wikiHow to Drive in Australia

Driving in Australia, like most other western nations, is relatively easy and straightforward. Traffic rules are uniform from state to state (with the exception of Melbourne's quaint - but crucial to observe - 'hook turns' and the acceptable levels of alcohol - these vary from .05 to .08 BAC). A trap for many tourists is that Australia, like New Zealand and the UK, drive on the left of the road. Hook turns will be dealt with in the tips section.


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    Driving on the LHS means that your steering wheel will be on the right of the car with the gears to your left.
    • The basic challenge for an unfamiliar driver will be that it is not left-hand turns which are problematic. Simply be in the left-hand lane, obey any traffic signals and a left-turn is easy.
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    Understand the speed limits in Australia. Speed limits vary between different types of roads and the areas that you are in. [1]
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    Be aware that red means red on traffic signals. You can never turn left on a red.
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    Australia has many 'roundabouts' - known as 'traffic circles' in some other nations. The rule here is simple. Approach, slow down, and look to your right. If you see a car, stop before entering the roundabout - that car is more than likely going to pass you (it's 2 of the 3 options). As you become more accustomed to LHS driving, you'll learn to look for the other car's indicator. If it's flashing a right hand turn, it won't be in your path and you are good to go on. But always slow down and remember that even the locals get very conservative on multiple lane roundabouts.
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    As for turning right, you must give way to all oncoming traffic at all times. At large intersections, a 'right turn arrow' may appear giving you right of way. At intersections without an arrow, it is permissible to creep into the middle (so long as you don't obstruct anyone ... just slowly move into a 'ready to turn' position). It's not uncommon to just 'sit' for up to a minute in this spot. A break in traffic will come, but you are also allowed to 'turn on the red' if you are already in the intersection. That is, as oncoming traffic (and the flow-through behind you) stops to observe the new red light, you can hurry on through with your right turn before the intersecting traffic begins to move.


  • Police in Australia do not overcharge fines so, if you can, pay on the spot. If they appear behind you, pull over and listen. There is no need to excessively grovel. Indeed, calling them "Sir" is likely to make them bristle at perceived false politeness. Be open and honest. If you have a case, plead it quickly and without anger. They will usually speak to you in a short but polite way. Do not regard breath tests as a personal attack. You'll be greeted with a standard "G'day, just a random breath-test" style of greeting. It's the typically Australian way of showing mutual equality/respect by not wasting your time with "sir"/"madam" or any particular standardized rant. They'll be keen to let you go on your way and will therefore speak with shortness. It's not rudeness in the Australian sense - it's respect. Rudeness would be to speak too much and too formally and waste your time.
  • Australians use their horn for three reasons, and probably in this order: (1) A genuinely friendly reminder (as in "the light's turned green, you can go now!"). This beep will be a short little double-toot in most cases (2) Frustration at your impoliteness. This may be because you changed lanes too quickly or have just been really incompetent. You'll get a fair dose of the horn and, in the rear mirror, you'll see hands waving about. Usually you'll realise that you've just done something so dumb (like not going on green) that the driver behind you feels compelled to point it out (3) Most rarely, if you're changing lanes and hear a long horn, get back in the lane you are in. Someone behind you is actually scared for their life about the consequences of you going through with the move.
  • Note that the speed limit is in kph. States apply different limits, but roads are clearly marked. Speed limits are strictly enforced by unmarked cars with speed cameras (see flashing of lights later).
  • Americans may find this surprising, but the flashing of lights in Australia is central to the driving experience. Either way, don't be outraged. They're telling you something politely. Here's why:
    • (1) If an oncoming car (more usually cars) flash lights, they're warning you that the police have a speed camera in the area and they've spotted it. It's up to you, I guess, whether you return the favour once you've passed and spotted the parked car with the camera.
    • (2) If a car behind you flashes its lights, it means confusion. Either you're driving a little loosely and they're 'waking you up', or they think you're going so slow that you really should get out of their way. Usually the later. But either way they're just saying "Hey, there are other people on the road here. Keep on the job!"


  • Driving in the eastern seaboard is easy in terms of finding fuel. If driving in the west, once you're out of suburbia you should buy petrol whenever you see it. Keep that tank topped up.
  • Also be cautious with speeds in Australia. Speed limits are strictly enforced, so be sure to stick to the speed limit in all suburbia areas and towns.
  • There are a lot of red light cameras in Australia so be sure to stop at a red light.

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Categories: Australia | Driving Basics