Top Tips for Driving in New Zealand
If you’re considering travelling to New Zealand, do it, this will be one of the most incredible adventures of your life. New Zealand is a spectacular country and one of the best ways to experience the highlights is independently via road.
Check out our ultimate guide to driving in New Zealand with advice about safety, laws and important things to be aware of.
Top Reasons to Drive in New Zealand
- Freedom and flexibility to go where you want, when you want
- Cost effective especially if travelling with others when you can split bills
- It is cheaper than most organised package tours of New Zealand
- See more of the country than flying or travelling by train
- The roads are easy to navigate and driving here isn't very stressful compared to other destinations
- Go off the beaten track
Do I need an International Driving Permit (IDP) to drive in New Zealand?
You can drive legally in New Zealand for up to 12 months if you have either a current driver's licence from your home country or an International Driving Permit (IDP). If you plan to stay longer, after 12 months you are required to convert to a New Zealand licence.
Car or Campervan
Whether you choose to rent/buy a car or campervan really comes down to personal choice and the type of trip you are looking to do. Both offer a great way to see the country.
If you are just visiting short term then renting is probably the best way to go. You can find car and campervan rental in Auckland and other major tourist hubs, you could also book online in advance before departing.
If you plan to stay for a long duration, or are going to work in New Zealand, it might be better to buy. Prices vary depending on the company, vehicle and duration. Book as early as possible to get the best rates.
Drive on the Left or Right?
In New Zealand people drive on the left hand side of the road. When using roundabouts you will need to drive clockwise.
Is Driving in New Zealand Difficult?
New Zealand is a very easy country to drive as a foreigner. The country has a population of around 4/5 million people and so the roads, even in the larger cities like Auckland and Wellington, aren't that busy compared to other places around the world.
Knowing speed limits is vital to staying on the right side of the law and staying safe. Speed limits are usually displayed on the side of roads, and once you get used to driving on the local New Zealand roads, you will have a general idea of speeds which are measured in km/h. The national speed limit for most motorways and roads is 100km/h. Stay within this.
Intersections and roundabouts might seem confusing at first, but watch others cars, the flow of traffic and you will soon be driving like a pro.
Wear Your Seatbelt
This might sound obvious, but always wear your seatbelt. This could save your life.
If you are aged under 20 it is illegal to drive with alcohol in your system. If you are over 20, the legal drink limit is 250 micrograms (mcg) of alcohol per litre of breath and a blood alcohol limit of 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood. This is approximately to equivalent to 330ml of beer, 100ml of wine. If you can, avoid any drink to stay on the safe side of the law.
Get Informed Before Departing
Watch tutorials on websites like YouTube, to improve your knowledge and skills. Lots of travel bloggers have documented trips and have shared useful information online.
Get Lessons on Arrival
If you don't feel comfortable driving in New Zealand, on arrival you can also book taster lessons which will help you gain confidence and advice from a local. You will get help with speed limits, road signs and general tips.
Where to Go
New Zealand is a stunning country and you will need to put together an itinerary with places to go. Both the north and south islands have cities, towns, beaches and spectacular countryside.
Always Check Weather Conditions
The weather in New Zealand can vary dramatically, and you should be prepared for all conditions. January and February are the hottest months of the year and June and July are the coldest. In winter you can expect snow, rain and it to be very cold - this is the most dangerous time of the year to drive. Pack important things like clothing and food.
If Going Off the Beaten Track
Beware of rustic roads and driving conditions, and also animals on the roads especially in rural areas.
Make sure you get covered, both with travel and driving just to give you peace of mind.
If you have any recommendations for driving in New Zealand for the first time, let us know in the comments section below.