New Zealand Driving Guide 2022
New Zealand is a unique beautiful country. Explore all of it by driving when you get your International Driving Permit
As a small island country in the Pacific Ocean, New Zealand is a top destination country and one of the most liveable countries for immigrants. The country promises a high-quality life for its residents to improve their well-being by making public services accessible to everyone. Moreover, the country’s scenic routes promote a one-of-a-kind driving experience that you’d surely never forget.
Before driving in New Zealand, you need to know the country’s general information, the driving rules, and situations, and requirements needed to be eligible to drive freely. Car rental information and top destinations are also included in the guide. Knowing essential driving information can help you avoid unwanted situations with the authorities and prevent road accidents.
New Zealand is an island country sitting at the Pacific Ocean with gorgeous peaks and crystal clear waters. The South Island is known for snowy mountain peaks and skiing areas, while the North Island is known for volcanic plateaus and gorgeous cities. Wellington, the capital city of New Zealand, is known as the culinary capital of the country.
The island country of New Zealand is situated in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. New Zealand comprises two large landmasses, North and South Island, and around 600 smaller islands. New Zealand is about 2,000 kilometers east of Australia and 1,000 kilometers south of Fiji, Tonga, and New Caledonia.
About 71.8% of people in New Zealand are ethnically European, while 16.5% are Maori. The minority population consists of Asians and Pacific Islanders, two-thirds of whom live in the Auckland region. Asians consist of 15.3% of the population, while Pacific Islanders consist of 9% of the country’s population.
English is the most widely-spoken language in New Zealand, so language differences will be the least of your problems during your visit. Aside from English, the official languages in New Zealand include Maori and New Zealand Sign Language. Maori, also known as te reo, became an official language in New Zealand in 1987. The officials in New Zealand made Maori an official language to preserve the language.
The New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) became an official language in 2006 under the New Zealand Sign Language Act 2006. Establishing it as an official language has given the deaf community in the country to have the same access to government information and services as everyone else. The NZSL is rooted in the British Sign Language and is used by 30,000 New Zealanders.
New Zealand is a long, narrow country with a total land area of 268,000 square kilometers (103,500 sq mi). The country has one of the largest exclusive economic zones globally, covering about 15 times the land area. The country is famous for its steep mountains, fjords, and volcanic plateaus. The South Island is a mountainous landmass, while the North Island is known for its volcanism.
Because of its remote location, New Zealand was among the last habitable islands inhabited by humans. From Hawaiki on their canoes, the Maori were the first humans to arrive in New Zealand between 1280 and 1350. The distinctive Maori culture in New Zealand came from the early settlers on the islands. In 1642, Abel Tasman became the first European to sight New Zealand.
In 1840, the Maori chiefs and the British Empire’s representatives signed the Treaty of Waitangi to declare British sovereignty on the islands. New Zealand became a colony of the British Empire after the treaty was signed. The Treaty of Waitangi is considered the founding document of New Zealand and an essential part of its history. In 1947, New Zealand gained full statutory independence while the British monarch remained the head of the state.
New Zealand is known as one of the world’s most stable and well-governed states, ranking first in government transparency and lack of corruption in the world. New Zealand is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary democracy, making the Queen of England the head of state. Although the Queen of England is the head of state, the Cabinet headed by the Prime Minister decides and makes its policies.
The Parliament, consisting of the queen and the house of representatives, holds the legislative power in New Zealand. The House of Representatives is democratically elected. A parliamentary general election is held no later than three years after the previous election. The Chief Justice heads New Zealand’s judiciary. The judiciary includes the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, and the High Court.
The tourism sector of New Zealand contributes to 5.8% of the country’s GDP. Popular tourist activities in the country include camping, hiking, sightseeing, and other adventurous activities. New Zealand promotes ecotourism that highlights the nature areas as the top tourist destination of the country. Aside from nature areas, New Zealand promotes green sustainable practices such as water conservation and electric trolleybuses.
New Zealand boasts breathtaking scenery anywhere you are in the country. Road trips in New Zealand are becoming more popular among tourists, thanks to more accessible public facilities that campers need. Aside from the magnificent peaks and pristine bays, New Zealand has charming towns and cities with lovely people willing to lend a hand to tourists. Driving in New Zealand is manageable, making it a highly-visited country.
