Driving in Australia can be slightly different and have different rules compared to other countries. For a start Australia drive on the left, while many countries drive on the right. To help you with driving in Australia for the first time, we cover everything you need to know about Driving in Australia with these helpful tips.
Driving in Australia – Tips for first timers
Hiring or purchasing your own vehicle has some great advantages. Driving in Australia allows you to get out of the major cities and allows you to visit some of the incredible national parks, secret beaches, ghost towns, the outback and more.
We would recommend purchasing a vehicle if you intend to spend more than three months in Australia. If you’re on a shorter trip, then the cheapest method is to hire a vehicle. If you do decide to drive, then you may need an international driver permit, that can be obtained from your home countries automobile association.
Driving in Australia is very similar to driving in the UK. They drive on the same side of the road; seatbelts are compulsory in all states and there are speed limits to adhere too. Police will stop you and could give you a fine if caught speeding or without a seatbelt.
Always make sure you travel clockwise around a roundabout and give way to your right. If you are already on the roundabout, you will have priority over vehicles looking to enter. Drivers approaching the roundabout must stop to give way.
Tips on driving in Australia
We have provided some tips on what you should and shouldn’t do while driving in Australia:
- Avoid driving when tired – driving when tired is dangerous. Not only could you injure or kill yourself but you could injure or kill your passengers, an innocent road user or pedestrian.
- Don’t drink alcohol or take drugs before driving – again this is dangerous not only for you, but for your passengers, innocent road users, or pedestrians. It’s also illegal. If caught, you could receive a fine, or imprisonment. You really don’t want that to happen while on holiday.
- If you are hiring a vehicle, or leasing a vehicle, check the terms and conditions – always read the terms and conditions! You really don’t want to sign up for something and find out that you can’t cancel it, or at the end of the agreement there’s a hefty price to pay.
- You must carry your driving licence and your international driver permit – if you are hiring a vehicle, you must be over the age of 21.
- Make sure you have valid car insurance in place – The minimum requirement to drive in Australia is third party only. Third party will only cover you for the damage to other vehicles as a result of a collision. The damage to your vehicle won’t be covered. You could consider purchasing comprehensive cover, that will cover for most eventualities as a result of a road collision, or fire and theft. Comprehensive cover is often more expensive, so consider what is financially beneficial.
- Documentation – Ensure you have with you, your insurance documentation, driving licence and international driver permit. This maybe requested by the third party if you are involved in an accident, or the police may ask to see your documents.
- Always make sure you have enough drinking water – Drinking water is so important not only for the car, but for you. We would recommend having a good supply of drinking water with you, and make sure the water is refilled regularly. You will need to have enough water with you in the event of an emergency. If you are in the outback, it could take hours if not days before you are found, so water is so important.
- Make sure you have enough fuel – Make sure you have planned your trip in advance, this includes where the local petrol stations are, and how far your vehicle will go before needing to refill. If needed, always make sure you top the vehicle up with petrol at the next petrol station. You could store some extra, filled petrol cans, that’s stored safely in your vehicle should you run out.
- Always tell a family member or a friend your travel plans – regularly check in with your family member or friend and make sure they know your travel plans. If they don’t hear from you, they can raise the alarm.
- Take a map – with most modern technology these days have GPS or satellite navigation system map to help you get from one destination to another. But what happens if there wasn’t any signal? So, a map is required to navigate such areas where there is no signal.
- If you do breakdown stay with the vehicle – if you happen to breakdown, the safest place to be will be with your vehicle. Not only will it provide shade, but all your supplies will be with your vehicle. Your vehicle will also be visible for rescuers to locate you.
- The best place to hire a vehicle if you’re on a budget is via the major operators such as Hertz, Budget, Avis – It tends to be much cheaper hiring a vehicle from the large cities, hiring a vehicle outside the cities often are more expensive due to the lack of competition.
- Purchasing a vehicle while travelling can be inexpensive – you can easily pick up a good vehicle at a reasonable price, and with relative ease to sell when you come to leaving. I did just that when I lived in Australia for ten months.
- Make sure you carry some spare tyres with you – you can pick up cheap car tyres from the local supermarket, which you might need on your all-Australian road trip. If a tyre bursts or you have a flat, the spare tyres will come to your aid. Just make sure you know how to change a tyre.
- Tow rope could come in handy if you breakdown – it saves you calling out a breakdown company to tow you, when you could just be towed to the local garage for repairs.
- You could always do with jump leads – if you run a flat battery being prepared, could be the saver to get you back up and running.
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Checks to carry out on the vehicle
Before any trip, you must make some important checks about your travel and vehicle. We would recommend doing this a few days before your trip. Doing this will help to identify any problems with the vehicle before you leave and get these resolved. While travelling, especially on long distances, always check the vehicle and your travel plans ahead of you. Here are some tips on what you should be making checks on.
- Before starting any journey, you must check the weather conditions, along with the road conditions ahead – in some areas in Australia, after a storm a road or area can become impassable. For your own safety you must ensure you check the road conditions before travelling. You really don’t want to get stuck, because you didn’t check
- Always check the road and weather conditions as you travel – this leads us onto this next point, you must always check the weather conditions and road conditions while you travel. For your own safety, you don’t want to get stuck in a storm which can be dangerous. If the conditions are going to be bad ahead of you, then put the driving off for a couple of days.
- Make sure you check your radiator, engine oil, tyre pressure, and window washer fluid before any trip – by checking this, you can top up if it is required. If you do this a couple of days before your trip, you could identify any problems with the vehicle, that you can rectify before you travel.
- Always make regular checks of your vehicle – while travelling, always check your radiator, engine oil, tyre pressure, and window washer fluid, and top this up as and when required. If you don’t regularly check your vehicle and top it up, you could risk breaking down in the middle of nowhere, with no one in sight for hours, if not days.
- Make sure all your lights and indicators are working prior and during your trip – you can easily buy additional bulbs to replace ones that stop working while you travel.
- If you are purchasing a second-hand vehicle, you must make a thorough inspection of the vehicle especially for rust – rust can dramatically change a scratch to a hole within a matter of weeks in the northern tropics of Australia. Also look out for poor repair work.
- You’ll also want to check the gearbox, clutch and brakes for operation, and for any unusual noises, vibrations and leaks before purchasing a second-hand vehicle – If you purchase a car that has problems, you could be looking at a hefty bill that could eat through your budget, make sure you purchase a reliable vehicle.
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There are various vehicles you could purchase or hire. A car is a great idea for a road trip around Australia, if you intend to stay in different towns and villages as you travel, while 4WD are great for all types of road conditions. If you are on a budget, and want to travel a little differently, then hiring or buying a camper van or motor home is one way of doing it. Not only will it save you on staying in a hotel, B&B, hostel, for a night, but you could sleep under the stars every night.
I hope these tips on driving in Australia have helped you with your new adventure as you drive around Australia, be that on a short holiday, or an extended break.
Have you driven in Australia? Did you purchase or hire a vehicle? Are there any tips or advice you could give that we may have missed off this list? We would love to hear from you, just leave a comment below.