Do You Need an International Driver's License to Drive in Australia?

Are you wondering if another country like Australia will honor your driver’s license?
You can drive in Australia in several ways, such as an international driver’s license, an overseas driver’s license (issued by a non-Australian country), a government-issued international driving permit or an Australian driver’s license.
This article won't discuss how to get an International driver's license but if you have one, feel pleased that you can use it to drive in Australia.
As for the other three, which one you'll need (if you don't have an international driver's license) hinges on one thing: whether you’re on a temporary or permanent visa.

Driving Permit for Permanent Visa Holders

If you have a permanent visa, you need an Australian driver’s license to be able to drive in Australia. But the good news is, you can temporarily use your overseas driver’s license during the first 3 months of your residency.
You don’t need to worry though because if you have a driver’s license from your country of origin, acquiring an Australian driver’s license or a permanent license would be easier than if you don't. The process will involve taking a Driver Knowledge Test and a driving test.
You may also be exempted, such as from taking the driving test, if you fall under the following category:
  • You have or previously had a New Zealand Driver’s License 
  • The country you’re from has a licensing system recognized by Australia
  • You’ve been driving in Australia for quite some time
But if you’ve never had a license ever, then you have no choice but to go through Australia’s lengthy licensing process. Here, before you could get the full unrestricted Australian driver’s license, you will be given a permit that corresponds to your driver status—Learner, Provisional 1, and Provisional 2.
This process takes a minimum of four years and requires more than 100 hours of supervised driving practice. Applicants who are 25 years old or older, however, may experience a shorter time.
Accumulating the supervised practice hours required is not difficult, however, because there are many driving schools spread out across Australia. Some driving schools even offer lessons in foreign languages. For instance, 2Pass Driving School in Cairns offers lessons in Chinese while Summit Driving Academy in Perth offers lessons in Hindi.

Driving Permits for Tourists, International Students, and Other Visitors

The great thing about being a visitor in Australia is, most of the time, their government will honor current and valid overseas driver’s license from another country as long as it is in English. Your current license also sets the constraints for what you are allowed to drive.
A visitor is someone on a temporary visa—tourist, business, student, or otherwise. If this is you, go to the state’s transport authority and have your overseas license approved. Although other states may require you to carry an international license along with your foreign license, the former is more often the case.

If your license is in a different language, you could have it translated by an approved translator. Otherwise, you’ll have to apply for an International Driving Permit (IDP).

Travelling Interstate?

In Australia, licenses are honored interstate up to three months (six in Victoria). So if you’ll be swinging by Cairn for a day or two, you’re okay to use your Sydney-approved license there.  

How long can you use your driver’s license as a visitor?

Your foreign license can serve as a temporary driving permit in the state where you got it for three to 12 months, depending on which state you’re in. At other times, however, it’s dependent on your visa. For example, international students are usually allowed to use their overseas licenses as long as their visas are still valid. And that can mean 12 months or longer.
Otherwise, you may again have to apply for an international driving permit.

Acquiring a Temporary Driving Permit

If your overseas license is already expired or if you simply do not have one, your alternative is to get a temporary driver’s license. To do so, you need to go through your state’s motor registry and pass some tests.
Since different countries have differences in driving laws, road practices, and traffic conditions, it’s wise to study the rules and practices being followed in the country you will be driving in—whether the government required this from you or not.
You can learn what driving techniques to practice in Australia through self-study or by enrolling in a driving school. Whichever it is, make sure you’re prepared to drive safely in Australia before using that driving license to explore the land Down Under.

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