International Driver’s Permit in New Zealand
When you apply for an IDP, you’ll get an IDP card and a passport-sized booklet that shows the translation of your local driving license. The International Driver’s Association process application from over 165 countries worldwide. Before you rent a car in New Zealand, you need to know about the rules and requirements when driving in New Zealand.
Is a Local Driver’s License Valid in New Zealand?
A local driver’s license is valid in New Zealand for up to 12 months. For those who have driving licenses that are not in English, you need to provide an English translation of your native driving license. When getting an International Driving Permit in New Zealand, ensure that the IDP is an accurate translation of your driving license.
Does an IDP Replace a Native Driver’s License?
An IDP only serves as a translation of your local driving license, not a valid replacement of your local driving license. IDP helps overcome language barriers when traveling to a foreign country. So, you still need to bring your local driving license even if you have your international driving permit in New Zealand.
Do We Need an International Driver’s Permit to Drive in New Zealand?
An international driver’s license is required in New Zealand if your local driving license is not English. You don’t need an international driver’s permit in New Zealand if you have a local driving license in English. The IDP serves as the translation of your local driving license. The IDP can be translated into the 12 widely-spoken languages worldwide. If you’re applying for an IDP to drive in New Zealand, your international driver’s permit in New Zealand must be English.
How to Get an International Driving License in New Zealand?
If you’re unsure where and how to get an international driving license in New Zealand, you can get your IDP from the International Driver’s Association. All you need to do is fill up the application form on the website and upload your passport-size photos. You also need to submit a valid copy of your driver’s license for the International Driver’s Association to review. It will take at least 2 hours to review your application.
Once you receive a confirmation from the International Driver’s Association, they will email the digital copy of your international driver’s license for New Zealand in 20 minutes. You will receive your physical copy within 7-15 days from your application’s date if you’re within the US. It will take up to 30 days to ship internationally.
Renting a Car in New Zealand
Car rentals make driving in New Zealand a better experience. Before you could even plan for road trips in New Zealand, renting a car should be your utmost priority. If you have a valid driving license and an IDP, renting a car is simple and manageable.
Car Rental Companies
You can book car rentals online even if you haven’t arrived yet in the country. Booking your car rentals in advance, especially during peak seasons, can save you time and money. There are several reliable car rental companies in New Zealand that you can find on the web, such as Hertz Car Rental and New Zealand Rent A Car.
Car rental companies require you to present a valid local driving license and other government-issued identification like your passport. Your international driver’s license is also required in New Zealand car rental companies. Your international driver’s permit in New Zealand must be in English to be recognized by these car rental companies.
Car rental companies in New Zealand offer a wide range of vehicles that suit your budget and travel purposes. You can rent cars from local operators or established car brands. Compact and economy cars are the most common cars to rent. You can only drive the same type of vehicles you are licensed to drive in your home country. You can also rent SUVs and minivans if you want more room for your luggage.
You can also rent sports cars to quench your thirst for heart-thumping driving adventures. Just make sure to follow the road rules when driving in New Zealand with a sports car. You can also rent luxury cars like Mercedes, Porsche, and Range Rover. Luxury vehicles can make your trip extra special. Lastly, you can also rent wagon or estate rentals if you’re planning a camping trip in the country.
The common age requirement to rent a car in New Zealand is 21 years old. Some car rental companies allow drivers who are at least 18 years old to rent specific vehicles, while some car rental companies only allow drivers who are at least 25 years old to rent a car.
Car Rental Cost
In New Zealand, car rentals can be as low as $9/day, while camper van rentals can be as low as $19/day. On average, car rentals can cost up to $150/day, while camper vans can cost up to $350/day. The cost depends on the number of passengers that the vehicle can hold. Aside from the size, the prices can vary depending on the model, type of vehicle, peak seasons, and prices on the market.
The rental cost can cover the mandatory extras such as the young driver’s fee, one-way fee, extra drivers fee, ferry costs, and snow chains. The price can also be affected by optional extras such as a child seat, GPS hire, Wi-Fi hotspots, gas bottles, main plug, and outdoor chairs and tables.
