Self Driving

Planning a self-drive holiday? To ensure you have a safe and enjoyable journey, check out the information below to familiarise yourself with our driving rules, travel times and road conditions in New Zealand as they may be different to what you're used to.  For example:

  • We drive on the left side of the road
  • It’s easy to underestimate travelling times here - travelling distances may look short on a map but sometimes the type of road, terrain and number of potential photo opportunities along the way can dramatically influence how long it takes you to get from A to B. To give yourself plenty of time to reach your destination, check driving times and distances with the AA Travel Calculator
  • Our roads are steeper, narrower and more winding than you might expect... and it’s not unusual to see sheep or cattle on roads in rural areas!
  • Our roads are mostly two-way, with one lane in each direction - we have few motorways
  • Pay particular attention to driving rules for roundabouts and one-lane bridges
  • Our island geography means that weather conditions can change fast so please slow down and drive to the conditions.

Driving in the winter months

As an alpine region, we need to be prepared to deal with snow, ice and gritted roads in the winter months so it’s good to be prepared and confident that you can drive safely in challenging conditions.

Before your journey always plan ahead and check the weather and road conditions.  Here are some handy tips on finding weather and road reports, and a few winter driving do and don’ts.

If you’re hiring a car during winter, consider renting a 4WD vehicle as they are best suited to our alpine conditions.  It’s also good to carry the following items in the car:

  • Ice scraper and de-icer
  • Snow chains (watch a step-by-step video tutorial on how to fit them here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ZfLTCfYAhg)
  • Warm clothing and preferably a blanket, rug or sleeping bag
  • Shovel
  • Torch and batteries
  • Water and snacks – chocolate or cereal bars

If you don’t feel confident driving in winter, don’t worry - there are plenty of local transport options available including taxis, shuttles and public buses. All ski field operators and most activity operators also provide excellent transport at a minimal cost.

More resources

  • Visit the DriveSafe website www.driveSafe.org.nz 
  • Download a Driving in New Zealand leaflet for information on New Zealand's key road rules – available in English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, simplified Chinese, traditional Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai and Arabic
  • Watch a video about driving in New Zealand.