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By Road

To travel Australia by car and depending on the distance to be covered, it will demand time and travel strategy, other way, the motorist and passengers will be bored due to the long distances and the same panorama for a long time. If you want to have one the worst trips of your life, just go from Sydney to Cairns, with children or teenagers on the back seat. You will understand what I am talking about. Worst than that is from Sydney to Perth, which have straight sessions of road reaching almost 600 Km without turning the steering wheel. It is only 9000Km round trip. In other words, if you planning to travel Australia, put aside plenty of time to have stops in small towns and enjoy the local hospitality and attractions. It all will depend on the time you have available and the distance you'll have to cover. The other point, is that the cost of petrol in Australia is not cheap, so invite your bank manager to make part of the trip is not a bad idea. Anyway, if you have plenty of time and no restrictions of expenses, Australia can be one of the most interesting places to travel by car in the world.

For International Tourists with a limited time or bucks in the pocket, the best way is to travel long distances in only one direction. In this case the roadworthy tourist will travel by plane to the final destination and rent a car to do the way back by road. Some rental companies charge an extra to drop off the car in a different city, but even so in our opinion it compensates financially and in terms of enjoyment of the trip. As an example for one of the best road trips in Australia which is from Sydney to Cairns, the more than 3000 Km can be covered by plane in less than 3 hours, but by car you will need to drive at least 428 Km per day to do the entire trip in one week, meaning you won't have time to see and enjoy the attractions. Fourteen days could be better and 21 the Ideal. Along the way, there are too many fantastic spots to stop at least for two days, such as national parks in mountains and beaches, interesting towns, Islands, tours and walks. The local population is very friendly, different from Australian who live in the metropolis. So as much time you have, better your trip will be.

The roads are good, some excellent, and some suffering of chronic aging in need or urgent upgrade, but in general, you will find the road safe and sometimes very pleasant to drive. There are rest areas in most roads, some with toilets, picnic tables and in some even a free coffee. In some of these rest areas you can even overnight for free depending upon a sign telling the contrary. The signalisation is also very good, along the roads and in the major towns along the way, so it is very easy for the motorist to make his way into a town and get about without any dramas. It is better not to extend your trip beyond the sunset of in the early hours of the morning due to the excess of wildlife along the roads, such as Kangaroos, mazurpials and birds like eagles, who love to get a bite on a fresh dead animal. Run over a Kangaroo can bring serious damages to the vehicle and occupants. In a trip from Sydney to Cairns by road, you will count more than a thousand dead animals along the way. One other problem we've found, is the loose gravel on the road which made cracks in our windscreen twice, so, it is better have a car insurance that covers that. Keep your tank full as much as you can, because there are roads which very abrasive bitumen and the consumption of fuel is much bigger. Also, there are long sections without a petrol station to be found. Every opportunity, fill up the tank and in some remote areas, take a spare fuel plastic tank with you.

To drive in Australia, your country's drive licence will be accept for some months depending of the rules of the state you are travelling in Australia. If your document is not in English, is strongly recommended to bring a paper with an official translation of the license. An International driving license is accept in some Australian states, and depending on the country you are from, Australia may not have agreement of recognition of the International license. As an ex British colony, the driving hand in Australia is the same as in England, or on the left side of the road. Read more here.

The maximum speed in Australian roads is 100 Km/h unless there is a sign telling something different. There are radars everywhere and in many cases the hand held police radar is operated in places you can't see from the road. Fines are heavy for speeding and police don't give a chance even if you are a driver from Mars. Take special attention when approaching towns along the way because the speed limit can change very quickly sometimes with a sign not well lit of exposed, which cost me A$ 240 fine. Drink and drive is a very serious offence in Australia and fines are very heavy besides you will have to attend a court of justice. For serious or repeated drinking driving offences, even jail terms can be imposed. If you are not familiar with the traffic rules in Australia, a booklet is sold in petrol stations and Newsagencies for less than A$ 10. The same about road maps, you can get them in these same places plus bookstores.

Tip: The yellow pages of each city has at the beginning street maps of that city. Also the Tourist Information Offices in almost every town will give you for free a local street map. Some are good enough but in some cases these maps are not very clear or even readable. Anyway, you can buy a street maps from local car shops such as " Super Cheap Auto", Newsagents, Post office, and bookshops. The price I paid for a Brisbane, Gold Coast, and Sunshine Coast street directory was around A$ 30.

Don't drive tired in Australia especially if you are from a country which adopts a different traffic hand. Many fatal accidents have occurred involving tourist because when tired and in a danger circumstance the reflex tends to be automatic with very little time to activate the brain to think which side of the road to pull the car. If you are totally unfamiliar with the left side hand, we recommend to have a couple of hour with a driving school just to practice a little bit.

Read more about how to rent a car in Australia

Have a safe and enjoyable trip !

Miss Cow, is this road safe?
- Yes it is, I walk on it every day!
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