One of the first things you have to decide once your plane tickets are in hand is how you will get around. With so many options for public transit often this is a very good cost-effective option. However, some trips just are the same without your own set of wheels. Driving in New Zealand can sound a little scary at first. The signs are different, the rules are different, the way the lanes operate, speed limits, or lack thereof! So many things, it can seem overwhelming at first. Have no fear, I am here to tell you that it’s NOT THAT BAD! The rental car companies know you are not from around the area. They are happy to point out any glaring differences in the rules. In our experience, it hasn’t been all that different than driving here, other than it’s… well, foreign.
Driving in a new country can be pretty unnerving, especially when you have to also drive on the other store of the road! The majority of the world drives on the right side of the road. Save for the UK and Australia/New Zealand.
Here are a few tips we came up with that we learned along the way that helped us and we hope will help you when dr
1. Take your time when Driving in New Zealand!
It’s much better to annoy someone driving slow or pausing too long at a stop sign than to hastily react and cause an accident. If you need to pull over to get your bearings, that’s ok! Just do so in a safe place, of course. This isn’t a time to worry about what others think! I know that getting to a new place is so exciting and that you want to just get going out of that dang airport and get somewhere cool but it’s more important to get there in one piece.
2. Familiarize yourself with your vehicle
When you first get in the car it will likely feel really strange. For me, it was disorienting to sit in the “driver seat” and have no wheel! We decided to pretend like it was the first time we drove. David pointed out the gas and brake. Once the car was on he turned the indicators and wipers.
Fun fact. While the gas break and many other parts of the car remain in the same place no matter what side of the car the wheel is on, this is not the case for the indicator and wipers. We had two cars during our trip, the first car was European, the wipers and indicators were in reverse. Our second car was American and they were the same as they are in the states.
3. Get gas often
This note is more of a word of advice for road trippers. I am sure you have seen that meme about being two kinds of people. The ones who think
4. The weather
is unpredictable, be prepared for anything while driving in New Zealand!
The weather changes in New Zealand faster than a long yellow. It rains sporadically at varying pressures, high winds may great you around any corner and some of the roads are so windy that it looks like someone picked up the road tied it up like an old slinky, and just stuck it back down. It’s important to have a car you can trust. Maybe locals can handle going 80 down a two-way mountain pass in a Miata but that is not you! (besides, I mean, you likely require more trunk space anyway) I recommend a smaller SUV when driving in New Zealand. It will handle the tight lanes well and it will also handle nicely in a variety of weather and road conditions.
5. Stay aware of your surroundings at all times!
It’s never a good idea to text/eat/whatever and drive but this is even more important when you are driving on the other side of the road. Further, read all
6. The left lane is for passing.
Ya, I know some of you are saying DUH! Well as a SoCal native, this was news to me, here, every lane is for driving. Not in New Zealand, or many parts of the world for that matter. The left lane is for passing only. Journey in the right late, when that driver who is newer than you ends up in front of you driving like a
These things are EVERYWHERE outside the states it seems, New Zealand is no exception. Here in San Diego, we think we are so edgy and European with our little baby round-a-bouts. They are really just a step up from a stop sign, you yield and then enter, which if you are familiar with the “California stop” then you know we just do that anyway. The round-a-bouts just make it safer and legal. They sure don’t prepare you for the ones overseas though.
The round-a-bouts in New Zealand often replace full intersections and are even controlled by traffic lights. They can have as many as 6 exits off of it also. At first, I’ll admit, I was not a fan of these suckers. They seemed confusing and weird but after like 30 of them I came around. In smaller rural areas, these are instead of stop signs. It is so nice to not have to stop when there is NO ONE around. It keeps things moving really nicely. In the bigger cities, the larger ones actually keep traffic moving really well. Though the first time entering and exiting a two
If you aren’t familiar with round-a-bouts I suggest looking them up and getting the basics down. We just kinda winged it and we held up traffic
8. Don’t leave it up to the driver.
This one is to the copilots. Yes, the driver is, well, the one driving. That doesn’t leave you off the hook! It may have been a while since you learned to drive, but try to remember when you were first learning to drive. How many things do you have to remember? How overwhelming it was. Driving on the other side of the road first the first time is similar to that. So even though you are not the one behind the wheel it’s important you stay alert and awake and help the driver in any
9. Remember this mantra when driving in New Zealand!
This is my favorite tip! We came up with this little mantra: “short left, long right”. It’s to remind you that when you turn left you
After a few hours, we felt totally comfortable driving about this country, we hope these little tips will help you stay safe when driving in New Zealand and on the other side of the road!
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