Safe Driving in NZ: Kiwi Rules of the Road

Article Safe Driving in NZ: Kiwi Rules of the Road

A magical place spread out with tropical glaciers, bubbling springs and even hobbit holes, New Zealand is the perfect campervan getaway. With kitchen, beds and all your loved ones in-tow, you will have the time of your life discovering this amazing land, but just as you take in the new scenery, there is a bit of local road-rule knowledge you’ll need to get familiar with, too.

To keep your journey rolling safely, check out these pro-tips.

1. Driver’s Licence

If you’re not a Kiwi yourself, then the first concern you may have when it comes to driving in New Zealand is probably whether you need a special licence. The answer is most likely no, but just to make sure, here are a few requirements when it comes to your driver’s licence in New Zealand.

  • Your licence must be current and valid during all driving periods.
  • If your licence is not in English, then you must obtain a an officially recognized translation from one of the NZ Transport Agency’s recognized partners, a translation from a diplomatic representative or from the authority that originally issued you the licence.
  • You are allowed to drive with your foreign licence for 12 months after entering New Zealand. If you have already been in New Zealand form 12 months without leaving the country, you will be required to obtain a New Zealand driver’s licence.

2. Rules of the Road

Driving in New Zealand isn’t so different from most other places, but there are a few important factors to take note of before you hit the road. Get prepared for your adventure by getting familiar with these road rules.

  • Rule #1 has to be the fact that in New Zealand, you drive on the LEFT side of the road. It’s easy to revert back to what you are used to and drive on the right automatically, so always keep this rule at the forefront of your mind.
  • No drinking and/or drugs and driving. This rule is one that you’re probably already familiar with, but it’s important to note that the blood-alcohol limit for drivers in New Zealand is very low. Don’t flirt with road danger or high fines: don’t drink and drive.
  • Phones and driving just don’t mix, and in New Zealand, this rule is strongly enforced: No driving while using a hand-held device.
  • Seatbelts are a must. No matter how big or how small, everyone in your campervan must be seated and buckled appropriately, including special chairs for travellers under 7 years old.
  • A general note on turning: When turning, always yield to those who are going straight.
  • In some countries, a left turn on a red light is legal, however in New Zealand, this is not allowed. Take note of this and always yield to pedestrians.
  • The urban speed limit is 50 km per hour and the rural roads are 100 km per hour unless otherwise noted.
  • One lane bridges are somewhat common in New Zealand, and are a special challenge for international drivers. You will see appropriate signage to warn you and give proper instructions. When you see two arrows denoting opposite direction of transit and your direction is a small, red arrow, you need to slow down and give way for any oncoming traffic. If your direction shows a large, white arrow, then you have the right-of-way.
  • Animal crossings are bound to happen in New Zealand, be it a farmer’s herds or some local wildlife. If you are driving through a farmer’s pasture grounds, you will most likely see a sign to look out for animals. Drive slowly and if you come across any animal friends on the road, slow down, and stop if necessary to let them pass.

3. Things to Remember

New Zealand is a unique place with unique driving conditions. Here are some tips that will help you especially cope with these challenges.

  • Not all rail crossings have lights and barriers to warn you of oncoming trains. When you see a rail, make sure to stop and take proper precautions to make sure the way is clear.
  • Due to the gorgeous and undulating landscape, New Zealand roads are often very hilly and winding. Be careful not to speed too fast through sinuous mountain roads or bridges, but take adequate caution and know that it might take you a little longer to get places due to elevation changes.
  • Drive according to weather conditions. Especially when you are on winding and unfamiliar roads, you need to take extra care to be cautious during rainstorms, snow or other challenging conditions. Ice and snow can be a nuisance on New Zealand roads, so drive safe and slow in your campervan.
Keep these hints in mind while the New Zealand scenery takes your breath away. This is a ride you'll never forget, so make sure it is pleasant and safe at every bend in the road.

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