How To Drive In Sydney Traffic (For Expats)

As you might know, there’s a bit more to driving in Sydney than you would expect, and it’s taken me quite a long time to get my head around Sydney traffic and Sydney roads. It can be pretty cut throat on the roads in Sydney so we’re giving you a heads up on what to expect.

Firstly, Do You Need A Car To Drive Around Sydney Traffic?

You’re going to need a car to get around Sydney and Sydney traffic if you’re going to live here. Don’t expect it to be like living in London where you’ll find access to public transport in every suburb. There’s even a lot of areas in the middle of the city that make me wonder how on earth there’s no train line in places like Paddington or even right to Bondi Beach.

To me, the best part about living in Sydney is not the city itself, it’s what lies outside of the city – the wild beaches, wild swimming spots and plentiful of hikes to be explored. It really is amazing to have these incredible spots on our doorsteps but they require a car and would take forever on public transport.

How To Buy A Car In Sydney

The best way to buy a car in Sydney is through the NRMA. They not only offer old and new car loans but they can help calculate the cost so you know what you’re in for because prices can vary.

They also have a mobile car servicing so if you don’t have time to take your car to the mechanic, they’ll just come to your home and sort it out there. How good is that? I know when my car has broken down, they’ve been over to fix it within an hour which is amazing. I always remember waiting for hours in the UK for the equivalent, The AA.

If you’re wondering how to buy a cheap car in Sydney, fear not. We recently wrote all about our experience about buying a used car in Australia below.

But, what about actually driving in Sydney traffic? What are the rules here and how are you going to tackle the other drivers? Here’s my top 13 tips for being able to tackle Sydney traffic and Sydney roads.

1. Understanding There’s No Slow / Middle / Fast Lanes In Sydney Traffic

The first thing that baffled and slightly scared me was the zero concept for the slow, middle and fast lane when you’re in Sydney traffic. Although technically it’s the law to stick to the slow lane unless you are over taking, no one does it. Everyone sticks to the middle or fast lane which is why there is so much traffic here.

2. Undertaking Is A Thing In Sydney Traffic

This brings me onto number 2 point which is why everyone undertakes in Sydney traffic. You’ll definitely need to be way more alert on Sydney roads because you’ll have people weaving in and out of you all the time and people will cut you up. Thankfully, this is just something you get used to. But, be warned, I’ve noticed no one uses their indicators over here!

3. Don’t Get Stuck At A Junction

Because it’s pretty cut throat in Sydney, you could spend ages waiting to pull out of a junction because no one will let you in. I usually wind down the window, edge forward, put my hand out to say thank you before the car coming towards me has time to drive straight on so I can edge into the lane 😉

4. The Lanes Are Tiny

Sometimes the lanes can be absolutely tiny which I just didn’t understand when I moved here at the beginning so I just stayed in the middle lane to be on the safe side. See, I’ve already turned into a proper Sydney driver with driving in the middle lane!

5. What Do T Zones Mean?

This is something I only learnt very recently, but when you see a lane that says T2 or T3 it means there must be either 2 people or 3 people in the car to be able to drive in that lane. I honestly don’t know why this even existed and it took me nearly 6 years to even realise this is a thing.

 6. Navigating Sydney Harbour Bridge

I have many friends who simply won’t drive over Sydney Harbour Bridge because of the thousands of lanes. Slight exaggeration but basically driving on the bridge itself is the easy part, there’s like 8 lanes, a walking lane, a bike path, a train line but it’s when you cross over to North Sydney area is when it gets tricky. There’s lanes going off onto all directions and it can be confusing, very confusing.

Even when I first moved here we ended up going over the bridge like 3 times just to get to Kirribilli because we kept missing our turn off. And it costs to go over the bridge as well.

7. It’s Not Cheap To Drive Around With Sydney Tolls

There are so many tolls in Sydney to pay for. You’ll need to buy an E-tag for your car which is direct debited out of your account. You’ll hear a beep sound when you go through a toll check point.

I once counted the tolls up to The Blue Mountains recently and we had 5 to go through. They range in price from something like $1.50-$4.50 but generally you can find another road to go on to avoid paying the tolls, it will just take longer.

8. Understanding What An RBT Means

Although there’s loads of random rules to driving in Sydney, if there’s one thing the Police are big on, it’s RBTs known as random breatherliser tests. This basically means that Police can stop you at any given notice for a random breatherliser test to see how many alcohlic drinks you’ve had.

