Driving in Australia
You’re going to study in Australia. At first, you may live on campus. Then, when you’re comfortable and have made friends, you may choose to live off campus in the city. While city transit may work for some people, others may be interested in driving themselves around!
Relearning to drive (on the opposite side of the road) can be a little intimidating. OzTREKK’s Manager Nicole Bowes has been to Australia oh, just a few times, and knows what it’s like to drive on the left side of the road. Here are some of Nic’s “driving in Australia” tips for everyone!
On my most recent Australian adventure, I made the daring decision to drive on the other side of the road. While I had done this once previously in England and it was a success, I had some reservations about doing it again. I should have probably started by saying that I am an extremely nervous driver in my own car on a clear day in Canada.
Now that I am on the other side of my Australian driving experience (and I came out unscathed) I thought I would share my journey with you.
Many of our students will drive while they are Down Under and some will even purchase a car during their time. If you don’t want to commit and buy a car and just want to go for a bit of joy ride to see the sights, renting a car in Australia is super easy. You will want to educate yourself before driving in Australia to make sure you are following all rules and licensing procedures.
Much like here in Canada, transportation is pretty great in most places around Australia, but if you really want to get a feeling for living like a local, driving around can help you see things off the beaten path. Most airports have a selection of rental companies to choose from, and in a lot of places you can pick up in one location and drop off at another. You can also find a car via different car share companies and local rental offices, too.
I recently flew from Sydney to the Gold Coast and picked my rental up right from the airport. The Gold Coast was super easy to get around as there is a main highway running close to the ocean that gets you to most places. The trick is to not stare at the ocean while you drive.
I drove from the Gold Coast to Byron Bay, which is about an hour, and made the following observations:
- I never use my emergency brake in my automatic car. Do you? I pulled the rental out of the rental parking lot and could not figure out why the car was beeping at me. Turns out, the e-brake (referred to as the hand brake Down Under) is used all the time. Park the car, set the brake. Start the car, take the brake off.
- Your signal lever is now your windshield lever and your windshield lever is now your signal lever. You will accidentally wipe your windows a number of times when you first start driving. It’s okay. The best part comes when you realize you aren’t doing it anymore!
- Right-hand turns aren’t easy anymore. Left hand turns are.
My most stressful moment occurred in my first large roundabout. As I was coming in to the roundabout I jumped back in to Canadian driving mode and turned right to head around the circle. I should have gone with the flow of traffic and kept left. I immediately knew something was off… because there was a car coming straight at me. I stopped my car, took a deep breath and turned myself in to the closest lane of traffic going with the flow of traffic. I was heading away from my destination, but was able to turn around at the next road and make it back through the roundabout successfully!
The best advice I can give to you if you plan to drive in Australia is to be patient with yourself (this applies to most things in life!). Pay attention. Go slow in to the first few turns and the first few roundabouts. It won’t take very long to get used to and before you know it, you won’t hit the windshield wipers to turn or try to climb in through the passenger door!