of the High Court of Australia and other federal courts. Judges are appointed by the governor-general on the advice of Parliament.
In 2019, there were 9.4 million international visitors to Australia accord, contributing AUD$60.8 billion (3.1% of the GDP). Tourism also employs around 666,000 people. One of the world’s top tourist destinations, Australia is unmatched when it comes to the sheer variety of incredible places to visit.
It has amazing wildlife, plenty of natural wonders, dazzling beaches, cosmopolitan cities, and of course the awe-inspiring Outback. Australia is a complete travel destination. It can match every taste, budget, age, or interest; it delivers unique experiences you won’t find anywhere else. Sightseeing, land and aquatic adventures – you name it, Australia has it.
International Driver’s Permit (IDP) FAQs
Back in 1949, the United Nations Convention on Road Traffic established the International Driving Permit or IDP. This is to give motorists the right to drive vehicles in foreign countries. Also, language barriers typically create a confusing situation between drivers and law enforcement officers; for this reason, the IDP is translated into different languages.
Planning a trip to Australia should include getting in a car and driving around – it’s the only way to experience its wide-open spaces and stunning natural scenery. It would be a good idea to prepare for less-than-ideal situations that may occur on the roads when driving on your travels.
A traveler could get stopped by local police for a traffic violation, or you could get involved in a traffic accident. Having an international driver’s permit would be helpful in situations like these. It would be prudent to make sure your driver’s license is valid, and if you need an international driver’s permit. Here are a few FAQs regarding the use of an IDP in Australia.
Can I Use My Driver’s License in Australia?
Yes, if your license is in English. But if your driver’s license isn’t in English, you should get an International Driving Permit in your home country before leaving. However, if your driver’s license doesn’t have your photo, you should take your passport with you or any other formal identification. You can use your English-language driver’s license if:
You can use your English-language driver’s license if:
- You remain a visitor
- Your overseas license remains current
- You have not been disqualified from driving
- You have not had your license suspended or canceled or your visiting driver privileges withdrawn
Since Australia is a member of the Commonwealth, another common question we get is whether it’s possible to drive in Australia with a UK License. Driving in Australia with a UK License is valid. However, its validity depends on how long you will remain as a temporary overseas visitor. Your UK License will only be invalid once its validity period is expired. So, whether you carry an International Driver’s Permit for Australia with you and your UK License has expired, you cannot drive in Australia at all.
Remember that an IDP only serves as a translation of your original license to allow the holder to drive a private motor vehicle in any country or jurisdiction that recognizes the document. It is a legal requirement to enable you to drive in other countries. Don’t forget, your IDP is not valid if you don’t have your original driver’s license with you.
Who Can Apply For an IDP?
A traveler who intends to make road trips needs an international driver’s permit. In Australia, you need an IDP if your original driver’s license is not in English. Car rental companies require travelers without an English-language driver’s license to have an IDP. To be valid, the IDP must be accompanied by a valid driver’s license issued in the applicant's country of origin.
Holders of valid driver’s licenses and are at least 18 years old can apply for an IDP. If you have a provisional driver’s license, it’s best to get to secure a valid license first. Remember, an IDP is proof that you are a holder of a valid driver’s license from your country of origin. Go to the International Driver’s Association (IDA) application page, fill out the forms, and apply for an IDP online.
Typically, an applicant for an IDP needs the following:
- Be at least 18 years of age
- Have two passport photos
- A valid government-issued driver’s license
How Long Is the IDP Valid?
An IDP is valid for up to three years. You can, however, choose an option in your application whether you want an IDP with a one-year, two-year, or three-year validity. By law, an IDP’s validity is up to three years only. However, the validity of an IDP cannot exceed the validity of your original driver’s license. In Australia, you should check each state’s (or territory’s) laws and driving regulations as they may vary from Australian states international. If you frequently go abroad, it’s best to get a three-year IDP. Otherwise, if the trip you will be taking is a one-off and you would not be going abroad for the next three years, a one-year IDP is more practical.
For native driving licenses, driving licenses that are in English are valid for use in Australia for three months. If you intend to stay for more than three months, you will need to apply for a driver’s license in the state you intend to drive. Australian licenses are issued by the respective state and territory governments. There are countries that can just convert their driver’s licenses to an Australian license. These include:
- Isle of Man
- South Korea
- New Zealand
- United Kingdom
All other foreign license holders are required to take a theory and practical test before they can be issued an Australian license.
Renting A Car in Australia
Driving in Australia is an experience to be savored. There are so many must-see destinations that can only be experienced by car. So, before setting off on your grand Australian road trip, make sure you are well-prepared for this experience of a lifetime. Planning on renting a car in Australia? You should be aware of a few requirements – the car rental process in Australia might be different from the ones you are familiar with. Here is a guide prepared for you to help you learn the basics of renting a car in Australia.
