If you’re planning on driving a relocation car or campervan in New Zealand for the first time, these tips will assist you in understanding the rules and regulations of safe driving practices and help you have a safe and enjoyable vacation.
Not sure if you are allowed to drive?
Check out our article Driving in New Zealand
What’s the speed limit?
Speed limits are normally clearly posted by the road side.
New Zealand is blessed with gorgeous little winding roads as well as open stretches that go for miles. Every type of road in New Zealand has its good points and its bad.
If you’re driving in rural areas, watch out for gravel verges, especially on corners. Some isolated roads are unsealed and use gravel as the surface. In these cases, drive slowly.
Some of New Zealand’s roads are not suitable for campervans. Avoid the following; Skippers Road (Queenstown);
Ninety Mile Beach (Northland); Ball Hut Road (Mt. Cook); and North of Colville Township (Coromandel Peninsula).
Sometimes in the South Island and the centre of the North Island, roads may be closed due to snow and ice. This can happen right through winter and into early spring. The New Zealand AA can provide you with up-to-date information on conditions in these areas.
NZ speed limits are:
- Maximum on open roads and highways: 100 km/h or 62 miles/h (If you’re in a 6 berth campervan, this limit is 90 km/h) and unlike many European countries, drivers generally travel slightly under the speed limit
- Maximum in towns or built up areas: 50 km/h
- School areas 40km/h
- Otherwise as posted.
Speed cameras are often used to catch speeding drivers. These cameras are mostly hidden, so you never know when you might get caught if you do break the speed limit.
New Zealanders are one of the last countries in the world to drive on the left hand side of the road. Please remember this rule as it is easy to forget when you are on an open road with no other traffic arround.
Coming to a crossroad
Many accidents happen at intersections. Use these rules to stay safe:
- Give way to vehicles coming from the right
- Give way to vehicles not turning if you are turning
- If there is a stop sign you must come to a complete stop and wait for other vehicles even if you would normally have the right of way at other times.
- There is no left turn on a red light
You can normally overtake other vehicles on the road as long you can see that there is plenty of space for you to overtake and you can overtake without breaking the speed limit.
Sometimes you will see yellow lines painted on the road along with the white centre line. Here’s what these lines mean:
- A yellow line on your side of the white centre line means you are not allowed to overtake cars on your side of the road, but vehicles coming in the opposite direction may still overtake
- A yellow line on the other side of the white line means that you can overtake, but vehicles coming in the opposite direction are not allowed to overtake
- Double yellow lines mean no overtaking is permitted in either direction.
NOTE: Small country roads may not have road markings at all. Use your best judgment in these situations.
Also, please don’t assume you need to go as fast as local drivers on winding/hilly roads. Many locals in remote areas know the roads and drive to the maximum speed limit. Take your time but pull over if you are holding up traffic.
Mind the edge
In many scenic and hilly regions of New Zealand there are no barriers to stop your vehicle from falling off the side of the road. Though these roads might look dangerous they are safe if you follow the speed recommendations posted on the yellow signs.
Single lane bridges
New Zealand has some bridges where two lanes of opposing traffic merge into one. This can be a problem when vehicles travelling in opposite directions come to a one lane bridge at the same time.
Who goes first? Just follow the signs:
- A rectangular blue sign with a large white arrow and small red arrow indicates that you have right of way across the bridge.
- A round white sign with red border and a large black arrow and small red arrow indicates that you should give way to other traffic approaching the bridge.
If all else fails, relax. Being calm is the best way to be safe on the roads. Road rage can be an issue in New Zealand, just like any other country. As we mentioned before, campervans can frustrate other drivers because they are slower and larger than cars. If in doubt, pull over and let others overtake.
Join the AA
The Automobile Association of New Zealand offers 24/7 road side assistance. Many rental campervans and rental cars come with this service included in the cost of hire, so inquire before making a booking. This sort of assistance is very useful if you break down.
Finally: Enjoy your drive
New Zealand has some unique road conditions that you may not be accustomed to in your own country. Much like the beautiful scenery, our roads can sometimes be wild and untamed, especially if you’re an adventurous type who likes to get off the beaten track. Following these tips will help keep you, your family and your friends safe on your journey.