Self driving in Perth, Australia is not too difficult. Their cars are right hand drive with cars driven on the left lane, same as per Malaysia and Singapore. All you need is a valid driving license and you could drive in Australia. No need to apply for an international driving license. Being in an unfamiliar place you will need a driver and a navigator to move around effortlessly. If the driver also has to navigate, then the best course of action would be to rent a car with GPS unit. It would of course mean additional rental amount. Feeling confident to read the map, I was the designated navigator while Lena was the driver. Though sometime I would take over the wheels once I became familiar with some of the route. Lindy and Lena were amazed that I could decipher the map and we could move around quite easily. If they were in my shoes, they would totally be at a loss. So I joked that I was the GPS; though sometimes I do get befuddled and had Lena pullover at the side while I tried to regain my bearings. This rarely happened and we could get to wherever we intended to go.
The Freeways and other rules of driving
The first time driving in Perth was of course a total blur being completely unfamiliar. With Catherine around we just followed her car to an Italian restaurant for dinner somewhere in Northbridge. After dinner, I needed to know how to get my bearings. Then a bright idea, since most places have a main road, a backbone so to speak, where one must travel most of the time just like the NKVE Expressway or the Federal Highway of Klang Valley. Checking with So-En and Yan Xia, I learned that Perth has a freeway called the Mitchell Freeway which travels to the North and Kwinara Freeway which connects to the south. This is the major artery that cuts from North to South which you can travel smoothly at 100kph and has no traffic lights along the way. While their highways have varying speed limits from 60kph to 90kph and has traffic lights along the way which takes up our traveling time. Very different naming convention from what I’m used to.
While driving, cars must always give priority to pedestrians which where unlike Malaysia where drivers were like Mr Hyde and pedestrians have to be wary about crossing the road lest they be knocked down. I recalled Lena just ignored the zebra crossing while a woman was attempting to cross. The woman just waived both her arms up in exasperation! Sorry-lah! Be careful of Malaysian drivers! When I told my wife, she said she just didn’t see the pedestrian. Oh, well…
There were many rules which we didn’t quite seem to comprehend in the beginning. As the days went on we got to understand them. Speed limit in Perth was 50 kilometres per hour unless otherwise signposted. Upper freeway speed limit was 100kph, while upper limit in country areas was 110kph. In some places, speed cameras were used to enforce speed limits. I saw some signpost between Perth and Fremantle where speed cameras were used and the speed limit was 60kph.
I noticed that the road was really smooth. I don’t recall having to bump my way around town. you guess it! No pot holes! They don’t do indiscriminate digging unlike Malaysia where the JKR or some other contractors at their whim would dig up the road here and there and lay down who-knows-what under the road and then later make a poor re-tarring of the road. Nope, not here in Perth. Smooth rides. No need to shake your head about and pretend to groove with the rhythm of the road.
Parking in Perth and Fremantle
I couldn’t understand the parking signboards the first time I saw it and had to ask Yan Xia. Their system was different from ours, they use a number to indicate how long you could park such as 1/2 P would meant you could only park for half an hour while 1P, 2P, 3P etc indicates 1 hour, 2 hours and 3 hours respectively. A ticket machine will dispense automatically the limit as per indicated on the signboard. A sign board with a S with a red slash inside a red circle indicates a no stopping zone. Public parking zones were cheaper than parking at private parking areas such as CPP or Wilson parking. However public parking zones has a time limit as per indicated on the signage which meant you have to get back to your car to get a new set of tickets or drive the car away. Not very convenient if you plan to hang around for a while in that place.
One of our favourite parking areas was located at the corner of Fast Eddy Restaurant at the crossroad of Murray Street and Milligan Street. Most time we could find a parking lot there and it was free parking on Sunday. However it was a bit of a distance from the City Centre, but with the cool weather it was quite nice to walk though it was a bit of a strain for my father-in-law. Anyway, the exercise would do him good since he was too lazy to exercise at home.
In Fremantle, there was a multi-storey car park next to the Myers departmental store. I noticed that it was cheaper than the public parking. At A$1.30 per hour it was cheaper than the public parking at A$1.50 per hour and I didn’t have to worry about my ticket expiring since the public parking time limit was only ½ hour.
There were also areas where it was free parking but I couldn’t understand the time limit imposed. I wondered how the enforcers will know how long a vehicle has park there since there was no parking ticket to indicate otherwise. Oh, well, I ‘m just a tourist here to enjoy my vacation and not worry too much about their parking system so much.
Malaysian License Driving in Perth
[update 2011] I guess after so many years since my last travel to Perth in 2008, some rules have changed regarding Malaysian driving license. You still don’t need an international driving license, however you do need to get an official translation of your driving license to English from JPJ. My colleague was planning a trip this year and she has to get it in order to drive around in Perth, Australia.
Also, if you are not a good at reading maps, it might be good to bring your own GPS device such as Gamin or Papago. You need to download or update your GPS device to include the map of the Perth and surrounding area. Do note that such device are never 100%, so do brush up on your own map reading navigational skill and have orientation about the area. And if you instead use your mobile phone installed with Papago, be prepared for major battery drain! Better to use a separate device and also avoid risk of accidentally switching on data roaming which would cost you a bomb!
Have fun driving around Perth, Australia for your vacation!