Car Rental Companies
There are many great car rental companies to choose from in Australia. You can book in advance online or show up in person and collect your vehicle from the airport or other pick-up locations. A lot of car rental companies have pick-up locations in major cities or towns. You can hire car or motor vehicles from any of these major car rental companies:
You should know, however, that renting a car at airports in Australia is more expensive than renting it elsewhere.
Tip: some smaller rental companies will pick you up from the airport and take you to their nearby office to fill in the paperwork. Look for these smaller companies first, before checking out the big boys. It might save you a pretty penny.
If you plan to hire a car in the Outback, though, it might be difficult to avoid them – unless you’re in Darwin, Broome, or Alice Springs. There are local companies there that can accommodate you. If you don’t have a choice, you can still avoid that airport surcharge by hiring at the company’s office in a town, or nearby resort. Just not at the airport.
The most important documents when renting a car in Australia are your driver’s license and credit card. The credit card will have to be in the renter’s name and to cover the bond. Debit cards with MasterCard or Visa logo are also accepted. Go over the terms and conditions of the car rental company carefully regarding their policy for using debit cards.
There are also a few things to remember regarding your license: it has to be printed in English, otherwise, you need to have an international driver’s permit, presented together with your original driver’s license. A driver’s license without a photo would also mean that you’d have to have an IDP when renting a car. Most companies also require that your license has been registered to you for a minimum of one year.
Provisional licenses are not accepted. Additional drivers will also need to present their licenses or IDPs. Have your passport ready, too. Check the terms and conditions of your rental carefully.
In summary, here are the documents you will need:
- Driver’s license
- International driver’s permit (if required)
- Credit card
You can rent all types of vehicles in Australia. From family cars to standard sedans to vans and trucks. Just make sure your driver’s license has the proper class qualifications. Ultimately, it depends on where you want to go. For example, rental companies would forbid you from driving on unsealed – or unpaved – roads if you hired a standard sedan or a station wagon. No exceptions. So if you’re planning on a more adventurous trip in the Outback, rent a vehicle with four-wheel drive.
Even then, those big rental companies will balk about letting you drive on unsealed roads. You’d have to get written permission from the company itself, as well as pay a much higher insurance premium. Those small, locally-owned car rental companies will come in handy if you want to save money as they will be cheaper. There are a few things to consider, though, when using these types of companies.
- They have a smaller fleet of cars to choose from.
- You need to book in advance—no last-minute bookings.
- No one-way rentals – return the rental in the same place you got it.
- Offices may be open for shorter hours.
For family trips on a leisurely drive through one of Australia’s metropolises or on a few scenic trips on sealed roads, a family car would do nicely. There are, however, car rental companies that offer a camping package where you can hire a robust 4WD to take you through the Outback. These tour packages have a majority of vehicles for hire fully equipped for camping for up to four people, through routes that would take you to some of the most memorable locations in the Outback.
Car Rental Cost
The cost of renting a car in Australia depends on several factors: the time of year, the supplier from which you have hired the car, the type of vehicle, the location. Renting a car in airports may incur an extra daily surcharge. However, many of these car rental companies offer a discount if you’re renting for a longer period – the longer you need the vehicle, the cheaper the rate.
Hiring a car in Australia can cost anywhere from AUD$30 to over $100, depending on the car and other extras, like:
- A one-way fee. This would apply if you pick your car up in one location and drop it off in another. Find more details in your rental product disclosure statement (PDS) or the terms and conditions.
- Mileage excess. Companies would charge you extra for any kilometers over the limit. Usually, the limit is around 100 to 200 kilometers daily. You can see the rates for excess mileage in the agreement you have signed.
- Fuel fee. Rental companies would prefer it if you fill up on fuel before returning the car. Otherwise, they’d charge you as much as double the price of the cost of filling up. So fill the car up before you return it.
- Late charges. Make sure to return your car on time, because if you’re late for a day or even for just a few hours, you’d be charged with a hefty fee.
- Insurance. This is a major factor. Like regular car insurance, it’s based on your age, type of car, destination, etc.
- Baby car seats. Some companies allow you to rent a baby car seat for a nominal fee per day.
- Toll fee. If you are running through toll roads, rental agencies could allow you to pre-purchase a toll and a transponder. The rates are usually the same as the regular tolls. Opting out of this option may cause the rental agency to charge you extra if you did go through some toll roads.
Most car rental companies in Australia require renters to be over 21. Also, drivers under 25 may need to pay a daily underage surcharge. There are also car rental companies that need a medical certificate for drivers of rental cars over 75.
Car Insurance Cost
If you rent a car in Australia, you’ll have to pay for car rental insurance. Car insurance is mandatory for both car owners and renters. The cost of car insurance in Australia depends on your age, the Australian state you are renting in, and the type of vehicle you are renting. The younger you are, the more expensive your car insurance will be. Moreover, since you are just renting, you’re only going to have to pay for insurance on a daily basis.
