Renting a campervan for a road trip in Australia is an exciting and enjoyable experience. You’ll get a once in a lifetime experience of having the freedom to stop whenever you want, getting close to wildlife, and waking up to breathtaking views. You can do a loop in Tasmania, see the beautiful east coast by driving from Brisbane to Sydney, or if you are after the road less travelled, Hire a 4WD camper in Darwin to explore the unique national parks.
However, many are often put off by the idea as they are unfamiliar with driving a larger vehicle. If you are a beginner very eager to tick this off your bucket list, here are some Beginner’s Driving tips to help you get started:
1. Book a Campervan that suits you:
If this is your first time, consider hiring a small to medium sized van. Check the driver’s requirements and book the correct transmission. A smaller van may not have facilities like a bathroom. However, this can be easily solved by spending the night in campsites that have communal bathrooms. If you need recommendations for a camper, feel free to reach out to our team members.
2. Familiarise Yourself with the Vehicle:
Before hitting the road, take some time to get familiar with the campervan. Identify the location of essential controls, such as lights, windshield wipers, indicators and demister. Watch the how-to videos if they are available, and ask as many questions as you need when picking-up.
Learn the dimensions of the campervan, including the height, width, and length. This is crucial for navigating through different roads and obstacles.
3. Practice in an Empty Parking Lot:
If you're new to driving a larger vehicle, allocate some time to practice in an empty parking lot before tackling busy roads. Get a feel for the size and turning radius of the campervan.
4. Take It Slow:
Drive at a moderate speed, especially when you're just starting out. This will give you more time to react to changes in traffic and road conditions. Always pay attention to speed limit signs.
5. Use Mirrors and Cameras:
Campervans often have larger blind spots than regular vehicles. Utilise your side mirrors and any available cameras to monitor your surroundings. Be aware of other drivers and pedestrians around you.
6. Plan Your Route:
Plan your route in advance, considering the size of the campervan. Avoid narrow roads, low bridges, and other obstacles that might be challenging for a larger vehicle.
7. Be Mindful of Height Restrictions:
Pay attention to height restrictions, especially in parking garages, underpasses, fast food drive throughs and gas stations. Know the height of your campervan and plan accordingly.
8. Take Breaks:
Long drives can be tiring. Schedule regular breaks to rest, stretch, and stay alert. Fatigue can affect your ability to drive safely. Caffeine alone will not be sufficient to keep you awake.
9. Park Strategically:
Choose parking spaces that are easy to access and exit. When parking overnight, look for designated campsites or areas where overnight parking is allowed. Here are 3 apps you can use to search for campsites around Australia.
Learn how to read the signs for roadside parking and pay accordingly. Some areas may have a meter for you to pay, while some may require an app on your mobile phone. Always make sure that your camper fits in the parking box.
10. Organise Toll Payments:
There are a number of toll roads in Australia. Toll payments can either be organised via your rental company, or by adding the campervan registration into your personal toll payment account. Discuss with your rental company before starting your trip.
11. Check your Camper before driving.
Have you disengaged and shut off the LP Gas valve, secured the awning and retracted the foot step? Make sure you perform pre-drive checks before driving.
12. Secure Loose Items:
Before hitting the road, make sure all items inside the campervan are secure. Sudden stops or turns can cause items to shift and become potential hazards. If rattling sounds of the crockeries are a distraction to you, try slipping folded napkins or paper to prevent the items from moving.
13. Check Tire Pressure and Fluids:
Regularly check tire pressure and fluid levels to ensure the campervan is in good working condition. This can contribute to a smoother and safer drive.
14. Be Patient:
Traffic and road conditions can be unpredictable. Stay patient and focused, especially in challenging situations. Take note of rush hours and school pick-up and drop-off times. And not forgetting the weather forecast as well.
15. Know the Local Road Rules.
Familiarise yourself with the traffic laws and regulations of the areas you'll be traveling through. This includes speed limits, parking rules, and any specific regulations for larger vehicles. Different states may also have different road rules. Here are the state websites for road rules in Australia:
16. Avoid Driving during Dusk and Dawn
Driving during these "twilight" periods can present challenges due to reduced visibility and changing lighting conditions. It is also when wild animals are active and may be crossing roads. This risk of collision is reportedly higher during this time of the day.
Last but not least, make sure you embark on your journey in an upbeat demeanour. Prepare your favourite playlist and drinks and don’t forget to visit the toilet before you start driving. This may be a new experience, but many first timers have expressed that driving a campervan is like second nature to them. So don’t be stressed. The more you drive your campervan, the more comfortable you'll become. Take your time, stay safe, and enjoy the journey!