Australia is a land of wide-open spaces and incredible scenery – even the cities are pretty spacious. And that’s why driving is the ultimate way for international students to take advantage of all the beautiful sights and secret, out-of-the-way places the country has to offer.
However, there are a few quirks (as well as some pretty strict rules) that might make driving in Aus a little different from driving in your home country.
So, here’s everything you need to know – from getting your license to the mysteries of hook-turns – about driving in Australia.
Australian road rules
- Like many former British colonies, Australian drivers drive on the left side of the road, with no exceptions. Cars have their steering wheel on the right side and gear sticks are to the left of the driver.
- In Australia, all occupants in a vehicle must wear a seatbelt. It’s against the law not to.
- Speed limits must never be exceeded.
- The blood alcohol limit is 0.05% throughout Australia. In some states, there is a zero limit for learners and provisional drivers license holders.
- It is not permitted to use a hand-held mobile phone when driving. This includes texting.
- Generally, drivers of vehicles should give way to pedestrians. The specifics will vary from place to place, but for the most part, you’ll need to give way at pedestrian crossings (Aussies like to call them ‘zebra’ crossings), children’s crossings, intersections, pedestrian lights, tram stops, footpaths and driveways, slip lanes, shared zones and when making a U-turn. Read up on the give-way rules for your state before you head out.
Not every country has embraced the roundabout the way Australia has. You’ll see these around a fair bit, especially if you’re in the ACT. They can look a little confusing but are easy when you know the rules. Lifehacker has a terrific article that explains how to navigate roundabouts in every state.
If you’re in Victoria, you’ll have to deal with the notorious hook-turn. They exist to help cars and trams work around each other at intersections. This video from VicRoads shows you how they work.
Not every country uses the same kinds of traffic lights. In Australia, it’s pretty simple. Green means ‘go’, red means ‘stop’ and orange also means ‘stop’ unless you’re going at a speed that means stopping might cause an accident.
There are many weird and wonderful road signs posted all along this weird and wonderful land. Take a picture have a laugh, but always heed their warnings.
Third party insurance is compulsory for drivers in Australia. In many states, this is included in your registration fee – but make sure to double check that you’re covered before you hit the road.
Getting a license
Driving laws are different in each state and territory but for the most part, international students can drive on an overseas license, as long as it’s current. However, if a student’s overseas drivers license isn’t in English, an International Driving Permit (IDP) from their host country will be required.
You may only be able to drive on your overseas license for a certain period of time (usually three months) and then you’ll have to apply for a drivers license in your state or territory. Find out the specific license requirements for your state or territory in the links below.