Safe Holiday Driving

Visiting from Overseas? New Zealand holiday driving at a glance

Safe Holiday Driving

Guide to a safe family driving holiday...

> In New Zealand we drive on the left, with the steering wheel on the right of the vehicle.

> If more than two cars are behind you - or even just one car if it has been there a while - please be courteous and pull over to let them pass you safely (just like you would do if you were walking slowly on a walking track).  You will reduce accidents and make other drivers happy!

> If you do pull over onto the side of the road take care that you have a pull-in place.  Otherwise the direct roadside (or verge) may be loose or unstable.

> New Zealand's roads are mostly sealed and well signposted, however they are not always engineered to the same standards found in other developed countries.

> The majority of rental cars are automatic and the majority of rental campervans or motorhomes are manual transmission (stick-shift), although automatics are becoming available.

> The highway network consists of SH-1 running the length of both islands, SH-2 to 5 and SH-10 to 58 in the North Island, and SH-6 to 8 and SH-60 to 99 in the South Island.

> There are very few motorways, expressways or dual-carriageways (only 3% of highways).

> The majority of the road network is open country road, single carriageway road with one (non-separated) lane each way, therefore they are used by cyclists, pedestrians and even farm animals.

> There are no/few bypasses so roads pass through small towns.

> When estimating journey times between towns, use 60km/h as an average speed, plus your rest stops.

> Weather extremes and mountain terrain require extra care.

> Overtaking on the open road generally requires moving into the lane for oncoming traffic.  Tourists and other drivers may cause accidents in this way - you must be absolutely certain you have ample time and vision to complete an overtaking manoeuvre.

 > Speed cameras are used in fixed positions, handheld by police officers and unmarked vehicles.

Legal Requirements

You can drive in New Zealand if you hold a driver licence from another country or an international driving permit (IDP) and:

•  your overseas licence is current and valid, and

•  you've not received a disqualification or suspension in New Zealand,

•  your overseas licence is in English; if it's not, you must have an accurate translation, and

•  you've not been granted a New Zealand driver licence.

All drivers must carry their license with them when driving.

Road Rules

> The open-road speed limit is 100km/h and the urban speed is 50km/h.

> Signposts follow the international standard and all distances and speeds are metric.

> All cyclists must wear safety helmets.

> There is no 'left-turn' rule at traffic lights as in North America.

> Seat belts are compulsory for everyone if they are fitted.

>  Drug and alcohol laws are strictly enforced and random roadside testing is common.

Particular Hazards

Particular hazards you may encounter when driving in New Zealand include: logging trucks, roadside parking laws, turn-right rules, trams, snow and ice at any time of the year, railway crossings without barrier arms, land slips, drainage ditches alongside many open roads, single lane bridges, dual use bridges (combines road/rail in the same single-lane bridge), unsealed/gravel roads, farm stock, roadworks (not separated from vehicle traffic), mountain conditions, sun-strike and Limited Speed zones (LSZ) where the speed limit changes depending on the conditions.

Take the Quiz!

It's a tourist-specific New Zealand Road Code quiz that is fun, interactive and free!  It's perfect for international visitors to familiarise themselves with NZ roads and where our rules and driving hazards may be different.  Currently available in English, Spanish and German, with Japanese and Chinese versions coming soon.

More information is available here >>

Map of New Zealand
  • Central Otago
  • Auckland
  • Bay of Plenty
  • Christchurch
  • Dunedin
  • Coromandel
  • Gisborne
  • Fiordland
  • Marlborough Sounds
  • Manawatu
  • Northland
  • North Canterbury
  • Queenstown
  • South Canterbury
  • Taranaki
  • Southland
  • Taupo
  • Wanaka
  • Waikato
  • Wellington
  • West Coast
  • Whangarei
  • Bay of Islands
  • Tauranga
  • Gisborne
  • Hamilton
  • Napier
  • Kapiti
  • Palmerston North
  • Whanganui
  • New Plymouth
  • Arrowtown
  • Te Anau
  • Akaroa
  • Ashburton
  • Hanmer
  • Kaikoura
  • Methven
  • Mt Cook
  • Oamaru
  • Tekapo
  • Timaru
  • Abel Tasman
  • Motueka
  • Nelson Lakes
  • Blenheim
  • Picton
  • Catlins
  • Gore
  • Stewart Island
  • Central Plateau
  • Invercargill
  • Cromwell
  • Greymouth
  • Hokitika
  • Westport
  • Glenorchy

Our favourite destinations…


New Zealand’s economic heart and biggest city is also an exciting family visitor destination, situated on a sunny harbour with city beaches just minutes away from the CBD. Orientate yourself by heading down to Viaduct Harbour, wandering the waterfront, checking out the super yachts or enjoying the waterfront restaurants. Nearby is the must-visit Sky Tower along with excellent and kid-friendly museums and tons of exciting activities!


Wellington is New Zealand’s capital. Here you will find New Zealand's parliament buildings, including the 'Executive Wing', more well-known as 'The Beehive' due to its distinctive shape. Another icon to look out for is the Wellington Tram, which was the main means of public transport between 1878 and 1964.


With a population of around 400,000 Christchurch, in Canterbury, is the South Island ’s largest city, yet much of it has the feel of a small town. Perhaps that’s why it’s known as the Garden City but with the expansive Hagley Park, Botanic Gardens, Port Hills, River Avon and numerous beaches the city certainly has an open, relaxed feel that’s hard to beat.


With its well-deserved reputation as New Zealand’s activity adventure capital you’ll never run out of activities and things to do in Queenstown, but you may run out of time! With breathtaking scenery, activities and festivals, cafes and restaurants, skiing and snowboarding, shopping and wineries, this lakeside alpine resort rates as one of the world’s top vacation destinations for all ages and seasons.


Rotorua sits on the shore of Lake Rotorua, one of sixteen lakes in the area formed by hundreds of thousands of years of eruptions from the Taupo Volcanic Zone. The area is renowned for its geothermal activity and top of any activity list is to see the bubbling mud pools that are around the region for yourself. The Waimangu Volcanic Valley offers a first hand insight into the devastation caused by the 1886 eruption of Mount Tarawera and is a great place to discover steaming volcanic craters and bubbling, spitting  pools of mud!

Nelson and Golden Bay

The Nelson and Golden Bay regions, at the top of the South Island, boast enviable sunshine hours, glorious sandy beaches, safe swimming spots, lots of wildlife to look out for, and Abel Tasman National Park - an absolute must to explore, on foot, by kayak, your own craft or watertaxi.  Nelson is home to a vibrant arts and crafts community with a fabulous Saturday market, and is close to award-winning wineries and family-friendly bike tracks to take you around the coast.

Hawkes Bay

Napier was rebuilt after the 1931 earthquake and is now known as NZ's Art Deco City.  The Art Deco influence has created a unique city – nowhere else can you see such a varied concentration of art deco style. With over 2,200 sunshine hours a year, Napier is a year-round holiday destination with countless activities to entertain the kids – there's days of entertainment on Marine Parade alone, plus numerous other family-friendly trips and activities.  Add to that the beaches, walks and flat cycle paths, outdoor cafes and entertainment, and you have a perfect holiday destination!


Beautiful, unspoiled beaches, fishing, historic gum fields, kauri forests – the Far North has it all. With subtropical temperatures, it's often known as ‘the Winterless north', with warm, humid summers and mild winters.
Gateway to the Bay of Islands, Paihia is a pretty, lively beachside town and a perfect base for your family holiday. It’s your start point for Bay of Island adventures including day cruises, sailing, kayaking, swimming with dolphins and reef or wreck diving.