International visitors to New Zealand enjoy nothing more then hiring a rental car and driving around the country. Not only is this an affordable and fun way to see the country, it also means you can plan a trip that suits your interests, timeframe and budget.

We want you to have a safe and enjoyable self-drive Kiwi holiday, which is why we recommend you read the information we have put together below about driving in New Zealand along with some important advice for overseas visitors.

So, what’s different about driving in New Zealand? For a start, we drive on the left side of the road and we have a rather unique give way rule that applies at intersections. You also need to be aware that some of your trips may take longer then you planned, as some roads are narrow, hilly or winding.

Other important things to remember include…

  • KEEP LEFT! – Always drive on the left side of the road!
NZ Driving Rules
Always drive on the left side of the road!
  • BLINKER BLINKER! – Always use your indicators when turning.
  • STOP MEANS STOP! – A Stop sign means just that… stop, give way (yield) to all traffic before moving.
  • GIVE WAY! – At an intersection where one vehicle will cross the path of another, and both are waiting on stop or give way signs (or where there are no signs), special give way rules apply. This means that if you’re turning, give way to all vehicles that are not turning and in all other situations, give way to vehicles crossing or coming from your right.
NZ Driving Rules NZ Driving Rules
Stop Give Way
  • RED LIGHT MEANS STOP! – You are not allowed to turn left at an intersection when the traffic lights are red.
  • NO NEED TO RUSH! – It is easy to look at a map and underestimate travelling times in New Zealand. Therefore make sure you leave yourself plenty of travelling time, get lots of rests before a long drive, take a break every couple of hours and if you begin to feel tired or sleepy, try a 40 minute power nap or find a place to stay overnight.
  • WATCH YOUR SPEED! – Driving speeds in New Zealand are varied however always well signposted showing the maximum speed you can travel. However, at times you may need to drive at a slower speed due to road or weather conditions. On most of New Zealand’s main roads the speed limit is 100 km/h unless a sign says a lower speed applies. In urban areas, the speed limit is usually 50 km/h unless a sign says otherwise.
NZ Driving Rules NZ Driving Rules NZ Driving Rules
50km 100km Open Road
  • BUCKLE UP! – New Zealand law states that everyone in a vehicle must wear a safety belt, including passengers in the back seat!
  • OVERTAKING – Most New Zealand roads have a single lane in each direction and you will find plenty of passing lanes at regular intervals so that you can safely pass any slower vehicles (or allow other vehicles to pass you). NEVER cross a solid yellow ling on your side of the centre-line, as this indicates it is too dangerous to over take.
  • ONE LANE BRIDGES – A lot of New Zealand roads have one lane bridges, which means vehicles travelling in one direction must give way to vehicles going in the other direction. These are always well signposted, showing which ‘side of the bridge’ has to give way (yield).
NZ Driving Rules NZ Driving Rules NZ Driving Rules
Give way to traffic Give way to traffic Proceed with caution
  • WATCH THAT STOCK! – New Zealand has a large amount of rural land, and while this makes driving a more scenic experience, you must be aware of stock on the road such as cows, sheep, deer and horses. When you see a horse or other stock, you must slow down and do NOT sound your horn as you may startle the animal! You may need to stop and let the animal(s) go past you or move slowly past.
  • SKATING ON THIN ICE! – During winter some New Zealand roads can become hazardous. Look out for slippery surface signs in wet or icy conditions, which means you need to slow down and avoid braking suddenly!
NZ Driving Rules NZ Driving Rules
Animals on the road Winter Driving

When you hire a rental car from us we are happy to answer any questions or concerns you may have about driving on New Zealand roads.