A Guide to Driving in Australia – Moving to Australia

Australia is a very vast and diverse country. To explore it properly you will need to have your own set of wheels, which means that you need to have the correct licence and be aware of the different driving rules.

This can vary from state to state, so we’ll break this down to make it easier for you to see which driving rules you need to follow when moving to Australia.

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Can I Drive in Australia on a UK Driving Licence?

There is an allowance to be able to use an overseas driving licence when you first arrive in Australia. If you then intend to move to Australia on a permanent basis and hold a permanent visa, you’ll usually need to get a local licence within 3 months of your arrival into the country. When you are using your UK licence, you will also need to carry your passport and make sure that you have the correct insurance in place.

Some insurance may not cover you for driving on “unsealed roads” which is one without a hard, smooth surface. In Australia, this can cover anything from a forest track, which could be smooth but not deemed “hard” surface, to nearly impossible to travel on, outback dirt tracks. Some of these outback tracks are crossed by rivers and have many potholes. If you aren’t covered for unsealed roads, you will need to research your route before setting out on a trip.

As well as checking your route before setting out on a trip, always check that you have spare tyres, maps, food, water and fuel, as well as having GPS fitted to your vehicle if you are planning a trip. Always tell someone where you are going, and how long you are likely to be, and then let someone know when you have arrived safely.

Driving in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT)

If you are moving to the ACT, for example to Australia’s capital city, Canberra, on a permanent basis, you need to get yourself an ACT licence within 6 months of taking up residency. You will need to have proof of identity and residency, and your existing UK licence.

If you are over 25 years old and have a valid UK licence, you won’t need to pass any tests to get your ACT driving licence. However, if you are under 25 years old you will need to complete a Pre-Learner licence course, pass a road rules knowledge test and complete a practical driving test.

If you do not use your UK licence and driving experience, you will only be issued with an ACT learner driving licence and will need to complete further tests including a hazard perception test as well as a certain number of hours of driving practice.

The ACT government has issued an ACT Road Rules Handbook in which you can find all the rules of driving in the territory and different licence requirements.

Driving in New South Wales (NSW)

Sydney is a popular expat destination, and if you are moving to New South Wales you only have 3 months where you can drive on your UK licence before you need to get a NSW driving licence. You do have the option to apply for a temporary visitor’s licence if you are staying for longer.

If you have permanent residency in New South Wales, you will need to change your UK licence to a NSW licence within the 3 month period from arrival. There are different licences that you can apply for, based on your existing UK licence and driving experience. Details of these can be found on the NSW Government website.

To avoid the need to sit a knowledge test, and take a driving test, you will need to be over 25 years old and hold a UK driving licence that is current, or expired no more than 5 years ago. If you are under 25 years old, you will need to take the tests.

Transport for NSW have issued a NSW Road User Handbook which has details of all of the licensing and testing requirements, as well as the rules of driving in NSW.

Driving in the Northern Territory (NT)

As with Sydney, you can drive in the Northern Territory, such as in the city of Darwin, for 3 months with your UK driving licence. You may also need to carry an international driving permit, so please check this out to make sure.

If you have permanent residency, you will need to transfer your overseas licence within 3 months of locating to the Northern Territory. When transferring a UK licence, you do not need to pass any driving or theory tests. You only need to go to a Motor Vehicle Registry (MVR) office with a completed NT driver licence application form.

As well as the completed application, you’ll need to present your current UK licence and become a customer of the MVR, by providing some evidence of identity and residence. You can find more details on becoming an MVR customer on the NT Government website.

Once you have provided all of the documentation, you’ll need an eye test, have your photograph taken and pay the licence fee.

To find details of driving and road users regulations, go to the NT Government website page on driving safely.

Driving in Queensland

Currently, during the Covid crisis, if you are driving in Queensland, for example in Brisbane, you are allowed to do so with a valid overseas driving licence. You do not need to apply for a Queensland licence if you have an overseas licence and the following also applies;

  • Your overseas licence is valid
  • You only drive the class of motor vehicle authorised on your overseas licence
  • You comply with any licence conditions shown on your overseas licence
  • You show your overseas licence to a police officer when asked to do so
  • You follow the guidelines on non-essential travel and staying at home

Usually, you will need to apply for a Queensland driver licence within 3 months of arriving in Australia, by visiting either a Transport and Mains Road customer service centre, a Queensland Government Licence issuing centre, a Queensland Government Agent Program office or by obtaining one from a licence-issuing police station.

You will need to produce your current overseas licence, proof of identity and residency and pay the licence fee. With a valid UK licence, you won’t need to pass any tests. For details on road rules and safety, the Queensland government has a website page on Queensland Road Safety and Rules.

