New Zealand Driving Guide
Road Rules in New Zealand
Self-driving holidays are one if the most relaxing ways of enjoying New Zealand's landscape. Many of our roads are scenic and traffic is low when compared to international standards. Although New Zealand is a relatively small country it can take many hours to drive between cities and other destinations of interest.
Even when distances are short, hilly or winding terrain or narrow secondary roads can slow your journey. If you're used to driving in the city, you should take care when driving on the open country roads.
New Zealand has a good motorway system but weather extremes, the terrain and narrow secondary roads and bridges require drivers to be very vigilant. Never drive if you are feeling tired, particularly after you have just completed a long-haul flight.
International Driving Licences and Permit
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 (IDP). After 12 months you are required to convert to a New Zealand licence. This applies to each visit to New Zealand.
Recent law changes mean all drivers, including visitors from other countries, must carry their licence or permit at all times when driving. You will only be able to drive the same types of vehicles you are licensed to drive in your home country. The common legal age to rent a car in New Zealand is 21 years.
Make sure your driver's licence is current. If your licence is not in English, you should bring an English translation with you, or obtain an IDP. Contact your local automobile club for further details about obtaining a translation or an IDP.
- In New Zealand, all motorists drive on the left-hand side of the road
- All road distances are measured in kilometres.
- When turning left, give way (yield) to traffic crossing or approaching from your right. On March 25 2012 New Zealand’s Give Way rule changed to align with international give way to the left rules. While this may be normal for you, New Zealand drivers may take some time to get used to the change and you should take extra care at intersections.
- When the traffic light is red, you must stop. There is no left turn rule as in North America
- The speed limit on the open road is 100kph (approx 60mph). In urban areas the speed limit is 50km/h.
- Both drivers and passengers must wear a safety belt in both the front and back seats. All children under the age of seven must be properly restrained by an approved child restraint when travelling in cars or vans
- Make sure that you have plenty of sleep before a long drive. Take regular breaks - one every two hours and when you feel sleepy.
- Do not drink alcohol before driving in New Zealand - drinking and driving laws are strictly enforced
Even if you have driven in other countries, it's important to understand our rules for driving in New Zealand before you get behind the wheel.
- Further Drive Safe infomation can be found here
- Take a tourist/visitor Test to learn about New Zealand's road rules
- Download the TravelSafeNZ app to stay updated with local conditions (weather, civil defence, marine, road closures etc..)
The following chart gives you an approximate indication of distances between the main New Zealand centres.
Distance Chart (km)
1 kilometre equals 0.62 miles:
|Waitomo Caves to:|
|Mount Cook to:|
Note: Highways were used to calculate distances between major towns.
Relaxing Journeys are New Zealand's leading self drive touring specialists with over 60 itineraries covering the breadth of the country.