sunset in the australian outback

The 5 things you NEED to know BEFORE an Australian road trip

Australia is one big island! Roughly 5000 kilometres (3100 miles) from coast to coast. To put that into an European perspective, you could drive from Amsterdam (Holland) to Ankara (Turkey) and still not have covered the total distance!

Fear not, us Aussies know that our cities and suburbs are quite spread out, so we’ve built some amazing infrastructure to help you get to your destination, happy and healthy. Having spent count-less hours on the road myself, there are some important rules, tips and hacks that you should be aware of before you get behind the wheel in OZ.

Driving through Uluru.

1. Stop, revive, survive!

It’s a slogan we’ve been using in New South Wales for years. Every state has its own campaign addressing the consequences of driver fatigue, so keep an eye out for them on television or the radio. With almost 30% of fatal crashes being directly linked to driver fatigue, it is without doubt the most common killer on Australian roads. Along with the catchy campaign, the state governments have put in place driver revival sites across the country, equipped with bathroom, refreshment and parking facilities. These handy resources are completely free and open 24 hours a day during busy holiday periods.

2. NRMA (National Road + Motorists Association)

When you think of road side assistance in Australia, you think of the NRMA. Backed by the largest insurance group in Australia and New Zealand, added with coverage across the nation, the NRMA has been a household name for decades.

Australian roads can be rough, especially if you decide to venture in-land towards central Australia. I recall a long stretch of road on the way to the Barossa Valley (South Australia) from Sydney (New South Wales), just passed Griffith, which was all rock and gravel – not great for tyres, especially if you’re driving a basic sedan. When you pick up your caravan or vehicle, check with the rental company if they have organised insurance, who the provider is, if you have nation-wide road-side assistance and if it is free with your rental. Don’t risk it!

3. Border crossings

Yes, we have interstate border crossings. Although it may take you half a day to get there, when you reach a border crossing, there are some things you should know for a smooth passing. Australia takes the migration of pests, diseases and weeds very seriously. These can be easily transmitted through fruits, vegetables, seeds and other food items. If you arrive at a border crossing with any of the above, there is a good chance you will need to consume it, throw it away, otherwise, risk being allowed entry. Be sure to check what is and isn’t allowed before you get to your crossing.

4. Campsites

Many of you will be getting ready for a grand camping vacation. Well you’ve picked the perfect country for just that sort of adventure. With loads of open space, you will find campsites for travellers of all shapes, sizes and styles. From rustic, bon-fire sites to state-of-the-art facilities, equipped with Wi-Fi and coffee shops! I found the WikiCamps Australia app as a stand out amongst the campsite apps. You’ll have to pay a minimal fee to download the application but it’s worth its weight in gold. Camp site reviews, search by map, discounts, offers, clear photos, call, book through the app and other great features.

5. Tolls

Australia is a land of 8 States and Territories. While on face value that may not seem big, the size of Western Australia is almost 3 million square kilometres. It can be daunting driving across large, unfamiliar open spaces; especially if there are toll roads involved. Each state has its own set of rules when it comes to toll prices and passings.

There is information on each states toll structure found on their government website. If you know for sure which states you will be visiting, it’s a good idea to plan ahead and check out the corresponding states toll site for fees and charges and how to best pay your toll charge. Since 2013, cash booths have been removed around the country. All toll points are now electronic, requiring drivers to either sign up with a Roam or Link Pass, otherwise they must pay their toll fee within 48 hours of passing a toll point. If you are renting a vehicle, your agency will provide you specific information on toll passes, including whether your vehicle is equipped with toll point equipment.

Australia is a beautiful country. With so much to see, smell, taste, hear and see; you want to be in control of your travel and that means getting behind the wheel! But it’s important to be wary of rules and regulations, as well as some handy tips along the way.

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