Driving in Australia

If you’re used to driving in the UK – or any country that drives on the left – chances are you won’t have many problems driving in Australia. But like anywhere, it pays to know about the local rules and road signs before you get behind the wheel.

Key rules, regulations and things to know:

  • Drive on the left. And if you’ve got more than one lane to choose from, stick to the leftmost lane unless you’re overtaking. Make sure you park to the left, too, so that you’re not facing traffic.
  • Don’t drink and drive. Random breath testing is common and penalties for driving over the limit are harsh, so it’s best to avoid alcohol completely if you’re driving.
  • Be aware of changing speed limits. Many urban areas in Australia now impose limits of 50km (30 miles) per hour in residential areas, with lower limits of 25 to 40km per hour around schools and other areas at certain times of day. Signage should tell you what the limits are and when they apply.
  • Give way to the right at roundabouts and intersections. Exceptions apply if road signs or traffic lights tell you otherwise, or other drivers have been pulled up by a STOP or GIVE WAY sign when you haven’t.
  • Don’t beep your horn unless you’re warning other drivers of imminent danger.
  • Seat belts must be worn by the driver and all passengers at all times. And if you’re travelling with a baby or young child, make sure they’re travelling in an approved car or booster seat.
  • Speeds and distances on road signs appear in kilometres. Not miles.
  • Pedestrians at marked crossings have right of way. Driving over a pedestrian crossing if people are already on it or waiting to cross is illegal.
  • Check payment methods for toll roads in advance. Some Australian toll roads no longer accept cash payments. Instead, you’ll need an e-Tag (an encoded magnetic card) or a temporary e-Pass registration to pay. Ask your rental company for advice when you pick up your car, or check the links below to see how tolls apply to your planned routes.
  • If the centre line on your side of the road is yellow and unbroken, you can’t overtake. It’s illegal (and usually dangerous) to do so.
  • You must come to a complete stop at a STOP sign. If cars are coming, you must give way to them.
  • You don’t have to come to a complete stop at a GIVE WAY sign if the coast is clear. But you do have to slow down and check for oncoming traffic before you proceed.
  • A NO STANDING sign means exactly that. If you see this sign, you can stop briefly to let passengers in and out of your car, but that’s it.
  • NO STOPPING signs also mean exactly that. Exceptions apply only if you’re dealing with a medical emergency.
  • You can’t park where signs say LOADING ZONE, unless you’re collecting or picking up some kind of cargo. Large vehicles are generally free to do this without question, but you may be asked to explain yourself if you’re in a normal passenger car.
  • Watch out for wildlife. Wombats, koalas and kangaroos are just a few of the native and farm animals that are known to cross roadways throughout the country. Signage will generally indicate what you need to look out for where.
  • Rules and regulations can change by state. See the links below for specific information.

More information

The following websites are provided by the various Australian state governments, and feature comprehensive information about road rules, tolls and traffic conditions. Some are aimed more at learner drivers, while others (such as the NSW, Victorian and Queensland sites) have specific sections designed for tourists.

Roads and Traffic Authority, NSW

VicRoads (Victoria)

Queensland Transport: Driving with a foreign licence

Road Safety (South Australia)

Tasmanian Road Rules

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Excess charges in Australia are among the highest in the world. Protect yourself by organising your excess cover before you pick up your car.

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