Car Rental in Australia
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When renting a car in Australia you will first have to choose what type of vehicle you want for example: Mini, Economy, Compact, Intermediate, Standard, Full-Size, Premium, Luxury, Minivans / MPVs or other vehicles such as trucks and special vehicles.
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Speed and distance in Australia are measured in kilometres. Australians drive on the left-hand side of the road.
Most Australians live by the coast in cities and large towns. Roads within and between the cities and towns are generally reliable and in good condition, as are the main highways that join the state and territory capital cities. Although highways between major cities are well-maintained, motorists may travel for hundreds of kilometres between towns or road houses, with no opportunities to re-fuel, purchase refreshments, or use toilets. Road conditions in remote areas and the 'outback' - the large and less populated areas away from the coast - can be difficult. Not all roads are sealed, and may not be passable in certain seasons or weather conditions. Motorists need to be self-sufficient and prepared when travelling in remote areas. Permits may also be required to travel through certain remote locations.
The road rules are strictly enforced in Australia, especially speed limits. The strictest place for road rule enforcement is Victoria - if you exceed the speed limit by any amount (even 3km/h) you can expect to get fined. This applies in the country areas of the state as well. Speed limits vary depending on road conditions, area and State. Speed limits are clearly signposted at regular intervals so keep an eye out for them.
In urban areas the speed limits change often enough to be very confusing even to locals. The general limit on a standard road is 60km/h, but in sidestreets and residential areas it has been lowered to 50km/h, and 'school zones' have a 25km/h limit during school hours. Permanent, automatic speed cameras are becoming increasingly common in all the capital cities except Brisbane, so be careful.
In country areas the speed limit varies from State to State. In The Northern Territory the maximum speed limit on major highways is 130km/h and all other open roads the default is 110km/h. In South Australia and Victoria the maximum for country areas and major freeways is 100km/h. This is the same for Queensland highways, but it pays to watch out for the speed limit signs as major highways and motorways have speeds varying from 100km/h to 110km/h. In Western Australia the state "open road" limit is 110km/h, and generally 100km/h on freeways.
Driving and parking
Traffic in Australia's major cities can be as bad as in any city around the world. As in any other place, it pays to avoid, if at all possible, driving in or around the Central Business District (CBD) during peak times when everyone is trying to get from or to work. If you have a UBD or Gregory's streetguide, which is provided with every rental car in Australia, avoid roads that have many red dots. They're traffic lights.
Major capitals usually have good public transport within the CBD itself, and this is preferable for short distances.
Cities often have council operated "side of the road" type parking that often involves a fee payable into the meter next to the spot (or more frequently these days, a machine a few spots down which operates for multiple spots). These spots will have a sign indicating the maximum amount of time you can park there (paying the appropriate fee), and at what times the fee operates. There will often be commercial parking lots which charge on an hourly basis, and their fee often depends on the time of day and week you are parking.
One additional hazard unique to driving in Melbourne's CBD and the inner suburbs are trams. Melbourne is known for its extensive tram (US speakers may know trams as streetcars) network. There are three tram-related rules which may not be immediately obvious. Normally, cars drive over the tram tracks, and there will be a dotted yellow lane marker left of the "tram lane". The dotted yellow marker means cars are permitted to drive in the tram lane. Sometimes, there will be a solid yellow line next to the tram lane. This indicates that cars are not permitted to drive in the tram lane. In this case, there is often a sign overhead, in the gantry above the road that indicates possible times when cars are not permitted to drive in that lane. Note also that tram passengers have right of way when crossing the road to or from a tram. So you can't drive a vehicle past a stopped tram.
Perhaps the most infamous amongst Australians, and Melburnians in particular, is the "hook turn" - it is unique in Australia to Melbourne's CBD. As almost all roads in Melbourne's CBD have tram tracks, turning right (remember, we drive on the left) suddenly presents a problem, as while you are waiting to turn, you would be in the tram lane, holding up several trams. To get around this problem, the "hook turn" was invented. This involves turning right from the left lane. To execute a hook turn:
Approach the intersection in the left lane, and indicate to turn right.
Proceed into the intersection as far left as possible (avoiding the pedestrian crossing). Moving across until you end up being perpendicular to traffic which is heading in the direction you want to be (who are waiting at a red light).
Observe the traffic lights to your right. Once green, you turn to your right and proceed as normal.
Under no circumstances should you drive while under the influence of alcohol. Police conduct random breath tests along major routes, both in cities and in the country. In addition, police are able to stop any vehicle and breath test the driver at any time. Drunk driving offenses are considered serious. Penalties include demerit points, license suspension, fines, and imprisonment.
Drug testing is also in place in Victoria.