Self Drive New Zealand

Planning a self drive holiday to New Zealand? You've come to the right place. Our helpful NZ self drive guide details everything you need to know about New Zealand's road rules, rental requirements and driving distances to popular NZ destinations. Self-driving holidays are one of the best ways to see New Zealand's spectacular landscapes. Whether you want to hire a campervan and hit the open road, or just want to know how to get from A to B, our guide will point you in the right direction.

Generic - Male Driver

Do I need a license or permit to drive in New Zealand?

A valid driver's license is required to drive in New Zealand. If you are visiting from a country that has signed an international road traffic agreement with New Zealand (such as Australia), you can use your current driver's license to drive in the country for up to 12 months. However, you will need to carry your driver's license with you at all times when driving in New Zealand. If you are visiting New Zealand from a country that has not signed an international road traffic agreement with New Zealand, you will need to obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP) in your home country before you travel. An IDP is a translation of your driver's license that is recognised in many countries around the world, including New Zealand. You will need to present both your driver's license and your IDP when driving in New Zealand.

What are the rules for renting a car in New Zealand?

If you are planning to rent a car while you are in New Zealand, you will need to have a valid full national driving licence which has been held for at least 12 months and present this and possibly an IDP when you pick up the car. It's important to note that most car rental agencies require drivers to be aged 25 years or older in order to rent a car. You may be required to pay a young driver's surcharge if you are under 25 years old. Be sure to check with your preferred provider before arriving in New Zealand. It is also a good idea to purchase car insurance to protect yourself against any potential accidents or damages.

What are the road rules in New Zealand?

It is a good idea to familiarise yourself with the traffic laws in New Zealand before you start driving. Some of the main differences between driving in New Zealand and other countries are that driving is done on the left-hand side of the road. The speed limit is 50 km/h (31 mph) in urban areas and 100 km/h (62 mph) on open roads, unless otherwise indicated. Be aware that speed cameras are also operational throughout New Zealand. Seat belts must be worn by all passengers in the car at all times and children less than five years of age MUST use a child car seat by law. Car seats can be included with car hire from rental companies. It is illegal to use a handheld cell phone while driving. Drink driving laws should also be strictly adhered In New Zealand. Tough penalties apply to any driver who is found to be driving with a blood alcohol reading of more than 0.8 grams of alcohol per litre of blood. Random breath tests can be carried out at any time and all insurance is deemed invalid if the driver exceeds the legal alcohol limit.

What are the driving distances in New Zealand?

The below New Zealand North and South Island travel distances and times charts have been included to help you plan your journey. Distances are expressed in kilometres and are designed to take in major roads and highways so may not be the shortest route but will offer the best road conditions. Times are expressed in hours and minutes and are approximate times only.

North Island Travel Distances & Times


South Island Travel Distances & Times

330/4.45319/4.35578/8.55Mt Cook     
650/9.15289/4.15121/2.20426/6.351024/13.50166/2.45Te Anau  

To convert these distances to Miles use the following calculation: Kilometres x .625 = Miles