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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.

Nelson NSN Driving Guide

  • Planning a trip to Nelson NSN and using at as a base for some relaxation and a bit of driving? Good choice.
  • Nelson NSN is considered a lifestyle destination in the top north-west corner of the South Island and the sunniest place in New Zealand. It has all the attributes that are consistent with a diverse landscape of pristine forests, mountain ranges and long golden sandy beaches.

Or perhaps it’s the people, because there are over 350 working artists and craftspeople practicing both traditional art and Maori art here.  Why not drop into one of the many studios and take away a bit of local magic with you, or capture some of the talented creations on your camera.

You can use Nelson NSN as your base to stay and drive to the surrounding regions in your rental car.  There are plenty of accommodation alternatives in Nelson NSN for all budgets, from basic backpacker hostels to 5 star luxury retreats.

Have a look below at what we’ve put together, with a few self drive suggestions within an easy distance of Nelson NSN.

  • Nelson NSN to Marlborough Sound
  • 1 h 40 min to Marlborough Sound (107.2 km) via State Highway 6
  • The Marlborough Sounds are amongst the most compelling landscapes of beauty to be witnessed in New Zealand, comprising a tapestry of bays, inland waterways, peninsulas and island. They give rise to lush green wilderness and farmland; some areas are only accessible by boat.
  • Here you can find working farms including mussel and salmon farms interspersed with vast areas of natural reserves.
  • Picton lies at the centre and is a popular point to join cruises and water taxis providing access to the Queen Charlotte Sound and Queen Charlotte Track.
  • You may want to head west up a steep winding road to the village of Havelock, considered to be the home of green-lipped mussels, served fresh from the ocean shores.  And then you may want to head a bit further to Pelorus Sound through the backroads, to the waters of French Pass.

Nelson NSN to Abel Tasman National Park

1 h 5 min to Abel Tasman National Park (65.4 km) via State Highway 60

This is New Zealand’s smallest national park, but no less enjoyable. It is accessible via different entrances, being Marahau and Kaiteriteri in the South, and from Golden Bay and Totaranui in the North.

This park is known for its glistening golden sand beaches, turquoise blue waters and stunning vistas. Over on Tonga Island there is a seal colony and around the rest of the coastal areas you can find a wide variety of wildlife including penguins and other birdlife.

For those wishing to spend longer there is the Abel Tasman Coastal Track which can be done with a guide. It takes five days, so this is not a quick out and back drive option, rather an in depth look at the best the park has to offer.

Nelson NSN to Nelson NSN Lakes National Park

1 h 16 min to Nelson NSN Lakes National Park (89.6 km) via State Highway 6

This area forms the northern end of the Southern Alps providing calm beech forests, craggy mountains with lakes and streams, large and small

The entrance to the park is at St Arnaud, a quaint community less than a one and half hours from Blenheim.  .

It comprises of spectacular landscapes formed with massive glaciers of the previous ice age, of which the Rotoiti and Rotoroa lakes offer the best examples.

Don’t miss the opportunity to see the honeydew found in the park’s beech forests. It is created out of droplets positioned at the end of tiny narrow tubes that extend from each tree trunk. This is created by scale insects, which take the tree sap and help convert it into pure sugar. This sweet source of high energy food is used by many native birds, lizard and insects.

At Cheaperthancars and Cheaperthanhotels we have a wide range of car rental and accommodation deals to suit every budget. We really do believe that the less you spend, the more you will be able to do when you get there.

Your Cheaperthancars Team

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