Home Travel Guide to Driving in Australia

Guide to Driving in Australia

by Elsa Stringer

Backpacking is the name given to a form of travel that focuses on being low cost, independent and international. It is also known as independent travel or budget travel in some circles.

People who backpack differ from conventional travelers due to their attempts to rely upon public transportation, stay at hostels or other low-cost alternatives to hotels, travel light (having a backpack as the sole piece of luggage led to the name “backpacking”) and get to know the locals.


One great place to go backpacking is in Australia. Since much of Australia is desert, and population centers are often spaced out quite far apart, it may be difficult for backpackers to rely upon public transportation to get where they need. Thus in Australia, it may be worthwhile for a backpacker to rent a car. If you’re a backpacker with a car, here is a guide filled with some tips on driving in Australia.


According to Jim Malkovich, an auto mechanic and writer for the Mechanic FAQ website, to drive a car in Australia, you need to be over eighteen years of age and with a valid license from another country. If you plan to be in Australia for over six months, consider getting an international driver’s permit, which functions as an official translation of your license into several foreign languages. In the United States, you can get an international driver’s permit through the American Automobile Association or the National Auto Club.


The speed limit in Australian cities is generally 60 kilometers per hour, which is roughly equal to 35 miles per hour. On highways, the speed limit goes up to 100 kilometers per hour (around 68 miles per hour).

One of the most important things you always need to remember while driving is that Australians drive on the left side of the road. If you’re used to driving on the right side of the road, make sure to get some practice before hitting the highway.


In Australia, gas is called “petrol”. Don’t ask anyone where the gas station is as they won’t know what you are talking about. Petrol is sold in liters, not gallons – one gallon is 3.785 liters – and it’s not cheap. If you’re driving in an isolated area, petrol will be more expensive than it would be in an urban area.


Although you only need to be eighteen to drive, you’ll need to be over the age of twenty-one to rent a car. Similar to car rentals in other countries, if you’re under age twenty-five you will get slapped with an extra charge and other restrictions.

If you’re in the country long enough or are too young to rent, it may be worth your while to buy a car. There are several companies that specialize in selling cars to backpackers. Before you buy a car, make sure you have a way to dispose of it. Some backpacker car companies will buy the car back from you when you are done, or you can sell it to another backpacker.


Do not abandon your car– abandonment of cars by backpackers is such a common problem that towns are constantly faced with the problem of having to dispose of unwanted cars.