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New Zealand is an amazing country that everyone should visit at least once. But, many of the country’s roads are narrow with lots of curves and traffic circles, making driving here tricky. To help you navigate the roads during your trip, here are some practical tips for better driving in New Zealand.
- Tip #1: Be prepared to drive on the left.
- Tip #2: Give yourself plenty of time to get from place to place.
- Tip #3: Learn how to navigate traffic circles.
- Tip #4: Pull over to marvel at the natural beauty.
- Tip #5: Take your time.
- Tip #6: Slow down.
- Tip #7: Learn your car.
- Tip #8: Know your route.
- Tip #9: Keep an eye on the weather.
Tip #1: Be prepared to drive on the left.
As in most places outside of the United States, people in New Zealand drive on the left side of the road. If you are coming from America, be prepared to drive on the opposite side of the street when you begin driving in New Zealand.
While it feels a little strange at first, you should quickly get the hang of it. Just remember, when you are turning, turn hard to the left and wide to the right. And, of course, double check the traffic coming both ways before you turn either direction!
Tip #2: Give yourself plenty of time to get from place to place.
New Zealand may look small on a map, but it is a lot bigger than it appears. And the roads, including the highways, are small and winding. So, it will take you longer to get from place to place than you think. So, be sure to give yourself plenty of time when driving from one location to another.
When we were in New Zealand, it took us over six hours one day to drive about 150 miles. We hadn’t figured in that much time. So, we ended up getting to our hotel much later than originally planned.
Tip #3: Learn how to navigate traffic circles.
New Zealand is full of traffic circles. They seem to be everywhere! You will even find them out in the countryside whenever two or more highways intersect. They are used as an alternative to traffic lights in many places.
These traffic circles (or roundabouts as they are also called) can be confusing if you aren’t used to driving on them. Therefore, if you are a traffic circle novice, I recommend spending some time learning how to navigate them prior to your trip.
Learning how to navigate these circles will make driving in New Zealand much less stressful for you. And it can prevent you from getting lost by taking the wrong route!
Tip #4: Pull over to marvel at the natural beauty.
New Zealand has more than its fair share of natural beauty. From its towering mountains and rolling green hills to its breathtaking ocean views, there are many places throughout New Zealand where you just can’t help but stop and stare at the landscape (or the thousands of sheep that populate this nation).
For the safety of yourself and others on the road around you, please pull over if you want to marvel at the natural beauty that surround you. The last thing you want while on vacation is to run off the road because you are looking at the countryside instead of the road!
And remember to pull over in a safe place so you won’t cause an accident!
Tip #5: Take your time.
My next tip for driving in New Zealand is to take your time. As mentioned above, it will take you longer than you think to get from one place to another. Plus, there are hundreds of things to see and do in the many quaint little towns.
So, relax and take your time. Don’t just rush through your itinerary. Take some time to stop and explore things that you stumble upon. Get out, stretch your legs, and enjoy the journey. You never know what amazing sights you will find along the way.
During our New Zealand road trip, we stumbled upon the town of Taupo on our way from Wellington to Auckland. We spent a couple hours there. It was such a cute town that I wished we would have had more time to devote to it.
Tip #6: Slow down.
To keep yourself and your family safe while driving in New Zealand, you need to watch your speed. Drive slower than you think necessary. In addition to the narrow, winding roads, you never know when a wild animal will jump out in front of you or when you will come upon a traffic circle.
While it will take you longer to get where you’re going, the benefit of driving slower is that you can enjoy the views a little more.
Tip #7: Learn your car.
Regardless of whether you rent a camper van or a compact car, take some time to familiarize yourself with your vehicle before getting out on the road. Learn where the blinkers, the windshield wipers, and lights are. Adjust the seat, mirrors, radio, and temperature before you hit the road.
Taking a few minutes to learn the car before you start will make your journey safer for you and others on the road. It will also make driving more pleasant for you.
Tip #8: Know your route.
It is important when driving in New Zealand to know your route so you don’t get lost (unless that’s your goal).
Many of the roads turn at traffic circles. So, you need to pay attention to which road you need to be on when entering them so you can exit the circle at the right time.
If you miss your turn or end up on some random road, it might take you hours out of the way. And it may be quite a few miles before you can find a safe place to turn around. So, pay attention!
Tip #9: Keep an eye on the weather.
For the most part, New Zealand doesn’t experience any extreme weather. Most of the time, it’s pretty mild. But, winds and storms can pop up quickly and unexpectedly. It is said that they can experience all four seasons in a single day.
You can have problems if you are driving and suddenly find yourself in the midst of a torrential downpour. Additionally, the temperature could drop twenty degrees during the course of a day.
So, to stay safe while driving here, keep an eye on the weather. There are definitely some roads that you don’t want to be navigating in a heavy rain.
If you do find yourself in a dangerous situation due to unexpected weather, pull over in a safe area and wait for it to clear before continuing on your journey. It’s better to arrive late than not at all.
New Zealand is a must see country. It is such a beautiful and welcoming place. But, driving in New Zealand can be a bit tricky if you are not used to it. These driving tips will help make your time on the road safer and smoother.
For ideas on what to do during your trip, see my posts on:
- Te Papa Museum
- Mama Brown’s
- Waitomo Glowworm Caves
- best things to do with kids on the North Island
- free things to do with kids
- New Zealand Navy Museum
- Auckland Aquarium
P.S. Need help finding the best places to go on your family vacations? My Ultimate USA Bucket List for Families will instantly give you 60 of the best vacation destinations for families in the United States! Get it for FREE in the box below and start planning your next trip today! Plus, as a bonus, you will receive my weekly email newsletter full of family trip tips and inspiration!