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Visiting drivers

This page includes information about driving in New Zealand and links to real-time traffic information on state highways.

We've also included links to inter-city buses and trains, ferries and airlines, as well as information about walking and cycling routes around New Zealand.

Driving in New Zealand

If you're from overseas, New Zealand roads are probably different to 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.

It's very easy to underestimate travelling times (external link)  in New Zealand. We want you to have a great trip and arrive to your destination safely, so make sure you allow plenty of time and take regular breaks. The trip may be slower, but the scenery is amazing so take your time and enjoy your journey.

Check the Drive Safe website for trip planning and driving advice for visitors to New Zealand (external link)

What’s different about driving in New Zealand?

Before you begin your journey on New Zealand roads, learn more about what's different about driving in New Zealand. For example: 

  • we drive on the left-hand side of the road
  • not all railway crossings have active warnings
  • safety belts are compulsory
  • it's illegal to use a cellphone while driving.

Read our booklet for overseas drivers (available in multiple languages) 

Avoid fatigue

If you're tired you're much more likely to have a crash. Before driving, allow plenty of time to rest when you first arrive in New Zealand and then make sure you get plenty of rest before each long drive. Ensure you allow enough time to drive safely between your destinations. If you find your attention wandering when driving, pull over to the roadside and have a rest.

See more tips about how to avoid fatigue while driving

Watch your speed

Excessive speed is one of the biggest killers on our roads.

Find out more about speed limits and safe speed guidelines (external link)

Alcohol and drugs

Alcohol and drugs, including some drugs given to you by a doctor, can seriously affect your driving. They can slow your reaction times and affect your senses. You risk causing death and serious injury to yourself and other people if you drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Find out more about alcohol and drug limits

Weather-related hazards

The weather can vary considerably, even within a single day. During the winter months and early spring, watch out for ice and snow and other weather-related hazards.

See more tips on driving in bad weather

Can you drive in New Zealand?

To drive in New Zealand, you must have a current and valid overseas driver licence or international driving permit. If you're here for more than 12 months, you'll need to gain a New Zealand driver licence.

Find out more about driver licence requirements

Before you venture out on our roads

Travelling during a busy period?

If you're travelling in New Zealand during a busy period – such as when a major event is on or over Christmas, Easter or long weekends – there are likely to be more cars on the roads. Read our tips for safe travel during these times.

Looking for ideas on what to do while visiting New Zealand?

See the diverse range of activities and events on offer throughout the country at www.newzealand.com (external link) .

Finding your way around

Find out information that might affect your travel, including real-time highway conditions, and check out live traffic webcams  on the busiest areas around the country on the Traffic and travel section of our website.

The Automobile Association of New Zealand (external link)  also has maps of New Zealand and suggested scenic routes for tourists, plus information on car rentals, distances and travelling times, and bus stops and car parks.

Renting a vehicle? Check out the requirements you and the rental company need to meet.

Driving a motorhome?

Many requirements for driving a motorhome are the same as for car drivers, such as the road and licensing rules, but there are other things you need to know, such as where to dispose of your waste at dump stations. (external link)  Stay in designated campsites to avoid instant fines for illegal camping.

Find out more about motorhomes, including the standard safety requirements and safety belt requirements.

Riding a motorcycle?

There are quite different road and licensing rules for motorcycles. Find out more in The official New Zealand road code for motorcyclists and learn tips for keeping yourself safe while riding a motorcycle.

Walking

There's no better way to get to know a place than by experiencing it on foot. New Zealand offers lots of opportunities for walking, whether you're exploring native bush, rural or alpine environments, or getting around in our towns and cities.

See our tips for safe walking

Urban walking

Walking routes in and around New Zealand's three main cities showcase the country's scenery, culture and history. Check out what's on offer in:

Discover more walking opportunities in the resources section of the Living Streets (external link) website, a site established to get more people walking and enjoying public spaces around New Zealand.

Rural walking

New Zealand has many walking tracks. Learn more about walks and national parks (external link)  in New Zealand on the Department of Conservation website.

Cycling

You can cycle the length of New Zealand, but we recommend avoiding regional highways when you can. Instead, use quieter back roads as it's safer and there's less vehicle emissions. You'll find plenty of opportunities to get off the beaten track – there are many vehicle-free tracks and trails across New Zealand which provide a safer environment for cycling.

Read about New Zealand's cycle trails (external link)

Tips for cycling on New Zealand roads

Many roads don't have separate cycling facilities so you need to stay alert to the risks around you. See our tips for staying safe while cycling. And remember, you must not cycle on motorways – it's illegal.

Urban cycling

You can also cycle your way around New Zealand cities. There are many cycling routes in New Zealand cities and towns.

Discover more cycling opportunities at the Cycling Advocates Network (CAN) website (external link) , a site established to get more people walking, cycling and enjoying public spaces around New Zealand.

Travelling by bus, train, ferry and plane

You don't need to drive to see New Zealand. Take the bus or train and you can enjoy the same scenery without the responsibility of driving in an unfamiliar environment. In some places you can travel by ferry. Travelling by plane is quick and convenient. Combined, these services can get you to almost everywhere.

Travelling by bus

A number of companies provide bus transport that covers most of New Zealand.

Find out more on:

Travelling by train

Train travel includes long-distance trips such as between Auckland and Wellington, scenic journeys such as the TranzAlpine service between Christchurch and Greymouth, and local commuter services in Auckland and Wellington.

Find out about:

Travelling by ferry

The only ways to travel between New Zealand's North and South Islands are by air or sea. There is a choice of ferry services, both of which carry vehicles:

Other ferry services link smaller islands to the mainland in places such as Hokianga (external link) , the Bay of Islands and the Hauraki Gulf Islands in Auckland. There are also commuter ferry services in Auckland (external link) and Wellington. (external link)

Travelling by air

All New Zealand cities have an airport running domestic flights across the country. Airports in key destinations also run international flights.

Find out about flights around New Zealand from these airlines:

If you want to get between New Zealand's North and South islands and prefer to travel by air rather than by sea, you could also try Sounds Air (external link) or Air2there (external link) .

If you are intending to arrive in New Zealand by corporate or private aircraft (non-scheduled flights) your best source of information is the New Zealand Aeronautical Information Publication (AIP). (external link)  The GEN section of the AIP contains information relating to customs, immigration and quarantine requirements, and for obtaining approvals for non-scheduled flights, where this is required, as well as information relating to landings at non-customs airports.

Creative Commons Licence
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution New Zealand Licence

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