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Tips for Driving in New Zealand

If you are hiring a car or campervan when you come to New Zealand then you need to make sure you know our road rules and can keep safe on our roads.

The roads in New Zealand may be quite different to those you drive at home, they are often narrow and windy requiring extreme care and some skill to drive. It is essential that you know our road rules so we recommend you take this tourist driving theory quiz to help you stay safe and minimise your chance of an accident.

Keep Left

Driving in New Zealand is done on the left hand side of the road. Please make sure you're confident about driving on the left hand side of the road before you commit yourself to a self-drive holiday.


  • The Climate in this region is extreme – ranging from sizzling hot summers to cold winters.
  • Driving conditions will vary depending on the season of your visit. It's most important to understand a little bit about our roads, rules and regulations prior to your visit.
  • Road chains will often be needed in winter when driving over the Mountain Passes e.g.; Crown Range

Rental Cars

It’s important to ensure the vehicle you rent is tuned for driving in this region. Check for the following:

  • Air conditioning for summer driving
  • Road chains for winter driving
  • Tires with good tread
  • Warrant of Fitness - 3 months old maximum
  • Current registration
  • Road maps

Speed Limit

  • Speeding fines are very high for driving in excess of the speed limit.
  • Open Roads = 100kmph
  • Most Urban Roads = 50Kmph
  • These limits are strictly enforced and large fines are imposed. Anyone caught driving at more than 50 km/h over the speed limit is immediately disqualified from driving. If you drive while disqualified the Police will impound your vehicle

Drivers Licenses

  • Anyone holding a Visitor's Permit, who has a current international driving permit, or a current drivers license issued from another country, can drive here under their permit/license for 1 year from the first date they enter New Zealand.


  • Main roads in New Zealand may often be narrower than an international visitor is used to.
  • The undulations coupled with the angle of the sun and the fact that we drive on the left hand side of the road can make driving here very different from driving in another country.
  • State Highway 6 linking Cromwell and Queenstown is narrow and winding in several places. For your own safety stick to the sign posted speed limits. Bus and camper vans are common on this route. Keeps an eye out for the increasing number of cyclists using this road.

Seat Belts

  • New Zealand law requires everyone in a car regardless of where they are sitting to wear a safety belt.

Wandering Livestock

  • Farming is the largest industry in Otago and Southland.
  • Drivers need to be alert to the possibility of wandering livestock on the roads.
  • If you encounter Livestock, SLOW DOWN, immediately, pull over and be ready to stop if necessary.
  • Don't sound your horn or make a noise to frighten them.
  • When a farmer is present, follow their directions.
  • If you see wandering stock on the road and there is no farmer around, go to the nearest house and tell them. 

Drinking and Driving

  • Driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a very serious offence in New Zealand.
  • Those caught face Criminal Court action and a penalty, fine or imprisonment.

Driver Fatigue

  • Much of the Otago-Southland road network is narrow and winding so it takes longer than expected to reach a destination.
  • Preventing Fatigue