Travelling safely around New Zealand
Preparing for your Trip:

Driving in New Zealand should be a safe and enjoyable experience. If you have never driven in New Zealand before you should become familiar with the rules of our roads.  We want you to enjoy your time in New Zealand and stay safe on the roads when renting one of our rental cars. It’s important for you to understand the New Zealand Road Code before setting off to your destination in your rental car.

Before setting out, please make sure to view the following resources to prepare you for driving on New Zealand’s roads.

  1. New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) 'What's Different about driving in New Zealand' brochure (multi-language)
  2. New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) Safer Winter Driving
  3. DriveSafe website
  4. Take a practice test to prepare yourself for driving in New Zealand

Thrifty strongly suggest if you have come on a long-haul flight, you stay overnight at your initial destination. That way, you'll be nice and refreshed the next day to begin your journey.

Can I drive in New Zealand?

You must have your current and valid driver licence or driver permit with you at all times when you’re driving. If your overseas licence or driver permit is not in English, you must also carry an accurate English translation issued by:

  • A translation service approved by the NZ Transport Agency (a list is available at, or a diplomatic representative at a high commission, embassy or consulate, or the authority that issued your overseas licence.
  • An International Driving Permit (issued in accordance with a United Nations Convention on Road Traffic) is acceptable as a translation
Top Tips for Driving in New Zealand:

Before you get started on your driving getaway, please make sure you familiarise yourself with the with the important road safety information to ensure you are fully prepared for your journey.

Keep left

Always drive on the left side of the road. If you drive on the right side of the road in your own country, please remember to keep left when pulling out onto the road – it’s easy to forget.

Wear your seat belt

By law, everyone in the vehicle must wear a safety belt or child restraint – whether they’re in the front or back. Children under seven years of age must be secured in an approved child restraint. Children aged seven must be secured in an approved child restraint if such a restraint is available.

Adhere to speed limits

Speed limit signs show the maximum speed you can travel. At times you may need to drive at a slower speed due to road, weather or traffic conditions. Different speed limits apply throughout New Zealand – look out for the speed limit signs.

Do not use your mobile phone

Drivers must not use a hand-held mobile phone when driving unless the device is completely hands-free or mounted securely to the vehicle – and touched infrequently and briefly. Writing, reading or sending text messages on a mobile phone while driving is also illegal.

Do not drink and drive 

Don’t drink or use drugs and then drive – the laws against this are strictly enforced in New Zealand and penalties are severe.

Thrifty Safe Driving Videos








New Zealand Road Signs

Compulsory signs tell you what you must or must not do.  They are usually red or blue and some have red borders.


New Zealand Warning Signs

Warning signs alert you to a particular hazard on the road ahead. They warn you to be careful for your own safety, the safety of other road users or the safety of road workers carrying out maintenance.

There are two types of warning signs:

1. Those that warn you of a permanent hazard


2. Those that warn you of a temporary hazard

Both types of sign are usually diamond shaped. 

Permanent warning signs are yellow and black and temporary warning signs are orange and black.

Information signs

Information signs give you useful information, for example, the distance to the next town. They are all rectangular but come in a range of different colours and sizes.


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