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12 Safe Driving Tips for New Zealand

Tourism NZ

Driving tips you should know in New Zealand.

Hitting the road by buying or renting a car is a great way to travel around New Zealand to allow you to be flexible and get off the beaten track. (As well as heaps of other reasons which we list here).

However, it’s equally important to be safe when driving. It could put a real downer on your backpacking trip if you don’t, to say the least.

Once you have read these bite-sized driving tips below, take a look at How to Drive in New Zealand for more in-depth literature. And remember, you need a valid driver licence to drive legally in New Zealand.

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1. Drive on the left side of the road!

The #1 rule for driving in New Zealand.

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2. Know the speed limits

Speed limit signs are on the side of the road, usually with a red ring around a number. Speed is measured in km/h in New Zealand. The national speed limit for open roads are 100km/h. Obviously, cater your driving to the conditions: don’t be a moron.

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3. Be careful when overtaking

There are a lot of twists and turns in New Zealand’s roads, so only overtake when you can see clearly what’s on the road ahead.

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4. Don’t talk on your cellphone while driving

You’re attention should be on the road. Don’t be that guy.

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5. Learn how NZ intersections work

Use roundabouts by driving clockwise. Keep an eye on traffic lights, using the correct lanes, and all that good stuff. If you end up missing a turn off or being stuck in the wrong lane, make your way back there legally – don’t do any dramatic u-turns.

Ingolfson on Wikipedia

6. Beware of gravel and unsealed roads

Getting off the beaten track can actually bring you to some horrifically beaten tracks. Some less maintained roads can be uneven so go steady.

Ingvar Pärnamäe on Wikipedia

7. Wear your seat belt

A bit of a no-brainer, but just in case. Even if you drive like a boss, someone could still crash into you.

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8. Be aware of alcohol regulations.

It is illegal to drive with alcohol in your system if you are under 20 years old. Over 20 years old and it is 250 micrograms per litre of breath. It’s difficult to say how many drinks that is equivalent to, as there are other contributing factors. All in all, don’t drink and drive!

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9. Look out for animals on the road…

… to slow down for, not hit.

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10. Know how to read a one way sign on a bridge

Most of New Zealand’s bridges are single lane. The bigger arrow means that side of the road gets priority.

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11. Take extra care when driving in winter conditions

Snow and ice are slippery. Duh! If you have to drive to ski fields or over mountain passes during winter, hire or buy some snow chains.

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12. Take your time

The New Zealand roads are windy so give yourself a longer travel time to get to your destination. For more tips on travel time and navigation, take a look at Travel By Car in New Zealand: The Ultimate Guide.

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For more driving tips, check out How to Drive in New Zealand.

Plus, you can familiarise yourself with the highways:

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