Be aware of road rules and regulations to ensure a smooth journey on the open roads of Australia.
In Australia, laws and driving regulations differ from state to state, with the minimum driving age 18 years in Victoria, 16 years and 6 months in the Northern Territory and 17 years in all other states plus the Australian Capital Territory.
Australia has strict laws about drinking alcohol and driving, with the legal limit set at 0.05 blood alcohol concentration (BAC). Learners and probationary licenceholders must have a 0.00 BAC. It is wise to make alternative transport arrangements when planning to drink alcohol.
It is also illegal to use a mobile phone for calls or text messages whilst driving unless connected to a hands-free system. A driver must be parked out of the line of traffic to use a mobile device. Fines may apply for holding a phone, including in your lap, whilst in control of a motor vehicle and all passengers must wear seatbelts at all times.
Travellers in Australia need a valid international driving licence. The driver’s licence should be carried at all times and if the licence is not issued in English, a certified translation should also be carried.
All Australian states and territories (except the Northern Territory) allow visitors to drive indefinitely on their overseas licence as long as it is current. If there is a change in visa/citizenship status or the overseas licence expires, the driver is required to take out an Australian issued driver licence. In the Northern Territory, a person is required to obtain a Northern Territory issued driver's licence after three months.
It is important to remember that visiting drivers can only drive vehicles which their overseas licence authorises them to drive and they must drive according to any conditions on their overseas licence.
Australians drive on the left side of two-way roads, with speed limits prominently signposted.
Always overtake to the right. Be sure enough of the road is visible to complete overtaking and move back to the left side of the road. Never overtake on corners, blind rises or on double white lines. When overtaking in wet weather, beware of wind and wheel spray causing a reduction in visibility. Allow plenty of space when pulling back in after passing a truck.
Campervans can be double the height and length of sedan vehicles. Keep an eye out for height indicator signs, awnings, overhanging tree branches and be careful when reversing near fixed objects. Drive no faster than the speed limit signs allow, and slower in rain or fog.
All traffic must proceed in a clockwise direction in a roundabout. A vehicle already on a roundabout has right of way over any vehicles entering.
Fuel is sold in litres and is available as diesel or unleaded petrol. Prices vary depending on the place, Australian public holidays and the holiday season in the larger cities. Always fill a car with the recommended petrol type to ensure optimum performance and reduce the risk of damage to the vehicle.
Check rental agreements to determine the appropriate amount of fuel to return a vehicle with in order to avoid unexpected charges. Petrol stations can be found in all major cities and towns, and located with rest facilities and food services along major roadways. It is recommended to fill up a vehicle before travelling between towns or cities to avoid running out of fuel.
For journeys to remote areas, jerry cans can be purchased and filled with petrol to ensure an adequate supply. Be familiar with rules and regulations for carrying fuel and never transport inside a vehicle where vapours can be breathed in.
Distances and travel times between cities, and petrol stations, can be significant, and it is important to understand these when planning itineraries for clients. Whilst the east coast of Australia is well populated, distances between towns can be greater than those expected in much of Europe, North America and Asia.
In remote areas such as the outback, it is possible to travel for 100s of kilometres or miles between settlements, without having contact with other people. Always ensure adequate supplies of fuel, water, food and emergency equipment are carried when visiting these areas. Be aware of mobile phone coverage and carry a satellite phone if travelling to low coverage areas.
Travellers should typically allow at least one hour per 100 kilometres or 62 miles (excluding breaks) on major highways, and more time on smaller roads. Always check with a route planning tool or check with locals before embarking on a journey to allow enough time in your itinerary.