At RaD Car Hire, we want you to have a safe and enjoyable trip around the North and South Island of New Zealand.
If this is your first time driving on New Zealand roads, please take the time to familiarise yourself with road safety. Here is a quick guide to the things to look out for.
New Zealand Road Rules
Keeping to the left side of the road
We drive on the left-hand side of the road in New Zealand. So, the steering wheel will be on the right-hand side of your car.
Speed limit signs
When driving in New Zealand, the maximum speed limit is usually 100km/h on any open road, and speed is typically restricted to 50km/h in urban areas. Yellow advisory signs warn of upcoming curves or bends and the recommended speeds. Most other road signs in NZ follow standard international symbols.
Intersections, roundabouts, and give way rules
Always remain in the left lane when approaching intersections and roundabouts. Come to a complete stop at stop signs, and give way to all traffic. You must yield to all traffic on the intersecting road at give way signs. Travel clockwise around roundabouts, and give way to the vehicles on your right.
If you are turning on green traffic lights, give way to the traffic that is not turning and pedestrians.
Some roads have one-lane bridges where you will need to give way to vehicles coming from the other direction. When you see the signs warning of a one-lane bridge ahead, slow down and check for other cars approaching.
Overtaking other vehicles
A solid yellow line on your side of the centre line indicates it’s too dangerous to overtake. A double yellow centre line means no traffic on either side of the road can overtake. Otherwise, you can overtake when it’s safe. Use passing lanes whenever possible.
Lights and barrier arms usually control railway crossings on busy roads. If you see flashing red lights, stop and proceed when the lights stop flashing. If you see a stop sign, stop and cross the track if no trains are approaching from either direction. At a give way sign, slow down and prepare to stop.
Seat belt use
It is the driver’s responsibility to ensure they and their passengers in both front and rear seats wear seat belts or child restraints at all times.
Alcohol and driving
Operating a vehicle whilst under the influence of alcohol in New Zealand is a crime and is strictly enforced by police. The legal drink-drive limits for drivers 20 years and over in New Zealand are 250 micrograms (mcg) of alcohol per litre of breath and 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood. There is a zero alcohol limit for drivers under 20 years.
Driver’s licence requirements
You can rent a vehicle and drive in New Zealand without a New Zealand licence. But, you must have a current driver’s licence from your home country or an International Driving Permit (IDP). If your licence is not in English, you’ll need to bring an English translation with you.
Tips for Driving Safely
Travelling during busy periods
If you’re travelling during a major event, long weekends, or over Christmas or Easter, you’ll find more cars on the road. So, plan ahead and be alert for changes.
Avoiding fatigue - take breaks
Ensure you get enough quality sleep before a long drive, especially if you’ve just arrived after a long-haul flight. Take regular breaks every two hours and, if possible, share the driving with someone else.
If you feel sleepy, stop at a safe place and nap for 15-30 minutes, or find nearby overnight accommodation.
New Zealand weather conditions
Always check the weather forecast and road conditions before you travel. If you experience wet or icy conditions, reduce your speed and avoid sudden braking. Ask your car rental company about snow chains if you’re likely to be driving in these conditions.
Other Useful Information
Driving a motorhome
Always stay in designated campsites to avoid illegal camping fines and dispose of waste at local dump stations.
Finding your way around
Visit the Automobile Association of New Zealand (AA) for maps and suggested scenic routes.
Don’t underestimate travelling times and distances. New Zealand maps can be deceiving, mainly because there aren’t many highways. Considering traffic, narrow winding roads, and unpredictable weather conditions, the time it takes to reach your destination can be longer than expected, so allow for plenty of time.
DriveSafe.org.nz has been developed to help visitors to New Zealand safely enjoy their self-drive holiday. This site provides basic information about NZ road rules and etiquette and links to more details about everything you need to know about driving in New Zealand. Here’s another link that will help you understand 'What's different about driving in NZ'