Car Insurance Policy
A standalone car rental insurance called excess cover is readily available for your vehicle. This will cover you against damage to your car and other vehicles, property, etc. Keep in mind that every policy is different, so check the terms of insurance before signing. Excess cover is purchased to reduce the amount that you pay in case you need to make a claim. Inquire more about the policies with the rental company.
It can be tempting to skip buying insurance altogether, especially if you are on a budget. But think of it this way: your trip might cost a lot more than you bargained for in case of an accident. Especially if you are at fault – you would need to pay for the full cost of damage to the rental and any other vehicles and property involved. Besides, having insurance can give you peace of mind during your vacation.
Road Rules in Australia
Before getting behind the wheel, you should familiarize yourself with the traffic rules in Australia. Traffic rules in Australia could vary from state to state. There's one thing you have to remember, though: Australians drive on the left side of the road. Other rules and recommendations for driving in Australia are as follows:
All of Australia’s road rules and regulations are guided by the Road Traffic Act. If you get caught violating any of these rules, you will be facing corresponding penalties like fines, imprisonment, or having your driving license confiscated.
Driving under the influence in Australia beyond the blood alcohol limit is prohibited. If your blood alcohol level is over 0.5%, you are considered breaking this Australian driving rule about Driving Under the Influence. The penalties for drunk-driving varies per state. Maximum fines can reach over AUD3,000 depending on the level of violation. So before you decide not to drink moderately, make sure that you sober up before going on the road.
Seat belts are required in the driver’s and front outboard seating positions from 1 July 167 under the Road Traffic Act and Regulations. Seat belts for front seating positions became mandatory on 1 January 1969 and for all seating positions on 1 January 1971.
Safety levels provided by driver's seat belts should not be reduced; neither should they be replaced by belts of a lesser design rule standard. A person must not sell a seatbelt, or part of a seatbelt, for use in an automobile that has been previously installed in another automobile. Seatbelts are compulsory, not a choice. Modern automobiles are fitted with seatbelts for all seats, and they must be used. Drivers are held liable if their passengers are not wearing seatbelts. Seatbelts are worn by one person at a time.
Drivers, including passengers 16 years old or older caught not wearing seatbelts when a rental vehicle is moving are penalized. A child inside a car is also the driver’s responsibility to make sure that he or she is properly restrained, even for short trips. Consult the Child Car Restraint Calculator of the Road Safety Commission to find more information.
There are two (2) official styles of parking in Australia: Angle Parking and Parallel Parking. For angle parking, the degree of angle to which you should park will depend on the road markings. Some spaces require a 90o parking position, while other spaces (especially those unmarked) allow a 45o parking angle.
On the other hand, parallel parking is usually what is observed when you park on roadsides. If you need to park parallel, you should park your vehicle in such a way that it faces the same direction as the traffic. Some roads have properly marked parking bays, but if there are no road markings, make sure to allow a one (1) meter distance between the vehicle behind you and in front of you. For more parking-related laws in Australia, you can search for the Driver’s Handbook online.
Vehicle standards in Australia are guided by the Australian Design Rules under the Motor Vehicle Standards Act of 1989. This covers vehicle performance standards, occupant protections, lighting, exhaust emissions, structure, noise, brakes, and all other car parts relevant to passenger and other road users’ safety. The design rules also vary per type of vehicle. If you want to be meticulous with the car you are renting, you can refer to the design rules for the M-Category Passenger Vehicles before you finalize your rental.
The typical speed limit in Australia ranges from 10 kilometers per hour to 110 kilometers per hour. Speed limits are strictly enforced especially around peak holiday and travel periods like Christmas and Easter celebrations. In the Northern Territory, four highways have 130 kilometers per hour (81 mph) zones.
All residential zones have a speed limit of 50 kilometers per hour unless signed otherwise. If you are unsure, maintain a speed of 50 km/h. Suburbs and areas outside of towns have a speed limit of 60 km/h or higher. School zones have a 40 km/h limit during school hours. This speed limit is indicated in signposts.
Australia has an impressive road network design. To support its purpose in regulating traffic, your cooperation in observing the directional statutes is crucial. Here are some of the rules.
- Slow lane. If you are driving on a two-lane or more road, slower-moving vehicles are required to stay in the left-most lane. Right lanes are used for passing.
- U-turns. It is illegal to make a U-turn at an intersection unless there is a sign posted permitting it. It is, however, permitted in Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory.
- Left on red. It is illegal to make a left turn at a red light unless there is a sign expressly permitting it.
Traffic Road Signs in Australia?
Driving in Australia isn’t that daunting. However, understanding the road signs and traffic lights before heading out with your newly-hired car is highly recommended. While most road signs in Australia use internationally adopted signage, like driwarning signs and speed limits, there are specific Australian road signs that you really must know about. After all, you wouldn’t see a sign for “kangaroo crossing” anywhere else in the world.
