The Ultimate Guide to Driving in New Zealand

road map NZ

Are you planning a road trip in New Zealand? Whether you’re a seasoned driver or a newbie behind the wheel, it’s important to know the rules of the road in this beautiful country. In this ultimate guide to driving in New Zealand, we’ll cover everything you need to know, from the basics of driving on the left side of the road to the top scenic drives and must-visit attractions. Buckle up and let’s hit the road!

Driving Rules and Regulations in New Zealand

Before hitting the road, it’s essential to understand the driving rules and regulations in New Zealand. Here are some of the most important things to keep in mind:

  • Drive on the left side of the road: In New Zealand, drivers must drive on the left side of the road. If you’re used to driving on the right side, it may take some time to adjust.
  • Always wear a seatbelt: It’s mandatory for drivers and passengers to wear seatbelts at all times while driving in New Zealand.
  • Follow the speed limit: The speed limit in New Zealand varies depending on the type of road and area. In urban areas, the limit is usually 50 km/h, while on highways, it’s 100 km/h. Make sure to obey the speed limit to avoid getting a fine.
  • Don’t drink and drive: In New Zealand, the legal blood alcohol limit for drivers is 0.05%. However, it’s always best to avoid drinking and driving altogether.

Getting a Driver’s License in New Zealand

If you’re planning on driving in New Zealand, you’ll need to have a valid driver’s license. If you have an overseas license, you can drive in New Zealand for up to 12 months. After that, you’ll need to apply for a New Zealand driver’s license.

To apply for a New Zealand driver’s license, you’ll need to:

  • Pass a theory test
  • Pass a practical driving test
  • Provide proof of identity and address

It’s important to note that New Zealand has a zero-tolerance policy towards drugged driving. If you’re caught driving under the influence of drugs, you could face fines, imprisonment, and a criminal record.

Best Scenic Drives in New Zealand

One of the best things about driving in New Zealand is the stunning scenery. From snow-capped mountains to rugged coastlines, there’s no shortage of beautiful landscapes to explore. Here are some of the best scenic drives in New Zealand:

  1. Milford Road: Located in the Fiordland National Park, Milford Road is a 120 km stretch of road that takes you through some of the most spectacular scenery in New Zealand.
  2. The Great Coast Road: This 100 km road trip takes you along the rugged west coast of the South Island, where you can see wild beaches, waterfalls, and rainforests.
  3. The Thermal Explorer Highway: This 457 km route takes you through the heart of the North Island, where you can explore geothermal wonders like geysers and hot springs.

Must-Visit Attractions

New Zealand is home to some of the world’s most breathtaking natural wonders and cultural attractions. Here are some must-visit attractions to add to your itinerary:

  1. Hobbiton Movie Set: If you’re a fan of the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies, you won’t want to miss a visit to the Hobbiton Movie Set in Matamata.
  2. Fiordland National Park: This UNESCO World Heritage site is home to some of the most spectacular scenery in New Zealand, including Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound.
  3. Tongariro National Park: If you’re looking for an adventure-packed destination that offers breathtaking natural beauty, look no further than Tongariro National Park in New Zealand. With its stunning volcanic landscapes, ancient forests, and diverse flora and fauna, this World Heritage Site is a nature lover’s paradise. In this article, we’ll explore the top attractions and activities in Tongariro National Park and provide tips for planning your visit

Tips for Safe and Enjoyable Driving in New Zealand

To make the most of your driving experience in New Zealand, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  1. Take breaks: Driving in New Zealand can be tiring, especially if you’re covering long distances. Make sure to take regular breaks to stretch your legs, grab a snack, and enjoy the scenery.
  2. Check the weather: New Zealand’s weather can be unpredictable, so make sure to check the forecast before setting off on a road trip. If the weather looks bad, consider postponing your trip or altering your route.
  3. Watch out for wildlife: New Zealand is home to a range of wildlife, including possums, hedgehogs, and birds. Be extra careful when driving at dawn and dusk, as these are the times when animals are most active.

Frequently Asked Questions about Driving in New Zealand

Q: Is it safe to drive in New Zealand?

A: Yes, it’s generally safe to drive in New Zealand as long as you follow the rules of the road and take precautions.

Q: Do I need an international driver’s license to drive in New Zealand?

A: If you have a valid driver’s license from your home country, you can drive in New Zealand for up to 12 months without an international driver’s license.

Q: How long does it take to drive around New Zealand?

A: It takes approximately three weeks to drive around both the North and South Islands of New Zealand.

Q: Can I rent a car in New Zealand if I’m under 25?

A: Yes, many car rental companies in New Zealand allow drivers under 25, but you may have to pay an extra fee.

Q: Are there any toll roads in New Zealand?

A: Yes, there are a few toll roads in New Zealand, but they are mainly located around Auckland.

Q: If I don’t want to drive is there a nationwide coach or minibus service?

A: Yes, The Coach Company New Zealand offers vehicles nationwide.


Driving in New Zealand can be an unforgettable experience, but it’s important to be prepared and informed before hitting the road. From understanding the driving rules and regulations to exploring the country’s top scenic drives and must-visit attractions, this ultimate guide has everything you need to know. Remember to drive safely, take breaks, and enjoy the stunning scenery that New Zealand has to offer. Happy driving!

green vines