Car rental companies allow their customers to pick up their rented cars in specific locations, including airport locations. Some rental companies can drop off the rental car at your location or any requested location. Keep in mind that you can incur extra costs if you want the car rental companies to bring the vehicle to your area.
Car Insurance Cost
Some rental companies include car insurance on your fee, but you need to purchase travel car insurance from insurance companies for some. The insurance cost can be up to $60/day, depending on the vehicle you’re renting. The insurance generally includes theft and collision protection for your car.
Car Insurance Policy
The Road Rules in New Zealand
If you want to drive in the country as long as you want, you must follow the driving rules in New Zealand. Most driving rules in New Zealand are standard worldwide, so it’s easy for you to remember. However, there are still some rules in New Zealand that are different from your home country.
Anyone who is at least 18 years old with a valid driving license and IDP can drive and rent a car in New Zealand. Your local driving license must be unexpired, and your IDP must be an accurate translation of your local driving license. You are also allowed to drive in New Zealand if you came into the country less than 12 months ago. You cannot drive in New Zealand if you’ve received a disqualification or suspension in the country.
Drunk driving in New Zealand is hazardous because of the narrow roads and hilly terrains. You must be alert and focused while driving to avoid road accidents. One drink can impair a person’s senses and reactions that can put everyone’s safety at risk. As your blood alcohol level increases, your risk also increases.
For drivers under 20 years old, drinking even one drink can get you charged for drunk driving. New Zealand imposes a zero alcohol limit on drivers under 20 years old. For people over 20 years old, the legal alcohol limit is 50 milligrams per 100 milliliters of blood. If caught drunk driving, you’ll lose your license for six months, get a hefty fine, and gain a criminal record in the country.
When visiting a foreign country, you need to follow general driving standards to avoid accidents and shortened trips. The general standards of driving help you be a responsible driver on the road, especially in a foreign country.
Vehicles You Can Drive Using Your Local Driving License
You are allowed to drive vehicles that are stated on your local driving license in New Zealand. A full driver’s license will enable you to drive a car with a gross laden weight of not more than 6000 kg. The weight limit is lower if you have a learner or restricted local driving license.
Driving a motorcycle in New Zealand is allowed. If you have a full motorcycle license, you can drive any size of motorcycles. You can only drive specific motorcycles stated under the License Approved Motorcycle Scheme (LAMS) if you have a learner or restricted motorcycle.
Before you hit the roads in New Zealand, make sure you’re well-rested and in good physical condition. Driving in New Zealand can be strenuous because of the hilly terrain in the country. Although there are rest areas on the road, it’s best if you had enough sleep to avoid driving fatigue. Ensure your vehicle is in good condition, and you have your driving license and IDP with you before you leave your hotel.
While driving in New Zealand, always make sure there’s enough room for the vehicle in front of you to pull back. If you’re a slow driver, always keep as close to the left side of the road as possible. The right lane is usually considered the fast lane. Do not use your phone while driving. Stop when the traffic light is red. Always check your side and rear mirrors to check the traffic behind you.
Follow what the parking signs say. The parking signs show how long you can park in the area, and an arrow pointing to the parking area’s direction. There are specific parking spaces for certain types of vehicles. Do not stop or park on broken yellow lines, bus or transit lanes, or a marked bus stop or taxi stand.
What is the Speed Limit?
Overspeeding is strictly not allowed in New Zealand. With their hilly, winding roads, overspeeding is one of the significant causes of road accidents. It is tempting to drive fast on the road since you’ll only see a few cars on the road. The speed limit in New Zealand is safe for any traffic, road, and weather conditions. The speed limit is the maximum speed that you can travel on the road.
The speed limit in urban school districts in New Zealand is 40 KpH, while in rural schools, the speed limit is 60 KpH. In most cities and towns, you need to drive under or equal to the speed limit of 50 KpH. The speed limit on open roads is 100 KpH. If you see speed limit signs with a red border, you must keep to this speed limit as it is compulsory. If you’re caught overspeeding, you can get fined or get your license suspended. The speeding fines are as follows:
- From $30 for speeds less than 10 km/h over the limit
- Up to $630 for speeds up to 50km/h over the limit
- 28-day license suspension for more than 40 KpH above the speed limit
Everyone must wear seat belts whether you sit at the back or the front. All modern cars are fitted with seatbelts, so you are required to wear them. Children under seven years old should be seated on an approved child seat or restraint. Check if the rental company provides child seats for their customers. Finding and buying a child seat in New Zealand can be costly and stressful, so it’s best if you choose a rental company that offers a child seat.
