Overseas drivers are often unfamiliar with some of New Zealand’s driving conditions and the roads here are possibly not what you’re used to.

While distances may seem short on paper, due to the hilly terrain roads in NZ can be narrower than in most other countries. There is also a wide variety of roads, from motorways to unsealed gravel roads.

Before you begin your trip, it is a good idea to learn more about driving in New Zealand.

For example:

  • In NZ we drive on the left-hand side of the road
  • Be careful not to underestimate travelling times
  • Road are often narrower, more winding and can be steeper than you might expect
  • NZ roads are usually two-way, with one lane in each direction – we do have some motorways
  • Take care at railway crossings as not all have active warnings
  • Seat belts are compulsory in NZ for everyone in the vehicle
  • It is illegal to use a phone while you are driving.

Before you venture out on our roads

  • Read the booklet for overseas drivers (this is available in multiple languages)
  • Study the road rules in the New Zealand Road Code
  • Check the Drive Safe website (external link) it provides trip planning and driving advice for overseas visitors
  • Use this time and distance calculator to understand NZ travelling times in New Zealand
  • Ensure you are eligible to drive on NZ roads. You must have a current and valid overseas driver’s licence or international driving permit. If you are in NZ for more than 12 months, you’ll need to gain a NZ driver’s licence.

At YOYO rentals we want you to have an enjoyable trip and arrive safely, so ensure you allow plenty of time and take regular breaks. The trip may be slower, but the NZ scenery is amazing so take your time, plenty of breaks and enjoy your journey.

Other important things to remember

If you are tired you are much more likely to have an accident. Allow plenty of time to rest when you first arrive in NZ and then make sure you get plenty of rest before each long drive. Make sure you allow enough time to drive safely between destinations. If you find your attention wandering when driving, then pull over to the side of the road and have a rest.
Excessive speed is one of the biggest killers on NZ roads. If there is a line of traffic behind you, find a safe place to pull over and let them pass you.
Alcohol and drugs, including some prescription drugs, can seriously affect your driving. They can slow down your reaction times and affect your senses. You risk causing death and serious injury to yourself and others if you drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
NZ’s weather can vary considerably, even within one day. During winter and early spring, watch out for ice and snow and other weather-related hazards.
If you're travelling in NZ during a busy period, such as when a major event is on or over Christmas, Easter or a long weekend, there are likely to be more cars on the roads. Read the tips for safe travel during these times. https://www.nzta.govt.nz/safety/driving-safely/driving-in-the-holidays/
Most requirements for driving a motorhome are the same as for driving a car, such as the road and licensing rules, but there are other things you need to know, eg. where to dispose of your waste at dump stations. You should stay in designated campsites to avoid instant fines for illegal camping, plus there are different standard safety requirements and seat belt requirements.
NZ has many different road and licensing rules for motorcycles. Read these in the official New Zealand road code for motorcyclists and learn tips for keeping yourself safe while riding your motorcycle.

Finding your way around

Plan your trip travel time information, traffic cameras, and updates on delays, roadworks and road closures on the Journey Planner website. https://www.nzta.govt.nz/traffic-and-travel-information

The Automobile Association of New Zealand also has NZ maps and suggested scenic routes for travellers, plus information on distances and travelling times, bus stops and car parks.