New Zealand Driving Tips
A winding NZ road
- New Zealanders drive on the left side of the road. If you aren’t used to driving on the left side of the road, it might pay to rent a campervan with an automatic transmission and be extra careful at turns. Remember you – the driver – should always be in the centre of the road.
- With its low population densities away from the cities, New Zealand has only around 150km of freeway or motorway, but almost 9500km of sealed rural main roads.
- New Zealand roads are generally good if they’re paved but can be quite narrow and/or winding out in the country. Many back roads aren’t paved although most are at least gravelled. Usually only the sheerest of drops have proper guard rails so keep to the left and watch for oncoming traffic, particularly trucks.
- Most roads are two lanes with the occasional passing lane, with multi-lane highways in the larger cities.
- There are some unique road rules, for example if you’re turning left at a corner and an oncoming car is turning right at the same time, the oncoming car has right of way. It’s generally just a good idea to always give way to the right.
- You may have to stop for flocks of sheep of herd of cattle being moved across the roads.
- All drivers, including visitors, must carry their license with them at all times, although you don’t need a special license to drive a campervan in New Zealand.
- Wear your seatbelt: it’s an instant $150 fine if you’re caught without it. The police do spot checks for seatbelts and drunk drivers regularly.
- The open road speed limit is 100kmph (62mph); in towns and built-up areas, 50kmph (31mph). The police use speed cameras, both fixed and mobile.
- Maps, speedometers and road signs are all in kilometres.
- At traffic lights, a green arrow means you can go in the direction indicated – even if the main light is red. Look out for the green man crossing sign when turning at traffic lights. Often your light could be green but you have to give way to pedestrians before you can turn.
- People under 20 must have a zero breath alcohol reading, and people over 20 must not exceed 400 micrograms per litre of breath. It’s hard to judge this for yourself, so the best advice is to not drink at all before driving your campervan.