Living in Perth without A Driver's License?

Dear Nix,

My name is J.L, and a mum to 3 kids. My family managed to obtain our visa 189 last year, with my husband as the main applicant. We had been sure of our plan to live in OZ since our uni days. Hence, after dragging on for so long, we finally proceeded with our long time plan.

Many ppl have questioned the reason(s) why we would want to migrate, given that my husband has a seemingly stable job, my kids are doing quite well in school, all our families are in SG, etc......... I have to admit that there was a stage in time when I nearly aborted my migration plan, as I felt SG seems to be a better place for my children to grow in, with good and cheap education (ie, pri and sec only), safe and afterall our very own roots are here. To be honest, myself and husband thought we would never have kids, and hence have been looking forward to living in a vintage brick house in the green lustrous pastures in rural area when we reach 40, overlooking the limitless clear blue sky. I believe you can imagine, as I have read previously from one of your posts, it's the same plan we have, lol. Being self sufficient with some farm animals, and our most beloved Chow Chows., all away from the crowds

However, as 1 kid came after another, our priorities have to change as like all parents, kids always come first. We know that our dream lifestyle in rural would have to be aborted for another 15 years or so? we have to be practical and re-plan where and how to live even when we make the move. We have carefully accessed our needs and finally decided that we will proceed to migrate, this is after seeing how stressful my eldest went through our infamous PSLE. I really do not wish to see my 2 younger ones having to go through the same route. It is really crazy for our SG kids to having to give up so many things, just to pass 1 exam. To me, life is not about exams. My son has done reasonably well for his PSLE, landed in a SAP school, but at the end of the day, what does it prove? He is smarter than other kids who didn't make it into express streams or what? Or, he is more hardworking? No, I don't think so!

I know there are many other things in life that children should be pursuing, other than a A or A* in PSLE, or A1 in O levels, etc. I must say that I felt touched when I read each time, while doing research on schools in WA, many school's website emphasized that each child is recognised individually. Know what, tears actually rolled in my eyes when I read Mum M's post about her experience. I can really understand how she must have felt seeing her child being able to truly immense in a main stream school, being truly accepted and finally truly enjoying school. Schools in SG are merely forced to accept SN kids, and the school environment mostly still have a long way to go in embracing the SN kids. Yes, and I couldn't agree more with another mummy's comment, that being good in Art or Music is equal to being good in Math or Science, afterall, not everyone must be a doctor or lawyer. Everyone should have aplenty choices in life, shouldn't we? And this is one main reason for our decision to migrate.

Oops, I have digressed. Anyway, we have decided on Perth, but one of the biggest problems for me, ironically or people may laugh at me for being silly is this - I DO NOT have a driving license. Yes, this is a problem to me. Why? I can't drive, and yes, I really can't drive! It's not about getting myself a license, going for the test etc. But rather, I have been advised by medical doctor and optometrists that I should not drive.

We have not been to Perth at all, so I am not sure how viable if I were to come with my 3 kids to settle down in Perth first, whilst my husband continues working in SG for a couple more years to accumulate more $$$ for us. I know, to live in a vast country like OZ, driving is almost an essential life skill. Even with my husband around, it's always good to have someone else in the household who can drive, let alone now that we are planning for me to just proceed with my 3 kids. Simple things like sending my kids to school or getting around to get groceries would be quite a challenge if we rely on public transport, especially with my 2 younger ones. Do you know if there are such things like private school bus arrangement in Perth, like what we have in SG, coming to fetch and drop off the kids to and fro school?

Thank you in advance for reading my email, and hopefully you can find some free time to respond, as I do understand you must have tons of emails from strangers like myself.



This may be the hardest yet. Obviously, if one can be chin chye like me and grab a $2,000 car to drive around, one will have little to worry about logistically. For 3.5 years, I can count the number of times I took a public bus with 1 hand. In addition, I have yet to take a public train. I have to admit I don't know how to read the bus routes here and am absolutely clueless about reading train lines and fares. Without an in depth knowledge of the public transport network here, I am unable to give you a good insight about what you plan to do under such restriction. You did not share with me what is your medical condition so I am unsure how detrimental it is for you to learn how to drive. You have been advised, not warned, against driving. If it isn't that serious, I will advise you to learn how to drive. Nobody knows your condition better than yourself. Thus, the decision lies in your hands.

