Driving in Australia

Old Apr 11th, 2005, 10:08 AM
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Driving in Australia

We are interested in seeing Australia on our own. Flying and driving to different destinations.
How hard is it to drive on "the other side" of the road? How long does it take to adapted to it? How about driving the Grand Ocean Drive, is it difficult? Thanks, Linda
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Old Apr 11th, 2005, 10:22 AM
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Where are you used to driving? And where are you driving to? Can't speak for the Great Ocean Road, but the rest of Australia was a snap for us Seattlites. Left hand drive is nothing compared to freeways filled with cars. Most of the roads are small and not a lot of cars. I might think twice before driving in the Outback with the road trains and dead camels in the road, but even driving into Sydney in rush hour wasn't too bad with a good map. But I wouldn't recommend driving around Sydney, they have good public transportation. Do a search for driving in Australia and similar topics and you can find a lot of discussion on this from lots of people, local and tourists.
Sally in Seattle
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Old Apr 11th, 2005, 10:30 AM
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Hi Linda,

Driving on the left isn't too bad. The controls in the car are opposite as well so when you want to activate the turn signal, you end up turning on the windshield wipers!

Make sure you get a car with an automatic transmission.

It takes me a day or so to become adjusted to being on the left. The most difficult thing I have problems with is turning a corner. I always seem to drift onto the right side - into oncoming traffic. I finally had to start a little chant, "keep left, keep left" before I made a turn. Works for me.

Funny thing - when I get home, I'm turning on the wipers when I want to turn!

I can't tell you about the Great Ocean Road but I'm sure someone will pop in with great advice. There are two places I would not drive though - downtown Sydney and anywhere in the country at night. I think roos outnumber people by 10 or 20 to 1 and there's a fair chance you might hit one if you're not careful.

One more thing - Aussies are very strict on their "drink driving" laws. Don't even think about it. They also have no tolerance for speeding like we do here in the States. I've heard several stories of people being ticketed for 2 or 3 k's over the limit.
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Old Apr 11th, 2005, 12:15 PM
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Do it once and you'll never be apprehensive about it again. The initial wierdness wears off after only a few miles. Me, being a Detroit boy, I always rent a car wherever I go, whether I need it or not. Its a psychological thing.
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Old Apr 11th, 2005, 03:14 PM
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When we first did the opposite thing - drove on the RH side - we adapted faster than we expected to. Having everything reversed actually helps. We even got used to the indicator stalk problem.

A few tips:

* When you stop at red lights at an intersection and want to turn left (the equivalent of turning right in the US), you must wait until you get a green light or arrow before proceeding, UNLESS a sign tells you you can turn against the red light. I mention this because in much (all?) of America it's assumed that you can proceed unless a sign tells you that you can't. That is, the default conditions are reversed. I prefer the US approach, BTW.

* For me the danger condition was turning onto an empty road, with no other traffic to remind you of which lane you should be in. Be careful here.

* Don't expect highway numbering to follow a rational pattern as in the US (i.e. odd numbers N-S, even numbers E-W).

* In cities and towns, blocks aren't numbered as in the US - e.g. No. 1021 whatever-street indicating that it's No 21 on the 10th block along. The numbers start at 1 or 2 and just keep on going.

* School buses can be any shape, size or colour.

* When on foot and about to cross the street I always have trouble remembering which way to look first for oncoming traffic. In Australia the nearest lane of traffic will be coming from your RIGHT! The consequences of forgetting this can be unpleasant.

I agree - you'll soon get the hang of it. You have nothing to fear but fear itself.
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Old Apr 11th, 2005, 08:44 PM
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I found it very easy, I let my partner do all the driving.
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Old Apr 11th, 2005, 09:36 PM
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I'm an Aussie so I may be biased, but I think driving in Australia is easier than many places. Most places there isn't even much traffic and the signage is usually pretty good.

As for the "wrong side of the road" thing, I've done it the other way and after the first few turns (which feel wrong!) it's a breeze. Neil Oz's advice above is very good.

