Are you coming to New Zealand for a holiday, work or study and hiring a car, motorbike or campervan? These 66 questions are the essential Road Code rules you need to know to help keep yourself safe on NZ's roads.
If you are hiring a car, motorhome or campervan you'll need to have a current, valid driver's licence. You must not have received a disqualification or suspension in New Zealand. You must have entered New Zealand less than 12 months ago and not have a New Zealand licence. If your licence is not in English you will need an accurate translation to English. Read our guide here on driving as a tourist in New Zealand.
If you are visiting New Zealand for work, either on behalf of an overseas company or on your own visa obtaining a job in New Zealand (including au pairs and seasonal workers), the tourist quiz is an excellent start to learning the Road Code but you might also want to check out the full Road Code tests in the Car section. While insurance isn't compulsory in New Zealand it is recommended that you check you are insured because an accident could leave you with serious debt to repay.
If you are an international student wanting to drive in New Zealand, check the age limits for your class of licence - you cannot own a full licence here until you are 18 years old unless you have passed an approved advanced driving course. If you stay more than 12 months here you will need to get a New Zealand licence. However, if you go back to your home country then return, you can drive again for 12 months on your existing overseas licence. Your education provider should be able to provide additional knowledge about living in New Zealand. Read our full guide for international student drivers here.
We drive on the left-hand side using vehicles with the steering wheel on the right-hand side.
New Zealand has a set of give way rules which describe the priority of traffic at intersections and roundabouts. At T-intersections you must give way to all traffic travelling across the top of the T, or turning in front of you. If you are on the top of the T turning right you must give way to traffic coming straight through or turning left. At a crossroads (four-way intersection), give way to traffic coming straight through or from your right.
Roundabouts are driven clockwise. If you are turning left at a roundabout, indicate left as you approach. If you are passing straight across a roundabout, don't indicate as you approach. You should indicate left just after you pass the exit before the one you want to take. If you are turning right, approach the roundabout in the right-hand lane signalling right, then signal left just after you pass the exit before the one you want to take.
If an intersection is controlled by a stop sign it is compulsory to stop.
The default open road speed limit is 100kph and the default urban limit is 50kph. However, there are stretches of rural road which are 80 or 90kph where the accident rate has proven to be higher. Shared pedestrian zones in the city are 10kph. Road works on all roads except motorways have a speed limit of 30kph, with 70-80kph on motorways. The speed limit past a school bus that has stopped to drop off or pick up children is 20kph.
While road speed limit signs are denoted by a red circle, advisory speed limit signs are black numbers on a yellow background. These indicate the advised maximum speed in dry weather for a corner. Speed limits always end in 0 whereas advisory limits end in 5.
Parking signs are blue and will give the length of time parking is allowed, the types of vehicles that are allowed there and the times the parking is in force. If no times are specified, the parking limit is in force between 8am and 6pm. Clearways are stretches of road where you are not allowed to park between certain times, for example in rush hour. A dashed yellow line means you are not allowed to park on that stretch of road at any time.
Distances are measured in kilometres. On rural roads, expect your average to be 70-80kph, not 100kph. It can take longer than you expect to drive places in New Zealand, especially at certain times of the year when there are more tourists or more agricultural or logging vehicles on the road. Some areas will have a lot of logging truck activity or agricultural vehicles.
It is illegal to drive if you are affected by drugs of any kind (including legal medications for illnesses like colds and flu). The alcohol limit is 250mcg per litre of breath, or 50mg/100ml of blood (0.05%). Check the insurance policy from your rental car company or your travel insurance as you are unlikely to be covered if you have an accident and you are driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Police cars have red and blue flashing lights. Ambulances and fire engines have red flashing lights. Maintenance vehicles have orange flashing lights. You must make way for police, fire and ambulance emergency vehicles when their lights and sirens are activated. Don't make any sudden moves like braking hard. Move left if possible and give them space.
Most railway crossings on busy roads are controlled by lights and/or barrier arms, but around half of New Zealand's rail crossings are in rural areas and are controlled only by give way or stop signs. Take extra care when approaching these crossings. Ensure that you can see each way up the track and that there is no train coming before you cross. When crossing a railway crossing in a busier area you must make sure that there is room for your vehicle on the other side of the crossing before you cross.
Most road signs follow international conventions but there are many subtle differences between those in New Zealand and those in the UK or America.
New Zealand has very variable road conditions from 5-lane motorways at one extreme to roads that are beaches at the other extreme. The large rural area means that many roads are unsealed (gravel) and can be narrow. Motorways don't exist outside of the main centres, although there are dual carriageways and expressways in some areas.
Many of New Zealand roads have limited opportunities for overtaking. Passing lanes and slow vehicle bays are provided on busier roads.
Winter can bring snow and ice throughout the South Island and in the North Island on Desert Road and sections of high country such as the Napier-Taupo Highway and around the ski fields such as Turoa and Whakapapa. Check online before you leave.
When you arrive in New Zealand you will almost certainly suffer jet lag unless you have come from Australia. Take extra care when driving. Frequent breaks are important to help you recharge, as is keeping hydrated.
If you are hiring a motorbike while you are in New Zealand we strongly recommend using the motorbike section as there are specific guidelines for riding, plus rules around pillion passengers. You will need to hold a motorbike licence from your home country that permits you to drive a motorbike of the size and power that you want to hire here. Helmets are compulsory and you must ride with your headlight on at all times
Now you have read the rules, take the quiz to find out how much you know.
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