Although I don't have an immediate solution for your situation, I am still posting this up in hope to get help. As a matter of fact, I do have a friend who do not have a driving license and have no plans of getting it. She has been surviving without driving for 6 years here, albeit getting lifts from her spouse now and then. Her name is Public Transport Angel Joni. With the Perth public transport network integrated to her hexa core powered mind, if no one can design a viable route for your daily routine, nobody can.

Everything has to be nearby
It shouldn't be much of a challenge if you want to get by without driving with just a child. However, with 3 children, it can be quite a juggle. In order to do that, the most obvious arrangement is to live very close to a Primary school so that you can walk to school to fetch your younger kids. Important amenities such as the medical centre and shopping zones should be close enough to walk or cycle to. If you can cycle, you should have enough time to solve your grocery problems by cycling while your children are in school. It will be double the difficulty finding a place which is within walking distance to both a Primary and High school. The priority should always be the Primary school. Thus, you have to be comfortable with the fact that all your kids will have to learn how to take a public bus to and fro school when they enter High School. Else, you can move near the High School when the youngest of the 3 enter High School.

It shouldn't be that difficult to find a property close to a school. A quick search for "Perth schools" on Google Map yield a map littered with schools (the red dots). So it should be no problem looking for such a property within your budget. If possible, live near a trusted friend who can offer you a ride in an emergency, such as rushing to the hospital.

Unlike in Singapore, getting around by cabbing is NOT a long term option because the ludicrous fares will bring you down in no time. I have received crazy emails from Singaporeans who asked me if it is possible to bring their maids along. Hmmm.. maids with driving licenses on tourist visas returning once every 3 months... interesting. The simplest solution is still learning how to drive. It's definitely not the only way to live a life here but it's one of the most cost and time efficient way.

Note: If you are into cycling longer distance for commute, take a few minutes to read through this [link]


  1. If I can kaypo a bit with my 2 cents about public transport. I'm not an expert, yet, but got some experience for certain journeys ...

    I do drive, but because I work in the city, I also have learned to take public transport here in Perth. I never drive to the city: mainly because parking is super expensive, and also because the peak hour traffic is bad. If I were to drive to the office at non-peak hours, it would take me 15mins end to end. But during peak hours, it would be nearly 45mins to 1hr. By public transport, it takes me 40mins, incl walking and waiting time. So, I have opted for Public Transport.

    My views about public transport in Perth:
    1. During peak hours, buses and trains are very frequent - trains every 3-5 mins and buses about 15mins per service. If there are many services routes to your destination, then even quicker to get a bus.

    2. After peak hours, the service frequencies of both buses and trains may drop to about 1/2hr per run, depending on the run. So you WILL have to check the schedules before taking public transport, otherwise you may end up wasting time waiting for any.

    3. The good thing is - the buses and trains are very accurate, except for emergencies and unforeseen circumstances. And these do no happen often, in my experience. Usually for downtime, they announce in advance and put up notices on their websites.(

    4. The fares can be cheap or expensive based on distance. Both buses and trains operates on zones - the more zones, the more expensive. There are about 3 zones wihin the Perth metroplitan area, and up to 9 zones in the greater perth region (up to Mandurah).

    5. Within the Perth CBD, both buses and trains are FREE! There are also various types of concessions - students, seniors, visually impared, people with health care cards (usually lower income, etc). Their stored value cards have a 25% discount if you use auto top-up. The savings all add up.

    6. Once good thing is: if you change bus/train - you only have to pay once within 2 hours for any amount of travel within 5 zones - no matter how many buses or trains you change. For example - you board a bus/train to send your kid to school in the morning. The cost is $1.50 with the storevalue auto card (within the same zone). As long as you return within 2 hours, you will not be charged any more. Even if you decide to go to market and shopping, as long as you can do all within 2 hours, its free. I think overall, especially when you compare the distances travelled, this can be cheaper than the world's best public transport in Singapore.

    7. You can estimate times, look at route maps, check schedules, check fares, etc from their website. In fact, their website for the stored value card (called SmartRider) is way more sophisticated than the EZ link website in SIngapore. With the smartrider website, you can control multiple cards (eg for your family), assign how much to auto top up from which bank/credit card, and it shows the details of EVERY SINGLE TRIP for the last 2 years. Tell me you can see the last 2 years transactions in your Singapore online banking, much less the EZ-Link card!

    Hope this helps! (c)

  2. I don't drive and getting around perth bus/train is fine as long as you live in the right place so it pays to do your research to find out where there are "public transport hotspots".

  3. Come to Sydney! Public transport here is much better!