Driving Tips, Rules & Regulations in New Zealand

If you are at least 21 years old, possession of a driver’s license from your home country or an International Driving Permit (IDP) will grant you 12 months of driving in New Zealand. But beyond that, you need to get a local driver’s license. This license you must carry with you every time you drive. Take note that you can only drive the same kind of vehicles your local license allows you in your own country.

Your license has to be valid (not expired). Should it be in a language other than English, it must be translated, otherwise you will need to resort to an IDP. Car rental companies usually provide a translation for local licenses. Being caught driving without a properly translated license or IDP might get you prosecuted for violating the law or be fined for as much as NZ$1,000.

Despite the country’s small size, driving in New Zealand means taking hours to get from point A to point B. This is due to the hills and long, narrow, and winding roads that you’ll have to go through to get around. This means that visitors who intend to travel to the rural areas should be open to wide margins of delay in travel time. This also means that you shouldn’t be driving when tired – you’re going to need your energy to endure the long trips.

In New Zealand, you drive on the left side. The speed limits are usually indicated by road signs, although the open roads normally have a 100 km/h speed. In urban areas, however, the limit is 50 km/h. There are places with a “Give Way” sign posted, which indicate that cars behind these signs have to yield to the ones coming from a road that doesn’t have this sign. Note that failure to give way could result to a fine if caught.

In intersections however, those planning to turn right give way to traffic that’s turning to the left. In a T crossing, however, those turning right from the head of the T have right of way.

Seat belts are required at all times, and that includes special restraints for child passengers. Drunk driving in New Zealand is a criminal offense, and you could be fined heavily apart from the liabilities.

The roads in the country aren’t always in top shape. The highways will often be left unmaintained, so you need to be a little careful when driving on these roads. You might want your car rental service to help you point out the roads which are too damaged for car use. These roads get even more dangerous when it’s snowing. Make sure you have chains for your tires in case they’re needed. Needless to say, drive extra carefully on ice.

Lastly, take note that large cities like Auckland experience traffic during certain times of the day, usually within office hours 8 AM to 5 PM. If you’re going for an easier drive, you might want to plan your visits at times beyond these peak hours.

Summary

If you have a licence in a language other than English, it must be translated, otherwise you will need to resort to an IDP.
Driving in New Zealand means taking hours to get from point A to point B. There are many hills and long, narrow, and winding roads.
In New Zealand, you drive on the left side.
Speed limits on open roads are normally 100 km/h speed; In urban areas, the limit is 50 km/h.
Seat belts are required at all times.
You must be 21 years old to drive a car.

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