Australia Driving Advice and Car Hire Info

Australia Driving licence and Road Rules

Australia drives on the left and you can use the photo licence of any country to drive here, providing it’s written in Roman alphabet. Drivers from other countries need their own licence plus an international driving permit.Speed limits are 50kmh in built up areas and 100kmh in rural areas, unless otherwise indicated by roadside signs. Some highways and freeways have a limit of 110kmh and most of the Stuart, Arnhem, Barkly and Victoria highways in the Northern Territory are 130kmh.

Roads in Australia

Australia has almost 1 million kilometres of roads, of which around 40% are paved and the country has the second highest level of car ownership per capita in the world.Roads are  designated alpha-numerically –

“M” routes are primary traffic routes, called motorways in some states, dual carriageway routes. Most routes also have a name such as Pacific Motorway or Princes Highway. The only region in Australia without freeways is the Northern Territory

“A” routes are other primary routes but not dual carriageway.

“B” roads are smaller roads linking towns and villages or roads linking A Roads.

“C” routes are minor roads given a number to aid navigation.

The exception to the above is National Highway 1 Australia’s Highway 1 which is a network of highways circumnavigating the country for 14.500km. Not surprisingly, it’s the longest national highway in the world.

Road conditions on main routes and within cities are usually very good, but in rural areas, where roads may be unsealed, they could be in a poor condition, especially after rain. Some smeller roads may only be passable with a 4×4 vehicle.

There are a number of toll routes on Australia’s freeways –

Melbourne – City Link on the M1 and M2, Eastlink on M3

Sydney- Harbour Tunnel, Harbour Bridge , Eastern Distributor, Cross City Tunnel and Military Road e-ramps on M1 , Lane Cove Tunnel and Hills Motorway on M2, South Western motorway on M5,Westlink on M7

Brisbane- Gateway motorway M1, Clem Jones Tunnel and Airport Link M7 ,Legacy Way M5

Ipswich -Logan motorway M2

Toowoomba – Bypass A2

All tolls are now paid electronically and you need to pay within 3 days of using the road. There are different passes for each city, and the start date needs to be the date you used the road. For more information

Sydney –

Brisbane/Ipswich/Toowoomba –


Driving in Australia

Driving abroad in Australia is generally trouble free. Away from the Cities and the usual congestion and confusion they generally entail (though you’ll find them better than Europe and many is USA), the main consideration is the huge distances involved in driving across Australia. The roads can be long, straight and featureless and fatigue can be a problem, so pull over and take a rest as soon as you feel yourself starting to get drowsy.Aim to stop and get out of the car for a few minutes every 2 hours.
Also, most of the population live at the coast so when driving the interior you could go literally hundreds of miles with no opportunity to buy gas, water or food. Download a fuel map app to check what will be available on your route.

A regular scattering of Roadkill is a feature of driving abroad in Australia, especially Kangaroos, which have a habit of hopping in front of cars and freezing in headlights. Most serious accidents occur when a vehicle swerves to avoid an animal. If you can’t stop, you will unfortunately have to mow Skippy down. He may dent your rental car but thats better than ending up in a ditch, miles from civilisation. Sundown and sunrise are the most likely times to encounter wildlife in the road, and you should also take more care near rivers or lakes and anywhere you notice a lot of skidmarks on the road- signs that other cars have had to brake quickly.

One peculiarity of driving in Australia is the road train – a huge articulated truck which can reach 60 metres in length.Be prepared to slow down if a road train is approaching or attempting to overtake you. At high speed they can create a vortex effect which destabilises your vehicle. Also if you are attempting to overtake a road train, the driver may wave you forward or signal with his indicator to say its Ok to pass. Don’t trust him implicitly-only make the move if you’re totally sure its safe to do so.

If driving in the outback, be well prepared as you may be driving on roads which see little traffic and can experience extremes of temperature with blistering heat by day and freezing temperatures at night. You should take at least 10 litres of drinking water per person per day of travel, and an additional 3-5 days of extra drinking water per person, in case of breakdown. You should take warm clothing or blankets for night time and matches or cigarette lighter should always be carried to light a fire for warmth and to attract attention.Its unlikely for your mobile phone to work in the outback so if you do break down, your only choice is to stay with the car and wait for help to arrive.

Driving distances in Australia can be huge, which is why many travellers opt to take a longer road trip and perhaps rent a campervan. More info on touring Australia by campervan can be found on my ‘Classic Road Trips’ page. Some driving distances and suggested durations for some popular Aussie road trips are below-

Classic Road Trip Distances & Recommended Times
Adelaide to Darwin (via Ayers Rock and Kakadu National Park) – 4,000 km: 20 days
Adelaide to Brisbane – 2,100 km: 15 days
Adelaide to Melbourne (via Coastal road) – 1,000 km: 7 days
Adelaide to Sydney – 1,450 km: 8 days
Adelaide to Alice Springs (via Ayers Rock) – 2,100 km: 12 days
Alice Springs to Darwin – 2,100 km – 12 days
Alice Springs to Cairns – 2,500 km – 12 days
Alice Springs to Brisbane – 3,100 km – 14 days
Alice Springs to Ayers Rock and return – 900 km – 5 days
Brisbane to Cairns – 1,750 km – 8 days
Brisbane to Darwin – 3,500 km – 18 days
Brisbane to Melbourne – 1,700 km – 9 days
Brisbane to Sydney – 1,100 km – 5 days
Broome to Darwin – 1,900 km – 10 days
Cairns to Darwin (via Townsville and Tennant Creek) – 3,100 km – 15 days
Melbourne to Sydney (via Inland road) – 900 km – 4 days
Melbourne to Sydney (via Coastal road) – 1,100 km – 7 days
Melbourne to Darwin – 3,900 km – 21 days
Perth to Adelaide – 2,800 km – 14 days
Perth to Broome – 2,350 km – 12 days
Perth to Darwin – 4,250 km – 21 days
Perth to Alice Springs (via Ayers Rock) – 4,200 km – 21 days
Sydney to Cairns – 2,500 km – 15 days

Although I try and keep the information in the site updated as much as possible, in a rapidly moving world, situations can change daily. Therefore please use the site as an approximate guide, and in conjunction with other resources in order to form your view on driving conditions, roads, safety etc.

Australia Car Rental –
Sixt, Hertz, Europcar, Alamo, National,Avis, Budget, Thrifty have outlets here. Also usually features on Car rental broker sites s and Web discount sites such as Expedia

We currently have no local car rental partners in Australia. If you are a local car rental company who would like to feature on please check details on our Partnering page or contact us on

Australia Self Driving Rules –
Australian Rental companies generally seem to have a list of rules as long as your arm. There are often restrictions on where you can take the vehicle. Tasmania seems to be a no-no for most companies,as does Northern Queensland, Fraser Island and parts of Northern Territory. Some companies impose a limit on how far the vehicle can be taken from the rental location –obviously fearful that you’ll break down thousands of miles away and they’ll have to pay to recover the vehicle. One way rental is possible with some of the big companies but charges tend to be steep. I haven’t found any company who would let you take a car into New Zealand.One way rentals are obviously quite common when renting a camper and some companies claim not to charge for one ways, though I guess the charge appears somewhere else within the amount you pay.

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