But driving around here could prove to be unexpectedly different. It’s not just about driving on the left and using the metric system. Here’s everything a backpacker needs to know about driving down under:
About the Roads
Most of Australia’s population lives in the major cities, which are all mostly on the coasts. So you can expect the road network to really vary as you traverse the country. The facilities, road quality and types all change as you move from state to state and coast to coast.
It’s recommended that you get a map and study it closely to see how far each fuel stop or service station is. There’s a vast distance between them sometimes.
About the Cars
Most cars in Australia are right-hand drive. They’re all also mostly automatic, but you could pick up a used car with manual transmission if that’s more comfortable for you.
Also, remember that the park brake is a hand lever on the center. Go for an automatic if this is your first time with a right-hand drive. If you rent a car, be prepared to take a short road safety test before they hand you the keys.
Fortunately, the rules and regulations are all uniform throughout the country. Always park on the left side of the road. Parking on the opposite side could cost you a fine. So will not wearing your seatbelt.
Everyone else in the car over the age of 16 must wear a seatbelt too. Of course, don’t drink and drive and stay within the speed limits. If your foreign driver's license is in English you can use it to drive for the first three months. After that you’ve got to get an Australian one.
The thing with Melbourne is it’s got an extensive tram system, which is why it needs special road rules. Cars can drive into the tram lane if there are yellow dots along the sides. If there is a yellow line, do not enter that tram lane. If a tram stops, it will indicate that passengers are exiting and you must stay clear.
Tram tracks in Melbourne also make it difficult for cars to take right turns across them. To get over this issue, city-dwellers have developed a special ‘hook turn’. If you’re Canadian, you already know what a hook turn is, but for everyone else there is this YouTube video.
Australia is no doubt, one of the best places to see on the road. It’s easy to get a car, but driving around could take some getting used to.
Most backpackers will be quick to tell you getting over the learning curve is definitely worth it.
(Photo by rikpiks via Flickr)
Article written by Balil