Visitors to WA

Welcome to Western Australia!

Western Australia (WA) is the largest state in our vast, arid continent, covering an area of 2.5 million square kilometres  – that’s bigger than the whole of Western Europe or four times the size of Texas. We want you to enjoy your stay, but more importantly we want you to stay safe.

There are many things you need to be aware of before you drive in the city or around the outback. Take some time to read the following pages to ensure your trip is as enjoyable and safe as possible!

kmh

is the maximum speed limit on open roads in WA.

metre trucks are common in outback WA.

m

is the distance you must travel behind a car & caravan more than 7.5m long.

litres of water minimum, per person per day when on outback trips.

Driving on the left

In Australia, all vehicles drive on the left side of the road.

We understand that if you are not used to driving on the left, it may take you some time to adjust, so tape a note on your dashboard to remind you to keep left.

When coming to an intersection or making turns, take extra care. On multi-lane roads you may only drive in the righthand lane if:

  • You are overtaking
  • The left lane is a special purpose lane (bus, cycle)
  • You’re avoiding an obstruction.

Driving safely around WA

Planning ahead is crucial for any long distance driving trip in WA, as distances between remote townships can be vast and conditions can be very hot and dry.

The following tips aim to help you have a safe journey:

Use the right vehicle

If you are hiring or borrowing a car for a trip in WA, get advice on the best model for the road conditions.

If you purchase a vehicle, make sure it is in good mechanical order.

A four wheel drive (4WD) track is no place for a conventional vehicle.

Fatigue over long distances

Use a detailed, recent road map, plot your journey based on distances and keep track of your mileage so you always know how far you’ve travelled.

Remember to take regular breaks from driving to relax and admire the sights. Share the driving with a friend.

Drinking water is a good idea to prevent fatigue. Carry at least 4-5 litres of water per person, per day.

Remember to get plenty of rest the night before a long trip. You should not be driving if you feel tired.

When travelling in Western Australia, stop and take a break at rest areas and take in the sights and recommence your journey when you feel refreshed.

Wildlife on the road

It is exciting to see Australian wildlife, but beware of roaming animals.

  • Kangaroos, cattle, camels and even large birds can stray onto the road or appear suddenly in front of your vehicle.
  • Put on your brakes and sound your horn.
  • Be aware that animals on the road will be unpredictable, sometimes heading towards your vehicle rather than away from it.
  • Drive slowly and do not try to swerve around an animal as you may lose control on the gravel verge.

Driving on gravel and sand

The roads outside WA cities and towns usually have gravel edges, or, further afield, are made up of red dirt and small stones.

Gravel is like ball-bearings under car tyres. Please slow down on bends and do not brake suddenly as you are likely to skid.

Be aware that gravel and dirt roads also create big clouds of dust and impede visibility, so keep a safe distance behind other vehicles.

Be prepared for dust and stones from cars travelling in the opposite direction.

Driving on sandy tracks requires plenty of skill and often the only suitable vehicle is a four-wheel-drive.

Sand tracks often form pockets like snow drifts which create extra hazard.

Overtaking world's longest trucks

Australia is home to some of the largest trucks in the world known as ‘road trains’ (they can be up to 60m long), which require great care when overtaking. 
 
  • You need a long straight stretch of road that is clear as far as you can see.
  • Be aware that it may take some time to overtake one of these long trucks.
  • Take your time and stay back several car lengths. When it is safe to pass, indicate, move over the centre lane, accelerate, and overtake quickly.
  • If you are towing a caravan or trailer it is best not to try and overtake at all. Wait for an overtaking lane, where it is safe to do so.

Low visibility

Hot and dry conditions in Western Australia make the beaches attractive, but they also create a bushfire risk. Avoid driving when there is smoke on the road.

Torrential rain in the wet season reduces visibility and increases risk on the roads. Switch on your headlights, use the vehicles windscreen wipers and do not attempt to cross flooded roads.

Plan your journey to avoid roads which have been affected by bushfire smoke or flooding. Up to date “Alerts” are available from Main Roads WA.

It is also dangerous to drive directly into the sun. Take a break until the sun rises higher in the sky, or in the evening, wait until the sun sets and drive within the visibility of your headlights.

Towing

  • If you are going to tow a caravan, trailer or boat, be sure you know the legal load limit for your vehicle and make sure your load is well secured. Heavy or poorly-secured loads can cause rollovers and accidents.
  • Add 200kg to the weight shown on the vehicle licence paper to allow for bedding, travelling gear, stores and equipment.
  • The legal speed limit outside a built-up area, unless otherwise signposted, for a vehicle towing a trailer or caravan is 100 km/h.
  • If your car and caravan is more than 7.5m long you must keep at least 200m behind any similar car/caravan or long vehicle on all roads outside built-up areas, unless you are overtaking.
  • Be courteous and check regularly to see if traffic is building up behind you. If you are holding up traffic, pull over when it is safe to do so and allow the traffic to pass.
  • It is not recommended that you tow a caravan on unsealed roads in remote areas. If you take a camper-trailer, make sure it has four-wheel-drive tyres with a high clearance and can handle rough road surfaces.

Driver's licence

You must carry your current overseas licence and a translation, or an International Drivers’ Permit (IDP) with you while driving.

If your foreign licence does not have a photo ID, you should get an IDP before travelling to Australia if you intend to rent a car.