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 with what goes when it comes to getting behind the wheel in this city.
Firstly, do you actually need a car?
You’re going to need a car to get around the city 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 everywhere. Usually you’ll get one mode of public transport like either the bus or the train, never usually both. There’s even a lot of areas in the middle of the city that make me wonder how on earth there is 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
The best way to get a car 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 really great new 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 AAA.
But, what about actually driving in Sydney, what are the rules here and how are you going to tackle the other drivers? Here’s my top 13 tips for driving in Sydney for the first time.
1. The slow, middle and fast lanes
The first thing that baffled and slightly scared me was the zero concept for the slow, middle and fast lane. 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.
This brings me onto number 2 point which is why everyone undertakes in Sydney. You’ll definitely need to be way more alert 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 can 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 size of the lanes
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. T zones
This is something I only learnt very recently – 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 exists and it took me nearly 6 years to even realise this was a thing.
6. Navigating Sydney Harbour Bridge
I have many friends that 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, once 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.
There are so many tolls in Sydney to pay for. You’ll need to buy an Etag 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.
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, you can technically have 1 drink every hour and for men, they 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 The Aussie 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. Be warned!
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.
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. Parking signs
This is another thing that took me a while to figure out, 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
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 the city
I was always scared about driving in the city but it’s actually pretty easy. 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 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.
Here’s my parking hacks. 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 it’s $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.
So there’s my top 13 tips for driving in Sydney for the first time. 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.
Thanks for reading!