If you’re heading out of cities and especially in the Outback, knowing these road signs could mean the difference between life and death. Signs that you should look out for include, beside kangaroo crossing, koalas crossing, wombats crossing, and other warnings regarding animals and livestock that wander into Australia’s highways.
What Are the Rules Regarding Right of Way in Australia?
Knowing who has the right of way in every driving situation can be tricky even for experienced drivers. A substantial percentage of road accidents that occur in Australia are a result of drivers failing to give way.
- Roundabouts – Drivers give way to all vehicles already on the roundabout, not just those to the right of them. If two drivers arrive at the same time, the car to the right goes first.
- Turning right – At a crossroad with no sign, you must give way to traffic traveling in the opposite direction when they are traveling straight and also turning left.
- T-intersection – Driving on a road that ends in a T-intersection, you must give way to all vehicles traveling on the road going through the intersection (except for those doing a U-turn).
- U-turns – Give way to all vehicles and pedestrians before giving way, even if they are facing a give way or stop sign.
- Intersections with Stop and Give Way Signs – At an intersection with both a stop and give way sign, drivers arriving at the intersection must give way to all vehicles on the road before giving way to each other. You must give way to vehicles turning right across your path if you are facing a give way sign.
- Buses – You must give way to a bus, when the speed limit is 70 km per hour or less, that has a give way sign on its back. This includes when a bus is re-entering traffic from a bus stop or the side of the road.
- Parked position – Cars from a parking position must give way to all other moving traffic; the driver must signal an intention to merge or enter for a minimum of five seconds.
- Leaving and entering road – Driver must give way to all cyclists and pedestrians on the footpaths or road, as well as all vehicles on the road.
- Trucks – When giving way to larger vehicles, ensure that they have enough room because these types of vehicles need more space on the road; also maintain a respectful distance at all times.
What Is the Legal Driving Age in Australia?
In Australia, the minimum driving age varies between states and territories. Learners at 15 years and 9 months can drive in the Australian Capital Territory but under the supervision of a fully licensed driver. In the Northern Territory and other states, learners have to be 16.
In Victoria, unsupervised driving for learners is 18 years; in the Northern Territory, 16 years and 6 months, and 17 years in the ACT and all other states. Drivers continue to be subject to restrictions during a probationary period after getting a license. The probationary period in the ACT, New South Wales, and South Australia is three years; in Victoria, it’s four years.
What Are Australia’s Rules on Overtaking?
If you must overtake, proceed with extreme caution. Make sure you have a clear view of oncoming traffic. Use your indicator to signal your intentions to other drivers. Do not exceed the speed limit.
Overtaking on the left is permitted when:
- you are driving on a multi-lane road;
- directed by a person of authority;
- the vehicle on the right is stationary and it is safe to do so;
- a vehicle is signaling that it is turning right or about to make a U-turn.
Overtaking on the right is permitted when:
- You are both traveling in the same direction and you are not crossing a continuous white line.
Overtaking on the right is not permitted:
- At an intersection;
- At a railway, pedestrian, or children’s crossing;
- If there is no overtaking sign;
- If there are single or double continuous center lines;
- If you do not have a clear view of approaching traffic.
When overtaking a cyclist, you must leave a distance of at least a meter if you are traveling at 60km or less; at higher speed, at least 1.5 meters. On the other hand, if you are being overtaken, keep left. Do not increase your speed, and let the other vehicle overtake you.
Another thing that you have to remember also is that Australians drive on the left side of the road. This means that Australian cars have right-sided driver’s seats, so if you are used to left-hand drives, you better get used to driving from the right side. Remember that the oncoming traffic will be coming on the side of your right shoulder.
Other Road Rules
Australia also has road trains which are some of the longest, largest, and widest trucks in the world – they weigh up to 200 tons and can be as long as 53.5 meters (175.5 feet), pulling two or more trailers. If you happen upon these trains, you’ll inevitably want to overtake them.
How to Overtake Australia Road Trains?
Take great care when overtaking these behemoths. You would require at least a kilometer’s worth of open road to overtake one of these. Take your time, stay back at least several car lengths.
When it is safe to pass, indicate your intention, move over to the centerline, and overtake. Although it is not compulsory, having a CB radio is extremely useful in these situations. Road train drivers have CB radios on their cabs, and they are only too willing to communicate with you regarding road safety and to advise you on whether you have a clear lane for overtaking.
Never overtake a road train on a curve or a hill where visibility is limited, even if the truck is moving slowly. Be patient. And if you are towing a caravan, forget overtaking a road train. Wait for an overtaking lane, where you are sure it is safe to do so.
Driving penalties in Australia with regards to overtaking:
- Failing to overtake at a safe distance - 4 demerit points and $400 fine.
- Overtaking at a railway/pedestrian/children's crossing - 4 demerit points and $400 fine.
- Overtaking on a continuous white line - 3 demerit points and $200 fine.
Are There License Rules When Driving in Australia?
