Things To Know Before Driving In New Zealand


Driving in New Zealand is by far one of the best ways to get around these incredible islands! Whether you decide to rent a car or buy one, you will have a better experience with your own wheels for many reasons!

I have hired cars on multiple occasions through Rent a Dent and know plenty of people who save up enough money to buy a car when they arrive. Public transport options are great however, they are lacking in many areas making it hard to get around. Also, you are going to miss out on seeing some incredible sights if you decide not to drive!

New Zealand is a stunning land and here are some pointers to get you on the road and keep you there!

Driving in New Zealand

Learn the road rules!

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as worldwide standardised road markings! A solid yellow line in New Zealand means not to overtake, however, it means something completely different in China! The majority of tourists visiting every year do not take the time to familiarise themselves with the road rules which ultimately leads to a high incident of accidents (with tourists racking up a huge percentage of those)!

Before you come out, jump onto this Driving Test website which offers visitors a free mini test on the road rules out here! Not only is it great to learn how to behave on the roads and also what different road markings mean, but it will increase your confidence!

The website also has plenty of resources which are good to bookmark and refer back to once you are out here. If in doubt, check! New Zealand can be a totally opposite world for driving if you are used to driving in different countries. If this is your first time driving on the left then take your time, build your confidence and make sure you know how driving differs on this side.

This will sound cliche, but please don’t be another statistic! As I said, tourists do make up a huge percentage of road traffic accidents but with a bit of preparation, you can stay safe!

The test is available for free in English, German, Chinese and Spanish!

The long winding roads

If you plan on sticking to the cities and built up areas then you will mainly encounter sealed roads. But that wasn’t the reason you decided to hire a car was it? You want to get out and about and see the hidden gems. With such beauty comes very sketchy roads. Still in much better condition than most of the world, New Zealand does have a lot of unsealed/gravel roads.


If you suffer from travel sickness then be prepared for winding roads which last for miles! Driving in New Zealand is pretty easy on the whole but with so many unsealed roads and tight bends through the mountainsides, slow down and be alert!

Watch your speed!

The police in New Zealand can be pretty harsh and unlike Australia, the national speed limits can be lower due to the conditions of the road. The police enforce speeding laws strictly so don’t try anything silly! Also, make sure you know your speed limits before hand, just in case a road is not sign posted!

Why is driving in New Zealand so great?

Think about all the coastal hide aways, mountaintop views and tiny towns which you may never get to see because you decided not to get a car! Like I said, public transport cannot get you everywhere you need to go and normally only stops off along the tourists spots. Which is great, but is it enough?

With a car you can be your own boss. Go at your own pace. See a hill? Want to see what’s up there? Go right ahead! You can because you are not stuck to a route or schedule! The best parts of New Zealand are off the beaten path!

Driving in New Zealand

What tips an tricks would you give people driving in New Zealand? Let me know in the comments!

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Hi! Name’s Aly! Originally from Birmingham, England, I have been discovering the world for over 3 years straight. I am a psychology graduate with a love for Pho and red wine. Whether I throw myself into a novel or from 14,000ft up out of a plane, I look at adventure big and small and say “Let’s do this!”
  • Craig Workman

    Great list Aly! My WHV was just accepted yesterday, I’ll be in NZ by February! Did you purchase a vehicle or rent? I was planning on buying a camper van in Auckland. Any thoughts on this? I’m having trouble finding solid info about this. People said to stay away from the backpackers car market. Any thoughts?

    • Sarah Blake

      Hi Craig, I land in NZ in December and looking at buying a car or camper from a backpackers site. I looked on a proper NZ car sale website and the price range, particularly for a camper is astronomical so it will probably have to be from a backpackers site. I guess you’ve just got to vet the vehicle really well and hope for the best. Good luck and I’ll try to let you know what my experience was like.

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