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Driving in New Zealand

Many of our international guests choose to ‘self drive’. Here’s some helpful information to keep yourself and other motorists safe.

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Emergency Services always have right of way.

If you hear emergency sirens or see red or blue (or both) flashing lights, you must pull over as far to the left as possible to let emergency services pass. 

In New Zealand We Drive On The Left

If you normally drive on the right hand side of the road, concentration is paramount! Many accidents, injuries and deaths have occurred on New Zealand roads when tired or distracted guests revert to using the right hand lane!

You must stay on the left hand side of the centre line at all times unless you are overtaking. Do not overtake unless you have at least 100 metres visibility THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE MANOUVRE.

Sharing The Road

There are a lot of different types of vehicles using our southern roads. Trucks, tractors and agricultural machinery move about our south to fulfil their contracts. Most use good driver etiquette and will pull over to the left to allow other motorists to pass. Please be patient and don’t take risks. At times, stock is moved on our roadways. You may encounter mobs of sheep & herds cows. 

If you are driving a motorhome or campervan, please be aware of traffic behind you. We have several safe places on the left where you can pull over safely to let others pass.

At times you may need to cross a one lane bridge. These are well signposted. Slow down and be ready to stop for any oncoming traffic.

Road Conditions

While our speed limit on open roads is 100 kilometres per hour, at times conditions are not conducive to this speed.

Drive to the conditions.

In wet or snowy conditions, adjust your speed to allow for better braking distance. Ensure there is a safe stopping distance between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you.

Ice is a major factor on southern roads in winter and quite often cannot be seen.

We call it 'black ice'.

Sometimes, though the sun is shining, shaded spaces prevent ice from melting. Be careful in shady places during winter.

At times road closures during winter may mean you need to find alternate routes to your destination.

Our roads are narrow and winding in places. Drive times are often underestimated. Make sure you allow extra time to reach your destination.

Some of our roads are unsealed.  Drive with caution. 

Carry snow chains. These give you extra traction in snowy conditions. Here's a 'how to' guide on fitting snow chains

Know before you go

Concerts, events and activities may increase traffic volumes periodically. Weather conditions and road closures may affect your travel at any time. The New Zealand Road Transport Authority website continually update road conditions and we recommend checking before you travel.


The South Island has astounding scenery. At times, you’ll want to stop and take in the views.

If you find a great photo op, please ensure you park appropriately. Make sure your vehicle is completely off the road and not parked in a position that will obstruct other motorists.


  • Seat belts are compulsory
  • Do not use your mobile device while driving
  • Do not consume alcohol if you are intending to drive


Here's a useful link for overseas guests intending to self-drive in New Zealand. We recommend you take a look to ensure you are well prepared for your journey.

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