Driving in Australia can give you the freedom to go where you want to go, stay longer (or shorter if the place you’re in sucks!), and is exhilarating!
I mean, there’s lots of roads here.
Thousands upon thousands of kilometres of sealed highways linking all four corners of the continent and (almost!) everything in between.
So get out and explore Australia! Use the advice we’ve written below to stay safe and know what to expect.
Drivers’ Licences in Australia
First and foremost, even before you get here, it’s a good idea to get an International Driving licence or permit for whatever vehicle type you plan to drive.
Although you can drive for 3 months in Australia on your existing national driver’s licence, after 3 months, you’ll need to get an International or Australian Driver’s licence.
This page has links to the Australian state and territory authorities which can issue Australian (and international) drivers’ licences.
Driving in Australia: Go Left!
If you come from the US or another country where you drive on the right-hand side of the road, forget that whilst you’re in Australia.
All driving in Australia is done on the left-hand side – so you’ll have to get your head around this from the start.
I don’t want to scare you, but one thing that happens from time to time is that, when people panic, they go the wrong side of the road and cause accidents. Don’t laugh – I’ve seen it happen!
Remember if you want to get off the road – pull to the left.
This isn’t to discourage you driving when you visit the outback. In fact, because outback highways are long and straight, and have far fewer vehicles on them than Australia’s major cities, they’re PERFECT for people from countries who drive on the right hand side of the road to learn on.
Thousands of European tourists come to the outback every year and experience just how easy our main highways are to drive own.
So don’t be deterred. Give it go!
Visitors to Australia are often surprised at just how far it is between places once you get away from towns or cities.
For example if you decide to drive from Adelaide to Alice Springs it is 1500 km and stops in between can be anywhere from around 150 km to 280 km apart.
In the Outback, the biggest killer of tourists on the roads is single vehicle roll overs – all caused by drivers who spend too long at the wheel and then fall asleep.
Plan your stops along the way no matter where you are travelling, as there are some great destinations between towns.
If you are going to travel outback Australia then here are a few of my tips worth noting:
Gary’s Tips for Safe Driving
- Take plenty of rest stops and avoid fatigue. If you have a second driver use them
- Wear your seat belt! By law, you must wear a seatbelt in Australia. Don’t end up a statistic like so many overseas drivers
- Be aware of animals on or near the road. Don’t panic, just slow down and avoid swerving at high speed. Many visitors have done this and have ended up rolling their car resulting in life threatening injuries or worse still, death
- Drive to the conditions of the road. Many of our outback roads are not sealed, can be very corrugated or just downright rough. Slow down!
- Take notice of signs on the sides of the road. Some provide very important information like 4WD only or next fuel is ‘x’ distance away. Signs are there for a reason, so consider yourself warned
- It is good practice to drive in 4WD on dirt roads especially if you have not had a lot of experience driving on dirt roads
- Road Trains are BIG. Be warned! In Australia, Road Trains are up to 55 metres long. You will need to make sure you have lots of room if you’re overtaking
Another point that is really important about driving in Australia is to know where you are going. Make sure you have the right maps and information to show the way.
Do not rely on GPS directions as most of these do not depict the real situation outside of regional and other built up areas.
Last but not least, please heed any other local advice you are given – and if you are not sure about something, or some place then just ask. Locals or other travellers will happily provide you with the right information.
This vehicle is about 55 metres long. You will need around 500 metres of clear space to be able to overtake one of these monsters.
If you’re looking for information about buying a car in Australia this page will tell you everything you need to know.