If you’re planning a road trip in New South Wales there are a huge number of awesome sights to see driving from the beautiful beaches north of Sydney to the lush Blue Mountains and onto the arid interior.

You can rent a car or campervan super easy in New South Wales, but you will first need to know the rules of the road. There are a lot of them, but the basic rules of the road are covered in this quiz which is in English, Spanish and Chinese. The quiz has plenty of picture examples of help you.

Renting a vehicle

The vast majority of vehicle hire companies require you to be aged 21 or over, but you will find some that will rent to you if you’re 18+ (for a price). If you are travelling around for an extended period then you will find it cheaper to purchase a car or van and then resell it before your travel ends. Many backpackers offer notice boards for this type of thing and you can get a deal if you travel when there are more sellers than buyers.

Your driver’s licence

If your licence isn’t in English then you need to carry an authorised translation in English or an International Driving Permit (IDP). There are lots of different scenarios based on how long you are staying, so let’s just deal with the main one: you’re going to be on holiday in Australia for up to a few months. In this case you can remain with your licence (plus the translation or IDP if necessary) for the duration of your stay while you are a visitor.

Driving in Australia

I have both a NZ and UK licence so driving in Australia was easy. They drive on the left and the rules are very similar to New Zealand (although some of the signs are quite different, especially the parking ones). Almost every sign apart from the stop sign is different in Australia than it is in the UK and other countries I’ve driven in, but they’re all fairly easy to follow (except some of the ones I show below).

Make sure you read the parking signs properly if you want to avoid a fine
Make sure you read the parking signs properly if you want to avoid a fine

Road surfaces

Suzuki Vitara on outback gravel road

In the city, the roads are generally great, but as you can see from this photo my trusty Vitara had a workout on some of the interior’s roads. If you’re not used to driving on gravel, take it easy at first. You can safely go fairly fast once you’re used to it, but novices should exercise caution (and make sure you’ve got insurance).

Intersections and roundabouts

Roundabouts (traffic circles)

  • At a roundabout give way (yield) to vehicles from the right and drive clockwise.
  • If you’re turning left, indicate left
  • If you’re going straight through, don’t indicate until you’ve passed the exit just before the one you’re taking, then indicate left
  • If you’re turning right, indicate right until you’ve passed the exit just before the one you’re taking, then indicate left and leave the roundabout.

T-intersections (t-junctions) and crossroads

  • If you’re on the bottom of the T, give way to everything coming from the left or right.
  • If you’re turning right from the top of the T into the bottom of the T, give way to vehicles coming from straight ahead and either turning left or passing straight through.
  • If you’re turning left, you don’t have to give way unless there’s a give way sign specifically for you.
  • In all cases you must give way to pedestrians already on the road.
  • If you’re at a crossroads and you have a stop or give way sign, you must also give way to traffic coming towards you either passing straight through or turning left if you are turning right.

Traffic lights

left turn on red
Usually you have to wait for a green light to proceed on a red light, but not here

The phase is:

  1. Red
  2. Green
  3. Yellow
  4. Red.

Red always means stop and wait for a green light unless you get one of the signs above when you can turn left after you’ve stopped.

If you get a green arrow you can turn in that direction; a red arrow means you can’t turn in that direction.

Speed limits

school bus with 40km/h signThere are mandated speed limits indicated by a red circle with a white disk showing a black number, and there are suggested speed limits shown by a yellow diamond with a black number.

Mandatory speed limits are usually 100km/h on the open road and motorways, and 50km/h in urban areas. If you’re overtaking a school bus it’s 40km/h, and in pedestrian shared zones it’s 10km/h.

Suggested speeds indicate a safe speed for a particular corner, e.g. 35km/h.

Mobile phones

You’re not allowed to use a hand-held phone to make or receive calls. You’re not allowed to text message or access internet services (other than as a GPS in a cradle) while you are in control of the car and it is running and in a traffic lane (i.e. this also applies to waiting at a red traffic light).

Alcohol and drugs

If you’re affected by alcohol, legal drugs or illegal drugs, it’s illegal to drive. The legal limit for alcohol is 0.05% which is less than the current UK limit of 0.08%.

Railway level crossings

If you’re used to all your railway crossings having lights and barriers you’ll need to be extra vigilant in rural areas as many of them are just controlled by a stop sign or give way sign (depending on the visibility).

Wildlife

kangaroos in long grass
Cute, but not smeared over your bonnet

It’s not so much of a problem in the city, but it is once you get into rural areas. Kangaroos and wallabies lurk just off the road and are well-camouflaged at dusk. A big male kangaroo is heavy enough to cause serious damage to your car if you hit one at speed. Of course, there are all kinds of other bounding marsupials, plus the stocky wombats, but skittish wallabies and kangaroos are the main danger.

Road trains

road train
Try overtaking one of these and you’ll need about half a kilometer unless you’ve got lots of horsepower!

On some roads you’ll come across road trains. These are huge trucks and they can take a long time to overtake, so you need to be certain before you commit.

Remember that this list of rules isn’t exhaustive and you should check out this road rules quiz to round out your knowledge.

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