What You Need to Know about Driving in Australia

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Posted on 31st January 2018 – Driving


With wide expanses of wilderness, Australia is a fantastic country for a road trip. Ranging from highly urbanised areas on the coast to a desertic heart, the quality of the roads you will drive on varies greatly, as well as the frequency or very existence of services available en route. There can be great distances between towns offering fuel, water and food, so make sure you are well prepared for your trip.


Law and safety

  • Driving licences

As you would expect, you will need a valid driver's licence. If the driving licence of your home country is in English, you are allowed to drive with it for up to three months. After that period of time, you will need to get a licence from an Australian state.

If your licence isn’t in English, you will need to get an International Driving Permit from the relevant automobile association in your home country before coming to Australia.

You may need a special permit to be authorised through aboriginal communities and towns, mostly in Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory so make sure you check this out before setting off.

  • Driving under the influence

The blood alcohol limit is 0.05% throughout the country, with somes states applying a zero limit for learners and drivers with provisional licences. Driving under the influence of alcohol, or drugs, will result in a fine and a period of driving suspension.

  • Accidents

If you are involved in an accident, contact the police and emergency services if necessary. Leaving the scene of an accident is severely punished in Australia.

  • Speed limits

There are some variations from state to state, but the general speed limits are:

- 50km/h in urban areas and as low as 25km/h around schools at certain times of the day and in certain states. They will be clearly signposted.

- The speed limit outside urban areas also varies between states, from 100km/h in Victoria, Tasmania, New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia to 110km/h in Western Australia and the Northern Territory and 130km/h in the Northern Territory on highways.


Beyond towns

Driving conditions outside of major cities can be challenging, and even the main routes between state capitals are not always terribly good. Most Australian highways have two lanes without a central reservation and are sealed asphalt roads, not always in the best state.

Although only around a third of Australia's population lives outside cities, about 60% of fatal accidents happen on these roads, illustrating how careful you should be.

  • Gravel roads

You will often encounter unsealed gravel roads in the Outback. It is advisable to reduce your speed when you come across one so that you can control your vehicle, especially before a bend in the road to avoid skidding. As the surface of the road is essentially loose, you can easily lose traction too so don’t accelerate or brake suddenly or turn sharply.

Windscreen damage isn’t uncommon due to loose gravel and stones but driving more slowly will help.

If you are driving a rental vehicle, please note that you are usually not allowed to take your car on those roads and that you wouldn’t be covered in case of a breakdown. If you are taking your own vehicle, you may want to check with your insurance company at home whether your policy will cover you in case of damage on dirt roads.

  • Animal encounters

What makes Australia so special is the vast expanses of untouched nature. However, it is also home to wildlife that can cause serious accidents.

Dusk and dawn are times when you should be particularly alert as it is when animals come out. Likewise, the proximity of bodies of water such as rivers or reservoirs will attract animals so keep an eye out for them. At night, while using high beams will give you more visibility, it will also confuse wild animals which will then be more likely to panic and run straight into your path, the silly things! So as soon as you see one, dip your lights and, of course, slow down.

Some car rental companies will also impose a curfew on driving after sunset and collisions with animals can carry a higher excess.

Animal presence can also be indicated by tyre marks on the road where previous drivers have had to brake furiously or swerve to avoid wildlife, so if you see any, be even more cautious. Having said that, swerving suddenly can cause you to lose control and end up in a ditch -or down a cliff- so if it is your safety or that of the animal, choose yours. If you hit a kangaroo or another animal, contact the local rescue centres.

Be careful when approaching cattle grids in case they are bent, broken or there are deep potholes on the approach. You can damage tyres or break springs if you go too fast over them.


Be prepared for anything

Australia is big, very big, and there can be, literally, hundreds of kilometers between petrol stations so you must be prepared.

Visitors can underestimate the heat they are likely to encounter in the desert. With routine temperatures of 40 to 50o C during the day, it is advised to take between 10 to 15 liters of drinking water per person per day. On the other hand, temperatures plummet at night so you should also have blankets.

Don’t attempt to cross creeks or gullies without checking their depth and ensuring your vehicle can cope with it – vehicles can be washed away more easily than you think. Also, water crossing are often inhabited by crocodiles in the north, so think twice before having a swim!


If you are looking for a professional, experienced shipping company to export your car to Australia on your next holiday, contact McCullough on +64 09 309 1163 or request a free quote online. We have over 25 years in the business and countless satisfied customers!

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