I've actually seen people put signs on the back window saying "Hi we're used to the other side of the road, please be patient" and generally people give them plenty of room! So if you're really nervous (and don;t mind everyone knowing you're a tourist!), you could try that for a day or two - LOL.
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Old Apr 12th, 2005, 04:38 AM
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Just a tip I always found handy when driving in the US (I'm Australian) - "always keep the driver in the middle of the road".
It tends to overcome those "natural inclinations" to go around corners on the wrong side!
Hope it helps - I found it worked for me.
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Old Apr 12th, 2005, 06:24 PM
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Thanks to you all!!
I feel much better after reading your messages. I like the idea of a sign in the window. I will make the it before we leave Ohio!
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Old Apr 12th, 2005, 11:02 PM
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Re Great Ocean Road: Check a very recent post on this topic.
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Old Apr 20th, 2005, 05:07 PM
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ALWAYS look both ways before crossing OR entering the street.My first time driving on the right I almost pulled out in front of an oncoming car. Even though you know what to do, years of checking for cars coming from the left is hard to overcome and see them coming from the right. The Great Ocean Road is Beautiful but because there is so much to see you really do have to go slower and stay very alert. It is not a difficult road just alot to see so pull over every chance you get and do your looking around while not driving.
Have a great trip. The people there are wonderful.
PS I am 58 so my Girlfriend's 25 year old son was our main driver . He has 9 years of driving on the left to overcome while I have 42 years of driving on the left to overcome.
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Old Apr 21st, 2005, 03:15 AM
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Simple...when you look outside your drivers side window you should be looking toward the middle of the road, not the footpath or sidewalk.
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Old Apr 21st, 2005, 10:29 PM
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Just returned from Australia, and we drove GOR. It was fine, just very windy and pretty narrow, and you have to go slow. Driver doesn't get much chance to look at the views, so best to pull off regularly to enjoy them. We found right turns from the left lane in Melbourne confusing (because of trams). All the roundabouts took some getting used to as well. Great concept - keeps traffic moving, but got some honking aimed our way until we got the hang of it. We drove all over Tasmania, which was great - have to have a car there as far as I'm concerned. We avoided driving at night there so we wouldn't add to the significant roadkill from nocturnal creatures.
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Old Apr 25th, 2005, 03:58 AM
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I'm with theshippingoffice - as the driver you just repeat over - me to the middle - me to the middle. This rule applies no matter which side of the road you are driving on. It's always got us through.
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Old Apr 25th, 2005, 06:28 PM
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I just returned last week from driving for 3 weeks in Australia. Have driven several previous trips on the "wrong" side of the road, I always sit behind the taxi driver on the way into a city, and strongly concentrate on what he is doing. Making turns is a challenge initially, but as long as you have a navigator riding shot gun paying attention & saying "stay to the left" in case you miss the sign on the road advising you "stay left" you'll be OK. Do you know the International rule re: round-abouts? The person already IN the round-about has right of way. In the States, that means you enter @6pm, and rotate counter-clockwise. In the UK, NZ, (Japan)& Australia, you enter @ 6 and rotate clockwise. In OZ's towns,If you are approaching the round-about, you must wait till the person on your right goes past you and there is no one there to enter the round about as you head for the left.It always takes me 20 miles to adapt and 3 days to automatically turn on the directional signal vs the wipers (see previous post!!) I am still hitting the wrong lever in my own car here - 1 week later!

Re: the Great Ocean Road - it is the MAJOR reason I wanted to go back to Australia this time We drove 200 KM to base ourselves not far from Port Fairy. - There are many places along the Road that you can pull over and let others pass. There are an extraordinary # of places that tell you ahead of time "Scenic view 300m" Plan to pull over to see what they think is pretty! Also, if you are driving thru forest and see a bunch of folks, standing in the road, with cameras pointed skyward, figure there are Koalas in them-there-Eucalyptus trees on the Great Ocean Rd! I was closer to a Koala in the wild than I am to this computer -but please do not touch them! You could drive out past the 12 Apostles the first day, sight see the second & go back to M'burn the 3rd. Feel free to email me for more info - make sure the subject includes Driving in Australia. Debbie
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