Driving Around in Perth
Perth is a very pleasant city to drive around in barring the peak hour congestion which occurs on weekday mornings and evenings. Traffic is generally lighter compared to other cities and the beautiful weather plus scenic views make driving most enjoyable. In our opinion, driving is probably the best way to see the city and its surrounds as apart from Perth CBD and Fremantle city centre, the other areas don't enjoy the services of the free CAT public buses. The other thing is public transport, although generally efficient, may not be as convenient nor as frequent as you might want it to be. This is especially so during weekends and public holidays.
Most of the big name car rental companies that operate in Perth have counters at the Perth Airport which are located on the ground floor in the arrival halls of the Perth International and Domestic Terminals. It's best to shop around and compare prices before you book your car. Prices vary greatly and can range from A$60 (depending on what vehicle you hire) to as low as A$25 per day (excluding insurance). The cheaper rates are usually available from the smaller local car rental companies which may attach conditions such as a minimum period of hire as well as limitations on the distance from Perth city centre that you are allowed to drive to.
A good map is essential but if you're driving alone, it'd be good to ask for a GPS navigation with the rental car. This will come in handy when you need to look out for exits on the freeway (motorway) or if you're negotiating dark suburban streets in the evening and would rather not be fiddling with a map at the same time. The smaller local car rental companies don't usually have GPS navigation devices for rent so you might want to bring your own or buy one here. It's always best to plan your route and have some idea of where you'll be driving before you set off on your journey.
On the freeway, speed limits range from 80 kph to 100 kph. When you're further from any town/city centre, speed limits can rise to 110 kph (these limits are indicated on road signs). However, within the city centre and suburbs, the speed limit is 50 kph unless otherwise indicated (i.e. 60 or 70 kph). There are stretches of road e.g. Beaufort Street (between Bulwer and Walcott Streets) which are permanently limited at 40 kph. Do watch out for the School Zones which are 40 kph on school days in the morning between 7.30 and 9am and in the afternoon from 2.30 to 4pm. Another important thing is that you shouldn't drive slower than 20 kph below the signed speed limit or you may be hauled up by the cops for road hogging.
During the public holiday long weekends, there are double demerit points from Thursday night till Monday morning. The Police will have a stronger public presence during this time and booze buses will be stationed at many stretches of road. The police will stop vehicles to conduct their checks. This is aimed at reducing the number of serious alcohol related accidents on Perth and Western Australian roads. Besides checking for exceeding the alcohol limit, police will also be watching out for drivers under the influence of drugs. Australia has very strict laws on driving under the the influence of alcohol so do make sure that you don't exceed the legal limits of alcohol consumption if you are driving.
POLICE CARS, AMBULANCES & FIRE ENGINES:
Always give way to police vehicles, fire engines and ambulances which have their sirens on. This also means that you have to watch out for them at traffic junctions and give way to them even if you have the right of way.
EMERGENCY ROADSIDE ASSIST:
Your car rental agreement will usually have a telephone number that you can call if you need help. Always check what you're entitled to in your agreement when you collect your rental car. If you need to call the RAC (Royal Automobile Club) , which is similar to the Automobile Association, do bear in mind that charges will have to be paid and you would have to join as a member unless you are a member of an affiliated association in your home country.
PARKING IN PERTH CITY AND SUBURBS:
Parking in the Perth suburbs is mostly free but there are usually time limits placed on carpark lots that are located in the suburban town centres or along busy roads. However when you get nearer to Perth city centre, you'll have to pay for parking. Even within the city, parking fees can vary greatly between car parks that might be very close to each other. If you plan to be in the city for several hours, find the cheaper places to park. There are a number of Apps available on smartphones which will help you find parking within the city. Alternatively, an up to date street directory will have the main carparks marked out. Some car rental companies provide a street directory in each vehicle.You can also Google to find alternative car parks at your destination in the city.
If you are having dinner in Northbridge in the evening after 6 pm, try to find a space for street side parking as it is free after 6 pm on William Street. Most of the paid car parks can be expensive.
Parking charges can be paid using street side parking ticket machines. Be sure to display your ticket on the dashboard after you have bought it. Also note that there are time limits which you cannot exceed in the particular location, this can vary from anything between 15 minutes to three hours. Parking wardens are conscientious in the city and do check how long a car has been parked there. Do make sure that you park in a properly marked lot and not one that's meant for the disabled. Signs will tell you when fees are payable. If you park in a secure car park, you'll collect a ticket on the way in and you'll usually need to pre-pay at the paying machines before collecting your car to leave.
If you're driving a rental car then regular unleaded petrol will be the fuel you are likely to use; but if you're fortunate enough to be driving a high end sports car or a 4WD for off-road driving, then you may use other types of fuel. If you're buying petrol within Perth city and suburbs, it pays to shop around as prices can vary a fair bit from station to station and also from day to day. Refer to the Fuelwatch site to get the lowest prices in your suburb for "Today" and "Tomorrow".
If you happen to buy your groceries at a local supermarket such as Coles, Woolworth's or IGA and spend at least A$25 to A$30, you'll usually get a voucher giving you at least 4 cents discount per litre off petrol from affiliated stations.