Australia. The land of kangaroos, endless beaches and Crocodile Dundee. While you may associate the world’s largest island with countless clichés ranging from surf-culture to Vegemite, there are some things you may not know about the Land Down Under, particularly in relation to the rules of the road. So if you plan on embarking on an Australian road trip, you’d do well to remember the following ten things.
Don’t put your arm out of the car
The sun is shining, you’ve got some great tunes on and the windows down. You’re driving along and you begin to relax by stretching your arm out of the open window. STOP!!! This is actually illegal in Australia and carries with it a hefty $256 fine. You have been warned!
Always take the scenic route
As you drive around Australia you’ll see many of the road signs give you the option of direct routes or the tourist and scenic routes. If you have the time, always take the scenic road. With some of the best coastal drives in the world, like the famous Great Ocean Road, it’s unlikely you’ll regret this decision.
Make sure you know what a servo, reg’o and ambo is
If the police ask you for your “reg’o”, you’ll need to get your vehicle registration documents. If you’re asked to call an “ambo” then you want to phone an ambulance – it’s 000. And if you’re lost and need a service station, try asking a friendly local where the nearest “servo” is.
Sweets are called “lollies”
When stocking up on roadside snacks, you’ll do well to remember that Aussies call “sweets” or “candy”, lollies. And if you’re looking for a recommendation try the Natural Confectionery Co., perfect for road trips!
People drive in cities
Unlike many European cities, Australia’s suburban sprawls are often big enough and purposely designed for cars to be driven in them so don’t dismiss the cities as out of reach by car. In fact, in most cities having a car is the easiest way to get around. This doesn’t mean, of course, that parking is cheap or easy but it does mean you can take your car into a city if you choose to.
There are BIG Things to see along the way
Did you see the Big Banana? What about the Big Pineapple? And there was also the Big Prawn? No, we haven’t gone crazy we’re talking about a strange Australian road-tripping tradition whereby you spot “Big Things” that line some of Australia’s roads. Here’s a full list, so keep your eyes peeled, like a Big Banana (sorry)!
Car hire is cheaper away from the tourist spots
If you are using one of the national or international car hire providers in Australia you may find that picking up your hire car from a less obvious location will mean a considerably cheaper day rate (up to half price). Collecting a car from airports and the big city locations (Perth, Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne) is more expensive than a smaller city or town. Do your research and consider how flexible you can be remembering that most car hire companies will let you drop the car off at their other offices around the country.
Hook turns in Melbourne
While road rules vary State to State there is one regional rule that all Aussies will be quick to tell you about when they find out that you’re heading to Melbourne. Hook-turns are a bit of a phenomenon and can be tricky to get your head round but they’re relatively simple and in some ways very logical. Due to trams running through the middle of many roads in Melbourne, there will be some junctions where to turn right, you have to pull over to the far left lane and wait for your own traffic light. Once given the green light, you then cross your road of traffic, the tramlines and the opposite direction of traffic to turn right. Hook-turns aren’t for every right turn but when they are used, they’re well signposted, thankfully!
When there’s a kangaroo sign – take note!
One unfortunate memory of road trips in Australia is the roadkill that one sadly sees on roads. While the iconic yellow signs with famous Aussie animal silhouettes are a popular souvenir to take home, when you see them while driving take note and slow down.
Know the rules.
In addition to number 2 on this list, there are many other rules worth knowing when you’re driving in Australia. Some may call these laws (which also vary State to State) obscure and bizarre, but they could become very expensive if you don’t know about them. They include – but aren’t limited to – never parking on the opposite side of the road, always leave a 1m gap between cars when parallel parking, never drive with a pet on your lap (!) and knowing that you will get pulled over if you’re car is too noisy or if you don’t indicate when turning or changing lanes.
Be sure to get clued up depending on where your Australian adventure is taking you, so all you have to do once you arrive is drive and enjoy!
Frankie is a Londoner turned wanderer who has been travelling since October 2011 with her Australian boyfriend and too many vintage dresses. Frankie’s blog As the Bird flies… documents her travels and her love affairs with cycling cities, flea markets and stylish travel. Frankie is a freelance writer and the author of fiction inspired by travel.
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