Driving a Car in New Zealand


International Driving Licence * Driving Test * Written Test * Practical Test

You are allowed to drive in New Zealand for up to 12 months using either an International Driving Permit or your current overseas driving licence. After that you will need to get a New Zealand driving licence.

Drivers from Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom or the United States of America do not have to sit any driving tests but must have a current overseas licence (or has expired within the last 12 months) and pass an eyesight test. The cost in 2019 of an overseas licence conversion is $52.10.

Drivers from other countries must pass an eyesight test and both a written and practical driving test before getting a NZ licence. The cost in 2019 of obtaining a NZ licence is $157.70, including test fees.

Driving – Key Points for Overseas Drivers and New Residents

Driving licences are generally valid for ten years. For drivers over 75 you need to have a medical certificate to renew your licence. The new licence is valid for between two to five years.

You must carry your licence with you at all times when driving. If you are stopped by the Police, and do not have your licence with you, you will be fined.

If your licence is not in English, you should get an International Driving Permit or bring an official, English translation of your licence with you. Further licensing details are available from the Land Transport Safety Authority.

Vehicles drive on the left side of the road.

It is illegal to use a hand-held mobile while driving unless you have a hands-free device. Writing, reading or sending text messages is also prohibited.

When turning at traffic signals you should give way to pedestrians crossing the road. There is often no dedicated (all vehicles stopped from all directions) green man at pedestrian crossings in New Zealand and pedestrians rely on turning traffic to stop to allow them to cross.

Seat belts and child restraints are compulsory.

Avoid unsealed roads if possible and if you have to drive on them drive slowly as they can be dusty and loose chips can damage your windscreen.

You can only park on a roadside in the same direction as the traffic flow. Otherwise you may be fined or towed away. You can park in either direction on one-way streets.

The urban speed limit is usually 50 kph (31 mph). Elsewhere it’s usually 100 kph (62 mph).

Be aware of rail crossings. Only half of New Zealand’s 1500 rail crossings have automatic alarms.

Driving Times between the Main Cities

From Auckland to:

Christchurch:14hrs 20mins plus ferry crossing* from Wellington to Picton
Hamilton: 1hr 55mins
Wellington: 9hrs 20mins
Napier: 6hrs 30mins
Tauranga: 3hrs 20mins
Whangarei: 3hrs

From Christchurch to:

Auckland: 14hrs 20mins plus ferry crossing* from Picton to Wellington
Blenheim: 4hrs 35mins
Dunedin: 5hrs
Nelson: 6hrs 20mins
Picton: 5hrs
Queenstown: 7hrs 15mins
Wellington: 5hrs plus ferry crossing* from Picton to Wellington

From Wellington to:

Auckland: 9hrs 20mins
Christchurch: 5hrs plus ferry crossing from Wellington to Picton*
Hamilton: 7hr 20mins
Napier: 5hrs 10mins
Tauranga: 7hrs 35mins
Whangarei: 12hrs 15mins

* Ferry crossing time is normally 3hrs or 2hrs 15mins using The Lynx, a fast catamaran.

3 thoughts on “Driving a Car in New Zealand”

  1. I am in need of some clarification. In the article, it says “Drivers from” [followed by a list of countries] “do not have to sit any driving tests…” Question: Does the “from” refer to the country where the driver was born (the nationality), or does it mean the driver’s last country of residence (where he is migrating from)? In my case, I was born in Germany, hold a German passport and obtained a German licence. Later I moved to the UK and exchanged that licence for a British one. Next, I moved to Brazil and received a Brazilian licence after presenting a certified translation of the UK licence. On entering New Zealand, would I be “coming from” Germany or Brazil?

  2. Hello , I am a student from India , I will be coming to university of Canterbury in Feb 2015 , I have a valid Indian drivers licence , Will i be able to drive in NZ with that or should i apply separately for a NZ drivers licence , and also can i apply for a NZ drivers licence on a student visa?
    Thanks in advance

    1. Hello,

      Information from the NZ transport Agency says:

      ‘You can drive in New Zealand if you hold a driver licence or driving permit from another country and:
      • your overseas licence or driver permit is current and valid, and
      • you’ve not received a disqualification or suspension in New Zealand, and
      • you entered New Zealand less than 12 months ago, and
      • your overseas licence is in English; if it’s not, you must have an accurate translation, and
      • you’ve not been granted a New Zealand driver licence, and
      • you have not renewed, requalified or reinstated a New Zealand driver licence since you last entered New Zealand.
      You can drive for a maximum period of 12 months from the date you arrive in New Zealand. Each time you arrive in New Zealand you can drive for a further 12-month period.
      If your overseas licence or driving permit doesn’t meet these requirements, you must apply for a New Zealand driver licence to drive in New Zealand.’

      Hope this helps.

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