Driving in New Zealand

New Zealand is a popular holiday destination for driving and with such a high standard of road networks, the designated tourist routes are the ideal way to explore this beautiful country at your own pace. With all main roads seal and traffic density light, you can hire a car or campervan and set off on your very own New Zealand driving adventure, just don't forget to drive on the left hand side!

Licenses and Permits

You are legally able to drive in New Zealand for no longer than 12 months as long as you have a current driver's license issued by your country of origin. International Driving Permits (IDPs) are also accepted, however they are not required in order to drive in New Zealand.

Due to recent changes in the law, all drivers must carry their license or driving permit with them at all times they are behind the wheel. Drivers should also note that you are only licensed to drive the same types of vehicles your license permits you to in your own country.

Although you are permitted to drive whatever your age as long as you have a current license, most car rental agencies require drivers to be of 25 years of age to rent a car. Additional drivers under the age of 25 can also attract fees from some providers.

Road Rules

In New Zealand, driving is on the left hand side of the road and speed limits are expressed in kilometres. Speed limits range from a maximum of 50 km/h in towns and cities to 100 km/h on highways and open roads (unless otherwise indicated). Speed cameras are also operational throughout New Zealand.

Drink driving laws should be strictly adhered to with tough penalties applying 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.

Seatbelts are legally required to be warn at all times by all occupants of the vehicle. 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.

Fuel Prices

Petrol is sold by the litre with both leaded and unleaded grades available. All cars run on unleaded with most campervans, mini buses and 4WDs running on diesel. Petrol costs between NZ$2.00 and NZ$2.15 per litre (estimated September 2011) and there are plenty of petrol stations throughout the country. All major international credit cards are accepted by most petrol stations.

Driving Distances

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.

New Zealand North Island travel distances and times


New Zealand South Island travel distances and 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