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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.

Dunedin Driving Guide

If you’ve landed in Dunedin for the first time, you may be confused with thinking that you are in Scotland.  Dunedin is one of the best preserved Victorian and Edwardian cities in the Southern hemisphere and holds its Scottish cultural heritage close to its heart in the grey granite architecture.

As a student town, full of youthful spirit has no shortage of pulsing nightlife, fantastic pubs and is topped off with the famous Speight’s brewery.

It is also the gateway to the Otago peninsula which has a wealth of nature from albatross to penguins and fur seals. You may even get lucky to glimpse a rare sight of occasional killer whales making it in close to shore in search of seals.

But if you are thinking of putting the keys of your rental car into the ignition, and stepping on the gas, to do something out of town, then we have come up with some ideas about great places to visit for a day, or a short overnight.

Dunedin to Larnach Castle

20 mins from Dunedin — 13 km

So you thought castles didn’t exist in the Southern hemisphere.  Well this one, built in 1871 is New Zealand’s only castle.  Fully restored, this gothic architected building with antiques provides an insight into Victorian living at its best.  Its a must see, with stunning views of the harbor and the opportunity to delve into some scandalous family history that surrounds it.  Before you leave, make sure you have a wander through the grounds — rated as a Garden of International Significance.

Dunedin to Moeraki Boulders

1 hour from Dunedin — 76 km

There is a natural phenomena waiting for you along the windswept, gusty Waitaki coast. Huge spherical boulder that are millions of years old and accessible from the beach are to be found here. According to mystical Maori legends these boulder are gourds washed up from the wreck of a canoe. See for yourself and stretch your imagination.

Dunedin to Southland Welcome Rock Trails

3 hours from Dunedin — 256 km

This is a longer trip which may make you consider spending an overnight in some local accommodation. The Southland’s Welcome Rock Trails in Garston offers an experience in the outdoor landscape that you will never forget.  This single cross country trail allows you to walk or cycle, the hand build track along one of New Zealand's longest water races, and discover rare scenery and landscapes.  To do this trip justice we recommend you allow a full day trip to enjoy the elevated high country and stunning. Consider an overnight stay in one of the country huts or retreats to view the sun setting amongst the hills, with a glass of wine and a spa bath. Yes they do exist here.

At Cheaperthancars and Cheaperthanhotels we believe that by spending less you can do more when you get there on your rental cars and accommodation. We have a wide range of choices to suit all budgets in and around Dunedin. Enjoy your trip!

Your Cheaperthancars Team

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