Driving Around in New Zealand (Road Rules, Safety & Top Tips)
Updated: Apr 17
Driving a car, campervan, or motorhome is a popular way to explore New Zealand’s beautiful landscapes. However, even if you’re used to driving in other places, you need to be aware of things like extreme weather conditions, narrow roads, and different road rules before you begin your journey to New Zealand.
If you're from overseas, New Zealand roads are probably different from what you're used to. Distances may seem short on paper, but our roads can be narrower than you're used to, cover hilly terrain, and vary from motorways to unsealed gravel roads. For a safe and enjoyable driving experience, make sure you're familiar with the important New Zealand road rules below. Also, Read Ola offers Corporate Mobility in AUS, NZ, and UK
The General Rule of Thumbs are the Following:
The speed limit is 100 km/hour on the main “highways” and 50 km/hour in towns. Then there is usually a transition zone where the limit might be 70 or 80 km/hour, and in some of these areas, there are speed cameras that issue speeding tickets by mail.
Stay on or below the legal speed limits indicated on road signs. The maximum speed on any open road is 100km/ h. The maximum speed in urban areas is 50km/ h.
When traffic lights are red you must stop.
Drivers and passengers must wear seat belts or child restraints at all times, in both front and rear seats.
Do not drink and drive. Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a crime in New Zealand.
Signposting follows standard international symbols and all distances are in kilometers (km).
Driving while using a hand-held cellphone is illegal in New Zealand.
It is illegal to pass other cars where there is a yellow line instead of a white line marking the middle of the road. The yellow line indicates that it's too dangerous to overtake. Read more about the Top 7 Essential Road Safety Rules for Drivers
Read further about Top 10 Winter Tips To Prepare Your Vehicles in US, Canada & UK
What are the Weather Conditions in New Zealand for Driving?
In New Zealand, It’s possible to start your day off with blue sky and sunshine but arrive at your destination in rain and hail. Because of this, weather-related hazards on the road can occur at any time.
Always check the weather forecast before departing, and adjust your plans accordingly.
If you’re driving in the South Island in winter, spring, or late autumn, snow is a possibility – ensure that you’re carrying snow chains if a cold snap has been forecast. Snow, ice, and fog can be common in winter, especially in the South Island and around mountain passes. Explore What exactly is Weather? And How is it Different from Climate?
What are the Rules on Drink and Driving in New Zealand?
New Zealand has strict penalties if you are caught doing so. In New Zealand, the legal drink-drive limits for drivers 20 years and over are a breath alcohol limit of 250 micrograms (mcg) of alcohol per liter of breath and a blood alcohol limit of 50 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood. Read more about What is Reckless Driving? Is it a Criminal Offense? (Simplified)
Are there Truck Stop or, Rest Areas on New Zealand’s Roads?
Yes, there are rest area signs across the roads where you can stop. It is recommended to never drive when you are tired and take regular breaks. It doesn’t matter what country you are driving in; it is extremely dangerous to drive when you are tired. Read further about What is a Truck Stop? Everything You Need to Know
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