Travel Safely in Australia


The following are extracts taken from the pamphlet Travel Safely in Australia.

"This brochure is a joint initiative of all Australian state and territory tourism and road safety agencies, Tourism Australia and the Australian Transport Safety Bureau. Every effort has been made to ensure its accuracy and all details were correct at the time of printing. The authors cannot accept any responsibility for any details that may have changed since the date of publication, June 2006."

Top tips for a great Aussie holiday

Before you start

  • Before beginning a driving holiday, plan your trip. Find out how long it will take to drive between destinations.
  • Be realistic about how many kilometres you can drive in a day.
  • Be well prepared for travelling in remote areas.
  • Plan to avoid driving after a long flight.
  • Get to know the road rules.
  • Have a good night's sleep before the trip.
  • Ask about the weather and road conditions.
  • Note where the fuel stations are on your route.
  • Apply SPF 30+ sunscreen and insect repellent and wear a hat in sunny weather.

On your trip

  • Drive on the left side of the road.
  • Wear a seat belt – it’s the law.
  • Take regular rest breaks.
  • Don’t drive if you"ve been drinking alcohol – strict drink driving laws apply.
  • Drive at a safe, legal speed.
  • Take extra care on dirt roads.
  • Watch for animals and avoid driving on rural roads near sunset and sunrise.
  • In an emergency, stay with your vehicle.
  • Before you cross the road, look right, look left, look right again and cross only when safe to do so.
  • Check your mobile phone coverage as some areas within Australia are only accessible using satellite phones. Mobile phones are not for use while driving – it’s the law.
  • Hitchhiking or picking up hitchhikers is strongly discouraged.
  • At the beach, always swim between the red and yellow flags — not outside them.
  • Look for the for visitor information.

Journey times





Broken Hill





Alice Springs














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Times and distances are approximate.

More information

For more information on road safety and things you can see while in Australia visit the following Internet sites.

Australian Capital Territory
New South Wales
Northern Territory
South Australia
Western Australia

Follow these simple safety tips and enjoy your visit to Australia

Seatbelts and helmets

Seatbelts and child restraints must be worn where available in vehicles. Seatbelts reduce the risk of injury and death in a crash significantly. There are also heavy fines for not wearing a seatbelt or restraint. If you are riding on a motorcycle, moped, motor scooter or bicycle, (also non-motorised scooter in Victoria and South Australia) you must wear a crash helmet.

Keep left

In Australia, you must drive on the left side of two-way roads. Ask passengers to remind you each time you set off and when you are turning at an intersection – it could save your life. When walking across the road, remember to look right, left and right again for traffic and cross only when safe to do so.


This sign means you must stop and give way to all vehicles. Stop your vehicle just before the white stop line painted on the road. If there is no line, stop where you have a clear view of approaching traffic and give way to all vehicles approaching from your left and right.


Speed limits are enforced more strictly in Australia than in most other countries. The speed limit is the maximum driving speed allowed. You must not drive above this limit. Some roads and streets don’t have speed limit signs, but speed limits still apply. As a general rule on roads where there are no signs but there are street lights or houses or other closely spaced buildings next to the road, the speed limit is 50 km/h. Where there are no signs or street lighting or houses or buildings next to the road the speed limit is a maximum of 100 km/h in most states and territories. If the weather is poor (raining, fog) make sure you drive slower. All states and territories have mobile speed cameras, so slow down, drive safely and avoid heavy fines. Always check what the default speed limits are in each state and territory.

Road markings

Where the centre line marking on the road is a single broken line, vehicles may cross the line to overtake when it is safe to do so. If the centre marking has two lines you must not overtake if the line closest to your vehicle is unbroken. Where arrows are painted on the road, you must only drive in the direction they indicate.

Alcohol and drugs

Driving after you have consumed alcohol is dangerous. Australia has strict laws and penalties on ‘drink-driving’ and police actively enforce them through random breath testing programs. If you have a full driver’s licence you must not drive if your blood alcohol level is 0.05 per cent or higher. At 0.05 per cent blood alcohol concentration, your risk of being involved in a crash doubles. Driving after taking drugs that affect your ability to drive is illegal in all states and territories; penalties are severe.

Driving tired

Many people die in crashes because the driver was tired. To avoid driving tired:

  • after a long flight, wait until you have adapted to sleeping normally at night, particularly if time zones are crossed
  • share the driving with your licensed companions
  • take regular rest stops
  • don"t try to drive too far in one day
  • if you"re tired, pull the car over and have a short sleep

Rest areas are located every 80–120 kilometres on main roads for road users to pull over and rest when tired. Facilities may be limited but usually include seating, tables and shelter. If you are very tired the only cure is sleep.