Yes. Driving without a license in Australia is a serious crime. In fact, this driving rule does not apply only in Australia but globally. Each driver, whether an international visitor or a citizen, needs to bring their driver’s license with them. A driver’s license is a valid document that proves one’s driving knowledge. Driving without a license in Australia will be charged with fines up to $38,000 and jail terms of up to two years.
Are Driving Shoes Necessary in Australia?
Driving with shoes or any footwear in Australia isn’t strictly implemented unlike other countries. However, it is recommended that you wear footwear as it enables you full control over the pedal. Driving barefoot is somehow uncomfortable to most drivers that’s why it’s highly recommended.
Driving Etiquette in Australia
Aside from the driving rules, you also need to know the driving etiquette when driving in Australia. It’s important to know what to do when your car breaks down or a police officer stops you. Here are some tips you should know.
Cars break down all the time on highways and freeways. But it can be stressful and potentially dangerous. If you find yourself in this situation, try to keep calm and don’t panic.
Follow these steps:
- Find a safe place to pull over, preferably off the road or in the emergency lane. Keep off the median strip, and park as far left as possible. Maximize the space between your car and the traffic.
- Then turn on your hazard lights. Parking lights are also a good idea if it is dark or visibility is poor. If it’s safe, exit your car from the side away from the traffic. Check for the traffic first and close the car behind you. If you think it is not safe to get out of your car, stay inside with your seatbelt on.
- Be sure to stand clear of the road. Do not try to cross the road. If there is one, stand behind the safety barrier. Call for a roadside assistance provider or a tow company on your phone. Try to face the traffic when making a call, in case you need to move to avoid an oncoming vehicle.
Remember, patience is a virtue. Help may take longer to arrive, but it is better to just wait for it.
If a police car pulls you over, what you should do is quickly and safely pull over to the right and come to a complete stop in a safe place. Stopping as soon as you can means you have a chance to figure out where and how you violated any traffic laws. Use your turn signal to indicate any lane changes from left side of the road to the right, and slow down before gradually coming to a stop. Turn off your engine. Roll down your window all the way.
In general, a police officer who stops you for a traffic violation is not allowed to search your vehicle. They’d look for anything in plain view – like an open beer or wine bottles. The discovery of one incriminating item may lead to a thorough search. If you are arrested, and your car is towed, the police may usually make an “inventory search” afterward.
Things to remember:
- You don’t need to answer any questions, nor provide any personal information, other than your name and address. It’s a judgment call however as to whether you want to aggravate the situation by not answering simple and non-incriminating questions, especially if you think you are innocent. You are also required by law to hand over your driver’s license. If your violation is minor, accept the ticket and pay the fine.
- The police usually just ask for your license to check on your name and vehicle to ensure that there are no outstanding court or enforcement orders against you. If there isn’t, they will hand you your license back and then you can go on your merry way.
The Aussies are laid back, friendly people, so there is no problem asking for directions, as long as you are polite about it. There isn’t any particular way to address strangers, either. However, if you need an opener for conversation, you could always start with, “Excuse me…”. Keep in mind that Aussies aren’t big on formalities. “Sir” and “Ma’am” are not always used. Don’t worry, Aussies are willing to help a stranger in need.
Unlike some war-torn countries, Australian police checkpoints are mostly for the purpose of immigration, DUI regulation (sobriety checkpoints), and medical emergencies. If you come across a checkpoint, the authorities will most likely request for your driving license and ask about some details relevant to the checkpoint’s purpose. If the authorities don’t tell you about the purpose, you can ask about it politely.
Aside from the common situations that could happen when driving in Australia, you should also know a few unwritten rules that could help you avoid trouble with the authorities. Read below to know these rules.
What Are Other Australian Etiquette I Need to Follow?
Frustration on the road can cause accidents. Whether it's tailgating or inconsiderate parking, frustration on the road has caused motorists to have an accident. Follow these simple Aussie etiquette rules for your peace of mind.
- Let others know you’re changing lanes, pulling into a parking space, or turning into a driveway. “Use your blinker, mate!”
- Being nice doesn’t cost a thing, so don’t be stingy. Give thanks to fellow drivers. A smile and a nod go a long way
- Don’t be a tailgater. Nobody likes being tailgated. It’s dangerous
- Dim your high beam. You wouldn’t want to blind the driver of the other car.
- When merging, give way where necessary
- Be careful, be precise, and give other cars their space when parking
- Stay in the left lane, unless you’re overtaking
- Lay off that horn unless necessary
- Don’t use your phone while driving
- Don’t drink and drive
What Are the Other Rules I Need to Know?
Do not do these things when driving in Australia! You all know the basics: use your seatbelt, stop at red traffic lights, avoid speeding, don’t drink and drive, don’t use phones while driving - but there are a few rules that are not so obvious.
Below is a list of these rules that might get the police to notice you if you inadvertently break them.
