Driving on New Zealand roads

This page tells you who can drive on New Zealand roads, and what you need to have while driving.

Who can drive on New Zealand roads

You can drive in New Zealand without a New Zealand driver licence if:

  • you have a current and valid overseas licence or driver permit, and
  • you haven’t been given a disqualification or suspension in New Zealand, and
  • you came into New Zealand less than 12 months ago, and
  • your overseas licence is in English, or you have an accurate translation, and
  • you haven’t been granted a New Zealand driver licence since you last entered New Zealand.

If you don't meet all of these requirements, you must apply for a New Zealand driver licence to drive in New Zealand.

Find out how to get a New Zealand licence if you don’t meet the criteria

There's a time limit on how long you can drive here

You can drive for a maximum period of 12 months from your last date of entry into New Zealand.

Each time you arrive in New Zealand you can drive for a further 12-month period.

What vehicles can I drive on my overseas licence?

As the holder of a valid and current overseas driver licence, you're considered to hold a New Zealand driver licence of a class that allows you to drive the motor vehicles you are allowed to drive under your overseas licence:

  • if you have a full overseas car licence (equivalent to a New Zealand class 1), you can drive a car or light vehicle with a gross laden weight of not more than 6000kg
  • if you have a learner, restricted or provisional licence the weight limit will be lower
  • if you have a full overseas motorcycle licence (equivalent to a New Zealand class 6) you can ride any size motorcycle
  • if you have a learner, restricted or provisional motorcycle licence you can only ride specific motorcycles approved under the Licence Approved Motorcycle Scheme (LAMS)(external link).

Please note that New Zealand licence classes are not an exact match to those that apply overseas. See here for information on the New Zealand class definitions to help you work out which vehicles you can drive on your overseas driver licence. If your car, motorcycle or heavy vehicle (truck) licence has specified weights or limits which differ from New Zealand classes (eg higher), we recommend that drivers adhere to the equivalent New Zealand weight limits or, if unsure, obtain a New Zealand driver licence.

You must know the New Zealand road rules

All drivers must know the road rules, what the road signs mean and how to drive safely. You can find out more in The official New Zealand road code.

Look at the Road code online
Test your knowledge of the New Zealand Road code on the Practice website(external link)
Read a copy of Driving in New Zealand

Staying in New Zealand? Convert to a New Zealand licence

If you're planning on staying in New Zealand, we recommend you get 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.

Find out how to convert an overseas licence to a New Zealand driver licence

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.

Find an approved translator
Download Factsheet 56: New residents and visitors – driving in New Zealand [PDF, 91 KB]
Read a copy of Driving in New Zealand