Driving in New Zealand

It’s no surprise that every year thousands of visitors drive themselves around New Zealand. With snow-capped mountains, stunning beaches and ominous volcanoes at every turn, there are few better places in the world for a scenic road-trip. But, as with all unforgettable adventures, you’re not normally allowed to depart before you’ve listened to one of those boring safety talks. For that reason, we thought we’d give you a little information that you might need to best enjoy your time safely when on the road in New Zealand. It’ll be quick and painless, I promise…

A few things to know before you leave

  • In New Zealand they drive on the left hand side of the road. If you drive on the right you may cause an accident and, worse, look silly. And you don’t want that.


  • Traffic lights are a little more straightforward in New Zealand. Red means stop, amber means stop unless it is unsafe to do so, and green means go. It’s not the ambiguous amber you may have seen elsewhere – it means stop.   


  • The weather can sometimes be extreme in New Zealand. On the lesser travelled secondary roads, those of you who are used to driving in cities should be prepared for low visibility and steep, winding terrain.


Some obvious (but still important) rules of the road in New Zealand

  • Don’t exceed the speed limits indicated on New Zealand road signs. The maximum limit you will see 100km/h, but it is around half of that in urban areas. You may need to adjust your speed to hanging conditions.


  • When driving alongside some of New Zealand’s majestic scenery, you may notice double yellow lines in the idle of the road. These mean that it's too dangerous to overtake, so don’t.


  • Come on, this is an easy one. Everyone in the car must wear a safety belt.


  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is against the law in New Zealand, and harsh penalties are enforced by police. Don’t be silly.


  • It's easy to get caught out during wintry conditions in New Zealand, especially if you aren't used to driving in the snow and ice. Take care, don't break to sharply and above all, remain vigilant when the weather is challenging.  



One thing which first time drivers in New Zealand often underestimate is the sheer amount of time that it takes to travel around New Zealand. Whilst two places may seem close to each other on a map, or in terms of miles, winding New Zealand roads are sure to add some time onto your journey. It’s not all bad though – think of it as taking the scenic route, just every day! Be sure to take this into account when planning your trip, as a jetlagged driver attempting a longer than anticipated drive can be a recipe for disaster.   

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