Driving in rural and remote Australia

Driving in rural and remote areas requires special driving skills and awareness of different conditions. Make sure your vehicle is in good working order and has been serviced recently. Always carry a spare tyre, tools and water. If travelling to remote areas off major highways take extra food, water, fuel and tyres. Our remote areas have few towns and facilities, often with large distances between them, so plan your trip. If travelling in remote areas or planning to leave major roads tell local police of your intended route.

Road conditions: Road conditions can vary from a sealed surface to gravel and dirt. Use a four-wheel drive vehicle on unsealed roads in remote areas. Be careful of holes, soft road edges, narrow roads with unstable edges, narrow bridges, changing surfaces and dusty roads. The environment can change rapidly. Always check on local road conditions before leaving major roads. Turn your vehicle’s headlights on low beam during the day so vehicles can see you. Drive slowly on unsealed roads and take extra care – loose surfaces are unpredictable. If you drive off the side of the road, do not overcorrect but slow down and return to the road when the vehicle is travelling at a safe speed. Obey road closure signs.

Flooded roads: You may come across water on the road. Roads may be covered in water which appears shallow but can have a current strong enough to sweep your vehicle away. Wait until the water level drops or use an alternative route.

Road trains: Huge trucks, known as road trains, can be the length of 10 cars. It can take up to 2.5 kilometres to overtake a road train at 100km/h. Also allow plenty of room before you overtake as they may sway from side to side as you overtake. Be prepared for the ‘windrush’ when passing as it can pull you towards the road train. When being overtaken by a road train, maintain your speed and don’t move off the road. Only slow once the road train moves out to pass and make sure there is space for the road train between you and the vehicle in front of you.

Animals: Watch out for animals on the road such as kangaroos and emus. Livestock also graze on the side of unfenced roads. The most active time for many animals is sunrise and sunset. If an animal crosses in front of you, reduce speed safely and do not swerve violently or you may roll the vehicle.

If your vehicle breaks down: Do not leave your vehicle because it will provide you with shade and protection from the heat. Wait for help to come to you. Consider hiring appropriate emergency communication equipment, such as a satellite phone and an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) device.

In the water

At the beach always swim between the red and yellow flags – not outside them. The flags mark the safest place to swim and the area where lifesavers and lifeguards patrol.

Many surf beaches in Australia have strong currents, called rips. These are powerful currents of water that can drag you along. If you find yourself being caught in a rip, do not panic. Stay calm, float with the current and raise your hand, or swim across it, not against it.

Read and obey warning signs on beaches, beach access points and at waterways. If you are unsure of the beach surf conditions check with a lifesaver.

Avoid contact with any sea creatures you might encounter at the beach. They may look harmless yet some sting or bite — especially marine stingers in coastal waters of northern Australia.

Crocodiles can be found around rivers, freshwater lagoons and coastal beaches in northern Australia. Read and obey warning signs.

Always swim with others. Children should always be accompanied in the water by an adult who can swim.

The sun in Australia is very strong. Always wear a shirt, hat, sunglasses and SPF 30+ sunscreen lotion.

Never swim under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or in darkness when the water is unknown.

Never jump or dive into shallow water, a rockpool, creek, lake or river as there could be immersed rocks and logs.

Know your health limitations when considering diving, snorkelling, swimming (or other active pursuits).

Enjoying nature

Be prepared if you plan to spend some time in the outdoors walking or hiking:

  • Tell someone where you are going and what time you expect to return. Let them know when you return.
  • Check the weather forecast and be prepared for unexpected changes in weather.
  • Check the length and degree of difficulty of your planned walk. Consider using a local guide when taking long or difficult walks.
  • Drink plenty of water (in warm weather allow at least one litre of water per hour of walking).
  • Wear sturdy shoes and socks, a hat, sunscreen lotion, comfortable clothing and insect repellent. Other handy items for long bushwalks include food, warm clothing, first aid supplies, a torch and a map.
  • Read maps and signs, stay on the track, stay behind safety barriers and stay away from cliff edges.
  • Do not feed or play with native animals. You might get bitten or scratched.

Visit the ranger station or park information centre to obtain details on the best places to visit and any additional safety information for that park.

Limit your use of fire. Use a fuel stove for cooking (outside of tents). Never leave fires unattended or unconfined. Be aware of fire bans or restrictions in place. Cigarette butts cause bushfires. Do not drop them or throw them out of your car. Evacuate the area immediately if you see a bushfire. Avoid serious burns by extinguishing campfires with water, not dirt or sand.

Nation-wide distribution of the brochure Travel Safely in Australia was announced on 25 July, 2006 by the Minister for Local Government, Territories and Roads, Jim Lloyd and the Minister for Small Business and Tourism, Fran Bailey.

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