Driving in South Australia

If you are moving to South Australia, for example to Adelaide, you have 90 days in which to be issued with a South Australian driver’s licence. Until the 90days are up, you are allowed to driver using your UK driving licence.

To transfer an existing UK licence, if you are 17 and over, you will need to visit a Service SA customer service centre, pay the licence fee (provisional if you are 17 to 19) and produce your UK licence, proof of identity and a completed application form.

If you are 16 you will need to apply for a learner’s permit, and then take a driving test. The South Australia government website has a lot of detail on the rules of the road in South Australia as well as an online hazard perception test so that you can practice driving safely.

Driving in Tasmania

The state of Tasmania is a group of islands located to the south of the Australian mainland. With a UK licence, you are able to drive in Tasmania for up to 6 months if you are a visitor or have a temperate visa. You will need to carry your licence with you, and not be disqualified from driving anywhere in the world.

If you are converting a UK licence to a Tasmanian licence, you will not need to take a road rules knowledge test or a driving assessment. If your licence has expired, you may need to take the tests.

To convert a valid UK licence, you will need to have proof of identity, your UK licence and to complete the application form. Transport Tasmania has issued the Tasmanian Road Rules Handbook with details of road laws and regulations whilst driving in Tasmania.

Driving in Victoria

If you are moving to Melbourne, or another part of the state of Victoria, you can legally drive with your UK licence for up to 6 months before you need to convert to a Victorian licence. As the UK is an “approved country” no tests are required to convert to a Victorian licence.

You will need to book an appointment with VicRoads, and take with you the application form, proof of identity and residency along with your existing licence. There is a fee to pay (currently AU$19.20) and you may need to take an eyesight test, so if you need glasses or contact lenses make sure you have them with you.

As with the other states in Australia, you will need to acquaint yourself with the specific rules for driving in Victoria.

Driving in Western Australia

Another popular expat destination in Australia is the city of Perth, and if you are moving to Australia to relocate to Western Australia you can drive using a UK licence for up to 3 months. You can then apply for a WA driver’s licence and can do so without taking any tests, other than an eyesight test.

You’ll need to provide proof of identity and residency, as well as your existing licence and have photographs taken at either a Driver and Vehicle Services centre, regional agent or Photo Point location. You’ll also need to provide a copy of your signature.

Applications need to be submitted in person at a Driver and Vehicle Services Centre or regional agent and pay the licence fee (AU$53.90 if no driving test is required). The Western Australia government website has a page for Visitors to regional WA showing driving rules and regulations.

Driving Interstate in Australia

Once you have your driving licence issued in the correct state, you may think you are free to drive around Australia at your leisure, taking in all of the amazing sights that the country has to offer. However, you need to check out the rules on interstate driving in the state that you are visiting.

Along with the different requirements, there are different driving laws and regulations for the different states. One example is the use of low-speed limits in “school zones”. In New South Wales, for example, school zones generally operate only within set times at the beginning and end of the school day. But in the ACT you may find that the school zones are in operation all day. The result could be a hefty fine.

New South Wales also has slightly different rules on the use of mobile phones, where you can text or make a call with the engine running if you legally are out of traffic. But in Victoria, your engine needs to be switched off or this is illegal. In Tasmania, you aren’t even allowed to use your mobile phone as a GPS sat-nav!

My personal favourite, again to watch out for if you are visiting New South Wales, is that you can be fined and have points put on your licence if you drive through a muddy puddle and splash a pedestrian. Anyone who has found themselves soaking wet after being splashed will agree with this one.

Car Shipping to Australia

Now you know how and when you need to apply for a driving licence in Australia, you may want to take your car with you. If so, then contact our sister company, Autoshippers, who have been shipping vehicles to Australia and other countries worldwide for over 20 years.

Autoshippers have different services depending on your own requirements, including vehicle specialist Ro-Ro shipping, dedicated or shared container shipping or even airfreight if your vehicle shipment is time-sensitive.

Moving to Australia

Hopefully, we have covered most of the rules for driving licences in the different states in Australia. If you are moving to Australia, let us help at 1st Move International help you further by safely shipping your furniture, personal effects and household goods to Australia from the UK. For more details on things you need to be aware of in your move, take a look at our recent blog Moving to Australia – The Ultimate Guide.

For a quotation, or for some details on International Removals to Australia or Shipping Schedules for Australia then take a look at the links provided. If you are interested in finding out the cost of shipping to Australia then feel free to fill out our quote form on our website, call us on 0117 982 8123 / 0800 389 0784 or fill out our contact us form.

We have a unique way of packing your household goods that enable us to use commercial container shipping services, for more details on how 1st Move are Faster, Safer and Smarter then follow the links on our website or take a look at our recent blog How Does Palletising Your Personal Belongings Make Moving Overseas Safer?