4 Important Things To Know About Driving In Australia: International Student Edition

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Driving your own car here in Australia can be a huge timesaver when college life and extracurriculars get bustling and fast-paced. You may not need a car to get by if you are studying in a metropolitan city, what with the ample public transport options available. But in the case of smaller cities, public transportation services are a less fruitful option.

Apart from serving the purpose of getting you to and fro from your university, having a car also gives you the scope to navigate and discover beautiful spots in and around the country.

Speaking of driving around, wouldn't it be nice if you could just use your home country's driving licence in Australia? Mate, you certainly can if your licence is in accordance with the International Driving Permit's rules!

A relief to hear, isn't it? That's not all, there are plenty of other important pointers you must know to decide if driving in Australia is a feasible option for you. Let's dive right into it! 


All The Deets On International Driver's Licences

As mentioned earlier, you can use your licence from your home country as long as it complies with the IDP. There are 2 important conditions to satisfy in order to be eligible for this permit:

  • You will have to have a valid and current driver's licence.
  • Your licence must be written in English, and if it isn't, you must apply for an international driving permit through your home country and ensure it gets translated by a translation service certified by NAATI (The National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters Ltd).

Now, what if you really want to drive in Australia but don't have a driver's licence? First, you will be required to apply for one with the state/territory motor registry that pertains to you. You will then be asked to take up a driving test, so warm up on some stellar driving skills that'll put Lewis Hamilton to shame!

Note that driving rules in Australia vary across states and territories; it is recommended that you research what does and doesn't apply to the region you'll be driving in. 

Avoid Road Rage With Road Rules

As an international student, driving around Australian roads can be a little tricky. And no, not because you'll find crocodiles out on the road. Apart from a potential culture shock, there are strict rules you absolutely MUST follow to avoid penalties and accidents.

For starters, ensure that:

  • You always carry your international driver's licence with you.
  • You and all the passengers wear safety belts when driving.
  • You drive on the left-hand side of the road.
  • You never litter or throw anything out of your car (it is strictly prohibited).
  • You never use a mobile phone while driving.
  • You never drink and drive.
  • You remain alert on speed limits and comply with them.
  • Kids under the age of 7 are seated in their own car seats.

In the event that you are caught violating the above-mentioned rules, you will be fined heavily or end up losing your international driver's licence, even facing criminal charges. Australia has really high fines, so obeying these rules while driving here can help your wallet remain heavy.

It also helps to check where heavy traffic is common and avoid such congested areas, especially at the initial stage of driving in Australia.

In certain parts of Australia, it is illegal to drive around with a blood alcohol content over the limit of 0.05, or under the influence of any illicit drugs. 

Get A Car AND Keep It Running

First things first, decide whether you want to get a new or second-hand car. Whichever you pick, beware that driving a car unfit for the road is against the law. Check the car's certificate of roadworthiness and ensure it is deemed roadworthy in your state/territory.

Maintaining a car is no easy task. It may not be a herculean task either, but as an international student, you must know what you are signing up for before making the purchase. If you live in one of the metropolitan areas, a car is not even necessary.

To keep a car running smoothly is quite an expensive ordeal. Purchasing and maintaining a car entails registration, insurance, repairs, servicing, and petrol.

Note that international students cannot take loans, so you may have to explore other options to fund this purchase. According to the Australian Government, it can cost between AUD 150 to AUD 250 per week to run and maintain a car, after buying it.

If you want to consider more affordable options, look into getting a bicycle or a motorised scooter. If you only require a car on rare occasions, you can always rent it short-term. 

Sort Out The Paperwork

The car you get must be registered under the state/territory motor registry. If you've purchased a second-hand car, the seller should provide you with a car registration form, which in turn needs to be lodged with the motor registry by you to indicate that you are the new owner.

Registration is only valid for one year, so you must renew it annually by paying a registration fee.

To drive a car in Australia, you must acquire a compulsory third party insurance for you and the other passengers against driving-related injuries. In most states, this insurance is included with the registration fees. There's also a third party insurance that covers the damages you might cause to someone else's vehicle, and a comprehensive insurance that covers damages to both your vehicle as well as other vehicles concerned. In the event that your car ever breaks down, purchasing roadside assistance will certainly come in handy.

There are many potential insurance companies to choose from, make sure you pick the option with the highest level of coverage under the lowest cost.

Motor Vehicle Registries For The Australian States/Territories

The table below states the motor vehicle registries for each of the states/territories in Australia. 

States/Territories Registry
Australian Capital Territory Road Transport Authority
New South WalesRoads and Maritime Resources
Northern TerritoryDepartment of Transport
QueenslandDepartment of Transport and Main Roads
South AustraliaDepartment of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure
TasmaniaDepartment of Infrastructure, Energy and Resources
VictoriaVic Roads
Western AustraliaDepartment of Transport

We hope you've gained much-needed clarity on driving in Australia.

Just remember: Whichever type of car you pick, research it beforehand, find the best deals, and take the car for a test drive before finalising the deal. Good luck out there!

As an international student pursuing your UG/PG course in Australia, you might have your fair share of challenges. Why not make things easier? Contact our expert counsellors for a free counselling session regarding any doubts you may have on PR, post-graduate work experience, visa queries, etc. 

Found it helpful? We can help you take it further. Contact us and get all your queries on PR, visas, migration, scholarships, and others answered today! 

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