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Driving In New Zealand For Tourists: The Definitive Guide 2017

If you want to drive in New Zealand, then you’ll love this complete guide.

New Zealand ranks the 6th in cars per capita, ahead of Australia, the UK, and the United States. Without a doubt, driving a car is considered to be one of the best ways of getting around New Zealand. Excellent roads, scenic landscapes, and generally safe drivers make driving in New Zealand fun and simple.

In this article, I’m going to show you exactly how you can drive in New Zealand safely and enjoyably, where is the best driving routes in both North and South islands, and more step by step.

Let’s dive right in:

Best Time To Drive In New Zealand


Summer in New Zealand runs from December through February. This is one of the best times to drive in New Zealand with an average temperature between 21 to 25-degree Celsius and low humidity. Rainfall is not too common during this time, making the sights and roads thoroughly enjoyable. It is the season of sand, surf, and sea so gear up for some beach time and water activities. Hiking is another popular summer activity.

Autumn follows summer from March through May. The leaves turn from green to 50 shades of gold. Autumn is, for some, the best time to drive in New Zealand. The mercury is pleasantly cool (18 to 25 Celsius), roads are less crowded, and the trees stand in golden pride by the roadsides. It is also prime wildlife season with dolphins and orcas visiting Wellington coast.

Driving in the Winter months from June through August can be challenging in some parts of the country. Snowfall in South Island may result in the closure of mountain passes. North Island is comparatively warmer and ‘snow-free’, but frequent rains can make driving a bit challenging. Although skiing is in full swing, some outdoor hiking trails remain shut during these months.

Spring, from September to November, is the season of waterfalls, green meadows with colorful flowers, fresh fruits, and lively rivers. Spring also marks the reopening of the entire New Zealand highway network making all the attractions accessible by car. Spring showers are normal and temperatures remain

Safety Guide To Driving In New Zealand


When it comes to drive, we all know that being safe is essential. Here is our checklist to help you drive safely in New Zealand.

  • Drive on the left-hand side of the road
  • Always wear your seat belt. Children must be secured in an approved child seat
  • Follow the speed limit and always stop at STOP signs
  • Maximum speed on any open road is 100km/h. Maximum speed in urban areas is 50km/h
  • Follow the traffic lights and road signs
  • Don’t overtake/pass other cars where there is yellow line in the middle of the road
  • Drive slower than the speed limit under adverse weather conditions like rain, snow, and heavy winds
  • Not all railway crossings have active warnings, blinking red light is sign of approaching train, wait until the lights stop blinking
  • Take extra caution crossing single-lane bridges
  • Don’t use your cell phone while driving
  • Don’t drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs

Other sources:

  • Driving safely for visiting drivers in New Zealand
  • Driving in New Zealand: free road code tests & info to prepare you
  • 10 Things you should know about driving in New Zealand
  • 12 Safe driving tips for New Zealand

Rent a Car In New Zealand


You might be wondering: am I able to rent a car and drive on roads?

Well, to drive in New Zealand, you must have a current and valid overseas driver license or international driving permit.

According to the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA), you can drive in New Zealand if:

  • you have a current and valid overseas license or driver permit, and
  • you haven’t been given a disqualification or suspension in New Zealand, and
  • you came into New Zealand less than 12 months ago, and
  • your overseas license is in English, or you have an accurate translation, and
  • you haven’t been granted a New Zealand driver license since you last entered New Zealand.

For most overseas visitors whose mother languages are not English, the key is to translate your license appropriately.

Here are 2 approved translation agencies:

  1. NZTC International The Translation Centre
  2. TransNational

Other sources:

  • How to apply International Driving Permits (IDP) in New Zealand?
  • Visiting Driver Training Programme

How To Choose Your Car

There are a few different types of cars that you can rent in New Zealand. Here is a breakdown of the main 4 different types:


#1 Sedan

A popular and affordable travelers’ choice, 4-door sedan is ideal for four people or fewer. Ample space, comfortable seats and equipped with air-con, it is ideal to drive on state highways and major roads. However, it might not be suitable for unpaved/dirt roads. Most sedans can fit two big bags or so. Popular collections available for rent in New Zealand are Nissan Bluebird, Sylphy, Tiida, Holden among others.

