Travel in Australia and New Zealand
Driving in Australia can challenge all of your senses, emotions, natural instincts and concentration, especially if you are from America or Continental Europe where driving on the right side of the road is literally 'the right side'.
Here are a few of the 'When Driving in Australia' things to consider:
1. Australian's drive on the left hand side of the road which may be 'right' for them but when you get behind the wheel of an Australian car remember that oncoming traffic will be approaching you on your right hand side. It is not uncommon for travelers arriving in Australia from left hand drive counties to have accidents soon after they leave the airport in their shiny new hire car because they have managed to get themselves on to the wrong side of the road. This also occurs more frequently around popular tourist destinations such as the Great Ocean Road along Victoria's south coast.
2. Australia's exotic wildlife love to physically confront cars, particularly appearing in front of them as dusk settles or in the middle of the night. While a collision with a heavy set kangaroo or wombat will most likely leave your vehicle un-drivable, do not, if you are confronted with any wildlife, try to steer around it. If it is safe for you to slow down then do so, but do not swerve to avoid it as you may well end up driving off the side of the road and into one of those huge majestic Australian Gum trees, which while being home to the cuddly Australian koalas are unforgiving in any impact with a vehicle or into oncoming traffic. Yes this means let your vehicle hit the animal if you cannot safely avoid it.
3. Vehicles made specifically for Australia often have the indicators and the windscreen wiper levers on the opposite side to European made right hand drive vehicles. So while you are almost guaranteed to turn the wipers on when wanting to turn left or right, or the indicators on to clear the water from the windscreen, familiarize yourself with the controls so at least you will be able to quickly correct any mistake.
4. Speed limits in Australia are a contentious issue even for Australian drivers and can vary a number of times in a short distance in residential areas and leading into or out of regional towns. There are also different speed limits during certain times for school zones and different states across Australia may also have different maximum speed limits. All speed limits are well sign posted so just watch for the signs and you'll be ok.
5. If you are traveling to Victoria and venture into the city of Melbourne you will see signs for what are called 'Hook turns'. These 'Hook Turns' have nothing to do with pirates, rather they are designed to encourage the flow of traffic and require drivers to turn right from the left hand lane. Yes it does sound up-side-down but take a moment to remember where you are. So here's how it works: If you want to turn right at an intersection which is denoted with a 'Hook Turn' sign, safely get into the left hand lane and enter the intersection. Once in the intersection slow to a stop in the far left hand side of the left hand lane (with your right indicator on). Wait for the traffic lights in front of your to turn red and, after checking over your right shoulder for other vehicles, complete your right turn into the intersecting road and continue as normal. If you are hiring a car ask the reception staff to explain it fully with examples.
6. Australia is a huge country and many remote country roads are long and rarely used. If you are using any of these remote roads be sure carry a supply of water and food in case of emergencies. If your vehicle breaks down, never, never, never (did I say "NEVER") leave your vehicle. Search crews are more likely to be able to find you with your vehicle than if your decide to head off on foot and expose yourself to the often extremely high day-time and low night-time temperatures.
7. Finally, Australia is a great country to travel and discover with your own vehicle. Whilst the items above may make driving in Australia sound dangerous, they are just some of the little challenges we face as travelers when visiting any country which is not our own. They are more about saying be cautious when driving in an unfamiliar environment and return home safely with some great tales of driving on the wrong side of the road!
Australia is well represented by a number of hire car companies including the well know Budget and Drive Now. There are also a number of other operators who can provide everything from small cars to large fully self contained and transport vehicles.
Echuca http://www.echuca.ws/ is a great regional Australian town to visit. Companies renting or hiring cars in Australia include Budget Car Hire and DriveNow http://members.commissionmonster.com/z/67140/5443/