Today, we will dive deeper into driving in Australia. As a European or in general as someone who is from a country where you drive on the right-hand side, it is already weird to drive on the left-hand side. On top of that, there are some specialties which you should consider when driving in Australia.
I will mainly focus on the rules in the state of Victoria. Driving rules can slightly differ from state to state in Australia. Therefore it’s best if you inform yourself about the rules in different states if you should drive outside Victoria.
A first legit question could be where the pedals as well as the indicator and wiper are located. Since you are driving on the left, you will be sitting on the right-hand side in the car. Accordingly, the gearshift is on your left. The pedals are arranged as you would know it from driving on the right: Clutch left, break in the middle and accelerator right. The position of the indicator and the wiper vary from car to car. I for instance drive a VW and they are positioned as in Germany: Indicator on the left, wiper on the right.
Basically, the common driving rules apply in Australia, too, such as stopping at a red traffic light, left yields to right etc., hence in the following, I will only talk about the differences which I first had to get used to in the beginning.
What I also would like to mention is that I very much like the way traffic lights are arranged in Australia. In Germany, you quite often have to bend and twist yourself so much to be able to see the traffic light. Here in Australia, the traffic lights are on the opposite side of the road so that you can perfectly see them. This makes driving much more comfortable.
(Please note that I do not warrant the accuracy of the content. These information are only based on my current knowledge and experiences. Please inform yourself at the official institutions about the valid driving rules.)
For me as a former speedy driver it was one of the biggest changes – the speed limits in Australia. In some parts of the city or in special zones like for example school zones, a speed limit of 40 km/h applies. Other than that, 50 km/h or 60 km/h apply. Outside of the city, mostly 80 km/h applies or 100 km/h and on highways a maximum of 110 km/h, but mainly 100 km/h.
You should definitely stick to the speed limits in Australia, which is perhaps similar to Switzerland. Therefore having a cruise control is really a blessing. Only a speeding of less than 10 km/h can cost you around $290 and one point. This is why you should avoid getting fined or pulled over by the police.
Using the indicator
‘Use your indicator’!, this is what I wanted to tell to so many drivers in Germany :D. An indicator has its sense and purpose and you can not foresee where the driver in front of you would like to drive within the next second, isn’t it?
Luckily people in Australia are using the indicator properly. Sometimes even too much when they even use it when there is only one possible driving direction or when they are on a specific turning lane. But honestly, I prefer this way and it is also the safer way. The indicator should be used early enough so that drivers behind you can queue in the right lane.
If you are living in the centre of Melbourne, you will encounter trams daily. Most of the time they are integrated into the normal traffic, only rarely they have their own lane in the middle of the street.
When a tram is driving in front of you and it stops at a tram stop, you need to stop behind the tram, because the passengers will get out of it and enter the tram on the street. The tram driver switches on the hazard light and on old trams you will also see a stop sign on the doors. Wait until the doors are closed again and then you can slowly and cautiously pass the tram.
Roundabouts occur quite often in Australia and you drive clockwise in it. The speciality here is that you set your indicator BEFORE you enter the roundabout. This means:
- When you drive to the left you set your indicator left
- When you drive straight you don’t set an indicator
- When you drive to the right you set your indicator to right
That way, the other drivers already know in which direction you are going to drive.
The much-loved hook turn – not. Even as a confident driver, I had my difficulties with it in the beginning. The hook turn which will be announced with a sign means that you have to get into the very left lane in order to turn right. It mostly occurs in the city centre. As soon as you got into the very left lane you stop and wait for the traffic light for the street you came from to switch to red and the traffic light for the street you want to turn into to green. You can then go and turn.
I hope that makes sense, otherwise you go can here where you can find a video that explains this procedure.
At this point, I would also like to mention that you should stop at a traffic light as soon as it switches to orange. Against the manner in Germany where you push through the accelerator in order to pass the crossroad ;-).
Left yields to right
If you come to an intersection without a traffic light or a sign, this applies:
- T-intersection: If you come to the end of a road you need to give way to the traffic which comes from the continuing street. Usually, you would have a mark on the street which indicates to stop.
- Intersections without any marks: You need to give way to the traffic which comes from the right or to the oncoming traffic.
As the name indicates these zones are school zones which are characterised as special zones to the start and end times of the school hours. The speed limits will be adjusted to 40 km/h during these times and additionally, they will be policed a lot. Therefore it’s important to stick to the speed limit and to drive very carefully. The school times are usually workdays from 8 to 9.30am and 2.30 to 4pm. Public holidays, weekends and school holidays are excluded. Before you start driving, its best to check which time it is, which day of the week, if there are school holidays and if it’s a public holiday. This will help you in the next point as well ;-).
Parking in Australia. It is adventurous – at least the signs for it. It can be very confusing at the beginning, but as soon as you understand the concept you won’t have any problems anymore apart from driving and figuring out what time it is, which day of the week, if it’s a public holiday, for how long you would like to park and also to read the parking sign in the first place. Everything at the same time without hindering the traffic behind you. I personally find this concept very funny.
In order to understand this concept better, go to this website. There you can find the bizarrest parking signs and you can also test your knowledge and check if you would have gotten a fine or in the worst case would have been towed away. It can’t hurt to give it a try.
Toll are the fees you pay for express highways. They will be announced with signs so that you would still be able to leave the highway beforehand. In Melbourne they are for example called CityLink or EastLink.
You can either pay individually for every trip or you can buy a pass. If you should have taken an express highway as an exception, you can pay the fee straight away online. You can find more information here and I also think that it would be cheaper if you pay the fee right away. You can also get a toll tag which you stick to your windscreen. So whenever you take a toll street the fee will be directly deducted from the tag which is either linked to a credit or to your bank account.
I have mentioned it already in another post that Australians are extremely friendly and kind. This also applies to the driving behaviour. Normally, they will give you the way, they will wait patiently when you park or drivers will give the way to you as a pedestrian. I think these are very positive attributes, but note that these qualities will also be expected from you. Australians are sensitive and also let it feel you when you don’t show this kind of respect and kindness to them. So try to consider other road users, too, and try to be patient. We all can also arrive relaxed and calm at our destinations, right? 😉
I hope that I could help you with my tips and tricks for your early driving experiences in Australia. Share your tips or other specialities about driving in Australia in the comments down below if you have any. I am looking forward to hear from you! 🙂
Have you already read my post 17 facts worth knowing about Melbourne? If not, drop by and check it out!