Rules of the Road: What You Need to Know About Driving in Australia

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Always wanted to embark on a road trip around Australia? The barbecue-loving, G’day-saying, koala-cuddling nation is an awesome place to explore by car – whether you fancy doing a mini-tour of the Gold Coast or setting out on an epic expedition around the entire country!

We know that getting behind the wheel in an unfamiliar country can often be a little daunting. There’s no need to worry, though, as we’re here to set your mind at ease with some tips and tricks for a successful driving holiday in Oz!

As well as all the usual rules – we’re talking not using your mobile phone and remembering to wear your seatbelt – you’ll need to:

Stick to the left side of the road

Just like the UK, Aussies drive on the left-hand side of the road. If you’re visiting from elsewhere in the world like Europe or North America, this might take a little bit of adjusting – especially if you’re also not used to sitting on the right-hand side of the car!

Take your first car journey in Oz slow and steady. Note that if you want to overtake another vehicle, you should do so from the right. Cars cruising on the motorway should also remain in the left-hand lanes at all times unless you’re overtaking.

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Watch out for pesky toll roads around big cities

Picking up your rental car from one of Australia’s massive metropolises? Whether you’re only going to drive just beyond the city limits or you’re ditching the city completely for greener pastures, it’s likely that you’ll hit a toll road at some point during your journey.

Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane are all surrounded by motorways, bridges and tunnels with toll fees. They’re usually unavoidable (and by far the fastest way to get from A to B), so you’ll want to make sure your hire car is fitted with an electronic transponder. This is the go-to way to pay your toll fees.

Visiting Melbourne? Keep your eyes peeled for trams

We love Melbourne. It’s artsy, a haven for foodies and blessed with some truly lush beaches – basically Melbourne is an absolute corker of a city! But there’s one thing you really need to look out for. Yes we’re talking trams!

Melbourne’s tram system is pretty extensive and runs right alongside the roads, often cutting across them. Just make sure you’re aware of the tracks (and any locomotives that might be hurtling towards you!) and that you never drive on a tramline that’s got solid yellow lines either side of it. Also look out for tracks with dotted yellow lines – these mean you’re allowed to drive on them when there’s no trams coming.

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Clue yourself up on the drink driving rules

Hoping to deal with the intense Aussie summer heat by cracking open a cold one? That’s local lingo for beer! Well, remember you can only have 0.05% alcohol in your blood. That’s about the equivalent of two small beers if you’re an average sized man and one-to-two small drinks if you’re a woman.

Stick to the speed limits

Australian traffic cops won’t hesitate to issue you with a speeding ticket (even if you claim ignorance as a clueless visitor…) To make sure your bank balance doesn’t take a huge hit, stick to the speed limits, especially on motorways where there’s normally some sneaky speed cameras waiting to catch you out.

It’s always handy to take note of the standard speed limits before you travel. They are:

Speed limits can also vary in different states and cities, so pay attention when you’re driving and keep an eye out for traffic signs.

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Aussie Outback driving tips

Ready for a real intrepid Aussie adventure? The Australian Outback is the place to be. But it is the wilderness, which means it comes with its own set of road rules. You’ll want to:

Not all cars will be able to hack the intense heat and rougher roads of the Outback. When you’re choosing your rental car, make sure you make us aware of your plans so we can help you find the best possible vehicle for the job.

While you’ll spot plenty of places to refuel in the cities and towns, Australia’s rural regions are a little thin on the ground. You could drive for hours without seeing another vehicle or person, let alone a petrol station!

To avoid breaking down in the back of beyond, check the map for possible fuel stops before you begin any journey into the Aussie countryside – no matter whether it’s an inter-city route like the Great Ocean Road or a trip into the bush. Remember to refuel before you set off and NEVER let your petrol gauge go into the red.

When you’re travelling somewhere that’s as barren and vast as the outback, it’s worth being a little cautious. Don’t assume that breaking down will never happen to you. It could and this really isn’t the place to break down without supplies.

It’s super important to make sure you stock your car with plenty of fresh water and some food, plus extra fuel in case you run out in between service stations. Longer trips might make a satellite phone a good idea – the outback is notorious for its bad cellphone signal!

Thought that sign of a koala was cute? It’s not just there for your amusement (or as a great photo op for your Instagram). It actually means there’s wild koalas in the area and that you should keep your speed in check to avoid hitting any that might be hanging out in the road.

You’ll spot various wildlife warning signs across Australia and you should always take them seriously – the last thing you want is a kangaroo-shaped dent on the side of your rental car!


Aussie driving essentials:

To make sure your Aussie driving adventure goes without a hitch, always make sure you’ve got:

  1. A valid international driver’s license (a UK one is fine, too) – you’ll need to apply for a local license if you’re staying for longer than three months.
  2. Good car insurance (and extra cover if you’re travelling in the outback).
  3. Water, food and spare fuel in case you breakdown in a remote region.

Need some inspiration for where to go on your Australian driving holiday? Why not cruise on up to the Hunter Valley near Sydney for some tastings at a local vineyard or take a drive along the coast near Brisbane to visit some of its best surfing beaches?

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