While most of Australia's biggest cities and most popular sights can be reached by plane, or even train, renting a car can offer greater freedom and can open up a range of off-the-beaten-track destinations to the visitor.
However, while rewarding, driving in Australia can be challenging as a result of the country's size and inhospitable interior.
Things You'll Need
- Globally-recognized credit card
- Valid driver's license in English
Do your research before you head off to Australia. Nearly all of the biggest car rental companies, including the likes of Hertz, Avis and Budget, have a presence in Australia, and cars can often be booked in advance from the U.S., either online or over the phone. To get the best deal, it pays to shop around online and plan your dates and trip itinerary in advance.
Determine what type of car you will need for your trip. A standard two-wheel-drive vehicle will suffice for a standard sightseeing tour of the east coast, but many destinations in the interior should only be explored in a four-wheel drive. Though likely to be more expensive, such all-terrain vehicles are necessary due to the relatively poor condition of roads outside of the major cities and drivers are strongly advised to read up on what they should do should they break down in the Outback before setting off.
It's also worth noting that in Australia, the cars rented out will tend to be right-hand drives with stick shifts, though automatics may be available.
Ensure your license will be accepted. While American and European driving licenses are valid in Australia, the law states that if the original documents are not in English, then a translation must be carried at all times. Australian police can hand out on-the-spot fines to a driver who does not have his license with him when behind the wheel. Branches of the AAA across the U.S. will be able to help with an English-language translation of a license.
Take note of the age restrictions of varied car rental companies. In general, rental firms require drivers to be over the age of 21, though some set their minimum age at 25. Age-based restrictions may also bar younger drivers from renting more powerful cars or all-terrain vehicles.
Pick up your rental car at the airport or another predetermined collection point. Ensure that you not only have your license and passport, but also the credit card you used to make the booking with you.
Give the rental car a thorough check, preferably with an employee of the rental firm. Make a note of any damages so as to ensure you don't get blamed for them later on, and at this point it's also a good idea to double-check the company's policy on miles and fuel.
Ask for a road map from the rental company so as to save a bit of money, and consult the firm's employees over possible hazards in the area. If you plan on heading outside of urban areas, then it's a very good idea to demand an Outback Survival Kit, which includes tools, spare parts, GPS technology, a satellite phone, and plenty of extra fuel and water.
Drop the rental car off on time and at the pre-arranged location in order to avoid any unwanted surcharges. If the terms and conditions of your contract require that the vehicle is returned with as much fuel as it had when you rented it, ensure you fill up at a gas station rather than leaving the job to the rental company.
Tips & Warnings
- While you may want to enjoy the Great Ocean Road or Australia's cities in a sleek open-top sports car, when it comes to Outback driving, it pays to be pragmatic in your choice of rental car. Rita's Outback Guide advises choosing a no-nonsense 4WD of the kind "Outback folk drive," as this increases the chances of getting spare parts in the event of a breakdown.
- Photo Credit sunrise Australia image by mdb from Fotolia.com