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Driving in New Zealand

Updated: 22 April 2015

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You need to meet a number of requirements to drive on New Zealand roads. Just like other drivers, you must have a current driver licence; but you will also need an approved translation or international driving permit if your licence isn't in English. 

You'll need to consider more permanent arrangements if you're in New Zealand for more than 12 months.

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Permit or licence?

While most countries use the term 'driver licence', some countries use the term 'driver permit'. It's important not to confuse a 'driver permit' with an 'international driving permit'.

Can you drive in New Zealand?

You can drive in New Zealand if:

  • you hold a driver licence or driving permit from another country and:
  • your overseas licence or driver permit is current and valid, and
  • you've not received a disqualification or suspension in New Zealand, and
  • you entered New Zealand less than 12 months ago, and
  • your overseas licence is in English; if it's not, you must have an accurate translation, and
  • you've not been granted a New Zealand driver licence, and
  • you have not renewed, requalified or reinstated a New Zealand driver licence since you last entered New Zealand.

You cannot drive in New Zealand if:

  • your overseas licence has expired or is suspended, revoked or disqualified in the country of issue; or
  • you have had a 28 day suspension, been served a suspension for demerit points or been disqualified by the courts in New Zealand; or
  • you entered New Zealand more than 12 months ago; or
  • you have been issued with a New Zealand licence since entering New Zealand

You can drive for a maximum period of 12 months from the date you arrive in New Zealand. Each time you arrive in New Zealand you can drive for a further 12-month period.

If your overseas licence or driving permit doesn't meet the above requirements, you must apply for a New Zealand driver licence to drive in New Zealand.

Here for a year or more?

If you'll be in New Zealand for more than a year, you need to obtain a New Zealand driver licence. If your overseas licence is still current or has expired less than 12 months ago you can apply to convert it to a New Zealand licence.

How to convert your overseas driver licence to a New Zealand licence

Depending on the country you come from, you may have to pass theory and practical tests.

Evidence of identity

You may only be required to provide a single document if you have one of the following:

  • your New Zealand photographic licence (which can be expired for up to two years), or
  • your current New Zealand passport.

If you do not have either of these documents you will need to provide two other acceptable forms of evidence of identity such as your current overseas passport and your current overseas driver licence. 

See factsheet 20 Identification for driver licensing for a full list of acceptable documents.

Planning to bring your vehicle with you?

Find out the requirements you'll have to meet to bring your vehicle into New Zealand.

Tips for driving in New Zealand

New Zealand road rules and driving behaviours may be different to those in your home country. For example:

  • we drive on the left side of the road
  • we have many hilly, narrow or windy roads that mean your journey may take longer than you expect.
  • you must carry your driver licence on you at all times. If your licence is not in English, you must carry a translation from an approved translator.

Before you venture out on our roads