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Driving Tips - New Zealand

Drivers in New Zealand don’t have to know much about the country to realise that it is large, and that means big distances between towns and cities. The best way to truly appreciate the landscapes within this beautiful and natural part of the world is to drive, but of course, for foreign visitors, this can throw up all manner of questions and new rules to follow.

Let’s make it easy.


Drivers must have a valid license from their country of origin, and are able to drive for a maximum of 12 months from the date of arrival into the country. If the license is not in English, then an accurate translation called International Driver Permit (IDP) should be obtained and carried at all times. If you leave the country, and then return, your 12 months’ driving period resets itself. Also, it is a must to carry insurance while driving a rented car.

Age restrictions

The legal age of driving within New Zealand is now 16 years of age, and this applies to both natives and visitors.

Driving law

  • Drive on the left hand side of the road
  • Everyone in the car should wear a seatbelt
  • Children should always be in the back of the car
  • Do not overtake when there are yellow lines
  • Always carry license while driving
  • Always use indicator while turning
  • Mobile phones should not be used
  • Illegal to carry radar detectors

Speed limits

New Zealand’s roads are controlled with speed limits, which are monitored with plentiful speed cameras. If you are caught over the limit, it is possible that your license could be suspended on the spot for a period of time. The normal speed limits on New Zealand roads are as follows:

  • 100km/h (62mph) on highways
  • 50 km/h (31pmh) in residential areas

Of course, if signs instruct differently, then this should be adhered to taking particular care in rural or residential areas.

Drunk driving

New Zealand police are very strict with drinking and driving, and this is enforced with severe penalties for those who are caught. The drivers having blood alcohol content (BAC) limit of more than 0.08mg/100ml will be fined and might be arrested.


Parking within residential areas or city/town centres are clearly marked with regards to rules, and drivers should follow any instructions. Illegal parking is monitored and tickets/fines are given out. Only park in designated parking spaces, and these will more than likely be controlled by a meter, with pay and display the usual method. You must park on your side of the road, and not opposite the flow. If you see a sign saying ‘no parking’, don’t park as you could be spot fined.

As you can see, driving around New Zealand is quite standard, except for a few changes to rules. Be sure to familiarise yourself before you travel, and heed any signs or advice during your journey, and your road-trip throughout this beautiful, diverse country will be a memorable one indeed.

Wellington Driving Guide

Set around a beautiful waterfront, the city of Wellington is dubbed by the locals as “the coolest little capital” in the World, and outsiders as the “windy city”.  It is a place with a pulsing arts scene, restaurant culture, cafes and bars, and plenty of activities to do outdoors.

But if you’ve rented your car with a thought to extend your stay into the surrounds outside of Wellington, we’ve come up with some suggestions that will leave you with powerful memories.

Wellington to Kaitoke National Park

A 50 minute drive north of Wellington’s CBD will have you inside Kaitoke Regional Park. No wonder this park receives over 200,000 people annually.

It is a place, so stunning in its attractiveness that it has been used as a film location for Tokein’s Rivendell seat of the Half-Elves, and the Fords of Isen contained in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

Ancient rainforests and crystal clear streams and rivers combine with the tranquility of the area.  Not only take in the sites, take time to get out of your car and absorb the sounds, colors and smells of nature to excel your senses. You will not be disappointed. This is a special place.

In the days of pre European settlement, the Maoris traversed this land with walking tracks that linked the fertile plains of Wairarapa to the port of Wellington. Today, vast areas of untouched lowland rainforest remain, to leave you with a lasting impression and many photographs to pore over for years to come.  You can stop off on one of the many picnic areas or take one of the attractive riverside walking tracks to loose yourself for a short while.

Wellington to Cape Palliser

Allow 2 hours to drive the 100kms to Cape Palliser and snap some special photographs along the way. This is probably one of the North Island’s most scenic drives. Don’t miss it.

The road heads inland before looping back around Lake Wairarapa and towards Cape Palliser Road along the coast.

The Cape Palliser lighthouse is one of the must see places to go, but don’t just park your car at the base and stop and stare at it. Go climb the 250 stairs to take in the stunning views of the surrounding landscape from this incredible vantage point.

The area around Cape Palliser is home to many fur seal colonies and you should be able to get close enough without scaring them off, to take a few photos with these friendly creatures.

The Putangirua Pinnacles Scenic Reserve is yet another place to observe one of nature’s unique splendours. The edges of the cliffs stand independently away as pinnacles and pillars.  Yet again, it has been used as a backdrop for one of the many New Zealand based filming locations of the film Lord of the Rings in “Return of the King”.

Overnight loop north

For a either a full days drive or an overnight trip, take the road north through the Kapiti Coast to Palmerston North, then drive through the Manuwatu Gorge and return to Wellington through the Wairarapa.

We recommend stopping off at the Mt Bruce wildlife centre, neat Eketahuna where around 50,000 visitors annually visit. The center has reclaimed large areas of forest from farming lands and is busy converting it back to its natural origins, together with re introduced birdlife and animal programs.   

There’s a number of place to stay along this  trip, but if you want to venture out into some local restaurants for the evening, Palmerston North might be a good place to stop.

At Cheaperthancars and Cheaperthanhotels we offer a wide selection of car rental and accommodation deals. We believe that with the money you save by spending less, you will have more left to enjoy your visit to Wellington.

Your Cheaperthancars Team

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