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Information for tourists and travellers in New Zealand

Updated: 12 June 2013

From the North's sparkling beaches to the South's pristine glacial fjords, from lush native forests to a geothermal wonderland, New Zealand is a land of contrasts. Your travel choices are just as extensive - by foot, cycle, bus, train, ferry, motorbike, car, motorhome or plane.

In this section you can find an overview of the different ways you can travel the country and things you need know before starting your journey. It 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.

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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.

Visiting New Zealand's major cities?

See information about getting to and around major cities and venues.

Driving in New Zealand

It's very easy to underestimate travelling times in New Zealand. 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.

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 our beautiful country.

What's different about driving in New Zealand?

Driving in NZ.

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, and it's illegal to use a cellphone while driving.

If you're tired you're much more likely to have a crash. Allow plenty of time when you arrive in New Zealand before driving, and take time to 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.

Excessive speed is one of the biggest killers on New Zealand roads. Find out more information about speed limits and safe speed guidelines.

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.

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 public holidays such Christmas, Easter or long weekends, there are likely to be more cars on the roads. Read our tips for safe travel during these times.

Finding your way around

Want to know about current highway conditions? Here you can find out real-time highway conditions, check out live traffic webcams on the busiest areas around the country, or see advance notices of upcoming planned road works and other activities that may affect your travel plans in the near future.

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.

Motorhome.

Driving a motorhome?

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

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

Motorcycle.

Riding a motorcycle?

There are quite different road and licensing rules for motorcycles to those of driving a car or campervan. Find out more about The official New Zealand road code for motorcyclists, and tips for keeping yourself safe while riding a motorcycle.

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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

Dog walkers.

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 under the resources section of the CAN website, an external site established to get more people walking and enjoying public spaces around New Zealand.

Rural walking

New Zealand has many walking tracks. Learn more information on walks and national parks (external link) in New Zealand.

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Cycling

Cycling is an affordable, healthy and fun way to experience New Zealand's beautiful scenery. 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.

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. And remember, you must not cycle on motorways – it's illegal.

Cycling.

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 under the Resources section of the Living Streets website (external link), a site established to get more people walking, cycling and enjoying public spaces around New Zealand.

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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 sit back and 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 will get you to almost all places around the country.

Travelling by bus

Scenic bus.

A number of companies provide bus transport that covers the length and breadth 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.

Railway station.

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:

Interislander ferry.

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

Travelling by air

All New Zealand cities have an airport that provide for domestic flights across the country. Airports in key destinations also serve international flights.

Find out about flights around New Zealand from these airlines:

If you want to get between New Zealand's North and South Island and would like to travel by air rather than by sea, you could also try Sounds Air New Zealand (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.

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