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!

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 authorises you to drive and you must drive according to any conditions on your overseas licence. Here’s a breakdown by state:

Look left! Driving in Australia is easier than you think
You will get used to driving on the left. You will!

New South Wales
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 recognised and has no authority while you hold a NSW licence.

Queensland 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.

Victoria You must be at least 18 years of age to get a driver’s licence in Victoria. You will be issued a P1 probationary driver licence if you are under 21 years of age and have held an overseas driver licence for less than 12 months from your 18th birthday. You will be issued a P2 probationary driver licence if you are under 21 years of age and have held your overseas driver licence for more than 12 months, or are 21 years of age or older and have held your overseas probationary driver licence for less than three years. You will be issued with a full Victorian driver licence if you are 21 years of age or older and have held your overseas  probationary driver licence for at least three years, or hold or have held an overseas full driver licence.

Driving tips

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

Look left! Driving in Australia is easier than you think
An Aussie reminder for those on a one way… seems natural for the Canadian though!

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 mind set for life Down Under. You must look right, 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.

Easy-peasy 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.

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