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How Easy Is It to Drive a Wilderness Motorhome?

Exploring New Zealand by campervan is a fantastic way to see our beautiful country, so it’s important to make sure you feel comfortable about driving while here.

If it’s your first time behind the wheel of a campervan don’t worry, our Wilderness motorhomes are all easy to drive. They feature automatic transmission, comfortable and adjustable driver seats, and large wing mirrors as well as reversing camera to make reversing easy. In fact, they drive just like cars – but longer ones!

Here are some useful things to know before you drive in New Zealand.

Am I allowed to drive in New Zealand?

  • You must have a current driver’s licence from your home country. If your licence is not in English, you must also carry an English translation or International Driving Permit (IDP) with you when driving in New Zealand. You can have a translation issued by a translation service approved by the NZ Transport Agency (a list is available here), a diplomatic representative at a high commission, embassy or consulate; or the authority that issued your overseas licence.
  • With your full car driver’s licence, you can drive a rental campervan with a TARE weight (the weight when empty) of up to 4.5 tonnes, even if there’s a lower weight limit on your licence. This covers all Wilderness rental motorhomes (at the time of writing). You can only drive vehicles covered by your driver’s licence or International Driving Permit.
  • You may drive in New Zealand on your licence for up to 12 months from the date you enter the country.

What’s different about driving in New Zealand?

  • We drive on the left.
  • Some distances may take longer to travel than you expect, even though New Zealand is a relatively small country. This is because we have a lot of hills and some roads have many twists and turns. If driving in winter, particularly in the South Island, weather conditions can also affect travel times. It always pays to use an app like Google Maps when planning your itinerary for the day to get an idea of how long various legs of your trip might take to drive.
  • Not all railway crossings have active warnings. All will be signposted, but some do not have bells or lights, so you must always stop at rail tracks and check in both directions before proceeding.

Laws to know when driving in New Zealand

  • You must carry your driver’s licence and any accompanying documentation with you whenever you drive.
  • Drivers and all passengers must use a seatbelt (or suitable child restraint for children aged 0-7) at all times. You can hire car seats for children from Wilderness Motorhomes. Our Reservations team can help you work out which seats you’ll need and the Adventure Support team members can help you install them.
  • You must not use a hand-held mobile phone while driving.
  • Drink driving carries heavy penalties in New Zealand. The blood alcohol limit for drivers aged over 20 is 50 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood. This is the same as in Australia, but lower than the 80 milligram limit in the UK, USA, Malaysia and Singapore. New Zealand law says you must not drive if the amount of alcohol in your blood or breath exceeds these limits.
  • Be aware of the speed limit wherever you are driving. Speed limits vary depending on the type of road and are well sign-posted, but generally 50km/h is the maximum speed in urban areas, with 100km/h on motorways and open roads. Some Wilderness motorhomes are heavier and therefore limited to a maximum speed of 90km/hon the open road. Check before you drive. Be aware that even though the speed limit may be 100km/h this speed may not be safe for the driving conditions. Always drive to the condition of the road, the weather, and traffic.
  • The New Zealand Police are tough on drivers who put others at risk by speeding. Speed cameras are used throughout the country. If you're caught, you could face severe fines and penalties and lose your driver’s licence.

Find out more about driving in New Zealand

If you’d like more information about driving in New Zealand you can click here to download What’s Different About Driving in NZ? from the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA).

Or click here for the booklet Driving in New Zealand, which is available in English and 10 other languages.

You can test your knowledge of the basics of driving in New Zealand with the useful test below. We recommend you take the test and become familiar with our laws before you arrive in New Zealand for your campervan holiday. Click here to try the free multi-choice test now.

Ready to plan your trip?

Now you have the basics of driving in New Zealand sorted, it’s time to plan your time here. We have 10 fantastic Wilderness itineraries that take the guesswork out of planning your New Zealand holiday and ensure you see all the best bits in the time that you have. Our range of itineraries covers the North Island, or the South Island, or both islands, with durations ranging from 1-7 days, 8-14 days and 15+ days.

Happy planning and we look forward to seeing you soon!

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