Driving in New Zealand

If you’re from overseas, New Zealand roads are probably different to what you’re used to. Distances may seem short on paper, but our roads can be narrower more windy than you’re used to, cover hilly terrain, and vary from motorways to unsealed gravel roads.

Before you begin your journey, learn more about what’s different about driving in New Zealand.

For example:

  • we drive on the left-hand side of the road
  • it’s easy to underestimate travelling times
  • our roads are narrower, more winding and sometimes steeper than you might expect
  • our roads are mostly two-way, with one lane in each direction – we have few motorways
  • not all railway crossings have active warnings
  • seat belts are compulsory
  • it’s illegal to use a phone while driving, including using SatNav while driving.
  • No left turn at a red light, unlike in the US.
  • Give way at intersections.
  • Pass cyclists with care, allow at least 1.5 metres when passing.
  • The maximum speed limit is 100 km/h, and in built up areas generally 50 km/h.


We want you to have a great trip and arrive safely at your destination, so make sure you allow plenty of time and take regular breaks. The trip may be slower, but the scenery is amazing so take your time and enjoy your journey.


Driving Safely

The key factors involved in safer driving are:

  • Speed – the faster you drive, the less time you have to respond to hazards and the more likely you are to suffer serious injury in a crash
  • Alcohol or drug-affected driving– consuming alcohol or other substances can impair your judgement and slow your reaction times behind the wheel
  • Driver fatigue– driving when you’re tired, weary or exhausted slows your reflexes and affects your ability to concentrate and make good decisions
  • Driver distraction– anything that diverts your attention for more than two seconds can significantly increase your likelihood of having a crash
  • Giving way at intersections– failing to give way at intersections is one of the main causes of death and injury on New Zealand roads
  • Safety belts – wearing a correctly fitted safety belt or child restraint reduces the risk of being killed or seriously injured in a road crash by 40%.