Driving in Australia is easier than you think

15 October 2020

Driving in Australia is easier than you think!

As an international student studying in Australia, understanding the country’s traffic system is essential. When OzTREKK staff and students head to Australia for the first time, getting used to looking right then left can become a bit tricky, but everyone gets the hang of it!

Driving on the left-hand side of the road is easier than you think!

With Australians driving on the left side of the road, it can be a challenging adjustment for Canucks who are used to driving cars on the right side. In most Australian states and territories (the exception is the Northern Territory), you are able to drive on a overseas licence as long as it is current. You can only drive vehicles which your overseas licence authorizes you to drive and you must drive according to any conditions on your overseas licence.

New South Wales
You can drive in New South Wales if you have a valid overseas licence. As you will be in NSW for more than three months, you can be issued with a Temporary Overseas Visitor licence. If you’ve been driving for more than three years, you’ll be issued an unrestricted licence. If you’ve been driving for fewer than three years, but more than 12 months, you’ll be issued a Provisional P2 driver’s licence. However, with both, driving and knowledge tests may be required. Also keep in mind that you cannot, by law, hold more than one licence at a time in Australia. Once you’ve been issued with a NSW licence, including a learner licence, it becomes the authority under which you can drive or ride on NSW roads. Your overseas licence is not recognized and has no authority while you hold a NSW licence.

You can drive in Queensland if you have a valid overseas licence; however, it is important to understand the state’s rules. Be sure to contact the Queensland Government for restrictions and other important info.

South Australia
Like other states, temporary visa holders can drive in SA but must only drive the type of vehicle authorized by their licence. You must carry your current Canadian driver’s licence at all times. If the licence is not in English you must carry an International Driving Permit or an English translation. If the licence expires while you are in Australia, you must apply for a SA driver’s licence. Learn more about driving rules in South Australia.

You can use your overseas licence while studying in the state of Victoria—for up to 6 months. You’ll need an English translation of your licence or an international driving permit (if your licence isn’t in English). If you wish to drive after 6 months, you are required to get a Victoria driver’s license. Depending on your age and how long you’ve been driving, you’ll either get a full or probationary licence. Read more about driving with in international licence in Victoria.

Western Australia
If you’ve got a licence, you can drive in Western Australia. You may drive only those vehicles that you are authorized to drive on your overseas licence, for as long as it remains valid in the country of issue. If your overseas licence is not in English, you must carry an international driving permit or an approved English translation of your licence with you when you drive. To be able to drive on WA roads with your overseas driver’s licence you must always carry your Canadian licence with you at all times while driving and show it to a police officer if asked to do so. If your overseas licence ceases to be valid, you must apply for a WA licence if you wish to continue driving. Read more about driving with an international licence in Western Australia.

Driving tips

Here are some tips on navigating your vehicle in Australian traffic and knowing what to look for as a pedestrian:

In the driver’s seat
When driving on the left, you’re going to be tempted to inch away from the right-hand side in an effort to stay clear of the oncoming traffic. While it’s good to be cautious, you may find yourself inching too far to the left, either on the shoulder or a neighbouring lane. To ground yourself, place your right foot straight. This will help you understand where your right tire is located, thus giving you a better idea about spacing.

Merry go round
We’ve got a quite few in Canada now, and we’re getting more every year! Roundabouts are extremely common in Australia and Europe. If you don’t understand how roundabouts work, you will! Roundabouts keep the flow of traffic going and don’t depend on lights to navigate traffic.

  • Traffic in a roundabout flows in a clockwise direction in Australia.
  • In a two-lane roundabout, you keep to the left lane if you’re turning left or going straight ahead.
  • You keep to the right lane if you’re turning right. You can also use the right lane in a two-lane roundabout if you’re going straight ahead.
  • You use your left-turn signal for a left turn, the right-turn signal for a right turn. If you’re turning right and are on the right lane, switch on your left-turn signal when exiting. It has become law in New South Wales that motorists must signal left, in every instance, whenever exiting from a roundabout.

Walk this way
When crossing the street in Canada, we look left then right. You have to change your mindset for life Down Under. You must look right first, as the cars will be coming from this direction. International visitors often look left and inch out onto the road without realizing the traffic is coming from the opposite direction. Before you get confident crossing the road, get into the habit of looking both ways.

No distractions
Like Canada, you are not permitted to use a handheld mobile phone when driving in Australia. This includes making or receiving calls, sending a text message, playing games and/or web browsing. The only instances where you are permitted to use your phone is if it is set up with hands-free (Bluetooth) functionality and it is properly mounted and secured. Be sure to check the rules in place for the state in which you’ll be living, just to be on the safe side.

We know it seems intimidating, but before long, you’ll be whizzing around like a local and forget that traffic is opposite in the Great White North. Just ask OzTREKK Director Jaime Notman. She only turned her wipers on 56 times before she remembered the indicator switch was on the right.


Do you have any questions about driving in Australia? Some great stories? Let us know at info@oztrekk.com or just email your admissions officer.