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Ready to Drive a Motorhome in New Zealand?

A big part of preparing for your New Zealand motorhome holiday is to make sure you’re aware of and understand the road rules when driving here. It’s important to feel comfortable with what’s expected on New Zealand roads before you get behind the wheel of your Wilderness motorhome. Below is some useful advice about what you’ll need and what to expect.

What are the main differences when driving in New Zealand?

We drive on the left in New Zealand and although we are a relatively small country, some distances may take longer to travel than you expect. This is because we have a lot of hills and some roads have many twists and turns.

Driving laws to be aware of in New Zealand include the requirement for drivers and passengers to use a seatbelt (or suitable child restraint for younger passengers) at all times and no use of hand-held cellphones while driving. You must also carry your driver’s licence and any accompanying documentation with you whenever you drive.

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. Drink driving carries heavy penalties in New Zealand.

Speed limits vary depending on the type of road and are well sign posted, but generally 50 km per hour is the maximum speed in urban areas, with 100 km per hour on motorways and open roads. Some Wilderness motorhomes are heavier and therefore limited to a maximum speed of 90 km per hour on the open road. Check before you drive.

The New Zealand Police are tough on drivers who put others at risk by speeding. If you're caught, you could face severe fines and penalties and lose your driver’s licence. Be aware that even though the speed limit may be 100 km per hour this speed may not be safe for the driving conditions. Always drive to the condition of the road, the weather, and traffic. 

Documents to have before you arrive

To be legally permitted 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.

What vehicle can I drive?

With your full car driver’s licence, you can drive a rental motorhome 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. At the time of writing this covers all Wilderness rental motorhomes. You can only drive vehicles covered by your driver licence or International Driving Permit.

You may drive in New Zealand on your license for up to 12 months from the date you enter the country.

Test your knowledge

Sometimes it’s handy to find out what you don’t know! Try the useful test below, which covers the basics of driving in New Zealand, along with rules for parking, intersections and more. We recommend you take the test and become familiar with our laws before you arrive in New Zealand for your motorhome holiday.

Click here to try the free multi-choice test now.

If you’d like more information about driving in New Zealand then 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.

Ready to go?

Now you’ve got the tricky stuff sorted, you can start to plan your motorhome adventure with Wilderness. Check out one of our 10 new 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, the South Island, and both islands, with durations ranging from 1-7 days, 8-14 days and 15+ days.

We look forward to seeing you soon!

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