Who can drive in New Zealand?

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New Zealand's rules and conditions may be different from what you're used to. Find out what you need to before you can drive here.

New or Temporary?

To drive in New Zealand without a New Zealand driver licence you must:

  • have a current and valid overseas licence or driver permit, either in English or with an accurate English translation
  • have been in New Zealand less than 12 months
  • not have been disqualified or suspended from driving in New Zealand
  • not have been granted a New Zealand driver licence

If you do not meet all of these requirements, you must apply for a New Zealand driver licence to drive in New Zealand. 

Converting or applying for a New Zealand driver licence

You may be able to change your overseas driver licence to a New Zealand driver licence. The requirements are different depending on where your current licence is from. To find out more, visit NZTA's Converting to a New Zealand driver licence. 

To get a new driver licence, you must: 

  • be 16 years of age or older
  • meet medical and eyesight conditions (for more details visit NZTA's Medical requirements.
  • pass the required theory and practical tests.

Rules and conditions

While many New Zealand road rules may be similar to what you are used to, there are important differences about driving here that are not obvious. When you are planning a trip, keep these things in mind:

Keep left. It is easy to remember when there are lots of other cars about, but on many New Zealand roads you might not see a car for some time. Be especially careful to stay on the correct side of the road when turning at intersections - it is very easy to accidentally move to the wrong side of the role while turning. 

Seatbelts.  These are required by law to be worn by everyone in the car, including back seat passengers. 

Allow time. New Zealand roads are often more windy and narrow than they appear on Safari or Google Maps. Journeys can take much longer than you expect and might take you outside mobile phone coverage. Always have warm clothing and some water with you - just in case!

Rural roads. These are often made of loose gravel (sometimes called 'metal'). Cars can slide more easily. Take extra care. A safe speed for you may be much less than for locals. If you can, pull over to let others pass - a cheerful toot will often be your reward. 

Driver licence. You must keep your licence with you at all times while driving. 

Speed cameras. These can be in unmarked vehicles. Keep to the speed limits and avoid fines. 

Drink driving is a serious offence. Random breath testing happens often. The alcohol limit for divers 20 and over is 25 micrograms per litre of breath. The limit for drivers under 20 is zero. 

In general, driving while affected by any drugs, including by any drugs, including prescription medicines, could lead to prosecution. 

Mobile phones. It is illegal to use a hand-held mobile phone while driving. To use a mobile phone, either use a hands-free kit or find a safe place to pull over. 

For more information:

Who can drive in New Zealand | NZTA

Drive safe | Tourism New Zealand

Being safe on the road | NZ Police

Electric car charging sites | NZTA

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