New Zealand Driving Tips

New Zealand is an exciting country filled with twists and turns - and we don’t just mean on the roads! With incredible mountains, glacier lakes, and rugged coastlines, the country has plenty to discover and explore while you’re here. The best way to see all that these two islands have to offer is by road, which means long hours getting from place to place. But, don’t worry about missing anything while you’re on the road, as these long drives are nearly just as beautiful as the sights you stop off at. You’ll be wide-eyed the whole trip long, whether you’re hiking through the wilderness, swimming in the ocean, or simply driving to your next location. However, how do the roads work here in New Zealand? This blog will explain just that, so read ahead if you’d like to feel safe and ready for your New Zealand trip.

Drive on the Left Side of the Road

This is particularly important if you’re coming from the United States or Europe. Here in New Zealand, we drive on the left, so make sure to pay attention to how you pull out from any rest stops, or as you start your journey from the airport. You’ll run into a lot of trouble if you don’t drive on the left side of the road, so best get it right as soon as you get here.

Pay Attention to the Conditions

We recommend researching ahead of time, such as the night before or the morning of your drive, just to check that the roads are okay for your trip. This is particularly important the more rural you go, or if you’re off to a particularly spectacular part of New Zealand. For example, Milford Sound isn’t accessible for some parts of winter due to the treacherous conditions, so access to it will be closed on those days. While our locations are absolutely beautiful all year round, the roads might be shut to keep everyone safe, so be respectful, plan ahead and pay attention. 

Overtake Only When It Is Safe

Many of the roads in New Zealand are windy, small, and sometimes they’re in quite scary locations. The roads are perfectly safe and designed to get transport of all shapes and sizes from one location to the next. However, they’re built and designed to not disrupt the beautiful landscape they’re on, which means drivers need to respect this. If someone is driving a little slower than you’d like, and it’s below the speed limit, you may overtake - but only do it when you can be sure that it’s safe to do so. Try if you can to only do so when there’s a passing lane available. It’s in your best interest and of course, the others on the road, too. 

Allow Yourself Time

We’ve mentioned this already, but New Zealand has some seriously windy roads. They’re beautiful to drive and fun to travel along, however, this might mean that your journey takes longer than expected, particularly if the weather isn’t too great. Make sure to plan ahead when doing big stretches of driving and allow yourself ample time to get to your next location. It’s best to allow yourself too much time than not enough because driving in the dark here isn’t fun. 

Don’t Drive If You’re Tired

The roads in New Zealand are not like the long stretches of motorway commonly found in other countries - they exist here, but that’s not where the beautiful landscape is. So chances are if you’re doing a road trip in New Zealand, you’ll likely be avoiding the motorways and heading for the winding and long roads. So, needless to say, drive carefully. Long bouts of driving aren’t sensible as you’ll need to be awake and alert to tackle the roads. We recommend doing at most one or two hours at a time before having a break. 


New Zealand contains some of the most beautiful landscapes you’ll ever see. And, we might be biassed here, but it’s definitely worth at least one visit in your lifetime. While here, you’ll likely be enjoying a road trip (or three), so get to grips with the roads as quickly as possible. Don’t rush, don’t drive recklessly, and always pay attention to what the weather is doing. 


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