January 2018: Keeping safe on a road trip through New Zealand  

People love New Zealand because of the variety of landscapes on offer and the ability to go from one extreme to the other in the same day.

Orere Point, Auckland. Photo Sam Mahayni
People love New Zealand because of the variety of landscapes on offer and the ability to go from one extreme to the other in the same day.

The great Kiwi road trip is a popular way to travel New Zealand, for visitors and locals alike. 

Self-drive holidays give your clients the freedom to stop frequently and discover New Zealand’s beautiful (and ever-changing) landscapes at their own pace. 

Read on to learn more about how to make your client’s self-drive holiday in New Zealand the best it can be.

Ensure your clients can legally drive in New Zealand

You can legally drive in New Zealand for up to 12 months if you have a current driver’s licence.  If the licence is not in English, you must carry an accurate English translation.
You can also legally drive in New Zealand for up to 12 months if you have an International Driving Permit that is issued in English or translated into English, provided that you also carry the current driver licence that the permit is based on.
In New Zealand all drivers, including visitors from other countries, must carry their licence 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. 
For more information, visit New Zealand Transport Agency’s website here.

Keeping your clients safe on New Zealand roads

Remember these things to keep your clients safe:

We drive on the left hand side of the road and our vehicles seat the driver on the right.

Always drive on the left hand side of the road in New Zealand. If you are driving, you should be seated in the middle of the road – your front seat passenger will be the on edge of the road.

Never drive when you are tired and take regular breaks.

Visitors to New Zealand might be tired because of jet-lag, early starts and late nights, or because they had a long day driving the day before. Remind your clients to stay well-rested and take breaks, tired drivers are dangerous.

Many roads have varying conditions, and can be narrow, winding and cover hilly terrain.

New Zealand’s diverse terrain means driving could be quite different to what you are used to. Outside of the main cities, there are very few motorways. Most of our roads are single lane in each direction without barriers in between. Allow plenty of time, go slow and pull over in a safe place if traffic wants to pass from behind you. If you want to take photographs, find a safe place to pull off the road.

It’s easy to underestimate drive times when looking at a map.

Maps don’t show how narrow and winding roads can be. What might look like a short trip can take a long time.

Weather-related hazards are commonplace.

In New Zealand, you might experience four seasons in one day. Always check the weather forecast before departing, and adjust your plans accordingly.

Not all New Zealand rail crossings have automatic alarms.

Only half of the 1500 rail crossings in New Zealand have automatic alarms. When red lights are flashing it means a train is coming so stop and only proceed once the lights have stopped flashing. Other crossings have a ‘Railway Crossing’ sign and give way or stop signs only. If you see this, stop, look both ways and only cross the track if there are no trains approaching.

Winter driving in New Zealand

If you're planning a winter road trip or driving up to the ski slopes, here are some important points to remember.

Weather and road conditions

Monitor the weather before you leave for the day and note down any areas expecting heavy snow, rainfall or hail. Good New Zealand websites for you to check on weather and road conditions are Metservice, AA Roadwatch and NZ Transport Agency.

Snow chains

If you’re driving in the South Island in winter, spring or late autumn, snow is a possibility – ensure that you’re carrying chains if a cold snap has been forecast. Most rental companies will provide you with chains and demonstrate how to fit them. 

Winter roads can be treacherous.

Snow, ice and fog can be common in winter, especially in the South Island and around mountain passes. Ensure you know the weather forecast for the region you’re driving in, leave large following distances and make sure you’ve got snow chains.

For more information, please click here.

Planning tools to help you help your clients

Use the travel time and distance calculator on the trade website to help plan your clients’ driving routes.

Download printable fact sheets on driving in New Zealand from our trade website to give to your clients.

Take the ‘Driving safely in New Zealand’ training module as part of the 100% Pure New Zealand Specialist programme.

Advise your clients to get familiar with important New Zealand road rules before their arrival.