Driving in New Zealand

There are a few things that you may not be used to when driving in New Zealand. For example:
• we drive on the left side of the road
• using a hand-held mobile phone while driving is illegal.
Make sure you have a safe and enjoyable journey and please read this booklet before starting out. A valid national driver license is required. National driver licenses which are not in English need to be presented in conjunction with an official translation or valid international driver license. All drivers must have had a full and valid driver’s license for no less than 12 months.
linksverkehr in Neuseeland
Always drive on the left side of the road. If you drive on the right side of the road in your own country, please remember to keep left when pulling out onto the road – it’s easy to forget where you are!
Don’t drink or use drugs and then drive – the laws against this are strictly enforced in New Zealand and penalties are severe. For drivers under 20 years old, there is a zero alcohol limit. This means you are not entitled to drive if there is any alcohol in your blood or breath. For drivers aged 20 years and over, the alcohol limit is 50 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood or 250 micrograms per litre of breath.
Gurtpflicht in Neuseeland
By law, everyone in the vehicle must wear a safety belt or child restraint – whether they’re in the front or back.
Children under seven years of age must be secured in an approved child restraint. Children aged seven must be secured in an approved child restraint if such a restraint is available.
Nicht Telefonieren
Drivers must not use a hand-held mobile phone when driving, unless the device is completely hands-free or mounted securely to the vehicle – and touched infrequently and briefly. Writing, reading or sending text messages on a mobile phone while driving is also illegal.
It’s easy to underestimate travelling times in New Zealand.
Distances may seem short on paper, but New Zealand roads may be narrower than you are used to, cover hilly terrain and vary from motorways (freeways) to unsealed gravel roads.
If you’re tired you’re much more likely to have a crash. Here are some tips to help you stay alert.
• Get plenty of rest before a long drive.
• Take a break from driving every two hours.
• If possible, share the driving with someone else.
• Avoid large meals and drink plenty of fluid.
• If you begin to feel sleepy, stop at a safe place and try to have a short sleep for up to 40 minutes.
• If you’re feeling very tired, find a place to stay overnight.
Vorfahrt beachten
At a stop sign, stop completely then give way to all traffic.
At a give way sign, if you’re turning, give way to all vehicles that are not turning. Always use your indicator when turning.
In New Zealand you may not turn left at an intersection when the traffic signals are red. If turning at traffic signals, give way to pedestrians crossing the road.
Cyclists have the same rights as drivers on New Zealand roads. Always slow down near cyclists, pass slowly and only when safe, and try to leave a space of 1.5 metres. Indicate in plenty of time and respect cycle lanes.
Speed limit signs show the maximum speed you can travel. At times you may need to drive at a slower speed due to road, weather or traffic conditions. Different speed limits apply throughout New Zealand – look out for the speed limit signs.
100 kmOn most of New Zealand’s main rural roads, the speedlimit is 100km/h unless a sign says a lower speed applies. The speed limit is generally 100km/h on motorways.
50 km Schild In urban areas, the speed limit is usually 50km/h unless a sign says otherwise.
Verkehrszeichen This sign indicates the default rural speed limit of 100km/h applies but the road is unlikely to be suitable to travel at that speed. You may need to drive at a slower speed.
Only half of New Zealand’s 1500 public rail crossings have automatic alarms. If red lights are flashing, stop and only proceed once the lights have stopped flashing.
Other crossings have railway crossing and give way or stop signs only. When you see a stop sign at a crossing, stop and only cross the track if there are no trains approaching. When you see a give way sign, slow down and be ready to stop and only cross the track if there are no trains approaching.
Most roads in New Zealand have a single lane each way, and some provide passing lanes at regular intervals – these should be used where possible when overtaking. It is only safe to overtake when there is adequate visibility and the road is clear throughout the entire manoeuvre. If you cannot see that the other side of the road is clear, do not cross the centre line. You must not cross a solid yellow line on your side of the centre line to pass a vehicle, as this indicates it’s too dangerous to overtake.
Watch out for farm animals on the road, particularly in rural areas. When you see them, slow down and do not sound your horn – it may startle them. You may need to stop and let the animals go past or move slowly up behind and follow the farmer’s instructions.
Avoid unsealed roads if possible. If you need to drive on them, remember they can be very narrow. Reduce your speed and slow down even further when approaching oncoming traffic as dust could obscure your vision and loose stones could chip your windscreen.
You must have your current and valid driver licence or driver permit with you at all times when you’re driving. If your overseas licence or driver permit is not in English, you must also carry an accurate English translation issued by:
• an translation service approved by the NZ Transport Agency, or
• a diplomatic representative at a high commission, embassy or consulate, or
• the authority that issued your overseas licence.
An International Driving Permit (issued in accordance with a United Nations Convention on Road Traffic) is acceptable as a translation. Provided your overseas driver licence or driver permit remains current and valid, you can drive for a maximum period of 12 months from the date you arrive in New Zealand. Each time you arrive in New Zealand you can drive for a further 12-month period.
After 12 months, if you wish to continue driving in New Zealand, you must obtain a New Zealand driver licence. For more information about obtaining a New Zealand driver licence, see Factsheet 72: Overseas driver licences: converting to a New Zealand licence.
Once you have been issued a New Zealand driver licence, you can no longer use your overseas licence. This applies even if you have been in New Zealand less than 12 months.
Vorfahrt beachten
A number of roads in New Zealand have one-lane bridges where vehicles travelling in one direction must give way to vehicles going in the other direction. Any of the signs show that you are approaching a one-lane bridge. Slow down and check for traffic coming the other way. The smaller red arrow shows which direction has to give way.
Look out for this slippery surface sign in wet or icy conditions – slow down and avoid braking suddenly. Snow and ice can make roads even more hazardous, particularly around mountain passes. Rental vehicle companies will often supply chains if you’re likely to be driving in these conditions – make sure you know how to fit them before setting out.
In New Zealand, you can be fined or towed away for parallel parking on the wrong side of the road. You may only park in the direction of traffic flow on your side of the road (ie on the left side) unless it is a one-way street.
Touring New Zealand Campervans an Car Rentals is committed to ensuring you have a safe and enjoyable driving holiday in New Zealand. Please make sure you read the Driving New Zealand guide and also visiting the following websites.
NZ Transport Agency
Tourist & visitor driving theory quiz
Approved translators for your overseas driver licence