#2 Station Wagon

A good fit for families with luggage, a group of friends, outdoor lovers, and sports travelers, station wagons are more spacious than Sedans. Therefore it can fit more luggage and are also ideal to carry sports gear. Popular Wagons available for rent are Toyota Caldina and Nissan Wingroad.

#3 4 Wheel Drive Car

4 Wheel Drive (4WD) cars are ideal for adventure lovers and intrepid travelers. A reliable and affordable car to drive on unpaved/dirt roads, during extreme weather conditions, to travel off-the-beaten-path and conveniently fits adventure and sports equipment. Toyota RAV4, Highlander, and Prado are some 4WD car rental options.

#4 Campervan

Traveling in New Zealand in a Campervan is the ultimate Kiwi experience. Equipped with beds, hot shower, kitchen appliances, and toilet, Campervans are ideal for couples, families, and group of friends with long term travel plans in New Zealand. However, you still need to bring some necessaries alongside of the vehicle. No doubt that campervans are equally comfortable to ride on state highways, major, and minor roads. There is a wide variety of Campervans you can choose from.

How To Rent a Car Cheaply In New Zealand

New Zealand road trips attract millions of people around the world. Fortunately, travelers have a ton of options open to them in today’s market when it comes to renting a car.

The most reputable car rental companies having branches are:

  • Europcar
  • AVIS
  • Hertz
  • Budget

As well as some local providers you can consider too.

  • apex car rentals
  • ezi car rental
  • GO rentals

However, it’s an overwhelmingly difficult task for majority of consumers to make price comparisons among these companies. Alternatively, they could use an aggregator site to search not only most major brands, but also some of budget rental companies. Sometimes you will get results of several local providers which you never heard before, with damn competitive offers.

There are literally dozens of car rental search engines to choose from, we highly recommend you to start with Rentalcars, which is the biggest online car rental service in the planet. Here you will benefit:

  1. 24×7 call support
  2. Price match guarantee
  3. No hidden credit card fees
  4. Free Booking Amendments
  5. Compare with 900 suppliers worldwide

Anyone who is going to rent a car in New Zealand using Rentalcars can save a lot of money and time.

New Zealand Road System


1. State Highway

State Highways, managed by central government, connect different regions of the country. For example, State Highway 1 runs the entire length of New Zealand with a ferry connection between North and South Island. State highways have excellent road conditions, and are usually multiple lanes.

2. Major Road

Major Roads, managed by local government, connect cities, towns, and villages of a region. They are usually two-lane roads. Major roads are normally in excellent conditions.

3. Minor Road

Minor roads are unpaved or dirt roads that lead to remoter parts of the country. Some minor roads also lead to popular national parks and other outdoor destinations. It is advisable to drive a 4WD on minor roads.

Best Driving Routes In New Zealand


Driving a car all over New Zealand is cool if you have enough time like 1-2 months.

But the truth is: not every one has such a long holiday.

So you’d better look to your own suitable and perfect route, which is not easy at all.

Sometimes you will feel very frustrated.

Well, today I’m going to show you our exclusive list of the best driving routes in both North and South Island to help you explore the amazing nation.

  • The ultimate guide to your next South Island road trip!
  • 7 New Zealand Road Trips That Will Blow Your Mind
  • 10 Incredible New Zealand Road Trips
  • 11 Scenic Road Trips to Take in New Zealand
  • 2 Week Self Drive Road Trip Itinerary Around South Island


Hopefully, this guide will inspire you when you plan your road trip to New Zealand.

If you want to rent a car, please go to; if you’re looking for campervan rentals, you can consider discovery-motorhomes.

OR do you have some uncovered tips or routes to help travelers?

let me know by leaving your comments below right now.

The post Driving In New Zealand For Tourists: The Definitive Guide 2017 appeared first on Moving2NZ | Study, work and live guides for anyone moving to New Zealand.

This post first appeared on Moving To New Zealand, please read the originial post: here

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Driving In New Zealand For Tourists: The Definitive Guide 2017


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