Holiday Driving in New Zealand

New Zealand has about 92,000 kms of roads that are mainly sealed and well-maintained by international standards. Visitors need to remember - as pointed out by Prime Minister John Key on the David Letterman Show - that 'we drive on the left, just like the British and Lindsay Lohan.'

Licenses and Permits

You can legally drive for up to 12 months in New Zealand if you have either a current driver's licence from your home country or an International Driving Permit (IDP).

All drivers, including visitors from other countries, must carry their licence or permit when driving. You can only drive the same types of vehicles you are licensed to drive in your home country.

Your driver's licence needs to be current. If your licence is not in English, you should either apply for an IDP or bring an English translation of your licence with you.

Road Rules

New Zealanders drive on the left side of the road. Maximum speed limits in towns and cities are 50 km/h (30mph) and 100 km/h (60mph) on the open road, unless signs indicate alternative speeds. Speed cameras are common throughout New Zealand.

Strict drink-driving laws apply and police regularly conduct random breath testing. Insurance is invalid if the driver of a vehicle exceeds the legal alcohol limit (0.8gm alcohol per litre of blood).

Seatbelts must be worn by all occupants of the vehicle at all times. All children under five must use an infant or child car seat.


Main cities have plenty of car park buildings but check prices before entering as some offer cheap deals for entering before specified times ('earlybird'). Metered parking (either coin-fed or pay and display) is common in most large towns and cities but conditions vary so check times and days when fees are required. Almost all metered zones are free parking after 6pm and many are free at weekends.

British visitors need to be aware you can only park with your car in the direction of the traffic. It is illegal to park on the side of the road facing oncoming traffic (such as parking on the right side).

Rental cars

Most hire companies have a minimum age limit for car rentals of 25. Child car seats are available for hire from car companies. Companies reserve the right to charge the renter for any traffic infringement notices that may be sent by the New Zealand Police.


Petrol in New Zealand is available in leaded and unleaded grades and is sold by the litre. Most petrol stations accept major international credit cards. All cars run on unleaded petrol while most 4WD vehicles,minibuses and campervans have diesel engines.

Beware that in country areas there are often few fuel stations and they can be hundreds of kilometres apart so keep the tank topped up when travelling long distance.

See also Favourite Cars and Favourite Car Colours.