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Driving in New Zealand

You can drive in New Zealand if you have a current and valid overseas licence or driver permit written in English, or accompanied by an accurate translation.

UK residents - with the UK phasing out the 2 Part Paper licence and moving to a plastic card licence please note the following:

  • If you only need the plastic card to drive in the UK, then that's all you need in NZ too i.e. you don’t need to bring your paper licence.
  • If your license stipulates that you need both, then you will indeed need to bring both.
  • If you only have paper license (i.e. no card), then the rental car companies in NZ will accept your paper licence

 

The usual minimum age to rent or drive a rental vehicle in New Zealand is 25. In some cases, we have a special arrangement with rental car companies that may allow drivers from 21 years old. They must hold a current full license (not a provisional or learner's license). You may also need an English translation for an overseas license so please confirm before you travel.
If you have any questions about your ability to drive in New Zealand then check-in with our team of travel specialists.  We will help where we can or point you in the right direction of reliable information.

In New Zealand we drive on the left hand side of the road - the opposite to Europe, USA, Canada etc. If you have not driven on the left hand side before there are a variety of helpful videos to prepare you and your consultant can advise. The best advice though is to take it easy at first and have your passenger as a co-driver to remind and help you become accustomed to driving this way.

New Zealand roads are generally very well maintained and very well signposted. Finding your way outside of large cities is very straightforward and our directions and maps assist you everywhere.

There are very few motorways or large carriageways in New Zealand with most roads being just 2 lane highways. This does mean that getting from A to B takes a little longer than you might be used to (work on an average of 80kph/50mph) but of course the fantastic scenery makes it worthwhile.

Open road speed limits in New Zealand are 100kph and it will be clearly signposted where this limit applies. In urban areas the limit is usually 50kph and again this will be clearly signposted.

Speed cameras are common around New Zealand and can be either mounted at specific locations or within mobile camera units and within police cars. If you speed there is a pretty good chance you will be caught.

Driving in winter in New Zealand is for the most part no different from any other time. Indeed, winter can be a great time to travel with less traffic and clear days. Extra care does need to be taken in some places where at times roads can be affected by snow and ice.

If there is potential for ice on a road avoid nighttime or early morning driving if possible. Icy road conditions are generally signposted, with regularly ice-affected corners permanently signposted and temporary conditions marked.

Some southern regions' roads can be affected by snow. But road conditions will be clearly signposted and, when necessary, roads will be closed. Main highways usually re-open within a few hours of a heavy snowfall after road crews clear them.

In winter, you will need to carry snow chains to travel on some roads when they are likely to be affected by snow. These include some popular and recommended routes like the Crown Range road, between Queenstown and Wanaka, and the road to Milford Sound. Snow chains are available to hire when you collect your rental car.

Driving in winter can be very enjoyable. Quiet roads and clear days make for some of the best scenery. Simply adjust your driving to suit the conditions.

When we create an itinerary for you this will also outline the amount of fuel you should budget for.

Applying for a vehicle disability permit in New Zealand is simple. All you need to do is complete a short form and along with a copy of your current permit send the information to the CCS Disability action office here in New Zealand. There is a small fee.

Even better - when you book your tour with us we can get the forms and help you arrange this. Allow at least 4 weeks though to make sure its in place before you arrive into New Zealand.

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