Driving Tips For New Zealand

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This page gives helpful driving tips for campervan and motorhome holiday makers in New Zealand.

We include some New Zealand general motoring advice for those of you who are not resident here and some general advice about driving a campervan or motorhome for everybody.

New Zealand Road Rules

Drive on left side of road

This driving tips section is really important to read if you are not a New Zealand resident.

  • You drive on the left in New Zealand - similar to Australia and the United Kingdom. Most rental vehicles are right-hand drive. That means that if you are the driver, you sit with the median strip separating the traffic on your right. Oncoming traffic will pass you by on your right. It is really important to remember this rule when you are pulling back onto the road after a break - sometimes the roads are quiet and there is no other traffic to give you a clue - take an extra minute to check you are on the correct side of the road (the left side looking in the direction you are going). Sadly, many accidents occur because drivers not used to driving on the left have failed to take a minute to get it right.
  • The open road speed limit is 100 km/hr (about 60 miles per hour) - however as the roads are often winding and narrow, it is not always safe to travel at 100 km/hr, particularly around corners. On such corners, there is usually a yellow diamond giving a visual description of the corner with a suggested safe speed below. Take note of these and reduce your speed accordingly.
  • The speed limit in built up and urban areas is 50 km/hr. This is further reduced near schools at the beginning and end of the school day - watch out for extra signs
  • The New Zealand Give Way rule may be slightly different from what you are used to. Please accustom yourself to this NZ rule


Giving way at intersections

Always use your indicators when turning.

stop Sign

- Stop completely then give way (yield) to all traffic

Give Way Sign

- Slow down and be ready to stop and give way to all traffic.

New Road Rule

In general:

  • Overtaking - most roads are single lane each direction. Be very careful to keep to your side of the median strip especially when cornering. When overtaking, make sure you have adequate visibility to complete the maneuver - as the roads are winding, it can be difficult to find a safe place to overtake - you just have to be patient. Most roads will have passing bays where it is safe to pass. You cannot cross a solid yellow line on your side of the road - a solid yellow line indicates that it is dangerous to overtake.
  • One lane bridges - you will no doubt encounter at least one of these on your travels. You cannot proceed if there is another vehicle on the bridge, even if the signs say you have right of way. Slow down before a one lane bridge and check it's clear. If 2 cars approach from different directions at the same time, the car who had the right of way sign can proceed first.
Give Way To Traffic
Give Way To Traffic

These two signs show you must give way to traffic coming the other way across the bridge.

Proceed Across Bridge

This sign indicates you can proceed across the bridge with caution.

  • Seat belts are compulsory for drivers and all passengers
  • Parking - You must park in the direction of traffic. This means parking on the left hand side of the road (unless it is a one-way road)
  • Driver Licence Requirements - you must have a valid driver's licence. If you are a visitor, you can drive on your own national driving licence for up to 12 months. If your licence is not in English you need an authorized translation. You must carry your licence at all times while driving
  • Take your time - as the roads are often winding and narrow, driving distances can be misleading - it often takes longer to travel than you imagine, so leave lots of time so you don't have to rush


Driving Tips for Campervan and Motorhome Holiday Makers

These driving tips are suggestions to make your trip less stressful.

  • Take your time - the journey is as spectacular as the destination and you will find it so much more relaxing and enjoyable if you take it easy
  • leave plenty of time - driving distances can be misleading as the roads are winding and it is often hard to drive at the maximum speed limit safely. Always leave ample time. You may stop for refreshments at a beautiful lake or explore a side road leading to the beach - this is what makes campervan holidays so much fun.
  • Be aware of traffic behind you. Smaller vehicles will be able to maneuver better than a large campervan, so if you see traffic building up behind you, let them pass. You can either pull over and stop or if you are on a winding road, watch out for large hard shoulders on the left of the road where it is often safe to pull over as you go around the corner so the following car can pass - you don't usually need to stop completely.
  • When you reach passing bays, which are often on straight sections of road, don't speed up if you are being passed. Let the vehicles behind you pass you safely. You will find the drive much more relaxing if you are don't have a queue of traffic behind you.
  • If traveling in convoy with other campervans, make sure you leave enough space between campervans for a car to overtake one of you at a time. It is difficult enough finding safe space to overtake one vehicle let alone two who are just traveling too close to each other

We hope these driving tips make your journey safer and more enjoyable.