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Everything you need to know about exploring New Zealand on road

While there is so much drama happening across the world, there is one country tucked away from all the buzz and there it hangs in the corner of the world, peaceful and content. Enter New Zealand. It’s often very easy to forget the existence of New Zealand in general. But, if you are a traveller who has first-hand experienced the country or knows a bit of it, you will definitely not forget the innate charm that it possesses.

Highlighted by sublime forests, rolling villages, soaring mountains, and ancient rock formations, New Zealand is a treat to the eyes and well, the soul! And do you know what’s even more special about New Zealand? It is best explored on road. So, you can experience every bit of New Zealand at your own time without having to worry about anything. Here is everything you need to know about exploring New Zealand on road.

Meanwhile, for all your travel woes, go Pickyourtrail.

Rental Cars

Given the fact that self-driving is so popular in the country, New Zealand is home to a significant range of international and local car rental companies. They are scattered all around the country and finding them is a piece of cake. From 4*4’s to sedans to hatchbacks to SUV’s to minivans to even coupes, you will be literally spoilt for choice.

The rate of the car varies depending on your choice and the seasonality. As a rule, longer the period of hire, cheaper will be the daily rates. Click a photograph of the car right when it’s delivered and make sure your travel insurance covers your rental car as well.

Also read: 17 awesome sights to see on a New Zealand road trip

Campervans

New Zealand on road
Image credit – Unsplash.com

Not heard of Campervans before? Let me explain. Campervans are literally home on wheels! I am not even kidding. Campervans or Motorhomes as they are called come with comfortable beds, tv, stove, fridge, shower, toilet, and what not. It’s the ultimate stay cum travel option that you need while you are exploring New Zealand.

Similar to rental cars, there are a lot of varieties in campervans as well. They are available in various sizes ranging from 2 to 6 berths and there is a minimum rental period. Based on the number of people and your requirements, you can choose one. While you are at, choose a campervan which is considered self-contained (has an onboard wastewater storage and a toilet). They offer more flexibility.

Campervans are the best way to explore even the remotest areas in New Zealand without having to worry about accommodation.

Also read: Road trip through New Zealand

Tips for riding a campervan

Campervans are not like normal cars. Here are some tips that will come in useful while you are driving a campervan around New Zealand.

  • Get used to the vehicle before setting out on a trip.
  • When you are turning corners, give yourself a lot of room.
  • Get the help of someone while you are reversing the vehicle.
  • Given the height and the length of the campervans, be wary of the low hanging branches, underground parking/tunnels, drive thru’s and shopfronts.
  • Keep all the cupboards and the belongings safe.

Driver License Requirements

If you have a valid driver’s license obtained from your home country or an International Driving Permit (IDP), then you are fully legal to drive in New Zealand for up to 12 months. After which, you will have to convert it to a New Zealand license. In case your license is not in English, you will need an accurate English translation. If you are caught driving without an English translated license or an IDP, you are liable to be fined with an infringement fee of NZ$400 and can go up to NZ$1,00O, given you are convicted in court.

License translation can be issued by,

  • The authority that issued your overseas license.
  • A translation service approved by the NZ transport agency.
  • A diplomatic representative from the high commission, embassy or consulate.

The legal driving age in New Zealand is 21 years and you are allowed to drive only the vehicles that you are licensed for in your home country.

Cycling

New Zealand on road
Image credit – Unsplash.com

With plenty of trails along New Zealand, cycling is as famous as driving in the country. From recreational bikers to mountain bikers, you will find a whole lot of passionate bikers. Get a little adventurous and go on an interesting detour across the beautiful coasts, wineries, experience art & culture first hand, listen to the hum of the native birds, gaze at the panoramic views of the snow-capped mountains, and revel in the sight of the constantly changing scenery.

Just like the incredible number of car rental companies in New Zealand, there are an array of cycle rental companies to choose from and renting them is not that difficult.

Responsible Freedom Camping in NZ

New Zealand on road
Image credit – Unsplash.com

If you interact with a visitor in New Zealand and ask what’s their popular choice of camping, they would definitely say Responsible Freedom Camping.

Responsible Freedom Camping is camping in a campervan/motor vehicle or a tent on a public conservation land with minimal to no facilities. While Responsible Freedom Camping comes free of cost, you are entirely responsible for your surrounding. Make sure you don’t leave any trace when you are leaving and that the site is tidy for the visitors coming next.

Also read: Why New Zealand is ideal for family road trips? 

There are over 500 Responsible Freedom Camping sites across New Zealand and they come with their fair bit of rules & regulations. Remember Responsible Camping overnight is allowed only for self-contained vehicles.

  • You are prohibited to leave behind any litter or human waste.
  • You are not permitted to camp on private grounds.
  • You must have your toilets, wastewater systems, and freshwater unless provided by the campsite.
  • You are allowed to empty on-board toilets only at the legal dump stations, which can be commonly found at Holiday parks.

While the rules are almost the same for most of the camping sites in New Zealand, it is best to reconfirm it with the local i-SITE visitor centre. If you are planning to explore New Zealand extensively on a campervan, then it is ideal that you get a Campsite Pass, which will help you save up to 50% on the campsite fees at more than 90 of the Departement of Conservation(DOC)’s campsites. For details on the campsite pass, head to http://www.doc.govt.nz/campsitepass.

Important things to follow while driving

  • Drive in New Zealand is on the left side, just like in India.
  • Usage of hand-held devices while driving is strictly prohibited. As long as the device is completely hands-free or mounted securely, you are okay to drive.
  • Regardless of where you are sitting in the vehicle, everyone must wear a safety belt. Children under 7 years, must be protected with a child restraint system.
  • Given the fact that most of the roads in New Zealand are single laned, do not go past the solid yellow while you are overtaking, it’s too dangerous.
  • In New Zealand, when the traffic signals are red you are not supposed to turn left at an intersection.
  • Do not drink or use any drugs while you are driving, it is against the driving laws in New Zealand and is subject to penalty.
  • Respect the cycle lanes and while you are driving, try to leave at least a space of 1.5 meters between your vehicle and the cycle. Slow down, when you are passing them as well.
  • Look out for the speed limit signs by the side of the road when you are driving. The speed limit on the motorways is 100Km/hr, whereas, in the urban areas, it is 50Km/hr.
  • New Zealand roads may be narrower than you are used to, so it is advised that you start early.

Here is a whole list of the road signs in New Zealand that you should be aware of.

Related: Ultimate New Zealand road trip itinerary: Tips and How to Plan


All set and done, plan your New Zealand trip right away.