Driving in New Zealand is different to driving in other countries.

Self-driving holidays are one if the most relaxing ways of enjoying New Zealand's landscape. Many of the roads are scenic and traffic is low when compared to international standards.

It is important not to underestimate driving times. Although distances may seem short, the roads often include hilly or winding terrain, which slow down your journey.

If you're used to driving in the city, you should take care when driving on the open country roads.

  • In New Zealand, all motorists 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 speed limit on open roads is 100km/h (approx 60m/h). In urban areas the speed limit is 50km/h
  • Drivers and passengers must wear seat belts at all times, in both front and rear seats
  • 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

Cycling and Motorbikes

  • Helmets for riders of cycles and motorbikes must be worn at all times
  • Rear and front lights on cycles are required at night
  • Motorbikes should drive with a headlight on at all times
  • Cycling is not permitted on motorways

Check out the New Zealand Land Transport Safety Authority website for details on the New Zealand Road Code, as well as cycle safety and other general motoring information. Driving Safely in the Scenic South has particular information about driving conditions in this area.

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).

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.