Driving is Sydney is a daunting task whether you’re in the ‘burbs or in the city proper. Well, so I’m told. As someone who only learned to drive 5 or so years ago, I don’t really know any different and spend a fair bit of time driving in both the city and the suburbs. And let me tell you- driving in Sydney has taught me a thing or two.

Driving in Sydney: An Odyssey in itself

This is what we have to work with, people. It’s no wonder that we are all driving around in various states of confusion and anxiety. Some things, however, stand out to me on an almost-daily basis.

Driving in Sydney? You’re on your own, mate

There is very little camaraderie on Sydney roads. If you have to merge onto a motorway of some kind, people will jealously guard their position in the slow-crawling traffic queues without a second thought. None of this zipper-like efficiency where everyone lets someone in and we all roll along steadily. This is where the wave comes in.

If someone slows and lets you in and you give them a thank you wave, 100% of other drivers will appreciate this. It is seen as the decent and courteous thing to do. Failure to wave is considered poor form. If this is you, think yourself lucky that you can’t actually hear what the other driver is saying about you. It’s a known fact that Sydney children learn 90% of their swearing vocabulary in their first 10 years of life exclusively from the back seat of their parent’s cars.


Sydney drivers want to keep you guessing

Like a coy and mysterious partner, Sydney drivers often keep their fellow road users in suspense. With a Mona Lisa smile, they’ll refuse to give any indication of their intentions. Literally. Whether it’s a surprise lane-change or a situation at a roundabout that has left me with serious trust issues, you quickly learn that Sydney drivers don’t want you to have any idea of what they’ll do next. Is it paranoia or is it laziness? We’ll never know!


Know where you’re going

If you dare to be in the wrong lane, you cannot expect anyone to let you in. When you’re driving in Sydney, you are expected to simply go the wrong way. If you try to change to the correct lane, other drivers will take this as a personal attack.

Just this morning, it happened to me. I was in the wrong lane in an unfamiliar area. I went to change lanes and the oncoming vehicle sped up. The driver did not let me change lanes. I did not force the issue- I waited for a gap. This did not stop the driver from looking at me with outrage, completely affronted at my unfamiliarity with her fine suburb. I ended up alongside her further down the road. She made sure to peer at me in disgust, shaking her head slowly. There was no way to explain that it was nothing personal. Despite causing her zero inconvenience, I managed to ruin her day.

Dare to change lanes? Sydney drivers be like:



Horns: What are they even for?

According to the law, you’re meant to use them to warn other drivers and random animals of danger.


Driving in Sydney, however, the horn is used to send a variety of messages to other drivers, such as:

  • “I am tailgating you even though you are doing the legal speed limit because I want you to go faster, because reasons!”
  • “I cannot believe you just stopped at that stop sign!”
  • “The light is green. Stop looking at your goddamn phone and DRIVE!”
  • “I want you to drive out into traffic even if there is no gap. Do it.”

Choose your own adventure!

There is a small subset of Sydney drivers who march to the beat of their own drums. They see things like lane markers and “no right turn” signs as optional. Why wait in the queue to merge when you can simply fly up the outside of the lane and force your way across? Sure, you might take out a mirror or two, but everyone will be SO IMPRESSED by what a fucking asshole brilliant driver you are, right? Turning wherever you like, regardless of signage, might cause a near-miss or an actual prang, but what of it? You’re a rebel without a brain cause, baby!


When a wave isn’t enough

If someone lets you in or shows some other courtesy to you on the roads, a wave is an acceptable acknowledgement. However, if you pull a dick move like flying out of a driveway or side-street into oncoming traffic, causing me to slam on my breaks to avoid colliding with you at 60km/hr, a wave isn’t really enough. A wave says “Thanks for letting me in!” not “Nearly killed you all, soz!” This can be easily avoided by just not doing those things.

