Driving in New Zealand

Driving times between places in New Zealand is one of the most misunderstood issues for overseas visitors. So we are taking this opportunity to repeat some of the advice from our FAQ section on this subject. This is not only about adapting to the challenges of driving on the left, but also about understanding that driving between places will take much longer than the same distance back home.

Once you leave the major cities on your self drive vacation, a 'motorway' or 'highway' won't always be a two or three lanes in each direction as you would expect back home. In fact, a road described as a 'highway' or 'motorway' will often be just one lane in each direction! It's the type of road you will be driving on for over 70% of your time in New Zealand, one lane in each direction.

If traffic volumes build up, the average speed you travel at can reduce considerably. All it takes is a large truck or a camper on a winding road or hillside, and with few opportunities to overtake, traffic will slow.

In addition you'll be driving on the left which makes the experience more intense, so sharing the driving duties with a co-driver is a good thing, as are regular refreshment stops. 


Coastal roadway, New Zealand.

Maps and Travelling Times

On our 11 Day South Island Self Drive itinerary just like all of our itineraries, we include maps for each section of road to be traveled. We also give you a good indication of the driving time you should allow. These do not factor in stops for refreshments or photo opportunities, so treat them as a guide only.

We provide all of our customers with a very detailed final itinerary two weeks before they depart the U.S. and this includes a section about the driving rules that apply in New Zealand. We urge everyone to read these very carefully before they arrive.

Keeping our advice in mind, and understanding the basic driving rules will allow you to relax and enjoy each and every day of the itinerary we will have created for you. But mainly, when you compare distances and driving times between North America and New Zealand, you are not, as they say 'comparing apples with apples'

A detailed and informative summary about driving in New Zealand can also be found on the Tourism Industry Aotearoa website.

Lindsay Barron

Lindsay Barron • Feb 09, 2017