What should you know before driving in New Zealand?
If you're used to driving in the city, you should take care when driving on New Zealand's open country roads. We have a good motorway system but weather extremes, the terrain and narrow secondary roads and bridges require drivers to be very vigilant.
You can find out what's different about driving in New Zealand on the NZ Transport Agency website.
DriveSafe.org.nz has been developed to provide everything you need to know to have a safe and enjoyable driving adventure, from road rules and etiquette to links to further resources. The site has three sections: Planning your trip; On arrival; and On the road - check back at any stage of your trip for more guidance and ideas.
Test out your knowledge of New Zealand's road rules on the Driving Tests website.
You can legally drive in New Zealand for up to 12 months if you have either a current driver's licence from your home country or an International Driving Permit (IDP). After 12 months you are required to convert to a New Zealand licence. This applies to each visit to New Zealand.
In New Zealand all drivers, including visitors from other countries, must carry their licence or permit at all times when driving. You will only be able to drive the same types of vehicles you are licensed to drive in your home country. The common legal age to rent a car in New Zealand is 21 years.
Make sure your driver's licence is current. If your licence is not fully written English, you must bring an English translation with you or obtain an IDP. Contact your local automobile club for further details about obtaining a translation or an IDP.
A translation of your overseas licence or permit can be issued by:
It is important to note that if you are caught driving without an acceptable English translation or an IDP, you may be prosecuted for driving unlicensed or for driving without an appropriate licence. You will be liable for an infringement fee of NZ$400, or up to NZ$1,000 if you are convicted in court.
The Police also have the power to forbid an unlicensed driver to drive until they have an appropriate licence. If you continue to drive after being forbidden, the vehicle you are driving will be impounded for 28 days, at the vehicle owner's expense. You may also risk not being covered by your insurance in the event of a crash.
Refer to the NZ Transport Agency website for country wide information on New Zealand roads, road rules and vehicle safety. For up to date information on South Island roads you can also call toll free 0800 4 HIGHWAYS (0800 44 44 49).