Me, driving to work:


Driving and mobile phones


We have all these laws around the use of phones while driving. Don’t text and drive, ever. Don’t hold and use mobile phone while driving. Some Sydney drivers- quite a few, in fact- don’t realise that putting your call on speaker and holding it in front of your face while you drive is a terrible idea. And, you know, illegal. I saw a driver recently holding her phone with it’s cover opened, book like, at the top of her steering wheel in bumper to bumper traffic.


Have you seen these things while driving in Sydney or elsewhere??





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  • Driving in Sydney is definitely an adventure! New swear words are invented with each trip I make to the Big Smoke and my kids will tell you, when they were little I would say to them “When we’re in Sydney, what Mummy says in the car, stays in the car!” The one way streets in the city would do my head in back in the day before GPSs. I could see the building I wanted to get to in the skyline, but do you think I could get to it?

  • This is great. I find most Melbourne drivers are good – it’s the wave thing I dislike. It’s not hard to say thanks.

  • I don’t drive but even as a passenger, I can’t help but feel that driving in Sydney is a tad hair raising. If I had a dollar for every swear word that my husband has uttered while driving, I’d probably be a millionaire by now! That said, driving in London was even more terrifying/death defying, but I guess it’s all relative!

  • LydiaCLee

    People in Sydney are angry the minute they get in the car – there’s a lever of aggression I’ve not seen elsewhere. When I drove in Hawaii, i was amazed at how patient everyone was, even if I did the wrong thing. I think we have a lot to learn….

  • I was surprised to see how many Sydney drivers race through orange lights. I find Sydney driving a little intimidating.

  • Sydney is a crazy place to drive and even walk. So easy to get lost with that insane network of streets. I like my Melbourne layout which is so reliable. Melbourne is full of dicks on the road these days though and the congestion is seriously nuts. I tend to use public transport every time I visit the inner burbs now.

  • You’ve summed up driving in Sydney so well! I really hate driving to new locations I’m not familiar with! My GPS is my saviour but even that sometimes doesn’t fully help get me in the right lane at the right time, especially in the city!


  • “you are expected to simply go the wrong way”
    I actually don’t see why people panic cut across a bunch of lanes. Just fucking chill and take the next exit. It’s way safer.

    And the horns. I remember walking around Sydney on holiday once and drivers were honking pedestrians for crossing at …wait for it… a pedestrian crossing. THE GALL OF THOSE FOOT WALKER TYPES.

  • I am so glad I learned to drive when I was 17 and living in Sydney. I have no qualms about the Sydney Harbour Bridge and motorways. However, we returned to Sydney yet again yesterday for me to see the surgeon and how things have changed…for the worst. The lady in the sat nav tells us to go ‘left’ then ‘right’ in such quick succession you go..what?! Also I am the worst (maybe) passenger seat driver coming with my hub to Sydney and he swears AT ME when I dare to suggest a lane change coming down the Warringah Freeway to the Bridge. Trouble with me is I still think I am an expert Sydney driver. I am not so much anymore because of ALLLLL the new buildings….and ALLLLL the freaking B-Doubles on the road… Denyse x

  • Bahahaha, you’ve pretty much nailed this! I will admit, I’m totally guilty of the whole being in the wrong lane thing, as in, I’m never in the wrong lane and if I am I will just go the wrong way (because with Sydney streets there’s almost always another way to go) and I do get annoyed by people who don’t know where they are going and are in the wrong lane. The Sydney driver is strong in me (however I do let people in on motorways or in other situations, much to the annoyance of the other drivers around me) thanks to having learnt to drive in Sydney at 16. It used to drive me nuts on the rare occasions when Dave would drive us in the city because he’d sit there waiting for people to let him in and I’m all like, if they don’t let me in and run in to the side of me or my arse it ain’t my fault and I’d just go for it. It’s eat or be eaten when it comes to driving in Sydney and there is no room for timidness!

  • Hahaha. Oh Sydney, you’re a total mess but we love you anyway. I drove in Melbourne for the first time {lifetime Queenslander and driver} and it was reasonably easy to get a handle on, other than the tram rules that aren’t posted anywhere but you’re just supposed to know.