Australia – Driving Tips and Myths for Newcomers
Driving in Australia for the first time, or any new country for that matter, can be a daunting experience. To help, we have put together a few tips and myths for those visiting or moving to Australia, so that your first time behind the wheel is a smooth one.
• Driving on the Left. First things first; Australians drive on the left side of the road. Just think opposite! Drivers will drive on the left lane of any given road or highway, unless they are overtaking.
• Watch out for those Trams. Three cities operate trams in Australia; Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne in which there are the most. Trams always have right of way, make sure you slow right down when they stop to let passengers out. It’s easy to get the hang of!
• Speed Limits. In most States the maximum speed limit on freeways and major highways is 100km/h. City and suburban area limits generally range from 50 to 80 km/h. But don’t stress, you will be well aware of any changing speed limits on the road, signs are clearly visible. Speed detection cameras operate throughout Australia, along with traffic light cameras. Stick to the limits and you will be just fine.
• Safety Belts and Child Restraints. Make sure everyone in your vehicle is wearing a seat belt at all times. It’s important to note that you, as well as any passengers could be fined, should that passenger not wear a belt. For the littlies, child restraints must be used where they are too small to make use
of regular seat belts. Child capsules or booster seats are affordable and can be picked up at most department stores.
• Drink Driving. On to the more serious side of things; all Australian States enforce strict drink driving laws. Police are entitled to pull-over drivers on a random basis for breath tests. These operations are sometimes referred to as “Booze Buses”. In most states the legal limit is 0.05, but it’s best to try and avoid an alcohol reading all together.
• Converting your Foreign Licence. Anyone visiting Australia from overseas may drive here using a valid overseas driver’s licence so long as it covers the same vehicle class. If you have a valid car license in France for example, this will be valid in Australia too. If however, you are entering Australia on a permanent visa or as a permanent resident, you may drive on your current overseas licence for a maximum of three months from arriving in Australia. After which an Australian driver’s licence must be obtained, usually by completing a verbal test. Carry your licence with you at all times is essential too.
• There are lots of Kangaroos on the roads. If you are worried about knocking down a roo during your drive, don’t. In major cities you will very rarely encounter a kangaroo. They will only be found city zoos and reserves. Having said that, once you make your way into more rural areas, there is more opportunities to seeing Australian animals in the wild; whether it be kangaroos, koalas or even wombats. In fact, seeing a roo hop across a foot path is a magical Aussie experience to remember. Keep an eye out for road signs like this one:
• Australia is flat and brown. While yes, some of our landscape is brown and flat, Australia has arguably the best beaches and most stunning coastlines in the world, not to mention our beautiful tropical rainforests. These places can be visited all year round and are excellent places visit for a day drive or road trip.
• It’s easy to get lost. Although you might not think it, Australia’s vast open spaces are actually very safe. Of course, if you’ve decided to venture down some outback routes, special consideration and planning is needed. But if you stick to the major routes nothing can go wrong. Carrying a GPS always helps, or follow the signs and the instructions of locals, there will be no danger. Australians are always willing to help – ask someone for directions and they will assist you every time.
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