The Australian government is committed to streamlining processes and making life and bureaucracy in Australia easy to navigate for foreigners. That’s why, for example, it introduced online visas and travel authorizations like the Australian eVisitor and ETA. Obtaining a travel authorization has become quick and straightforward, and the application process is completed entirely online.
However, travelers may still be confused about many aspects of life down under, including traffic regulations and driving documents.
Understanding how to drive in Australia is crucial — international tourists leaving big urban centers like Sydney and Melbourne are likely to need their own vehicle in order to explore Australia, even if they plan to stay in the country for a limited time. Some of the most popular tourist attractions in Australia are found in rural areas and national parks, unreachable by public transport.
Figuring out your driving license for Australia is, therefore, an important part of making travel arrangements, together with making sure that you comply with the visa requirements and border policies. This article provides useful information for tourists who wish to drive in Australia, including what driving license is required in Australia and traffic regulations.
Can I Drive in Australia with a Foreign License?
International tourists may be surprised to read that an international driver’s license is not necessary in order to drive in Australia. However, this doesn’t mean that your license and a valid Australian visa is all you need to carry. Travelers can drive in Australia with a foreign license — but the following conditions apply:
- The foreign license must be in English
- Foreign licenses in English can only be used to drive in Australia for up to 3 months
- The driver’s license must include a photo. If your license doesn’t have a photo, you can carry a photo ID with you, such as your passport.
If your license is not in English, you must obtain an International Driving Permit (issued in your home country) before traveling.
How to Obtain an Australian Driver’s License
After 3 months, everyone wishing to drive in Australia will need to get an Australian driving license. Driving licenses are issued by the relevant state or territory.
Foreigners from certain countries can convert their foreign license to an Australian permit upon paying a processing fee. Licenses issued by the following countries can be converted:
- Isle of Man
- South Korea
- New Zealand
- United Kingdom
- The United States.
Foreigners who can’t convert their license will need to pass both a theory and practical test in order to obtain an Australian driver’s license.
Driving in Australia: Traffic Regulations and Road Conditions
Although traffic is regulated and laws are enforced by state authorities, most of the road rules are common throughout the country. Moreover, most traffic regulations in Australia will reflect what foreigners are used to:
- Wearing a seat belt is mandatory for all passengers, and making sure that everyone is using one is the driver’s responsibility. Fines apply.
- Driving under the influence of alcohol is strictly prohibited. The blood alcohol limit is 0.05%. Random breath and drug testing aren’t rare.
- Australians drive on the left side of the road.
Road Conditions in Australia
Road conditions vary greatly in Australia. Roads in and between cities like Melbourne, Brisbane, and Sydney are paved and well maintained. Major highways are also well kept and usually offer regular service and rest areas.
However, Australia is the world’s sixth-largest country — with a population of only 24.5 million people. Driving in remote areas will be a completely new (and challenging) experience for most tourists.
In the outback, drivers may travel hundreds of kilometers without towns or service areas in sight. Moreover, roads are often unsealed and/or poorly maintained. It’s paramount that you plan your journey ahead if you intend to visit these areas. That includes carrying enough fuel, water, and food supplies with you. Permits may be required when going through Aboriginal territory.
Emergency Services in Australia
In case of an emergency, you can dial 000 to get in contact with the local police and emergency response services. The international emergency number 112 is also active in Australia and works with GSM phones without roaming enabled.
It’s important to keep in mind that phone coverage in remote areas may be very limited. If you’re planning to drive in very isolated areas with light or no traffic, you may want to consider purchasing a satellite phone.