- Apple cores and banana peels might be biodegradable, but you can be fined for littering if you throw them out the car window. The crime of “dropping injurious matter on a road” in Queensland will cost you $533 and two demerit points. (In Australia, if you get 13 demerit points within three years, your license will be suspended.)
- Improper use of horn. Honking at the car who cut you off, or even just to say goodbye to family is illegal in New South Wales, Australia. It turns out that officially, you are only allowed to use your horn as a warning to other road users (including animals) of your approach.
- If you are more than three meters away from your car, your windows need to be up with a gap of no greater than 5cm. In Queensland, people have been fined for not winding up their windows.
- Do not be one of those people who quickly dash out of their car to get coffee or pick up a takeaway and leave the car running with the key still in the ignition. In NSW, leaving the key in the ignition will cost you $114.
- Of course, it’s a no-no when it comes to using your phone while driving, but do you know that it’s also illegal to use them at a drive-through? The law is applicable even if you are stationary at a drive-through. To avoid trouble, switch your engine off and use the handbrake before using your phone. Depending on which state you’re in, the resulting fine could cost you up to $534 and up to five demerit points.
- Children must be seated in proper child seats, and animals should be seated or restrained in an appropriate area of the vehicle. They should not be on your lap. Having people and animals on your lap is illegal. The RSPCA can also issue fines under The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. And if the animal is injured, the owner could face up to six months in jail and fines of up to $5,500.
- Registration plates on your car need to be visible at all times. Check your light before setting off at night. Otherwise, the police will do it for you. Also, there shouldn’t be anything on your vehicle that would cover your plates, like a bike rack.
- In Australia, it is illegal not to give way to hard-to-control horses or a horse that refuses to move. If a rider raises a hand and points to his or her horse, you must steer the car as far to the left as possible. Turn off your engine, and wait until the horse is far enough so you wouldn’t startle it.
- It is illegal in Australia to leave your fog lights on. Fog lights, both front and rear, should only be used in rain or fog, or when your vision is impaired by smoke or dust. They need to be turned once you could see clearly.
- Do not drive with an unregistered trailer. If you drive with one, you would get fined for as much as $686.
- Speeding up while being overtaken. Unfortunately, this behavior is common and is rightfully illegal. Doing this in Victoria could result in a fine of $330 and two demerit points, while in NSW, the fine is $344 and two demerit points.
- Some people find splashing the pedestrians funny, but in Australia, this is illegal - but only if you splash people with water or mud who are waiting at a bus stop. So avoid those puddles. It could cost you a $187 fine. Of course, this could also mean that it’s okay to splash people who are not at the bus stop.
Driving Situations and Conditions
Australia is a large country with a highly urbanized population. Many of its citizens of around 24 million are clustered along the coast. Generally, travel between cities means driving long distances in Australia in miles. Consequently, the nation’s road network varies greatly in type, surface, and the provision of services along the way.
Most car accidents are the result of a momentary lapse in judgment or attention due to being distracted or simply being tired. If you plan to drive long distances, make sure you are well-rested and well-provisioned. Rest and stretch your legs every 200 kilometers. It’s also best if you share the driving load with a companion. And drive safely!
Since 1970, the driving deaths per year in Australia have been steadily decreasing, from 3,798 in 1970 to 1,195 in 2019. This decrease is attributed to stricter road safety laws, measures put in place by transportation authorities, and safer driving standards in Australia.
Per year in Australia, driving deaths have steadily dropped by 60% since the 3 decades. The largest reductions were in passenger-related fatalities. In 2019, Australia had an average of road fatalities of 4.6, down from 1987, which had 17. The global average of road fatalities is 18.2 deaths per 100,000; deaths from driving statistics for Australia, with 4.6 average road fatalities in 2019, is number 161 globally.
In 2016, the top four causes of fatal car accidents in Australia were speeding, alcohol consumption, driver fatigue, and inattention or distraction while driving. All of which are preventable.
Hands down the most popular vehicles in Australia, and has been for several years, is the pickup. This is a vehicle that is a car – with a comfortable, close cabin – that offers the practicality and utility of a truck. Aussies call them “utes,” short for “utility” or “coupè utility.”
Utes are versatile. Farmers and workers use them, as well as people who love camping. They can use utes as a car and because of its tray/bed, they can use it to haul goods, too. The top two Australian cars in the bestselling cars list in Australia for 2020 are both utes, followed by a compact SUV.
With over 900,000 thousand kilometers of roads, roads in Australia can vary from sealed (paved) road surface to gravel and unsealed roads. In the major cities, roads are wide and generally kept in good condition. You’d encounter road congestion in urban areas, though. Sydney is the most congested city, but Melbourne isn’t that far behind.
If you are traveling on unsealed roads, four-wheel drives are de rigueur. Beware of hazards, though, like potholes, soft road edges, and changing road conditions. Remember to keep to the speed limit and do not disregard road closure signs.
