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Driving in Australia

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General introduction

Speed and distance in Australia are measured in kilometres rather than miles, and Australians drive on the left-hand side of the road at all times.

Road conditions in the 'outback' are much worse than those in more inhabited parts. In Tasmania, Victoria, New South Wales and large parts of South Australia and Queensland almost all the roads are reliable and in good condition. Once you leave these areas the quality and repair of the roads drops dramatically, as does the amount of use they receive. If you are driving in the outback, be prepared.

Distances can be a problem for the unprepared

Australia is a very big country, and while driving is the easiest way to get around, you have to remember that it is a long long way to get from point a to point b. Taking the capital cities as an example, it is easy to drive from Melbourne to Adelaide in a day (9 hours), and not very much further to Canberra (10 hours) but driving from Melbourne to Sydney is a good 12 hours solid driving. If you want to drive to Perth you must cross the Nullabor Plain, which means three or four days of desert driving on a dead straight, totally flat road filled with road trains (semi-trailers towing three or more trailers).

Beware Speed Limits

The road rules are strictly enforced in Australia, especially speedlimits. The strictest place for road rule enforcement is Victoria - if you exceed the speed limit by any amount (even 1kmph) you can expect to get fined. This applies in the country areas of the state as well. Speed limits vary depending on road conditions, area and state. Speed limits are clearly signposted at regular intervals so keep an eye out for them. In urban areas the speed limits change often enough to be very confusing even to locals. The general limit on a standard road is 60kph, but in sidestreets and residential areas it has been lowered to 50, and 'school zones' have a 20kph limit during school hours. In country areas the speed limit varies from state to state. The Northern Territory is the only part of the country with NO maximum speed limit. In South Australia the maximum for country areas and major freeways is 110kph but when you cross over into Victoria the limit drops to 100, and police with speed cameras are often stationed just over the border to ensure that it is followed.

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