Wearing seat belts reduces road accidents’ fatality as it keeps you in position during a crash or sudden stops. Not wearing a seatbelt has caused several fatalities for several years all over the world. If you’re caught not wearing a seatbelt, you are fined 150 New Zealand dollars (NZ). The driver should pay for the fine for passengers under 15 years old, not wearing a seatbelt.
The driving directions in New Zealand can start on North Island or South Island. If you’re driving from north to south in New Zealand, you need to cross the Cook Strait on a ferry to get to South Island. North Island has several themed highways you could drive on, including the Twin Coast Discovery Highway and Pacific Coast Highway. Twin Coast Discovery Highway starts in Auckland and travels north, while the Pacific Coast Highway links Coromandel, Bay of Plenty, and Eastland with Auckland and Hawke’s Bay.
South Island also has several themed highways that lead to different parts of the large island, including the Inland Scenic 72 Route, Alpine Pacific Route, and Southern Scenic Route. Inland Scenic 72 Route starts at Amberley and links to State Highway 1 at Winchester. The Alpine Pacific Route takes you to Waipara, Hanmer Springs, and Kaikoura. The Southern Scenic Route starts in Dunedin City to Invercargill and continues northwest of Te Anau and ends at Queenstown.
Aside from the themed highways, New Zealand has more scenic routes that lead to different towns and cities in the country. The Thermal Explorer runs between Auckland and Hawke’s Bay and travels through the island’s country’s volcanic center. The Great Alpine Highway travels west across river plains. Driving in north or south of New Zealand is more manageable thanks to these scenic routes.
Traffic Road Signs
If you’re driving a car in New Zealand, you should be familiar with the country’s traffic road signs to help you better navigate the roads and avoid accidents. New Zealand traffic road signs are categorized into five: warning signs, information road signs, mandatory signs, priority signs, and prohibitory signs. It’s essential to familiarize the traffic road signs in New Zealand since most of the signs you’ll see in the country can’t be found anywhere else.
Warning signs alert you of potential danger such as narrow roads or a sharp curve. These road signs are usually in red and yellow. Information road signs are the most common road signs in the country that provide general information about the road you are driving on and the road ahead. Examples of information road signs are Motorway Begins signs and specific lane signs for certain types of vehicles.
Mandatory signs require drivers to perform a specific task such as ahead only sign and pass on right only sign. Mandatory signs are arguably the essential road signs you must adhere to. Priority signs show who has priority at the junction or road ahead. Remember that the driving position in New Zealand is on the left, so priorities are most likely on the left. Lastly, prohibitory road signs show restrictions on certain types of vehicles or maneuvers.
Right of Way
With many different types of intersections, the give way rules in New Zealand can be quite confusing. There are specific give way rules in roundabouts, at T-intersections, and stop signs. If you’re at a roundabout, you have to give way to the vehicle on your right. At stop signs, all other cars have the right of way.
At a T-intersection, you need to give way to vehicles at the T’s top if you’re on the bottom of the intersection. A car coming from straight ahead has the right of way if you are turning right. You also need to give way to vehicles turning left if you’re turning right.
Legal Driving Age
The legal driving age in New Zealand is 16 years old. New Zealand issues learner driving licenses for people at least 16 years old and passed the learner license theory test. With a learner’s license, you are not allowed to drive on the road on your own. If you possess a learner license for six months, you are now eligible to apply for a restricted license. With a restricted license, you can drive on your own between 5 AM to 10 PM.
You can apply for a full driving license if you’ve held a restricted license for 18 months or 12 months if you’ve completed an advanced driving course. A full driving license gives you the freedom to drive on New Zealand roads anytime you want. However, tourists under 18 years old can’t drive in New Zealand since car rental companies only allow 21 years old and above to avail of their services.
Law on Overtaking
Overtaking on the right is a risky move when driving in New Zealand since it puts you at risk of possible accidents. It’s essential to check the traffic ahead and obstacles that can put your life in danger before you overtake. When overtaking, you need to let the vehicles in front of you and the others behind you know that you’re about to overtake. You need to see a 100-meter clear road ahead of you once you finish overtaking.
