Driving Safely in Australia

Driving Safely in Australia

If you are planning on travelling around Australia, the best way to do so is to drive.  Australia is much too large to make navigation via public transport a feasible option – it can be lengthy and costly – and there are many beautiful, unique and scenic roads to take you where you want to go.  If you are a visitor (i.e. travelling without a visa), you may drive for up to twelve months provided you have a current and valid driver’s license in your home country.  You may only drive the class of vehicle which you are licensed to drive.

If you do have a visa, you may only drive for three months on your international license in most states.  After three months, you will be required to obtain a local license.  The only exception to this is Victoria, where you may use your international license indefinitely if you have a temporary visa.  Depending on your country of origin, you may not be required to take a test, or may only be required to take a written test.  Regardless, you should probably brush up on the Australian road rules anyway.  You can find a copy of the road rules book online.
When applying for a local license, you will typically need to provide your international driver’s license, proof of your identity and proof of your local address (usually in the form of a utility bill or hard copy bank statement).  You will also need to pass an eyesight test.  The conditions differ from state to state, so visit your states motoring authority for more information.

You may find it easier to obtain an International Driving Permit before you arrive in the country.  An International Driving Permit (IDP) is a United Nations sanctioned document acknowledging your ability to drive in your home country.  It is valid in over one hundred and fifty different countries around the world, and lists your details in nine different languages.  You can use this all over the world.

You can obtain an International Driving Permit through your countries official automotive association or, in most cases, you can get the forms from your local post office.  An IDP by itself is not a valid license – you must also carry your driver’s license with you at all times.

There have been recent incidents of individuals selling counterfeit IDP’s to unsuspecting travellers online.  These are illegal and invalid, and you can get into a lot of trouble if you are caught with one.  Only obtain an International Driving Permit from a reputable source – typically, the internet is not a reputable source.
Australian’s drive on the left side of the road and give way to the right.  You might find it easier to place a little sticky note on your windscreen to remind you of these.  We also go clockwise around roundabouts.

The speed limit on open roads is 100 kilometres per hour and fifty kilometres per hour in built up, residential areas, unless otherwise marked.  The driver and all passengers are required by law to wear seatbelts at all times – if not, the driver and the person not wearing a seatbelt will be fined.  It is illegal to drive with a blood alcohol reading of more than 0.05% - this works out roughly to one standard drink per hour.  Otherwise, the same common sense rules of the road apply – although you may find that Australian drivers have a more leisurely attitude.

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