Driving in New Zealand

New Zealand road with no shoulder

Driving in New Zealand is easy…Well, it is easy to say that after having lived here for a while  

Just about everyone that I talk to that normally drives on the right-hand side of the road has had one or two slip-ups getting in the wrong lane after moving to New Zealand. Most come within the first three days of driving, or during the first month when tired.  Coming from the States, there are some differences in road rules and etiquette. Here are some tips for driving in New Zealand:

Driving Tips

-Your natural tendency when you start to drive on the left is often staying too far left.

-Roundabouts go to the left, so look right when entering.

-The left lane is the slow lane.

-Give way signs are a lot more common than stop signs.

give way sign

-Roads are not sealed like in the US, so there is very loud road noise. This is normal.

-Most New Zealanders’ top frustration when driving is drivers that do not pass slow drivers.

-If you are going much slower than standard traffic, it is customary to pull over.

-It is not uncommon for mountain areas in the winter to require chains.

Road Rules

-No turn on red, even lefts.

-Pedestrians have the right of way on crosswalks marked with orange circles or globes.

crosswalk in New Zealand

-In large roundabouts, signal when you intend to exit (it’s the law to do so for all of them, but most people don’t do it in small ones).

-When going uphill, and there is not enough room for two cars, the uphill vehicle has the right of way.

-It is illegal to use your cellphone while driving.

-Drunk driving is called drink driving, and the legal limit is 250 mcg breath or 50 mg blood, which is a BAC of 0.05

-Yellow centerlines mean no passing, but on most of the roads passing is allowed.

street with yellow no parking zone

-Yellow dotted or solid lines on the left side of the road denote no parking zones.

speed limit 30 sign

-The speed limit is 100 kph outside of towns. On many roads, it is hard to go that fast. People tend to travel their own speed.

-There are a lot of one-way bridges. There are signs before each one that indicates who has the right of way (large white arrow).

Avoiding Tickets

-There are unmarked, hidden speed cameras, which will mail a ticket to your house.

-There are red and blue police cars in addition to the traditional white ones.

-When in doubt, check the official New Zealand road rules.


Before you start driving in New Zealand, check to see if you can or need to get a New Zealand drivers license.  Our fuel discount guide goes over all the possible discounts on fuel. What are some tips you have for driving in New Zealand?

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