Difference #4: Cars and Traffic

As a former English prison colony, Australia inherited left-hand traffic. In the beginning it takes some time to get accustomed to that. Even as a pedestrian you’re affected as the cars are now coming from a different direction. At places with a lot of tourists a big ‘look right’ is painted on the street.

The cars Australians usually drive are Holden, Ford or something Japanese. Holden being the only Australian car brand belongs to GM. They build some cars on their own but also sell Opel models under their name.

The common engine for a Holden or Ford is a V6 3l and even a V8 isn’t rare. The European trend of building small cars with small engines hasn’t really caught Australia yet.

Holden Commodore SV6
Holden Commodore SV6

German cars, especially the expensive brands like BMW or Mercedes, are a rather scarce sight in Australia. It’s probably just not worth buying them with all the cheaper Asian cars around. Why pay $44,000 for a basic Passat when you can get a Subaru Impreza WRX for the same price.

A question one might ask is why people would need cars with big engines. The speed limit on the highways in Australia is 100km/h and you are well off obeying it. A somewhat severe offence like doing 40km/h over the limit costs a mere €120 in Germany. In Queensland it’s $933 and the license is gone for the next six months. Have a look for yourself.

Another thing that surprised me as well is the mileage the cars up here are doing. A car with 300,000 km can be in good shape and cost a couple of thousand dollars. The car rental I worked for had a Toyota with 280,000km, the engine looked and sounded as if it had just left the factory. Maybe it’s the weather, an engine here in Queensland basically never starts at temperatures below 15°C.

Public transportation in the Cairns area is almost exclusively done by buses. The fares are similar to Germany, the 40 minute drive out to Palm Cove costs $5 one way or $10 for a hop-on hop-off day ticket. Using the buses is a little more difficult though. The timetables seldom give exact times but rather a time for when the bus will be in a certain area. Making an exact schedule would be impossible anyway as most passengers pay the fare with the driver when they board the bus which is a guarantee for delays.

Buses at Cairns Transit Mall
Buses at Cairns Transit Mall

One big advantage of the buses is the ‘hail and ride’ system. You don’t need to be on a stop to get on the bus, you can just hail the driver and as long as it’s safe for him to stop, the bus will pick you up. Same goes with getting of the bus, just tell the driver and he’ll drop you off at the next possible location.

I’m still thinking about buying a car, it’s just so much easier to organise day trips or visits places a little off the CBD.

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