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Driving in New Zealand

Driving in New Zealand is different from driving in other countries.

Find out what you need to know before getting behind the wheel.


Road Safety

It's easy to underestimate driving times when looking at a map. Although distances may seem short, New Zealand roads often include hilly or winding terrain with sharp corners, slowing  down your journey.  Allow plenty of time to get to your destination and drive carefully according to the weather conditions.  Snow, ice and fog can be common in winter, especially in the South Island, around mountain passes.


  • Campervans are often slower than other vehicles.  Where it is safe, pull over to let other vehicles pass.
  • If you are surrounded by sheep or stock on country roads, drive slowly and take your direction from the farmer.
  • Make sure that you have plenty of sleep before a long drive. Take regular breaks and pull over if you feel sleepy.
  • Don't leave valuables in your vehicle.


Road Rules

  • In New Zealand, all motorists drive on the LEFT HAND SIDE of the road
  • When approaching a roundabout, always give way to traffic on your right.
  • When the traffic light is red, you must stop. There is no left turn rule as in North America
  • Keep within speed limits. The maximum speed limit on open roads is 100km/h (approx 60m/h) and 50km/h in urban areas.
  • Drivers and passengers must wear seat belts at all times, in both front and rear seats
  • Do not drink and drive.  Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a crime in New Zealand.
  • Driving while using a hand-held cellphone is illegal in New Zealand.
  • It is illegal to pass other cars where there is a yellow line in the middle of the road.  The yellow line indicates it is too dangerous to pass.
  • You are required by law to carry your driver licence with you at all times.
  • If you are cycling or motorcycling, helmets are compulsory.


International Driving Licences and Permits

You can legally drive 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 that is issued in English. If your licence is not in English, you must carry an authorised English translation with you. 


Visit these websites for more infomation on driving in New Zealand.



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