Are you planning to drive in New Zealand? There are few things to consider before you sit behind the wheel. Read my tips so that your journey will be safe and stress free.

1. Jet lag

If you fly to New Zealand make sure to plan at last one extra day to sleep well before you hit the road. I know you are anxious to start a great road trip, but trust me, it’s safer when you have a good night’s sleep. I flew from Finland so it took me 2 days to feel normal again. Don’t drive tired and take a lot of breaks.

2. Drive on the left side

New Zealand is a former British colony, so to this day locals drive on the left side of the road. I have always driven on the right side, so I didn’t know what to expect. Would I know how to turn on the right lane in a big city like Auckland? At the end of the day, you will get used to the left side. It’s like you haven’t driven the right side at all, so don’t worry.

3. Driving license

If you want to rent a car you need a driving license. Important thing to notice is that the driving license should be in English. If it’s not, just get an English translation from the authorities in your home town before your trip.

4. Speed limit

Always follow the speed limit and respect others on the road. Authorities in New Zealand will send you a speeding ticket even overseas through the renting company. I know this because I got one in the mail after my trip. Oops! If someone is in a hurry and there’s traffic behind you, just let them pass and continue driving stress free.

5. The weather

I had a lot of experience of bad weather. There might be four different seasons in just a one day! Rain is okay and even windy roads, but you might also encounter thick fog, flooding and even mudslides.

6. Road works

Be alert when driving. On my trip there were several road works but they are well marked in advance so reduce your speed. This is very important especially in narrow roads and on bridges. Usually the roads are in very good condition, but there are some gravel and serpentine roads that need extra attention when driving.

7. Animals

Be careful when you drive, because you never know what animal will hop in front of your car. I saw a lot of dead possums. Poor little things. Locals don’t seem to appreciate them because possums do harm to native animals in New Zealand so the locals make clothes of their fur. I even saw a t-shirt labeled “Possums are nature’s little speed bumps on the road”. If you encounter an animal on the road, don’t stop if there’s someone driving behind you. You don’t want to get in to a car accident. If you decide to stop in the middle of the road, make sure that you just stop for a shot time and put your warning lights on.

On my travels I saved a little hedgehog on the road. You can read about it here

8. Stop safely to see the scenery

New Zealand is beautiful and usually you are there just once in your lifetime. There are several amazing roads to drive but when you drive, always keep your eyes on the road. To enjoy the view, only stop in a safe place where you can park the car with no problems.

9. Use a map or GPS

I didn’t want to pay extra for GPS, but I had Wi-Fi with me so I just used Google maps. There are many places in New Zealand where Internet connection is weak so take a road map with you too. Also notice that the driving distance might be actually longer than its looks on the map (especially in South Island), so plan your day keeping in mind that you have plenty of time to drive to your destination. Fill your gas tank often, because in rural locations there might not be another gas station nearby.

10. Notice the road signs

There are cool unusual road signs like beware of the penguins and kiwi birds or even ducks. On New Zealand roads there are some railways so be careful when crossing them and also one lane bridges so you have to know who is allowed to go first. There is usually an arrow sign next to the bridge.

So there you go. I hope you enjoyed this post and learned about my 10 tips of driving in New Zealand.

Read my previous posts about New Zealand:

The difference between New Zealand’s North Island and South Island

An epic road trip across New Zealand- North Island

An epic road trip across New Zealand- South Island Part 1, South Island Part 2, South Island Part 3