Unfortunately, Australian drivers do not have the best reputation in the world. Yes, there are places where drivers are demonstrably worse, but then again, there are a lot of better places, too.
When it comes to which place in Australia makes the most insurance claims for road accidents, New South Wales is the top, followed by Victoria, then Queensland, and the Northern Territories. Figures for accidents per 1000 vehicles show that statistically at least, South Australians are the most crash-prone in the country (8 claims per 1000). followed by Victoria, NSW, Queensland, Western Australia, the Northern Territories, and finally the Australian Capital Territory (ACT).
Australia’s weather conditions can be extreme; some parts of the country may be affected by floods, while others are experiencing bushfires or cyclones. Plan your trip well in advance and check for weather conditions. Rains can trigger floods and cause rivers to overflow and may wash out parts of the road, especially in the Outback. If confronted by flooded roads, do not attempt to cross, as floodwaters have strong currents. Contact the local State Emergency Service (SES) or cell phone 000 if you are in an emergency.
Is Wildlife A Problem on Australian Roads?
Driving in rural areas and the Outback presents a special kind of problem: the presence of wildlife and livestock on the roads and highways. Kangaroos, wombats, koalas, emus, camels, and even livestock like cattle graze on the road. Roads are unfenced, and usually, animals would wander on them.
You should always travel at a safe speed, so if an animal suddenly appears in front of you, you can reduce your speed further. Do not however attempt to swerve your car or you can roll off the road and make everything worse – for you and the animal.
Things to Do in Australia
Australia is considered as a first-world country. This means that the economy is stable, the social services are efficient, the quality of education is excellent, there are ample opportunities for the workforce, etc. If you visit Australia even just as a tourist, you will already have a sense of the quality of living Australia has. If you are considering to stay in the country for a long time, here are some things that we recommend for you to do.
Drive as a Tourist
If you came to Australia with a tourist visa, you can do all the touristy things – rent a car and visit those incredible places that you have heard so much about, like go snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef, visit Uluru, gawk at Sydney Opera House, go for a drive in the Outback to catch a glimpse of kangaroos hopping around, maybe go to the Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve.
Work as a Driver
After enjoying all the touristy stuff, you might want to extend your stay. Applying for a job might help in extending your stay. Since Australia is a very big country, transportation is very crucial for its economy. The demand for drivers in Australia is high, especially for long-distance travel. The courier industry alone is constantly having vacancies and this isn’t the only sector in need of drivers. You can work as a personal driver, as a tourist driver, as a corporate driver, a government worker, a school bus driver, a bus driver, a taxi driver, and many more. If you want to pursue working in the country as a driver, make sure that you comply with all the legal requirements, such as getting a work permit.
Work as a Travel Guide
Travel guides are also in demand in Australia. Australia has an endless count of tourist destinations, and the number of tourists that visit the country doesn’t really die down. Tourists visit Australia year-round, and if it isn’t peak season for a particular area, you can always go to another state. If you are fond of meeting new people and traveling, working as a travel guide will be a very fulfilling experience.
Apply for Residency
There are three (3) general types of permanent resident visas in Australia: Family-stream, Work-stream, and Business or Investor-stream. Each type of permanent resident visa has its own requirements, and you can request an updated list at the Australian Embassy nearest you or navigate to the website of the Australian Immigration Department. With regards to the qualifications:
- Dependents or immediate-family members of Australian citizens
- Adopted children of an Australian citizen
- Caregivers who need to move to the country to provide long-term care for an approved relative
- Skilled worker
- New Zealand Citizen, holding a Subclass 444 Visa, and who has stayed in Australia for the last five (5) years
- Holders of Subclass 489, 495, 496, 475, 487 Visa
- Individuals who have garnered a national reputation in their field of work and who have been nominated by an Australian citizen, permanent resident, or organization.
- Business-owners who are nominated by an eligible government organization before applying
- Individuals who have held a designated investment in Australia for four (4) years
- Individuals who have held a designated investment of AUD1.5 million for four (4) years
- Holders of provisional subclass 162 visa
Other Things To Do
Australia is considered as a first-world country. This means that the economy is stable, the social services are efficient, the quality of education is excellent, there are ample opportunities for the workforce, etc. If you visit Australia even just as a tourist, you will already have a sense of the quality of living Australia has. If you are considering to stay in the country for a long time, here are some things that we recommend for you to do.
Can I Work in Australia While Holding A Tourist Visa?
Not with a tourist Visa you can’t. You can extend your stay by applying for another visitor’s visa, but if you want to convert that into a working visa, you’re out of luck. A tourist visa can’t be converted, you can only extend it – except for a certain class of visa. An eVisitor (subclass 651) visa cannot be extended. However, if you can meet the requirements for the Working Holiday Maker Visa Program, applying for a working holiday visa is going to be a smooth process.
What is the Working Holiday Maker Visa Program?
