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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.

Christchurch Driving Guide

If you’re  coming to Christchurch for the first time following the 2010-2011 earthquake, you’ll be pleased to know that Christchurch / Otautahi has re-emerged as a vibrant, ever-changing city. It is receiving accolades across the globe from the likes of Lonely Planet as one of the top 10 cities to visit and found itself in No2 spot on The New York Times’ list of places to go. But aside from the real energy buzzing in this city around its new beginnings, let’s not forget that this is the gateway to some of the World’s most beautiful scenery.

If you are looking to do some short drives out of Christchurch with your rental car, we’ve put together some ideas to whet your appetite.

Christchurch to Akaroa - New Zealand's only French settlement

Only 75kms from the Christchurch CBD, and a leisurely hour and half drive, Akaroa is the only French settlement in New Zealand, nestled into the heart of an ancient volcano.  The village retains its colonial architecture and has several galleries, craft stores and cafes and many of the street names have French names to add to the uniqueness of this small village.

Christchurch to Kaikoura

It’s hard not to avoid what makes New Zealand’s landscapes so special.  But this 180km, two and a half hour drive north to Kaikoura will have you in a nature lover’s paradise. Here you can find whales, dolphins, fur seals and enormous albatross all accessible by boat, plane or helicopter.  That’s certainly something to snap a few camera shots for.

Christchurch to Hanmer Springs

Just under two hours and 130kms to the north of Christchurch is Hanmer Springs.  Absorb the alpine setting and do some wine tasting perhaps, before settling into one of the thermal pools for a relaxing moment in time. Alternatively, head out for a nature walk or enjoy one of the many activities on hand such as mountain bike riding, jet boating or if you’re up for it, a bungy jump.

Christchurch to Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park

This area is 310kms to the south west of Christchurch, and around three and half hours drive. Therefore we don’t suggest doing it in a day, rather stay overnight somewhere and take in the stunning sites.

As you drive there you will pass by the glistening Lake Tekapo and Lake Pukaki. Next up will be the site of New Zealand’s tallest mountain — Aoraki / Mount Cook. There are great walks in the area, but if you want to do it in style, there are scenic flights and a glacier trip available from the Mount Cook village.

Also don’t miss the The Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre, which has amazing movies, Planetarium and a museum on the Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park

All of these places and more are available from Christchurch within a relatively short driving time. But to be fair, you would be giving yourselves greater enjoyment with time to absorb the experiences, by extending out these visits by stopping over at some local accommodation.

At Cheaperthancars and Cheaperthanhotels we provide a lot of choice on deals across rental cars and accommodation in Christchurch. We believe that with the less you spend the more you will be able to do with the savings that you make, when you get there.

Your Cheaperthancars Team

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