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Exploring New Zealand in a motorhome is a fantastic way to discover all the amazing spots our beautiful country has to offer. With your transport and accommodation all in one, you can freedom camp in spectacular locations, going wherever the mood takes you.
Most modern motorhomes are fully automatic and drive just like cars, so even if it’s your first time just a little preparation will have you ready to get behind the wheel and start your adventure. Here are the answers to some common questions about driving in New Zealand.
Can I drive in New Zealand?
- If you have a current driver’s licence from your home country then you are legally permitted to drive in New Zealand. (A full car licence includes rental motorhomes in New Zealand.)
- If your licence is not in English, you must also carry an English translation or International Driving Permit (IDP) with you when driving in New Zealand. You can have a translation issued by a translation service approved by the NZ Transport Agency, a diplomatic representative at a high commission, embassy or consulate; or the authority that issued your overseas licence.
- You can only drive vehicles covered by your driver’s licence or International Driving Permit.
- You may drive in New Zealand on your license for up to 12 months from the date you enter the country.
Do I need a special licence for a motorhome?
No. With your full car driver’s licence, you can drive a rental motorhome with a TARE weight (the weight when empty) of up to 4.5 tonnes, even if there’s a lower weight limit on your licence. This would cover most rental motorhomes in New Zealand.
What’s different about driving in New Zealand?
- We drive on the left.
- Some distances may take longer to travel than you expect. Although relatively small, New Zealand is very hilly in places and some roads have many twists and turns. An app like Google Maps can be handy when calculating distance and driving times.
- In rural and coastal areas (i.e. outside urban centres and off main highways) you may often encounter gravel roads.
Important driving laws to know
- Drivers and passengers must use a seatbelt (or suitable child restraint for younger passengers) at all times.
- No use of hand-held cellphones while driving.
- You must carry your driver’s licence and any accompanying documentation with you whenever you drive.
- The blood alcohol limit for drivers aged over 20 is 50 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood. This is the same as in Australia, but lower than the 80 milligram limit in the UK, USA, Malaysia and Singapore. Drink driving carries heavy penalties in New Zealand.
- Speed limits vary depending on the type of road and are well sign posted, but generally 50 km per hour is the maximum in urban areas, with 80-100km per hour on motorways and open roads. Some heavier motorhomes may be limited to a maximum speed of 90 km per hour on the open road. Check with the rental company before you drive. Speeding in New Zealand can carry severe fines, penalties and loss of licence.
Should I get rental insurance?
Even if you consider yourself to be a careful driver, accidents can happen to anyone and motorhomes are expensive vehicles to repair. It is well worth taking rental insurance to protect yourself from that worry. As with rental cars, the motorhome rental company you choose will offer insurance packages that range in price depending on how much you want to reduce the excess (the amount you will need to contribute to any repairs required). Always check what is covered under your rental insurance and whether there are any restrictions on where you can travel (e.g. on unsealed roads) as this can vary between motorhome rental companies.
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