When overtaking in three-lane roads with two lanes traveling in opposite directions, you can only overtake if the white line closest to you is broken, and no vehicles are coming towards you in the middle lane. You should not overtake if the white or yellow line is solid. Once you’re finished overtaking, pull back into your lane immediately. Overtaking on the left is allowed if there are two or more lanes on your side of the center line, and the vehicle in the right-hand lane is going slower than you.
If you’re from the UK or any country driving on the left, driving in New Zealand is relatively easy. The driving position in New Zealand is on the left side of the road. For most people, driving on the left in New Zealand can be difficult initially, but you’ll get used to it after a few days. New Zealand roads are easy to navigate, so it’s easy to get used to New Zealand roads. Driving on the wrong side of the road can get you fined in New Zealand.
Driving Etiquette in New Zealand
Besides learning the road rules in New Zealand, every tourist should know what to do in certain road situations. Understanding the driving etiquette in New Zealand can prevent you from doing offensive or illegal actions. Below are the conditions you may encounter in New Zealand and what you should do in these situations.
Car breakdowns are quite stressful, especially if you’re in a foreign country. Maintaining your car can only reduce the frequency of car breakdowns but don’t entirely prevent it. It’s best to be prepared and know what to do in this situation to ensure your and your passenger’s safety. When your car breaks down on a busy motorway, park your vehicle as far to the left side of the road as possible.
Turn on your hazard lights to warn the oncoming vehicles about a road obstruction. If there’s poor visibility, turn on your parking lights. If it’s safer to be outside the car, go to a safe area with your passengers and contact a road service company to assist you. It’s better to wait for the road service crew to fix your vehicle than to do it yourself. Stay calm and patient during a car breakdown situation.
If you’re in the middle of driving in New Zealand and police stop you, park the car as soon as possible. The police can stop any vehicle anytime to check the driving licenses, insurance, and other legal documents. That’s why it’s essential to have all the legal requirements before driving in New Zealand to avoid lauthorities’ egal complaints. The police can also ask you to stop for a breathalyzer test to ensure you’re not violating the drunk driving rule.
You and your passengers have the right to remain silent but must give your names, addresses, and date of births. It usually takes up to 15 minutes for the police officers to confirm everyone’s identity. Avoid getting impatient and hot-headed under this situation. The police can only search your car if they have a search warrant, you permit them to do so, they have reasonable grounds to believe you carry drugs in the vehicle, or you’re under arrest, and you’re driving at the time.
Driving on foreign roads is more manageable with the use of GPS. However, the directions in the GPS are sometimes hard to follow, and you end up getting lost in a foreign country. Asking for driving directions in New Zealand is simple and easy if you speak English. New Zealand people are willing to help anyone navigate their roads and reach their destinations without stress.
Always be polite when calling for help and when asking for driving directions. If you have a map or a photo of the location, show it to them to give you more precise directions. You can ask people at the traffic lights or from service stations.
Checkpoints are common worldwide. Some checkpoint practices can be unfamiliar to you, so it’s important to know what to do at checkpoints. If there are checkpoints, you need to present your valid driving license, passport, and English-translated international driver’s permit in New Zealand.
Slow down and dim your lights when approaching the checkpoint and lock all doors. Official checkpoints must be operated by uniformed personnel and identified correctly in well-lit areas. When talking to the officers, roll down your window a little. Remain calm and polite to the officer operating the checkpoint, and follow their instructions.
What if I Have to Drive During a Busy Period?
Driving in New Zealand during a busy period is quite stressful if you’re not well-prepared. Busy periods are rare occurrences in New Zealand, but you still need to know what to do to navigate the roads easily. Busy periods usually occur on holidays such as Christmas and Easter and long weekends, when there are several cars on the road than usual. Here are some tips on driving in New Zealand during the holidays:
- Plan your travel wisely
- Be alert on the road
- Be well-rested before the start of your trip.
- Drive according to the road and weather conditions
- Identify the safest routes
- Wear your seatbelts
Driving Situations and Conditions
With strict implementation of road laws and regulations, New Zealand roads are safe and comfortable to drive for locals and tourists. Knowing the driving situations and road conditions in a foreign country are essential, so you’d be aware of the precautions you need to take while driving. Below are the most important driving situations you need to remember.
