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The Dos and Don’ts of Driving Holidays in Australia

Published 30 March 2016

Lauren Burvill

Lauren Burvill

Considering a road trip of Australia? You won’t regret it - although you may feel the slight pang of panic and remorse if you hit the road without fully preparing for the journey ahead. Rest assured though, we’re here to give you a brief lesson on the dos and don’ts of driving holidays in Australia, so you can get behind the wheel and enjoy the ride.

Road signs in Australia

Do familiarise yourself with local signs

While most Australian road signs are either similar to those in the UK or self-explanatory, some may seem a little different. To prepare yourself before getting behind the wheel, we recommend taking a look at the Government website for the state you are driving in. This is an example of the signs you’ll need to know when driving in Queensland.

Don’t miss the tourist drive signs

If you’re looking to take the scenic route, most popular tourist areas will have signs directing you along the area’s scenic drive, allowing you to fold up the map, turn the GPS off and enjoy the drive.

Road signs along a highway in Australia

Do take a break every few hours

Australia is a big country. When it comes to seeing the country by road, a rookie mistake is to bite off more that you can chew. For example, most locals see driving from Brisbane to Sydney as a big journey – averaging 10 hours with no breaks. While you’re on holiday, only drive a few hours each day so you can truly enjoy yourself. There’s no fun in rushing to the next town before dark. When you do need a break, most highways have regular rest areas along the way.

Don’t assume all highways have the same speed limit

Most highways in Australia have a 100 kilometres (62 miles) per hour speed limit. The two exceptions to this rule are Western Australia and Northern Territory, which have a 110 kilometres (68 miles) per hour speed limit. When in doubt, don’t exceed 100 kilometres per hour. Speed cameras are very prevalent around the country and if caught over the speed limit, you will be presented with a hefty fine.

Do wear sunscreen – even in the car

It’s a common occurrence to sport a tanned right arm in Australia, just from having it close to the window when driving. To keep an even tan, we recommend wearing sunscreen at all times, even when in the car.

Don’t go off road unless you are well prepared

If you plan on driving in the outback or along sand dunes, you’re going to need more than just a 4X4. Driving in these environments can be tricky, with many travellers getting lost, overheating their car, or more commonly, getting bogged. To play it safe, we recommend letting an expert tour company take the wheel for you, or at the very least driving with a group.

Kangaroo on the road in Australia

Do keep a look out for wildlife (especially at dawn and dusk)

One of the best parts about visiting Australia may be seeing the country’s cute and curious wildlife – but not on the roads. Depending on where you are driving, it’s not uncommon to see road signs warning about kangaroos, koalas, emus and even echidnas being near roads. Dusk and dawn are the most common times for local wildlife to be near roads, so be extra vigilant during these times, or better yet avoid them all together. With some kangaroos weighing up to 14 stone, hitting a ‘roo’ can often be just as dangerous for you and your passengers, as well as the animal.

Don’t ignore bush fire warnings

Bush fires can be quite common in Australia, particularly in rural parts of Victoria and New South Wales in summer. In some cases, fires can be controlled burns designed to rid the land of fuel, while others can be uncontrolled fires. Before driving, always check the road’s conditions for bush fire warnings. Mobile phone updates are also key for staying up to date on bush fire occurrences. When in doubt and you drive near a fire, turn around and seek an alternative route.

A tram outside of Flinder's Street Station in Melbourne

Do be careful when driving in Melbourne

Driving in most cities of Australia will be relatively straight forward compared to the UK. Melbourne however, is the exception. With the city’s iconic trams come some tricky road rules, namely the practice of ‘hook turns.’ Represented by a sign like this, hook turns require you to turn right from the left hand lane, crossing all lanes of traffic. It may sound strange, but if you follow the locals, you will be fine.

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