Australia Driving Advice and Car Hire Info
Driving In Australia
Driving abroad in Australia is generally trouble free. Away from the Cities and the usual congestion and confusion they generally entail (though you’ll find them better than Europe and many is USA), the main consideration is the huge distances involved in driving across Australia. The roads can be long, straight and featureless and fatigue can be a problem, so pull over and take a rest as soon as you feel yourself starting to get drowsy.Aim to stop and get out of the car for a few minutes every 2 hours.
Also, most of the population live at the coast so when driving the interior you could go literally hundreds of miles with no opportunity to buy gas, water or food. If your road map shows no significant town on your route, assume the worst and stock up before you set off.
A regular scattering of Roadkill is a feature of driving abroad in Australia, especially Kangaroos which have a habit of hopping in front of cars and freezing in headlights. Most serious accidents occur when a vehicle swerves to avoid an animal. If you can’t stop, you will unfortunately have to mow Skippy down. He may dent your rental car but thats better than ending up in a ditch, miles from civilisation. Sundown and sunrise are the most likely times to encounter wildlife in the road, and you should also take more care near rivers or lakes and anywhere you notice a lot of skidmarks on the road- signs that other cars have had to brake quickly.
One peculiarity of driving in Australia is the road train – a huge articulated truck which can reach 60 metres in length.
Be prepared to slow down if a road train is approaching or attempting to overtake you. At high speed they can create a vortex effect which destabilises your vehicle. Also if you are attempting to overtake a road train, the drive may wave you forward or signal with his indicator to say its Ok to pass. Don’t trust him implicitly-only make the move if you’re totally sure its safe to do so.
If driving in the outback, be well prepares as you may be driving on roads which see little traffic and may experience extremes of temperature with blistering heat by day and freezing temperatures at night. You should take at least 10 litres of drinking water per person per day of travel, and an additional 3-5 days of extra drinking water per person, in case of breakdown. You should take warm clothing or blankets for night time and matches or cigarette lighter should always be carried to light a fire for warmth and to attract attention.Its unlikely for your mobile phone to work in the outback so if you do break down, your only choice is to stay with the car and wait for help to arrive.
Driving distances in Australia can be huge, which is why many travellers opt to take a longer road trip and perhaps rent a campervan. More info on touring Australia by campervan can be found on my ‘Classic Road Trips’ page. Some driving distances and suggested durations for some popular Aussie road trips are below-
Classic Road Trip Distances & Recommended Times
Adelaide to Darwin (via Ayers Rock and Kakadu National Park) – 4,000 km: 20 days
Adelaide to Brisbane – 2,100 km: 15 days
Adelaide to Melbourne (via Coastal road) – 1,000 km: 7 days
Adelaide to Sydney – 1,450 km: 8 days
Adelaide to Alice Springs (via Ayers Rock) – 2,100 km: 12 days
Alice Springs to Darwin – 2,100 km – 12 days
Alice Springs to Cairns – 2,500 km – 12 days
Alice Springs to Brisbane – 3,100 km – 14 days
Alice Springs to Ayers Rock and return – 900 km – 5 days
Brisbane to Cairns – 1,750 km – 8 days
Brisbane to Darwin – 3,500 km – 18 days
Brisbane to Melbourne – 1,700 km – 9 days
Brisbane to Sydney – 1,100 km – 5 days
Broome to Darwin – 1,900 km – 10 days
Cairns to Darwin (via Townsville and Tennant Creek) – 3,100 km – 15 days
Melbourne to Sydney (via Inland road) – 900 km – 4 days
Melbourne to Sydney (via Coastal road) – 1,100 km – 7 days
Melbourne to Darwin – 3,900 km – 21 days
Perth to Adelaide – 2,800 km – 14 days
Perth to Broome – 2,350 km – 12 days
Perth to Darwin – 4,250 km – 21 days
Perth to Alice Springs (via Ayers Rock) – 4,200 km – 21 days
Sydney to Cairns – 2,500 km – 15 days
Australia Car Rental -
Sixt, Hertz, Europcar, Alamo, National,Avis, Budget, Thrifty, have outlets here . Also usually features on Car rental broker sites such as Argus Car Hire and Web discount sites such as ebookers.com. or Expedia
There are a wide range of options for renting a camper van. Websites such as
www.Discovery-campervans.com.au act as a broker and deal with a large number of rental companies. Their website has a useful comparison facility so you can compare the various companies.#
This company specialise in renting cars and campers to backpackers and consequently have a minimum age of only 18 which is highly unusual in most of the world!
www.australia-newzealand-campervans.com as the name suggests deal with rental companies in both Australia and NZ so if you’re planning to visit both countries, they may be able to arrange your rental in both places.
This is a well established company who can arrange motor home/RV Rental in a number of countries around the world, including Australia
If you’re flexible and looking for a cheap RV rental option, some companies offer discounted one way rentals as ‘re-locations’. ie they allow you to drive their vehicles to another part of the country where they need additional vehicles available. The following company provides more detail on this-
For more info on exploring Australia by Camper van see my ‘Classic Road Trips’ Page.
In Tasmania this is a long established local car rental company -
And if you feel like pushing the boat out whilst in Tasmania this company rents top of the range sports cars on the Island -
Australia Self Driving Rules –
Australian Rental companies generally seem to have a list of rules as long as your arm. There are often restrictions on where you can take the vehicle. Tasmania seems to be a no-no for most companies,as does Northern Queensland, Fraser Island and parts of Northern Territory. Some companies impose a limit on how far the vehicle can be taken from the rental location –obviously fearful that you’ll break down thousands of miles away and they’ll have to pay to recover the vehicle. One way rental is possible with some of the big companies but charges tend to be steep. I haven’t found any company who would let you take a car into New Zealand.
One way rentals are obviously quite common when renting a camper and some companies claim not to charge for one ways, though I guess the charge appears somewhere else within the amount you pay. www.Discovery-campervans.com.au has a useful terms and conditions section which allows you to check the terms for each company they deal with.