Vehicle accidents became less frequent in the country because of seatbelt laws, warning signs on the road, reduced speed limits, and strict implementation of intoxicated driving rules. The most significant contributor to vehicle accidents in New Zealand is speeding that caused several fatalities. Another factor that contributed to several fatalities is underage driving that led to accidents.
New Zealand ranks 148th in the global ranking of road traffic accidents with a 5.96 death rate per 100,000. Road traffic accidents rank 14th as the common causes of death in the country.
New Zealand people use several types of vehicles in the country, the most common of which are light passenger vehicles followed by light commercial vehicles. You can also find motorcycles, buses, and trucks in the country. The number of cars in New Zealand keeps growing every year, with light passenger vehicles making up 91%.
New Zealand has narrow, hilly, and windy roads with many sharp corners. Although the roads are winding and narrow, driving a car in New Zealand is safe and manageable as long as you follow the country’s road rules and regulations. You may encounter gravel roads when driving in New Zealand. Most of the roads in the country are single lanes in each direction. There are only a few motorways outside the main cities.
Be careful when driving during the rainy seasons since there will be puddles on some roads. You’ll also find several road signs along the road throughout the country. In the main highways, traffic lights have cameras installed in them.
Kiwis are relatively safe drivers. Although most of them are fast drivers, you don’t have to worry about sharing the road with them. They’re generally courteous and understanding to foreigners driving on their roads. Kiwis are not perfect drivers, so you’d see most of them not following minor rules like eating while driving and smoking cigarettes.
Exercise caution and diligence when driving to avoid accidents and don’t engage in car racing on the road. Remember that New Zealand has plenty of sharp corners that can cause accidents if you’re not careful.
When is the Best Time to Drive in New Zealand?
In New Zealand, driving in May is considered the best time to cross the scenic routes and start your road trips. Driving in New Zealand in May makes the ride lovelier as autumn leaves begin to change their colors. The roads have fewer cars, and days are more relaxed. However, you need to allot an allowance of up to four hours of driving in New Zealand because of quick weather changes during the autumn season.
Is Off-Road Driving Safe in New Zealand?
The comprehensive network of back-country roads and tracks in the country is equipped for off-road driving in New Zealand. The roads are either gravel or dirt that are safe for all drivers to drive on. Off-road driving experience may differ in each region. You can either drive on dunes or farmland tracks. Each off-road driving adventure makes a one-of-a-kind experience you should try for once.
Are They Using KpH or MpH?
New Zealand is currently using the metric system, meaning they have used kilometer per hour (KpH) units to measure speed since 1974. Speed limits were in MpH when New Zealand used imperial units. When you rent a car in New Zealand, the car’s speedometer will show kilometers per hour. You may need a little time to get used to reading speed limits in kilometers per hour if you come from countries like the US who use MpH.
Is it Safe to Drive in New Zealand During the Winter?
New Zealand roads are equipped for any weather conditions, so it’s safe to drive in New Zealand during the winter. However, you need to learn a few tips on driving in New Zealand that could help you easily navigate the roads during the winter season. If you’re driving in winter, carry snow chains for your car, especially if you’re driving to mountainous locations like the South Island. The snow chains will prevent your vehicle from slipping on ice or snow.
Check the weather forecast of the place you’re driving to if there are impassable roads due to snow or other conditions. Also, check with your car rental company if they provide snow chains. Drive slower than the recommended speed limit during winter to avoid accidents. When driving a motorcycle in New Zealand during the winter, it’s best not to drive on slippery surfaces.
Things To Do in New Zealand
As one of the world’s most liveable countries with the least-corrupt government, New Zealand attracts more immigrants who wish to live a better life. New Zealand promises a high-quality experience to all its residents, making it more appealing to foreigners to move into the country.
Apply for a Residency
If you’re staying in New Zealand for more than a year, you need to secure a resident visa. Most foreigners usually start with a temporary visa for work, business, or education, while some are granted residence right away if you apply for the Skilled Migrant Category visa. Your visa tells the government-funded public services that you can access.
