When driving a car or campervan for the first time in a new country it can be a bit daunting. Not only may it be your first time driving a campervan, but maybe this is also your first time driving on the other side of the road. To help you feel prepared and at ease we’ve put together this article about driving in Australia: what you need to know. It’s worth remembering that Australia is a big country made up of six states and each state and territory has slightly different rules. This article isn’t going to be a full blown list of all the rules for each state (this post would go on forever!), but we’re gonna highlight some key points. We recommend doing some extra research before entering each state to make sure you’re up to scratch.
In Australia, you can drive on the licence from your home country, as long as it’s in English characters and its valid. In the Northern Territory, you are only permitted to drive on an international licence for a maximum period of three continuous months. You are only permitted to drive vehicles that your licence allows you to and if it is in a foreign language you must carry your foreign licence as well as a formal translation of your licence into English. We normally always recommend drivers get a certified international drivers licence from their home country, regardless of whether or not it is required by law. For all our vehicles, a regular car licence class is accepted, as opposed to a heavy vehicle.
Australians drive on the left-hand side of the road like they do in the UK and Japan. This means that they are also right-side drive vehicles. This is often the biggest challenge for international drivers and can take some getting used to. Make sure you keep to the left and drive clockwise around roundabouts, giving way to vehicles coming from your right. Typically, drivers will be very cautious in the first few days driving on the opposite side of the road of which they are used to, however, can become comfortable and drift to the wrong side after this. That’s why it’s constantly important to stay aware and take precautions to ensure this doesn’t happen – swap drivers, mentally remind yourself every time you get in the vehicle or have a friend remind you at random times.
The maximum speed limit for most Australian duel carriageways is 110km/h. Make sure you keep an eye out on the speed limit signs, especially when crossing into a new state as they can change. Most urban areas carry a 50km/h speed limit and keep an eye out for ‘school zones’ where a lesser (often 40km/h) speed limit is enforced during peak times that children are travelling to and from school. Remember that speed limits are enforced on all roads, even if there is no obvious signage. In the case where you can’t see any signage you need to abide by the default speed limit depending on whether it’s an urban or rural area. Speeding laws are heavily enforced across Australia, more so in Victoria where tolerance in certain areas is as low as 2km/h, meaning you can be fined for driving at 52km/h in a 50km/h zone.
It is the law in Australia for the driver and all passengers to wear a seatbelt. The driver is responsible for ensuring that their passengers are properly secured and if anyone over the age of 16 is caught not wearing a seat belt you will be fined. This law is strictly regulated in Australia and fines for not wearing a seatbelt are heavy!
It is illegal to drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol in Australia. The blood alcohol limit is 0.05 to 100ml of blood and police often carry out alcohol and drug tests. Do not attempt to calculate your blood alcohol content because there are too many factors to consider such as what alcohol you have been drinking and size and weight. The safest bet is to not drink any alcohol before you drive and don’t forget that you can still be over the limit the morning after drinking. We recommend not drinking at all if you are going to drive.
It is illegal to use a hand-held mobile phone in Australia whilst driving. This includes: talking, texting, taking photos and any other function on your phone. Even if you are in stationary traffic or at a red light you can face an on the spot fine. There are traffic cameras in Australia that have been implemented to target the use of drivers using mobile phones, so take extra care.
It’s common in Australia to drive long distances and these long stretches of road can be very monotonous. Make sure that you take lots of breaks and take turns driving if you are able to. Fill up on petrol when you can and in certain areas it can be recommended to take some extra fuel with you just in case. Stock up on water and snacks to keep you going, it is always a good idea to be prepared when travelling long distances, especially in the unfortunate case of a breakdown.
This isn’t an exhaustive list of what you need to know about driving in Australia, so make sure you do extra research before hitting the road. Read up on the meanings of different road signs, other driving rules such as giving way to pedestrians at crossing points, driving conditions such as avoiding dawn and dusk when there is a lot of wildlife on the roads and tolls which are common throughout the country. If you end up hiring or buying a car from Travellers Autobarn, our staff will provide information to make sure you’re prepared to hit the road. Anything you’re unsure of, make sure you ask questions…don’t be afraid, they don’t bite
For rental and sales quotes head over to www.travellers-autobarn.com.au
Whether you’re a first-time campervan traveller or a seasoned van lifer, check out our other handy Campervan Travel Tips before you start your Aussie adventure.