Whether you plan on traveling in Australia as a resident or as a tourist, there are some key things to keep in mind to get the best experience while you’re there.
If you plan to visit Australia as a college student or young adult, keep in mind that the minimum age to rent a car or motorhome in Australia is twenty-one and in some cases certain vehicles are only rented to adults 25 years and older. To avoid any problems, contact the rental office ahead of time so that you can plan accordingly (especially if you are traveling in a group).
Some places will rent vans to persons under 21. For car rentals you will need a current U.S. driver’s license that was issued at least one year prior to the date of renting a car. Also, make sure to take a credit card with you because your debit card will not be accepted. For even younger adults, keep in mind that in Australia you must be 18 years old to even drive a car as a resident.
If you are a tourist and you’re not renting a car, and if you are from the U.S. you will need a current U.S. driver’s license to drive while you are in Australia. If you plan on being in the Australia for more than six months, you can get an international driver’s license before leaving the U.S. If you end up in a situation where you have taken a vacation in the great outback and have now decided to stay longer, then you can apply for an Australian license while you are in the country (still keep in mind the age limit for driving).
Whether you have decided to stay long term or not, another option is to buy a vehicle. There are plenty of establishments that offer backpacker deals and some will even buy the car back once you’re finished with it. Abandoned vehicles are a huge issue in Australia from tourists just leaving behind their car when they are leaving the country, awful!
If you do find a car dealer who will do a buy-back guarantee for you, definitely read all of the fine print for the deal because some require the vehicle to pass a roadworthy inspection upon its return. Passing a roadworthy inspection after a trip around Australia is so rare that a buy-back guarantee with that kind of stipulation is more of a scam then a deal.
A certificate of roadworthiness is necessary for used cars before they can be sold so do not purchase a vehicle without this certificate because you will need it to show the local department of transport when you transfer the registration. There are plenty of mechanics in Australia that can assess your car and issue such a certificate for you.
Make sure to keep your roadworthiness certificate and your receipt! Keep it with your driver’s license and passport because you will need it when you visit the local department of transport. You also want to keep in mind that each location around Australia has a different name, for example some are called a registry and may or may not have that in the title of their business. Once you find your way there, there will be a fee based upon the value of your vehicle.
They will also check to see if the yearly registration is due. If the car has been registered to a different state than the one you bought it in, then you will have to pay a fee for that as well. Typically this registration process will cost a few hundred dollars. The registration however, does come with the mandatory third-party insurance. Make sure to look up the laws of the department of transport in the state where you plan on buying or selling your car, because the laws vary state to state.
Another key aspect to keep in mind if you plan on driving at all in Australia is that they drive on the left side of the road and their steering wheels are located on the right side of the car. If you don’t have any experience with this, try to find a way to practice before navigating through traffic, it can be very dangerous trying to find your first destination in a new place with added pressures like how to drive! The speed limits in Australia are generally 35 miles per hour in the city, and the speed limit on the Australian highways is typically 68 miles per hour.
Once you have your vehicle, you will be headed to the pump at some point. Make sure to remember that gas is not referred to as gas. It is called petrol in Australia and it is sold by the liter. Gas stations are self-serve as it is in most states in the U.S. Gas is pretty pricy, especially the more remote you get in your travels. Just plan on about $4-5 dollars per gallon and you should be fine.
Don’t forget that the newest cell phone laws travel with you as you go down under so don’t plan on talking and driving or texting and driving because in Australia you can be pulled over for doing so. The law allows you to use voice activated phones as long as you do not touch the phone at all. You may not touch your phone whether you vehicle is moving or stopped. A cell phone bracket is encouraged for hands free devices.
So now that you know what to expect, make sure to break for kangaroos and enjoy your time spent in the beautiful Australia!
Gemma Hobbs has extensive experience as a travel consultant. She enjoys sharing her insights on various blogs. Visit Expedia.com.au Travel Insurance for more information.