Driving in Australia

by Brooke on July 20, 2010

by Brooke | July 20th, 2010  

Driving in Australia is of interest to about 90% of the world seeing how they like to operate their vehicle on the opposite side of the road, and from the opposite side of the car. The task of taking over a car down under seems daunting at first, but most find that it is just like riding a bike – you never forget. Also, the change from one side to the other is usually picked up quite quickly.

>> Check out other modes of Australia transportation

Can I drive in Australia?

Yes, you can drive in Australia if you hold a valid driver’s license from another country printed in English. Alternatively, you can hold an international driver’s permit, or get your license translated into an English copy. You can only drive the same class vehicle as you are approved for in your home country.

Got that covered? Learn more about car hire Australia.

Driving in Australia:

  • The passing lane is the right lane. If you are not passing anyone, be sure to stay in the left lane.
  • Seat belts are mandatory for all persons in the vehicle.
  • Australia uses a large amount of roundabouts in place of 4-way stops. The rule here is to let the people to the right go first. Signal and use the outside lane if planning to turn off the circle.
  • Mileage, limits and speedometers are all in kilometers. One kilometer is about 0.62 miles.
  • All major locations in Australia are spread apart. This means that getting there usually takes quite some time, so be sure to stop and rest every couple of hours.
  • Gas, or petrol as they call it, is sold in liters, not gallons, in Australia. You can get it from a service station, or “servo” in Aussie slang.
  • The equivalent of a right-turn on red, the left-turn on red in Australia, is only legal when there is a sign telling you so.

Driving in the Outback:

  • Never drive at dawn or dusk as this is the time the wildlife, such as kangaroos, wallabies and wombats, like to come to life. They’ll quickly jump in front of your car, and that is just not a good accident to have.
  • Make sure you have enough gas. The expanses between stops can be further than expected, and the last thing you want is to be stuck in the middle of nowhere with no way to get help for an empty tank.
  • Take water with you. Just like gas, you don’t want to run out, especially if traveling during the hotter parts of the year. If you’re stranded, it can simply save your life.
  • Check fluids and engine beforehand. A quick check-up can save so much hassle later on. Also, try to carry a few spare parts and a tire to account for any unexpected downfalls along the way.
  • Stop frequently! On main highways in the country, there are driver revivers where you can stop and grab a free tea or coffee. In the outback, however, the stopping is up to you, so make it at least once every 2 hours to keep from spacing out or falling asleep at the wheel.

Check out these in-depth driving survival tips for Australia.

Photo credit.


Melissa July 20, 2010 at 4:08 am

Great tips Brooke. Driving in Australia was a daunting task for me, and one I left to my host. It would have been helpful for someone to tell me that when you’re stopped to make a turn across traffic, that the traffic behind you goes around rather then waiting for you like we do in the US! Nothing worse then being stopped on a two lane road as cars are coming and going from both in front of you and behind!


Caz Makepeace July 20, 2010 at 3:21 pm

I am so looking forward to returning to roundabouts, just quietly. I hate all the unnecessary traffic stopping lights and four way signs over here in the States. However, I am going to really miss the right turn on red- although in Oz it should be left turn on red. That is the best rule ever! I’m going to find it’s absence in Oz intolerable- as equally so as no roundabouts over here.
Driving in Melbourne is the worst. They have some weird rules there, and you have to navigate around trams.


Phill Danze July 20, 2010 at 4:56 pm

Tip for Melbourne…on streets with trams, you turn right from the left hand lane (remember we drive on the left in Oz so turning right from the left hand lane will take some getting used to).
Sydney roads are busy but drivers are courteous, if you need to change lanes, indicate and get on with it. In Perth however, drivers are not so courteous and will speed up so you can’t get in front of them.


Brooke July 21, 2010 at 12:58 am

I have such wonderful blog commenters :) I find that weekends in Sydney are when all the bad drivers come out – perhaps because people aren’t at work? It’s crazy the difference!


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