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.

In country areas, particularly in the north-west of WA, there are local publications with good advice on driving in the region. Local police, local government (RoadWise) offices and local visitor centres can all offer advice on driving safely.

Keep up to date with current road conditions or call Main Roads Western Australia on 138 138. This number is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and can also be contacted to report road hazards.

Our hot and dry conditions also create a bush fire risk. Keep up to date with the latest fire information for travellers.

The best advice on any road condition is:

  • assess the situation
  • ask experienced locals for advice
  • take your time
  • avoid potential hazards

 

Driver's Licence

To drive in Western Australia, you must hold a current driver's licence from your own country (or Australian State/Territory), which covers you to legally drive the type of vehicle you intend to drive here. You must also carry your licence with you at all times.

If your overseas licence is not in English, it is advisable to carry an International Driving Permit or an approved English translation of your licence with you when you drive.

If you are caught driving without a license you will face a heavy fine and you will also be in breach of your insurance policy - for the car, for yourself, for passengers and for other road users. You could also invalidate your travel insurance.

Preparing to Drive

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

Use the Right Vehicle

If you are hiring a car, get advice on the best model for the road conditions. A four-wheel-drive track is no place for a conventional vehicle. Tourists and locals have died after being trapped in hot, remote, sandy areas. Check you are covered for insurance under off-road conditions and for collision damage (from animals as well as other vehicles).

Plot Your Journey

Make sure you use a good road map to plot your daily destinations based on distances. Work out how long each day's driving will take you, allowing for rest and meal stops and viewing attractions. An itinerary is also a good way to plan your adventure.

Keep an Eye on the Weather

The weather in Western Australia varies greatly from one end of the state to the other. Always check the latest local weather conditions when travelling around the state.

The northern coastal areas of Western Australia can be subject to tropical cyclones and downpours during summer months (December - March). Heavy rains can make some dirt roads impassable within hours.

Stock Up on the Essentials

The drive between remote townships can be long, and in some cases, conditions very hot and dry. Plan ahead with fuel and food stops few and far between. Carry plenty of water, at least 4 litres a day per person, plus an emergency supply. Include non-perishable food items in case of a break down or emergency situation. Extra fuel is also a necessity when driving long distances.

Driving on the Left

If you are not used to driving on the left hand side of the road, it may take you some time to adjust.

  • Tape a note on your dashboard to remind you to stay on the left.
  • When coming to an intersection or making turns, take extra care.
  • When turning left you must signal your intention to turn left, position your vehicle on the left hand side of the road, turn left from the marked lanes and give way to pedestrians.
  • When turning right you must signal your intention to turn right, position your vehicle as close as possible to the left of the centre of the road, turn right from marked lanes and give way to pedestrians.
  • Be aware that unlike some countries, a left turn on a red light signal is not allowed.

Safe Driving Tips

You may drive into some remote areas where planning is very important to ensure your experience is safe, enjoyable and memorable.

The following is a list of safety tips to help you:

  • Always tell someone where you are going, your return dates and your itinerary.
  • Make sure your vehicle is in top mechanical condition.
  • Check road conditions before departure. Rain can cause flooding, making some tracks and roads impassable.
  • When travelling on unsealed roads use caution and 'read' the road well ahead of the vehicle.
  • Carry at least 4-5 litres of water per person, per day (preferably in at least two containers).
  • Use a detailed recent road map (it is a good idea to keep track of your mileage so you always know where you are).
  • Carry extra food, fuel, water and vehicle spares if you are travelling on remote tracks.
  • If your vehicle breaks down or cannot be driven because it is bogged, always stay with it. It is much easier to spot a vehicle during an aerial search than a person under a tree.
  • Roads and tracks on private property should not be used without the landholder's permission. Leave gates as you found them.
  • Take care at all railway crossings and obey the signs. Train movements can be irregular and not all crossings have flashing lights.
  • Large slow-moving agricultural machinery may be encountered on highways and local roads, so take care when overtaking.
  • Give way to emergency vehicles. Dust can obscure vision and stones can break windscreens when travelling or passing on dirt roads.
  • Keep alert for wildlife such as kangaroos and emus, especially at dusk and dawn when visibility may be poor and they become more active.
  • Remember to take regular breaks from driving to keep refreshed and admire the sights.
  • Be prepared. Pack a first-aid kit.

