How to road trip in New Zealand


Follow our guide to New Zealand's road rules and regulations to make your driving holiday in New Zealand safer and more enjoyable.



Map your journey


New Zealand may look small, but maps can be deceiving. It’s very easy to underestimate how long it will take you to reach your destination in New Zealand, thanks to narrow roads, hills, curves and less motorways than you may be used to. You’re also likely to pass something intriguing on a regular basis and it wouldn’t be an adventure if you didn’t stop and look, right? Check out our Adventure Road Trip Guides to keep your trip running smoothly with an itinerary of must-see sights and activities – with plenty of time in between for veering off track to explore.


Important things to remember while driving in New Zealand


You’re packed and ready for adventure – now make sure you reach your destination easily and safely by keeping these key points about New Zealand driving in mind. Drive 

- Drive on the left and keep left on narrow roads with no centre line markings.

- Remember to always wear a seatbelt whilst driving.

- Allow extra time for your journey as it’s easy to underestimate travel distances.

- New Zealand has a lot of narrow, winding and steep roads that are two-way and few motorways.

- Weather in New Zealand can be very changeable and significantly affect driving conditions.

- Not all New Zealand railway crossings have lights or alarms. If you come to a railway crossing with a give way or stop sign, make sure to stop, look both ways and only cross if no trains are approaching.


New Zealand road rules and etiquette


Kiwis are generally a lovely bunch and if you’re visiting from overseas, you may find the drivers in New Zealand are friendlier and more accommodating than back on home turf. However, everyone has to play by the same rules. Keep this list of essential road rules front of mind to ensure a smooth journey.

- Everyone in the car must wear a seatbelt or child restraint at all times.

- Drive in the left lane and do not cut corners.

- Do not cross the centre line unless safely passing or turning off the road.

- When overtaking, make sure you can see the road will stay clear for at least 100 metres ahead of you from the start of the manoeuvre until you’re back in your lane.

- Solid yellow line on your side of the centre line? That means it’s too dangerous to overtake a vehicle in this spot.

- A double yellow centre line means that no traffic on either side of the road can overtake.

- Never overtake on or near a corner.

- Many roads in New Zealand provide passing lanes at regular intervals. Use them where possible for overtaking and be patient until you reach one.

- Taking it slow? We like your pace. But if there is a line of traffic behind you, find a safe place to pull over and let others pass.

- If you’re turning right, give way. This goes for crossroads, intersections and driveways where vehicles are facing each other with no other signs or signals.

- You should also give way to your right at roundabouts. 



New Zealand speed limits


Speed limits in New Zealand vary, so keep your eyes peeled for signs. Bear in mind you’ll often need to go slower than the legal limit in order to navigate hills, bends, narrow roads or difficult weather conditions.

If you can’t see a speed limit sign, keep these rules in mind:

- On many of New Zealand’s rural roads, the speed limit is 100km per hour unless a sign says otherwise.

- In built-up areas, the speed limit is usually 50km per hour unless a sign says otherwise.


Keep an eye on the weather


New Zealand has a diverse terrain and unpredictable weather patterns to match. As much as it may look like clear and sunny skies when you set off, you can very quickly find yourself in the middle of a rain or hail storm. Maps also don’t show if a road is windy or prone to snow or flooding, so keep an eye on the weather, ask locals for advice and allow plenty of time for your trip. It is also advisable to keep your headlights on at all times when driving in New Zealand in case of a sudden change of weather.


Start your adventure with Europcar

Ready to explore New Zealand? If you’re looking for something compact and zippy, our range of small and medium vehicles provide comfort and convenience at a price that’s right. Or, for epic adventures into the wilderness, choose a four-wheel drive with lots of space to carry everything you need for the great outdoors. Check out our latest car rental deals and book with us today.



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