Sydney is a big, busy city with a big, busy road network. The automobile is by far the most popular mode of transport in Sydney – 85% of households own at least one car.

When you first arrive in The Harbour City you’ll likely want to rent a car while you get your bearings and explore potential Sydney neighbourhoods to move permanently.

Car hire in Sydney works much like car hire in other world cities – all the major brands like Budget and Avis are present there – but there are a few important local peculiarities with which you’ll want to make yourself familiar.

Sydney toll roads

The road system is pretty comprehensive in Sydney – there are several freeways, nine trunk roads and an orbital network which runs from the airport to the North Shore to the Hills District to Prestons and back.

Many of the roads which make up this network are toll roads which are privately owned and operated by various different companies. Also, it’s impossible to pay by credit card at the toll. These two factors can cause some confusion among car rental customers and temporary visitors.

Hire cars often come with e-Tags which automatically add the toll to a specified account when you drive through. As a car hire customer who will become a permanent resident it will often work out cheaper to set up your own Roam e-Tag account rather than using that of the car hire company.

In fact, even if you’re a visitor you can set up a temporary e-Pass via the Roam service which lasts for 30 days and costs just 1.50 AUD to set up.

Driving in New South Wales

NSW driving licence

As a new resident of New South Wales you’re allowed to drive on an overseas licence for three months – time enough to obtain a NSW driver’s licence.

In order to convert your overseas licence you’ll need to go in person to a Roads and maritime Services (RMS) registry office with your licence, two forms of ID, proof of your NSW address and a sanctioned translation of your licence if it’s not in English.

Some countries are recognised by Australia as having comparable driving test standards. If your licence is from one of these countries you won’t have to take further tests. Otherwise you may have to take theory or practical tests in order to gain your NSW licence.

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NSW driving tips

Driving in Sydney may be similar to where you live now, but have a look at the following tips to make sure you have the basics covered:

  • In Australia you drive on the left hand side of the road.
  • In New South Wales the default urban speed limit is 50 km/h and the default for all other roads is 100 km/h.
  • It is illegal to drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.05 or greater on a full licence in a normal car. For other kinds of licence holders is can be illegal to drive with any alcohol in the blood.
  • When you park you must park in the direction of the adjacent traffic (in other words, you’ll need to turn around before parking on the opposite side of the road).
  • New arrivals often make the mistake of arranging to pick up a hire car at the airport leaving themselves driving in alien conditions, under different laws after a very long flight. This can greatly increase the chances of having an accident so it’s recommended to get a taxi from the airport and pick up your hire car another day.