To be eligible for a permanent resident visa, you must be a resident visa holder for two years, meet health and character requirements, and meet one of the two pathways to residence. You can apply for a permanent resident visa if you have either a Talent (Accredited Employer) visa or a Long-Term Skill Shortage List work visa. You can apply for a visa online if you can provide digital files of the requirements.
Other Things to Do
New Zealand population has become more diverse over the years, with Europeans, Maori, Asians, and Pacific Islanders as the country’s main inhabitants. New Zealand has over 5 million population, with Auckland as the most populated city in the country. As an urban country, about 84.1% of the population lives in urban areas. New Zealand is considered one of the most liveable countries in the world.
What Do I Need to Drive in New Zealand as a Resident?
Most foreigners who stay in New Zealand for more than a year generally ask the question: “What do I need to drive in New Zealand?”. Since your driving license and IDP is only valid for 12 months, you need to convert your local license to a New Zealand driving license to drive in the country. Your local permit must not be disqualified, suspended, or revoked in the country of issue to be eligible to apply for conversion.
You can’t convert to a New Zealand driving license if you only have an IDP. Remember that an IDP is not a valid replacement for your local driving license. Here are the steps for converting your license to a New Zealand license:
- Fill out the application form
- Present IDs to prove your identity
- Take an eyesight test
- Present a medical request if required
- Present your driving license and IDP if your local driving license is not in English
- An agent will take your photo and signature
- Pay the application fee
- For non-exempt countries, you need to take theory and practical tests required for drivers
Top Road Trip Destinations in New Zealand
New Zealand offers a diverse range of destinations that suit every tourist’s taste. New Zealand is a country you’d definitely not miss with snowy mountains and scenic coastlines to dainty towns and cities. Driving in New Zealand from one destination to another is manageable despite long hours of driving. Below are the top destinations in North and South Island that all tourists swear by.
Aoraki Mount Cook National Park
Aoraki Mount Cook National Park is the home of the highest mountains and longest glaciers in the country. The park is the best climbing region in Australasia, with stunning views of the peaks and star-filled sky. If you’re an adventure-seeking individual, you can engage in mountaineering and skiing activities in the area. If you want less adventurous activities, you can take mountain walks or do glacier viewing in the park.
- From Wanaka, continue a short distance to Tarras.
- Leaving Tarras, continue onto Lindis Pass until you reach Omarama.
- From Omarama, pass by Lake Twizel until you reach Lake Pukaki.
- Continue driving for 30 minutes, and you’ll reach Mount Cook.
Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier
The Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier still flow almost to sea level, a feat considering that most glaciers in the world are gradually melting. The glaciers are famous for the temperate climate, making them two of the most convenient glaciers to visit in the world. You can take walks at the foot of Franz Josef Glacier along the river valley or journey onto the ice with professional guides.
- Get on State Hwy 1.
- Follow State Hwy 1, State Hwy 1B, and State Hwy 1 to Horahora Rd in Piarere.
- Follow Old Taupo Rd, State Hwy 32, and State Hwy 41 to Volcanic Loop Hwy/State Hwy 1 in Turangi.
- Follow State Hwy 1 to Centennial Hwy in Ngauranga, Wellington. Take the exit toward State Hwy 2/Hutt Valley/Picton Ferry from State Hwy 1.
- Continue on Centennial Hwy. Take Hutt Rd to Wellington - Picton (Interislander Cook Strait Ferry).
- Take the Wellington - Picton (Interislander Cook Strait Ferry).
- Follow Lagoon Rd and Kent St to State Hwy 1 in Picton.
- Continue on State Hwy 1. Take State Hwy 62 to State Hwy 63 in Blenheim.
- Turn right onto State Hwy 63 (signs for Wairau Valley/Westport/Christchurch/Rainbow Ski Area/Lake Rotoiti).
- Follow State Hwy 6 and State Hwy 7 to State Hwy 6 in Fox Glacier.
- Head north on State Hwy 6 toward Sullivan Rd to reach Franz Josef Glacier.
Located between Seaward Kaikoura Range and the Pacific Ocean, Kaikoura is a picturesque coastal town famous for marine life encounters and is considered the best place to eat crayfish. As a two-hour drive north of Christchurch, the town is a perfect day trip destination for wildlife-loving tourists. You can take whale and seal watching trips or take peaceful coastal walks while in town. You can also check out the lovely cafes and restaurants here.