 

Outback Road Hazards

Western Australia has plenty of wildlife, so travellers need to watch for roaming animals such as kangaroos, cattle and even large birds that often settle on the road. Animals are more active around dusk and dawn and are often confused by the sound of a vehicle, running towards it instead of away.

The most effective way to keep the local wildlife and yourself safe is to reduce your speed and to be aware of the unpredictable nature of native animals. If a large animal such as a kangaroo or cow suddenly appears on the road in front of you, brake firmly and sound your horn. Do not try to swerve around the animal as you are likely to run onto the gravel verge and lose control or roll over.

Kangaroos are prevalent, especially in the early mornings and evenings. Emus are unpredictable and often have a mate following close behind. Cattle like to camp on roads at night and are hard to see. Other animals you may see that can be dangerous to motorists include wild horses, goats, donkeys, camels and large birds feeding on road kill. Even if the animal appears stationary near the edge of the road or is moving away, slow down and be alert, as they are easily startled and can run in front of your car.

If you do hit a large animal and kill it, try to remove the carcass from the road for the safety of other motorists. Injured animals are unpredictable, so take care when handling them. Be wary of the tail and rear legs of kangaroos as they can cause serious injury. Use towels and rugs for smaller animals.

Keep safe - drive slower, keep alert and try to avoid travelling at high-risk times of dawn and dusk when wildlife is more active. At night, always drive within the visibility of your headlights.

Road Conditions

Not all roads in country areas are sealed. They can also be gravel surfaces which can be loose and corrugated, dirt or sand.

Sealed Roads

Many sealed roads also have gravel edges and drivers can easily lose control of their vehicle if they veer into them - especially at higher speeds. In some country areas, roads are narrow, single and sealed with gravel edges. Drivers need to take particular care when approaching oncoming vehicles, especially large agricultural machines or heavy vehicles. Please do not force them onto the edge of the road - brake gently, pull over and wait for them to pass.

Gravel Roads

Vehicles on gravel roads and dirt create big clouds of dust and make visibility poor, so keep your distance from the car in front and be prepared for dust and stones from cars travelling in the opposite direction.

On gravel roads tyres can spin or lose grip. Take particular care on bends as it is easy to slide off the road or roll your car. Do not brake suddenly as you are likely to skid and lose control. Please slow down and take care when driving on unsealed roads.

Sandy Tracks

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. You will need to take extra care when driving on sandy roads and travel very slowly.

Water Over Roads

If floodwaters cover the road, drivers should use an alternative route if possible. If there is no other choice, always check the water level on roads and floodways, streams or rivers before driving over or through them. Always check the depth of the water by getting out of your vehicle and walking the intended crossing if safe to do so.

If the water is not flowing, always check that the water level is no higher than the bottom of the vehicle if driving a conventional 2WD and no higher than the average adult knee if driving a higher 4WD.

If the water is flowing and deeper than the bottom of the wheel chassis do not cross. Country road conditions can change quickly so check with the local visitor centre before leaving.

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 53.5m long (175.5 feet) with 2, 3 or even 4 trailers and 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.
  • Remember, never overtake a truck on a curve or a hill where visibility is limited, even if the truck is moving slowly.
  • If you cannot see past the truck, wait for a better opportunity.
  • 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

Western Australia also has some of the largest oversize loads in the world. The width may cover more than one side of the road. Depending on the dimensions and mass, oversize loads may be escorted by pilots and police.

If you encounter such a situation, you are legally required to follow the instructions indicated by the pilots or police to assist the safe passage of the load.

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 in sharing the road with other users. Check your rear vision mirror regularly to see if traffic is building up behind you. If you are holding up traffic, pull over and stop when it is safe to do so.

It is not recommended that you tow a caravan on unsealed roads in remote areas such as the Kimberley. If you wish to take a camper-trailer, make sure it has four-wheel-drive tyres with a high clearance and can withstand corrugations and rough road surfaces.