Under this program (Working Holiday Maker) young people (18 to 30) from certain countries may apply for one of two visas: Working Holiday (subclass 417) or Work and Holiday (subclass 462). Both visas allow young people to travel and work in Australia.
This is a better choice for qualified applicants – to first come on a visitor’s visa, and if they find a job, they can apply for a working holiday visa. Not many people meet the criteria for WHV eligibility, though. For many, skilled migration or employer-sponsored visas are the way to go. Check Australia’s immigration website for an in-depth explanation.
The Top Road Trip Destinations in Australia
There are a few places on Earth more challenging and more spectacular than Australia when it comes to road trips. Due to its size and its diverse ecosystem, having a car to explore every nook and cranny is the only way to explore the sheer magnificence of the Land Down Under.
But before you hit the road, make sure you have your driver’s license and International Driving Permit from the International Drivers Association with you. Also, discuss with the car rental company to advise you on the appropriate vehicle to use.
The Great Ocean Road
The most iconic Australian road trip, the Great Ocean Road begins about 90 minutes from Melbourne in Torquay and extends 243 kilometers (151 miles) along the coast to Allansford. Along the Great Ocean Road, you’ll see the Twelve Apostles’ infamous limestone stacks.
The nearest international airport to the Great Ocean Road is Melbourne International Airport. It is about 214km from the airport, and the fastest route will take about 2.5 hours or less by private car. From the Melbourne International Airport:
- Exit the airport via Airport Drive.
- At the roundabout, take the 2nd exit onto the Western Ring Rd ramp.
- Drive south along Western Ring Rd.
- Keep right and merge onto Princes Fwy/M1.
- Take the exit towards Pt. Wilson.
- Turn right onto Beach Road.
- Merge back onto M1 via the ramp to Great Ocean Road.
- Continue onto A1.
- Stay on A1 and turn left onto C154/Queen St.
- Turn right onto Harris Rd.
- Turn left onto C155.
- Stay on C155 until you get to Great Ocean Road (B100).
Things To Do
The Great Ocean Road was built by soldiers during World War I. Two hundred forty-three kilometers of road is more than enough to traverse through plenty of tourist spots. Apart from the scenic drive, you can stop by multiple areas near the road to amp up your road trip.
1. Tour the Great Otway National Park
The Great Otway National Park extends to the Otways hinterland, which is part of the indigenous cultural landscape. You can surf, learn about the historic Cape Otway Lightstation, do the Otway Treetop Walk.
2. Explore Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve
Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve is home to a lot of keystone species. Walk around the reserve and spot Kangaroos, Emus, Swans, and more interesting wildlife. After the reserve, you can transfer to Port Campbell National Park and hike down to Loch Ard Gorge.
3. Spot the Mighty Whales at Warrnambool
Warnambool is a commercial district at the western end of the road. This is a popular jump-off point for SCUBA diving activities and a popular spot to see giant mammals. If you want to see the whales, visit Logan’s Beach between June to September and wait for the whales at the viewing platforms.
Grand Pacific Drive
Kicking off 45 minutes from Sydney’s Central Business District, the Grand Pacific Drive is a 140-kilometer (87 miles) highway that connects the Royal National Park to the Shoalhaven Region. The Sea Cliff Bridge, the road trip’s most iconic landmark, hugs the coast like a snake for 665 meters (2,200 feet).
The nearest airports to Red Center Way are the Ayers Rock Domestic Airport and the Alice Springs Domestic Airport. If you drive directly from Ayer Rock Airport, it will take you about 4.5 hours or less.
- From Ayer’s Rock Airport, turn left towards Lasseter Hwy.
- Turn left onto Stuart Hwy/A87.
- Stuart Hwy will take you directly towards Alice Springs.
Things To Do
The Red Center Way gives you access to some of Australia’s greatest natural attractions. Alice Springs alone is the indigenous art capital of Australia, so you’ll already see plenty of stuff at the starting point. As mentioned, it would take about five (5) days to complete the Red Center Way loop, so expect to camp out under the stars (or on an RV).
1. See the Uluru
Also known as Ayers Rock, the Uluru is a large sandstone rock that measures 3.33km2. If you’d walk around the rock, it would take about 3.5 hours, or depending on how fast you can complete 10.5km. The Uluru is surrounded by miles and miles of flat plains, so it is very apparent. You can camp out nearby and experience the golden sunrise hit the rock.
2. Visit Kings Canyon
Kings Canyon is located within Watarrka National Park that is home to the Luritja Aboriginal people. The best activities to do at Kings Canyon are to see the sunrise, dine under the stars, take a helicopter ride to see the entire canyon, or hike to the canyon cliffs.
3. Explore the Macdonnell Ranges
One of the favored sections of the Macdonnell Mountain Range is the West Macdonnell National Park. This park is located west of Alice Springs, and it is an essential refuge for various species of flora and fauna. This park is also where you can find relics of an ancient tropical forest and a variety of breathtaking gorges.
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