Quick facts for travelers planning on driving in New Zealand
You can legally drive in New Zealand for up to 12 months if you have either a current driver's license from your home country or an International Driving Permit (IDP). After 12 months you are required to convert to a New Zealand license. This applies to each visit to New Zealand.
In New Zealand all drivers, including visitors from other countries, must carry their license or permit at all times when driving. You will only be able to drive the same types of vehicles you are licensed to drive in your home country. The common legal age to rent a car in New Zealand is 21 years.
If your license is not in English, you must bring an English translation with you or obtain an IDP. IDPs are only available for purchase in Ireland from the AA. To obtain an application form plus further details on IDPs click here.
It’s important to note that if you are caught driving without an acceptable English translation or an IDP, you may be prosecuted for driving unlicensed or for driving without an appropriate license and will be liable for an infringement fee of NZ$400 or up to NZ$1,000 on conviction in court.
The Police also have the power to forbid an unlicensed driver to drive until they have an appropriate license. If you continue to drive after being forbidden, the vehicle you are driving will be impounded for 28 days, at the vehicle owner's expense. You may also risk not being covered by your insurance in the event of a crash.
New Zealanders drive on the left-hand side of the road. Drivers give way (or yield) to all traffic crossing or approaching from the right.
The speed limit is 100km/h on the open road and 50km/h in urban areas. You will find multi-lane motorways and expressways on the approaches to the larger cities, with most roads being dual carriageways. Signposting follows standard international symbols and all distances are in kilometers (km).
Both drivers and passengers must wear a safety belt in both the front and back seats. All children under the age of five must be properly restrained by an approved child restraint when travelling in cars or vans.
Do not drink alcohol before driving in New Zealand, drinking and driving laws are strictly enforced.
Cycling and Motorbikes
Helmets for riders of cycles and motorbikes must be worn at all times.
Rear and front lights on cycles are required at night.
Motorbikes should drive with a headlight on at all times.
Cycling is not permitted on motorways.
For comprehensive information about driving in New Zealand, from road rules to vehicle safety, visit the NZ Transport Agency
Road safety advice
Always drive on the left-hand-side of the road and give way to your right.
All road distances are measured in kilometers.
When turning left, give way (yield) to traffic crossing or approaching from your right.
When the traffic light is red, you must stop. There is no left turn rule as in North America.
The amber traffic light means stop unless you are so close to the intersection you can’t stop safely.
The speed limit on the open road is usually 100km/h (approx 60m/h). In urban areas the speed limit is 50km/h. Speed limits are strictly enforced by the police.
Drivers and passengers must wear seat belts or child restraints at all times, in both front and rear seats.
Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a crime in New Zealand and strictly enforced by police, with severe penalties for offenders.