Australia is a diverse country with fantastic beaches, rainforests, deserts, forests, big cities, small towns and plenty of barren Outback. If you plan on visiting, it is recommended you go for at least several weeks so that you can give yourself the chance to explore it all. There is no better way to explore Australia than by renting a car. However, that is easier said than done in Australia; as they are one of 64 countries in the world where the people drive on the left hand side of the road.
The idea of driving on the left hand side of the road probably sounds intimidating if it is not what you are used to- but if you follow my simple tips you should be able to pick it up fairly easily.
Get in on the right side of the car
Literally and physically in Australia the right side of the car for the driver is the right side of the vehicle. Every time you go to get into the car try to remember to go to the right side to save yourself the embarrassment of opening the wrong door, or even worse, getting in and sitting down before you realize the steering wheel is on the other side.
Get familiar with the car
Once you are in the vehicle, get to know it. Check out your buttons and switches and everything else. Most likely your blinker will be where the windshield wiper controls normally are, and vice versa. Also, try to get used to checking your blind spot and using your mirrors, as they are also now in different spots. If you are driving a standard, get used to shifting with your left hand. Thankfully the pedals are always in the same spot.
Stay on the LEFT
The biggest tip to remember is to stay on the left side of the road. Constantly say to yourself “stay to the left, stay to the left” -or even make a small sign that you can keep on your dashboard to help you remember. A good idea is to practice driving on some smaller streets before going to bigger and busier roads.
For your first few times, at least, try to avoid distractions until you can get the hang of driving on the left side of the road. Ask your passengers to be quiet, keep the radio off, and obviously keep your cell phone on silent and out of reach, and try to focus.
Research Before You Drive
Driving in a strange country can be made easier if you do your research ahead of time. Speak with your car rental agent to learn about any restrictions while driving and ask for maps and safety tips. There are rules in place to keep rental drivers safe at night and from other possibly hazardous conditions like water falls, flood zones, and icy mountain roads. Take a little bit of time to map your route and study the route before just heading out. That way you will know where you can refill the petrol or possible bathroom or rest stops along the way. When driving in Australia, it is important to understand the terrain, elevation, and weather conditions because the country is so diverse, you are likely going to experience more than one terrain, even if driving through short distances. Australian bush fires are common in the dry season and flooding can happen in the wet season, so be sure to tune into local weather reports, as well. Many roads and vacation spots are only accessible by 4WD, so that is something that you should prepare for ahead of time. In Australia there are locations with desert next to the ocean, like in Nambung National Park. Then there is the Daintree Rainforest, which is right along the beaches and the Coral Sea coast. Kakadu National Park, the largest in Australia, is partly accessible by cars in some places and 4WDs in others, some places recommend using a snorkel for driving through wet areas. Kakadu is so large and diverse, they have 6 seasons there instead of 4 and plenty of rivers with crocodiles, so drivers must always be aware and prepared.
Follow those simple tips, have fun and you should be safely exploring beautiful Australia in no time.