What Is Different About The Driving Conditions And Rules In New Zealand?
by: Richard Wolskel
The main roads are generally well maintained and sealed, offering no great difficulty to overseas motorists. The roads follow the ever changing landscape as they wind around the countryside, with the scenery changing at almost every bend and turn. The majority of roads outside the main towns and cities have just one lane in each direction, with an occasional overtaking lane to allow safe passing. So you should allow plenty of time; as you will often find your driving times are greater than first expected.
Generally on the main highways you can average 80 to 100 kms an hour in a car on a days drive, though these changes depending on the terrain, or when driving on minor roads. Driving times are generally higher if using Campervan Hire or Motorhome Rental.
Overseas visitors can legally drive for up to 12 months in New Zealand with your current overseas drivers licence. To hire a rental vehicle, you must generally be at least 21 years of age. The drivers licence must be valid, and must be in English. If your drivers licence is in a language other than English, then you will need to obtain an English translation with an International Driving Permit obtainable from overseas motoring organizations in your country. Overseas visitors must have their drivers licence with them at all times when driving. You will only be allowed to drive vehicles similar to your overseas licence. After 12 months driving in New Zealand, you must obtain a local New Zealand Drivers Licence. This applies to each visit to New Zealand.
All rental cars generally run on petrol in New Zealand. However Campervans and Motorhomes may run on either petrol or diesel. The smaller 2 berth vehicles often use petrol, whereas the 4 berth and 6 berth vehicles run off diesel. Some of the modern 2 berth vehicles now also have been designed to use diesel.
Diesel in New Zealand is generally 30-40% cheaper than petrol, so as a result some of the larger motorhomes are often substantially more economical to run than the smaller petrol driven campervans. So you may find that paying a little more to rent a larger diesel motorhome, may not be that much more expensive overall than the smaller 2 berth petrol campervans. However with the larger vehicles, you will have a lot more room and comfort. Driving the larger motorhomes is also surprisingly easy, with most vehicles being extremely maneuverable.
Diesel vehicles in New Zealand are subject to a Diesel Fuel Tax Surcharge, which is charged by the New Zealand Government. This charge varies depending on the number of kms travelled, and the size of the vehicle. Some Campervan and Motorhome Companies (but not all) pass this charge on as a rental surcharge at the end of the rental. However in comparison to the fuel price savings from the lower diesel prices, the extra cost of the Diesel Fuel Tax Surcharge is relatively small.
Drivers in New Zealand drive on the left hand side of the road. The speed limit on open roads is 100 km/hr, and 50 km/hr in built up areas.
Seat belts must be worn by the driver and passengers in both front and back seats. Children under 5 years of age need to wear child restraints in both cars and campervans or motorhomes. If travelling with small children in campervans or motorhomes, check that they have restraint fittings for the children traveling with you, as not all model of campervans have the required fittings, or may only have fittings for a limited number of children.
Drink driving laws are heavily enforced, so do not drink alcohol before driving in New Zealand.
A road rule in New Zealand that is different, is that at all traffic junctions, drivers give way or yield to traffic from the right. One consequence of this is that when driving down a road, and you want to turn left; any traffic coming from the opposite direction, that wants to turn right, has right of way. The driver turning left has to give way. Rental companies will provide you with details of possible different rules, when you pick your car rental or campervan hire up.
About The Author
Richard Wolskel is Managing Director of Go New Zealand, and has 20 years of experience in travel to New Zealand, specialising in self drive holidays, tours and activities. Over that time he has been a frequent visitor to this beautiful country.
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