13 Things You Need to Remember When Driving in New Zealand

December 12, 2019
Just NZ Holidays

New Zealand road trips are an adventure with family and friends. You’re bound to have a blast. But before you get behind the wheel, read on to get up to speed with how driving in New Zealand works.

Things you should do:

1. Obey the road laws

Drive to the Conditions

Be sure to familiarise yourself with New Zealand’s road laws before embarking on your road trip, and always obey all speed limits and road signs.

2. Choose the right vehicle

Consider your requirements before choosing your rental vehicle. A camper van is a great choice for some travellers, but it will be slower than a car and restrict your ability to travel on some roads.

3. Drive to your ability

New Zealand’s roads are smaller than you may be accustomed to. They can be narrow, winding or steep—or all three. Be careful, take it slow, and you’ll be fine. There’s no rush.

4. Drive to the conditions

Snowchains on Hand

Weather conditions can change quickly here. If it starts to rain or snow, slow down and take extra care to maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front of you.

5. Take breaks to avoid fatigue

Remember that driving between destinations can take many hours, and driver fatigue is a killer. Be safe, take regular breaks and never drive while tired.

6. Carry snow chains in winter

If you’re driving in winter, you should hire and carry snow chains at all times, especially in the South Island.

7. Pull over and let people pass

If you’re driving a camper van, or just taking it slow, be mindful of the traffic behind you. If you see a queue forming in your mirrors, take the next safe opportunity to pull over and let people pass. They’ll thank you for it.

Things you should not do:

1. Don’t stop in unsafe spots

Stop in Safe Areas of the Road

Never stop in an unsafe spot (like on a corner, or narrow stretch of road) to take a photo or for any other reason.

2. Don’t drive on roads that your vehicle isn’t suited to

Some of our roads traverse mountain ranges; don’t drive on these in a rental car, or you may void your insurance policy. Be sure to check your travel routes and confirm with your rental car provider if you’re unsure.

3. Don’t get distracted while driving

Using a mobile phone while driving in New Zealand is illegal. Other dangerous distractions include eating and adjusting your vehicle’s stereo system. If you need to do any of these things, pull over at a safe spot. It can wait!

4. Don’t abuse your rights to freedom camp

Respect the Land when Freedom Camping

There are hundreds of freedom camping locations around New Zealand. Make sure it’s OK to set up camp before doing so, and follow these simple rules: dispose of all rubbish, waste and recycling at designated stations only; keep your campsite clean and tidy, and leave no mess behind.

5. Don’t drive under the influence of alcohol

Drink driving in New Zealand carries heavy penalties. Always err on the side of caution and if you’re unsure whether you should drive or not, don’t do it.

6. Don’t forget to fill up regularly

In rural areas, it can be a long time between petrol stations, so fill up when you get the chance.
If you’re thinking that driving in New Zealand sounds difficult, don’t worry—it’s really not. The roads here may be small and very busy in the summer months, but with a little bit of planning and care while driving, you’ll feel right at home.

Get in touch if you have any questions about rental vehicles or driving in New Zealand, we’re here to help.

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