Driving in New Zealand

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New Zealand's road rules are described in the Road Code. They are most similar to Australia's rules with international conventions being followed for sign design. Vehicles drive on the left and give way to the right.


Drivers must carry their driver's licence at all times when driving. Some countries' licences are immediately able to be converted to a New Zealand licence while drivers from other countries must sit a driving theory test.

Drivers with a licence in a language other than English must have a valid translation to English accompanying it.

Drivers must have the appropriate class of licence for the vehicle they are driving.

  • Class 1: car
  • Classes 2-5: heavy vehicles
  • Class 6: motorbikes

Speed limits

The maximum speed is 100 km/h for a car or motorbike on the open road. Other vehicles and vehicle combinations (for example, a car towing a trailer, or a heavy vehicle) have lower speed limits.

Urban speed limits are generally 50 km/h. Speed limits are posted in increments of 10 km/h with shared pedestrian zones being 10 km/h, road works being 30 km/h on single carriageway roads and 80 km/h on motorways and expressways, school zones being 40 km/h (usually during certain times of the day) and some wider urban roads or more dangerous rural roads being 70-90 km/h.

Some speed limits are not posted and are the result of certain roading conditions being present:

  • 20 km/h is the speed limit in either direction past a school bus that has stopped to pick up or drop off children
  • 50 km/h is the speed limit in any urban street with street lights even if no limit is posted


New Zealand has an extensive rural road network but not many motorways. You cannot travel between cities on a motorway like you can in, for example, the United Kingdom. There will be stretches of single carriageway road, often with coarse road surfaces and minimal overtaking opportunities.

Some areas will have expressways which are dual carriageway roads that will have other roads entering and exiting directly onto them (as opposed to motorways that are 'grade-separated' with on-ramps and off-ramps.

Major rural roads often have short stretches of passing lanes.

State highways are designated with SH and represent main routes between major towns and cities.

Intersections (junctions)

At an intersection give way to traffic coming from straight ahead that is travelling straight through or turning left if you are turning right.

At uncontrolled crossroad intersections, give way to the right.

At T-intersections, traffic on the top of the T has right-of-way over traffic on the terminating road at the bottom of the T.


On a roundabout, drive in a clockwise direction and give way to traffic from the right.

  • If you are turning left, approach the roundabout in the left lane, indicating left, then exit using the first exit.
  • If you are travelling straight through the roundabout, approach in any lane that has a straight ahead arrow. Indicate left only after you have passed the exit just before the one you want to take, and exit the roundabout in the same lane as you approached it.
  • If you are turning right, approaching the roundabout in the right-hand lane, indicating right. Keep your right indicator on until you pass the exit just before the one you want to take, then indicate left and exit the roundabout.

Operating a vehicle

Taxes and inspections

Diesel vehicles are subject to road user charges (RUC) which must be paid for in advance on a per kilometre basis. All vehicles must be registered and have a current Warrant of Fitness. Warrant of Fitness requirements vary by age. Vehicles built before January 1 2000 must have a Warrant of Fitness inspection every six months, vehicles older than three years old but built after January 1 2000 must have a WoF every year, and vehicles under three years will have an initial WoF then don't require one until the third anniversary of registration.

Emergency services and maintenance vehicles

Sirens are similar to those used in America.

  • Police, customs and fisheries vehicles use blue and red flashing lights. There are unmarked and marked highway patrol cars.
  • Ambulances and fire engines use red flashing lights.
  • Pilot vehicles use purple and orange flashing lights.
  • Maintenance vehicles use orange flashing lights.