Travelling Across Australia for Newbie’s
Whether you are already in country or you are planning to visit in the near future, there are a few things you should know about driving in Australia before you hit the road and start to explore your new home. Having gone through the process myself, I thought that it would be a nice idea to put together a list of points to bear in mind for those who are thinking of following in my footsteps, or my tyre tracks to be more accurate!
- The laws concerning driving differ from state to state; something that visitors from countries such as the UK may find a little confusing. However, many of the same laws apply across the country so it is not too difficult to stay out of trouble as long as you stay sensible when you are behind the wheel.
Some states require drivers with an overseas licence to carry an International Driving Permit as well as their original licence, whereas others require an official translation of licences in foreign languages rather than just an IDP. If you are worried about inadvertently transgressing any of the motoring laws, you can check them online before you visit a particular state. It doesn’t hurt to have a hard copy of the laws either.
- Australia uses the metric system for distances on road signs. Visitors from the UK and USA who are used to seeing distances stated in miles will need to bear this in mind when driving across the country. Otherwise, the already vast distances that exist between major cities could look positively scary! 1 mile equals 1.6 kilometres so if you are reasonably good at mental arithmetic, you will not find it too difficult to convert the figures you see from kilometres to miles.
If doing sums in your head is not your thing, take a pocket calculator along with you or use the one on your mobile phone. It’s ideal to make your computations before you set off so you won’t have to make a lot of stopovers to convert figures.
- The vastness of the country cannot be overstated. If you are planning a trip from NSW to WA for example, you must bear in mind that the distance between the capital cities of these two states is almost 4,000 kilometres (2,500 miles) and it would take you nearly two days to complete the journey even if you were able to drive non-stop. After driving over such a great distance, you are more than likely to want to fly back rather than repeat the journey in reverse. For this reason, if you are looking at deals for campervan hire in Perth or Sydney, you should make sure that there is no extra charge for one-way trips. Companies with a nationwide network of depots in all major cities are usually happy to offer such terms to their customers.
- Australians drive on the left. This is handy for people from the UK but not so much for visitors from the rest of Europe and the USA. If you are arriving from a country where you drive on the right, you should give yourself time to acclimatise before you attempt any long distance trips.
It is not too difficult to get used to tackling right and left turns in the opposite manner to which you are accustomed but roundabouts can be something of a challenge for many people and the fact that the gear shift is on the other side of the car will take some getting used to if you drive a vehicle with manual transmission. Hire cars with automatic gearboxes are a little more expensive but can make the transition less painful.
- Speed limits vary from state to state. In the same way that the laws of the road vary to a certain extent, so do the default speed limits on roads with no signposts. Outside of metropolitan areas, the speed limit is 100km/h if you are in Victoria whereas in the Northern Territory it is as high as 130km/h if you are travelling on a major highway. You must always be aware of these differences.
Adjusting to driving in Australia is not as hard as you might think, especially if you are from a country that drives on the same side of the road, i.e. the left. However, it is a good idea to spend some time on quiet roads when you first get behind the wheel, until you start to feel more confident. In this way, you can avoid getting into road mishaps on your trip.
Author Bio: A company that started offering vehicle rentals in 1986, Travel Car Centre is one of the biggest providers of campervan hire in Perth and other regions in Australia. Their website features information about their available vehicles.