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Tips for Driving in Australia

By: Tracy Whitelaw - Updated: 30 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Tips For Driving In Australia

If you’re planning to drive in Australia, it’s highly unlikely you’ll be doing so in your own car – that’s a very long way to take your car! More often than not, in a large country like Australia, people go there on holiday and plan to travel around to see some of the scenery. It’s a beautiful place to explore with large roads and lots of space, but there are some essential tips to consider before you hop in the car and get going.

Your UK Driving Licence in Australia

If you travel to Australia, you won’t need to change your licence or obtain an International Driving Licence if you have a full UK licence. As long as the licence is in English, you will be able to drive throughout Australia as a tourist with no foreseeable issues. If you licence is not in English, you should have a translation with you and you should also consider obtaining an International Drivers Licence.

Left Hand Drive

Many people from the UK adapt extremely easily to driving in Australia because it’s also a left hand side drive country. This means that just as you would in the UK, you should stay on the left hand side of the road and only use the right hand side for overtaking or turning. Many large motorways in Australia (or highways as they’re often called) have a high number of traffic, but generally less than you’d see on some of the major roads in the UK.

One aspect of the driving you may notice is that often people will sit in the outside lanes when they’re not overtaking. Sitting in the outside lanes unless overtaking is illegal, but still, many individuals sit out there and drive at a relatively slow speed. This then leaves you having to undertake on the left hand side – a practice that is dangerous. Always be careful before you consider this kind of manoeuvre. It is common to see in Australia, but that doesn’t mean it’s right.

General Driving Rules in Australia

Always remember that kilometres are used in Australia instead of miles, so learn to adjust your speed accordingly and know the local speed limits. They’re not overly different from the UK, so it shouldn’t be noticeable that you’re driving slightly slower. The general speed limits are:

  • Urban Areas – 50 km/h
  • Country Areas – 100 km/h
  • Major Roads – 110 km/h or 100 km/h dependent on State

As in the UK, Australian law enforcers don’t take kindly to speeding and you can lose your licence, be fined, imprisoned or receive penalty points. Similarly, there is a low tolerance for alcohol intake when driving and there are random breath tests regularly carried out on many roads. There will also be random drug tests carried out soon, so never be tempted to take anything that can impair your driving.

If you’re driving in Australia, there are often long stretches of road between towns so always ensure that you’re taking regular breaks to beat fatigue. There are plenty of rest areas and lots of large billboards reminding you to take a break every two hours.

General Tips for Driving in Australia

There are some essential tips for driving in Australia that all visitors should be aware of.

  • Traffic lights have a different sequence to the UK – red for stop, green for go, amber for prepare to stop. There is no red and amber simultaneously
  • Signal for all lane changes – it’s expected
  • Watch out for animals. There really are kangaroos and other creatures straying onto the roads at night
  • Don’t flash your lights to signal someone to go. It’s not common practice in Australia like it is in the UK and will just confuse people
  • Don’t be offended if people don’t give you a customary thank you wave if you let them out. It’s often not practiced in Australia
  • Don’t use your horn unnecessarily
  • If you’re driving in Melbourne, familiarise yourself with the hook turn – where you turn right from the furthest left lane. It can be difficult to master on a busy street so is best to be avoided unless you’re extremely confident
  • Learn parking signs and transit lane signs. A P2 parking sign means you can park for two hours and a T3 sign on a motorway or major road is a transit lane that can only be entered if you have 3 people or more in the car.

Generally driving in Australia is very easy for most people from the UK. It’s a similar system and the road signs will look familiar to you. Being able to drive on the left hand side also makes it easier to adapt and before long you’ll be driving like a true Aussie.

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