- From Christchurch, get on State Hwy 1 in Belfast from Madras St, Cranford St, Main N Rd, and State Hwy 74.
- Continue onto State Hwy 1. Keep right to stay on the highway.
- At the roundabout, take the 2nd exit and stay on State Hwy 1 heading to Picton. The drive takes two and a half hours from Christchurch to Kaikoura.
As part of the UNESCO Dark Sky Reserve, Lake Tekapo is the perfect spot for stargazing and southern lights viewing. Lake Tekapo is famous for its clear night sky and lack of light pollution. The magnificent turquoise color of the lake adds to the Southern Lights’ dramatic effect in the area. You’ll also find the stunning Church of Good Shepherd on the shores of the lake, making the whole area look like a romantic scene in a painting.
- From Christchurch, follow Manchester St, Moorhouse Ave, and Durham St S to State Hwy 76 in Sydenham.
- Take State Hwy 1 to Orari Station Rd in Orari.
- Then, take State Hwy 79 to Mount Cook Rd/State Hwy 8 in Fairlie.
- Turn right onto Mount Cook Rd/State Hwy 8 (signs for Lake Tekapo/Aoraki / Mount Cook/Aoraki). It will take 3 hours to reach your destination.
With its lush farmland, this spot is famous as the location of The Hobbit movie. Here you’ll find 44 unique hobbit holes, including the renowned Bag End. The place is livelier at night with available evening tours that include a feast that replicates the hobbit’s feast. You can also try the farm stays in the town or visit the spectacular Wairere Falls, the highest waterfall in North Island. The walking track around the falls offers beautiful scenery of the valley and Waikato plains.
- From Auckland, get on State Hwy 1. Use the left two lanes to take the State Hwy 1 S ramp to Manukau/Hamilton.
- Follow State Hwy 1 and State Hwy 2 to State Hwy 27 in Mangatarata.
- Continue onto State Hwy 27 (signs for Matamata/Tirau/Rotorua).
- At the roundabout, take the 2nd exit and stay on State Hwy 27 heading to Matamata/Tirau.
- At the roundabout, take the 1st exit onto Broadway/State Hwy 24 heading to Tauranga/Town Centre. The drive will take approximately two hours to reach Matamata. Expect that the travel may take longer, depending on the weather condition.
Located on the South Island’s west coast, Milford Sound is a paradise for adventurous tourists with plunging cliffs and roaring waterfalls. Here you can take a day or overnight boat cruise or go kayaking and check unexplored waterways and lakes. You’ll pass by the thundering Sunderland Falls and even meet dolphins, seals, and Fiordland Crested Penguin. If you’re not into water adventures, you can trek the infamous Milford Track that could last for four days.
- From Queenstown, Head southeast on State Hwy 6A toward Ballarat St.
- At the roundabout, take the 2nd exit onto State Hwy 6 heading to Airport/Milford Sound / Piopiotahi/Milford Sound/Piopiotahi.
- Turn right onto State Hwy 97 (signs for Te Anau/Milford Sound/Piopiotahi/Heritage Trail)
- Turn right onto State Hwy 94 (signs for Te Anau/Milford Sound / Piopiotahi/Milford Sound/Piopiotahi).
- Turn right onto Sandy Brown Rd.
- Turn right onto State Hwy 94. It will take three and a half hours to arrive in Milford Sound from Queenstown.
Located in Hawke’s Bay, Napier is famous for the well-preserved 1930s architecture, with complete Art Deco collections in the world. Visiting Napier feels like stepping on a 1930s film set as you tour around the area. You can also check out the wineries and restaurants in the town. You can also take scenic photos from the Viewing Platform on the Marine Parade foreshore.
- From Auckland, get on State Hwy 1.
- Continue on State Hwy 1. Take State Hwy 1B, State Hwy 1, and Thermal Explorer Hwy/State Hwy 5 to Carlyle St in Marewa, Napier.
- At the roundabout, take the 1st exit onto Taupo St/State Hwy 1 heading to Tokoroa/Taupo.
- Follow Carlyle St to Clive Square W in Napier South. The drive may take 5 hours or longer from Auckland.
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