Road Safety

New Zealand’s tourist routes are of a generally high standard and the main roads are sealed.  All roads, including those in rural locations, are signposted. Remember to drive on the left! 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.

The following, general information is provided for your road safety:

  • Always drive on the left-hand-side of the road
  • All road distances are measured in kilometres
  • When the traffic light is red, you must stop. There is no left turn rule as in North America
  • The amber traffic light means stop unless you are so close to the intersection you can’t stop safely
  • The speed limit on the open road is 100km/h (approx 60m/h). In urban areas the speed limit is 50km/h
  • Drivers and passengers must wear seat belts or child restraints at all times, in both front and rear      seats
  • During long journeys take regular rest and refreshment breaks
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a crime in New Zealand and strictly enforced by police, with severe penalties for offenders
  • Check out the New Zealand Transport Agency website for details on the New Zealand Road Code, as well as cycle safety and other general motoring information.

You can find out what’s different about driving in New Zealand on the New Zealand Transport Agency website.

International Driving Licences and Permits

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. In New Zealand 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 must 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.

A translation of your overseas licence or permit can be issued by:

  • the New Zealand Translation Service, or
  • a diplomatic representative at a high commission, embassy or consulate, or
  • the authority that issued your overseas licence (an international driving permit may be acceptable as a translation).

For more information on Licences and Permits please visit New Zealand Transport Agency

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