Now the confusing part is knowing how many drinks you can actually have. For example, women can technically have 1 drink every hour, whilst men can have 2 drinks in their first hour, then 1 drink every hour after that. To me, this is beyond confusing and I honestly wouldn’t drink at all because I think I’d be like it must have been an hour now… next drink after like 10 minutes!

The police are very strict on this one so be very careful.

9. Seat Belts & Mobile Phones

An obvious one but make sure you wear your seat belt and everyone else in your car does so ALL THE TIME. I recently picked up Steve who had been in the car for one minute before the flashing lights were up behind us.

Because I hadn’t ever had any tickets (a rarity to be seen by the Police) they didn’t charge me $350 and just charged Steve $300. That’s $300 for not putting his seat belt on as soon as he got into the car.

A friend of mine checked her phone for a text whilst in traffic. She didn’t realise she was next to a Police car at the time and also got fined $300. Just remember, no phones whatsoever when driving in Sydney. There are also cameras in Sydney to detect if you are using your phones now so don’t even touch it whilst you’re driving.

10. Speeding

Another thing the Police are massive on is speeding. It’s definitely something I noticed straight away in Sydney as no one speeds. No one ever goes over the limit because there are speed cameras everywhere. This is a great thing about driving in Sydney and to be honest, I have rarely ever seen a crash in Sydney at all.

11. Understanding Parking Signs In Sydney

Another thing that took me a while to figure out is parking signs. Like seriously, how many different rules are there to parking in one spot? But, you’ll learn to understand this one as time goes one.

12. Parking On The Street In Sydney

This is one that I didn’t know for a while but when parking on the street, but all cars must be facing the same way. If  you park on the opposite direction, you’ll most likely get fined for it.

13. Driving & Parking In Sydney CBD


I was always scared about traffic in Sydney CBD but it’s actually pretty easy to drive around. I never drove in the middle of London as it just seemed pretty scary but because Sydney is so much smaller and the CBD is actually quite small, it’s not as scary at all.

One good thing about parking in Sydney is you can get away with parking for free parking in Sydney CBD in so many areas and all Westfield shopping malls are free within 3 hours being there. But when it comes to parking in the city, it is very expensive during the week but surprisingly cheap on weekends.

Cheap Parking in Sydney Tips

The Domain car park is the cheapest in the city (I’ve found) during the week at $36 for 2-3 hours or $10 flat fee at the weekends. They usually have a secret walking tunnel that runs underneath Hyde Park so it’s a short walk right into the city (like 5 minutes or so) but it’s under construction at the moment.

Other good parking spots are QVB (if you’re lazy and want to be in the middle of town) as after 5pm from Monday-Wednesday it’s just $12 flat fee or Thursday – Sunday is $15 flat fee so good for the late night shopping!

On the weekend QVB charge just $21 for for 2-3 hours which is actually OK. I also park on York St or Kent St if I go into town early on a Saturday or Sunday morning as it’s metered and cheap. Other than that I’ll park at Wilson Car Park on Pitt St next to the Hilton which is $15 flat fee for weekend parking.

Driving in Sydney traffic and on Sydney roads might take a bit to get your head around but you’ll be fine! It may sound scary but you’ll get used to it in no time. I would be completely lost if I didn’t have my car in Sydney as you’ll want to get out and explore the area.

How have you found driving in Sydney? Let me know in the comments below.

This post is sponsored by My NRMA but all words are my own 🙂

How To Drive In Sydney For Expats


Co-Founder and Editor
  1. Hi Annie,
    Im an Australian Sydneysider and enjoyed reading your tips on driving in Sydney.
    It can be quite hectic driving in Sydney and yes it is a good idea to have a car whilst here. Everything is quite stretched out and if you are wanting to see and do certain things it can take longer on transport (and sometimes you would have to take multiple modes of transport).
    The ‘keep left unless overtaking’ rule only applies for multi lane roads that are over 80km/p. So for a lot of multi lane roads closer to the city Eg. Victoria Road, Harbour bridge, Anzac bridge the fast lane/slow lane rules don’t really apply which does make them chaotic.
    That being said, when on a highway it definitely applies and it can cause some drivers to become irrationally angry and do stupid stuff (though I have never seen the police pulling someone over to give them a fine – hmmm ?)
    Do you not have RBT’s in the UK?
    Just wondering do you have school zones rules where you have to go down to 40km/h during certain times in UK? Im glad that we now have big signs up and flashing lights to let us know we are heading into a school zone during those times reminding us to slow down.
    I enjoyed reading about all your thoughts on sydney roads and will admit to several times missing turn offs and having to go back and forth across the Harbour Bridge.

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