sandy outback road
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Outback Driving Tips & Facts

Stay safe on your travel adventure in Australia


Outback driving is not riskier than driving on any crowded highway at home. Likewise, driving on unsealed tracks in the Australian Outback needs the driver's full attention.

Forget the traffic jams. Enjoy the freedom to drive on empty roads in the beautiful Australian Outback!

Conditions on dirt roads vary, depending on the weather, usage of the road, and how long ago the grader went through. Usually, the main Outback roads, although unsealed, are in fairly good condition.

campervan on a dirt road
Campervan at the Silver City Hwy, Outback NSW

At first, some basic rules for driving in Australia

To start with, driving in Australia is not hard, even if they drive on the "wrong" side of the road :). Okay, there are still a few more countries in the world who drive on the left, so the wrong or right depends on where you come from.

A valid driver's license is required, of course. International visitors should have an international driving license, especially, if your license is not issued in the English language. But also bring your national drivers license.

Speed limits apply in all states of Australia, but they vary from state to state, and even change within the state from time to time. If you're going to hire a car, you'll get the latest information. You can also check with the Australian motoring clubs.

Always fasten your seat-belt, also when you sit in the back of the car.

Drinking and driving is best to be avoided. A blood alcohol concentration limit of 0,05% is valid in all states. And they test you!! Even in a small bush town on a Sunday morning.

If you have an accident with people being injured call the police. The emergency call is 000 from fixed phones, and 112 from mobile phones.
I mentioned it before, Australians drive on the left side of the road, but this is not a problem. After two days it is like you have always done that. And traffic in the cities is much the same as in any other country.

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Driving in the Outback

You've heard about corrugated roads? It seems Australia is famous for them.
Pictured on the right is one of the worse roads in a national park in New South Wales. Don't worry, it is not always that bad. Find the speed that makes the ride on a bumpy track comfortable for you. On roads like the Oodnadatta & Birdsville Tracks this could be a speed of 60 to 80 km/h (40 - 50 mph) if the conditions are good.

Some Outback roads are sealed, but actually are very narrow (one-lane road). When you see an oncoming car, slow down and move to the left so that your left driving wheels are on the gravel.
However, if the oncoming car is a truck, you better slow down and leave the road completely. Don't force the truck to leave the bitumen. It would only throw stones and dust on you anyway.

Don't forget, what you think is a truck could as well be a road train. These "monster" vehicles can be up to 50 m long. Bear this always in mind when you try to overtake a truck/road train.

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More Outback Driving Tips

  • Be aware of hidden dangers like potholes and soft edges. If you are speeding you can turn your car upside down.
  • Watch out for animals on the road. Apart from the native wildlife lingering on the road, there is also the risk that a mob of cattle, or a flock of sheep is drove over the road.
  • Drive with your headlight on. Other cars see you better in the dust cloud that surrounds your car.
  • Fatigue - this is another danger when you drive long distances. Plan frequent stops; there is always something worth to take a photo of.
  • Avoid driving on wet roads. The mud covers your tyres and you easily lose traction. If a dirt road is closed due to rain, wait until it dries out. The fines for driving on closed roads will ruin your budget.
    Never drive across a flooded river however shallow it seems. The current could sweep your car away. (Thanks Jill from "Art in Tropical Australia" for the tip).
  • Grids and gates - they help station owners to keep the animals in the paddocks they should stay in. On main roads there are grids, animals won't walk over them. There's hardly ever a problem with grids on bitumen roads. However, be carful on unsealed roads, slow down. Because of washouts it can be a bumpy ride over the grid.
    Minor roads just have a gate. You have to get off the car and open the gate, if it's closed. Don't forget to close it after you have passed. The golden rule is: Always leave a gate as you find it!
  • That reminds me on another fact you should realise while driving along the Australian Outback. Outback roads and tracks usually traverse private property. Please stay on designated roads and tracks.
  • When a road train comes across your way it is a good idea to drive as far to the left as possible. Slow down. Better still, wait until the truck has passed. You won't see anything driving in the dust. If you have CB radio (Channel 40) and see an oncoming truck, you can call and let the driver know that you are around. Remember, it will take a long time for a road train to stop, so just be careful.


    road train

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Click on the image to get the road atlas or map for your trip!

Where to check road conditions

RACQ Queensland    RACQ Phone: 131905

RTA New South Wales    Ph: NRMA 131122 or RTA 132701,
NSW western regions 80826660

Outback Roads South Australia
SA Outback Roads Ph: 1300 361 033

Northern Territory Road Reports
Recorded information Ph: 1800 246 199

VIC Roads    Road closures & Traffic alerts

Desert Parks South Australia    Hotline on 1800 816 078

The Bureau of Meteorology has always the latest weather warnings on the homepage.


Outback guide readers frequently ask if they can manage a certain track with their own 2WD car / trailer / caravan.
This is impossible to answer! It depends on the road conditions at the time of your journey and how you can handle your vehicle in difficult conditions.

Please note that car hire companies will never allow their 2WD cars and motorhomes to be driven on unsealed road. Check their terms and conditions before you hire a vehicle.

Looking for a camper for the big trip?

Discovery Campervans offers the leading brands: Brits, Maui, Kea and many more. Compare and get rates from one website.

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Compare Britz, Maui, Backpacker & Kea on one easy to use website. Save Quotes, look at the layouts and full specifications and compare prices and package inclusions.

Outback driving is fun and can get addictive. Be careful! :)

Outback Roads

corrugated outback track
Corrugated road

driving on a narrow road
Narrow road in Queensland

sheep crossing the road
Sheep moving over the road

grid on a track
Grid on the Oodnadatta Track

opening a gate
Leave the gate as you found it!

flowering tree
Flowering tree in Outback SA

car crossing a dry creek bed
Crossing a dry creek bed in the Gawler Ranges

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For more information on Outback driving check the following pages.

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Questions & Tips


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