Driving Down Under: What You Need to Know

Man Driving Australian Car
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While cars operate in a similar way all over the world, the differences between travelling on the right and left side of the road can really throw a driver off. To add more confusion into the mix, driving a car from a right-handed driver’s seat when you’re used to driving from the left seat in the car takes even more getting used to.

Foreign travellers who would like to drive in Australia need to consider these conventions before they even get in the vehicle.

Here’s a few things to be aware of before you grab those keys and get going!

First Rule: Drive on the Left Side of the Road

Sticking to the left side of the road can make the world seem like it’s flipped upside down when you’re used to driving on the right. In places like the United States, vehicles are operated from the right side of the road, so for those travelling from these kinds of countries, it’s especially important to remember which way the traffic is flowing before driving in Australia.

Other than understanding that Australian drivers always stick to the left side of the road, foreign drivers must remember to stay on that left side after they’ve turned left or right. Force of habit might provoke you to swing onto the right side, so it’s important to concentrate.

The only time an Australian driver may venture toward the right side of the road is when they’re safely travelling around parked cars in quiet side streets when there’s no oncoming traffic from the other side, or when they’re being guided to the right side in an official roadworks or police-led situation. Even in these circumstances, the driver must return to the left side as soon as they are able.

Right Side of the Car

Most Australian cars are fitted with right-sided driver’s seats, and this might be difficult for foreign drivers to get used to in addition to the reversed road position.

To help become accustomed to sitting on this side, remember that the oncoming traffic will be coming on the side of your right shoulder. Many Australian cars are now equipped with automatic transmission instead of stick shift gears, which should make things more simple and allow you to concentrate more efficiently.

What Else Is There to Think About?

Once you’ve processed the reversed positions, the act of driving in Australia is very similar to driving elsewhere. However, there are still a few things to consider before you get in the driver’s seat.

International travellers are permitted to drive in Australia with a foreign driver’s licence for up to three months, provided that the licence is in English. If a driver’s licence does not have a photo, drivers are required to carry another form of formal photo identification with them.

If a licence is in a foreign language, drivers are required to obtain an International Driver’s Permit. This is done in the home country before leaving for Australia. Those wishing to stay in Australia for longer than three months will need to apply for a state licence.

It is up to all drivers on Australian roads to familarise themselves with the road rules, which vary from state to state.

Edited and updated by Sarah Megginson.