Driving in New Zealand is not the same as driving in some of the other countries in the world. For example, in New Zealand, you will need to drive on the left hand side of the road. The driver’s seat is on the right of the vehicle. This can be a real challenge to visitors from the United States or Canada who are driving in New Zealand for the first time.
It is essential to have a valid driver’s license to drive in New Zealand. Also, you must not have received any suspension of disqualification of any sort in New Zealand.
If you are visiting New Zealand on business, it is recommended to get insured before driving in New Zealand. It is not compulsory for drivers or car owners to get insured in New Zealand, but it protects you from a potentially huge financial loss in case you happen to get into an accident. It is important to learn the Road Code as well, before driving in New Zealand for the first time.
If you are an international student who wants to drive in New Zealand, you must be at least 18 years old and will need to pass an advanced driving course from an approved driving school before being allowed to drive in New Zealand.
If you have been in New Zealand for less than 12 months, you can drive with your existing overseas license. Those who stay more than 12 months in New Zealand should get a valid New Zealand license.
Roads in New Zealand are of different conditions – they can be narrow or windy, especially those on hilly terrains. New Zealand has a very diverse geography, which means there are all sorts of road in the country, especially outside or the main cities. You won’t find too many motorways in New Zealand. You will find roads with single lanes in each direction without a barrier to separate either side.
You are not allowed to use the cell phone either to make a call or text when driving in New Zealand. If you are expecting an important call, please pull over to a safe spot on the side of the road and then take the call. Using the cell phone while driving is one of the most dangerous things anyone can do.
Winter can be quite harsh in New Zealand and makes driving very difficult. Snow, fog and ice are common in a New Zealand winter, especially around the mountain passes in the country and in the South Island. When you are driving in winter, fit snow chains on your vehicle to clear the road for you and leave a respectable distance between yourself and the vehicle in front.
Don’t go by the map when estimating drive times in New Zealand. Maps in New Zealand only show you the distance; they don’t reveal just how narrow and windy the roads are. Driving outside the main cities in New Zealand is a lot of hard work, especially around the mountain passes and the hilly terrain. You will need to allow more drive time for your journey than what the map suggests.
Always check the weather forecast when driving in New Zealand. In New Zealand, the weather changes all the time and you will often experience all the seasons of the year in a single day! You may start your journey with clear sunshine and arrive at your destination cold and damp from all the rain. Most drivers in New Zealand follow weather forecasts religiously and plan their journey accordingly.
Here’s a word of caution – be very careful at the rail crossings in New Zealand. There are over 1500 rail crossings in the country, but only 50 percent of them have automatic alarms. Stop when you see a red light, it means that there’s a train coming. If you are at a railway crossing that has no automatic lights, stop, look in both directions, and cross only if you are sure that there’s no train coming.
Finally, take regular breaks when driving in New Zealand. Driving in New Zealand can be quite stressful because the rules are different and it’s very easy to lose your concentration. Don’t drive anywhere till you are familiar with all the road rules in New Zealand.