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Travel in New Zealand

Driving tips in New Zealand

Driving tips in New Zealand

Driving is the best way to travel around and discover the hidden secrets of New Zealand, but the roads are very different than other countries. Here are a few tips to help you drive safely in New Zealand. If you want more information please refer to the New Zealand road code.

How to drive in New Zealand

In New Zealand you will have to drive on the left side of the road. If you usually drive on the right side you will need to be extremely careful as many roads are two-way roads and it is easy to cross the centre line. New Zealand doesn’t have a lot of roundabouts but if you approach one, you will have to pay a particular attention.

Unless overtaking, stick to the left lane. In New Zealand, the left lane is the slow lane and the right lane is the fast.

The traffic light system is the same around the world, stop at red and orange and pass at green. Unlike in the USA, there is no turn on red light.

Safe road trip in New Zealand

Since March 2012, give-way rules changed in New Zealand:

The first new rule will require all traffic turning right to give way to a vehicle coming from the opposite direction and turning left. Think : if you’re turning right, give way.

Turning 1 Turning 2 Turning 3 Turning 4 Turning 5
On those examples, the green car goes first

The second rule states that at an uncontrolled T-intersection, all traffic from a terminating road (bottom of the T) will have to give way to all traffic on a continuing road (top of the T). Think : Top of the T goes before me.

On this example, the green car goes first.

You can find more information about those changes here.

Take your time: New Zealand roads


New Zealand rural roads are often winding, narrow and sometimes one way. There are a lot of one-way bridges. Travelling times are considerably longer than you are used to.

The speed limits in New Zealand are in kilometres per hour (km/h). The open road limit is 100km/h, while in built-up areas and cities the speed limit is 50km/h. The advisory speed limits on corners are not mandatory but strongly advised while temporary speed limits at construction sites are mandatory. The New Zealand police are very serious about speeding and fines are high. Be aware and if you have a doubt about the speed limit, slow down.

Can I drive in New Zealand?

If you have a driver licence, yes. We strongly advise you to have an international driver licence as it makes life so much easier. If you do not have one, you will have to have an “accurate translation” of your driver licence.

If you a planning to stay more than 12 month in New Zealand, you will have to get a New Zealand driver licence. It’s a very simple process. Your New Zealand driver licence will become your primary driver licence in the country and you will have to present this one if asked.

Always check that you have the right licence to drive a vehicle. If your vehicle is over 3500kg (that’s a huge campervan), you are required to hold a heavy vehicle licence to drive it. Just ask before you rent a campervan.

More advice to drive in New Zealand

  • Diesel is not taxed at the pump but diesel vehicles are required to pay Road User Charges (RUC) instead. Check the RUC label in the lower left corner of the windscreen. If the odometer of the vehicle is higher than the maximum distance, you must buy more RUC.
  • The seatbelt is mandatory at all time.
  • It’s forbidden to use a phone while driving.
  • You must always park your car in the direction of traffic.
  • It’s illegal to drive a vehicle that does not have AND displays a Warrant Of Fitness (WOF).
  • You do not have to have insurance to drive a car, but it’s advised and pretty cheap.

Don’t drink and drive

For more information check out The official NZ road code.

Car Insurance in New Zealand?

Although it is not mandatory to get a car insurance when purchasing a car in New Zealand, we strongly suggest you to get one. The widget below will allow you to get a free quote from one of the leading New Zealand insurer. Plus we’ve found out that and you can get a 5% discount just by using the discount code: BPKRGUIDE in the “promo code” field. This discount code was originally found on BackpackerGuide.NZ.