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Staying Safe in New Zealand – Tourist Guide to driving

The first road here is the Auckland to Coromandel road or Auckland to Tauranga Road. Take care on this road, a lot of people have died on this road.

New Zealand is known as a clean and green country. Well, that’s not always entirely true. I walk every morning on the road and people have not yet learned not to throw drink bottles, beer cans and what ever on the street. Now it’s not very much rubbish but it’s quite noticeable. Every now and then, some council worker comes and cleans it up. No one gets fined for dropping rubbish on the ground, well I think that they should be. Or made to clean it up for one day!

So, swimming in our rivers is not a good idea if the water in the river is filthy. The rivers used to be clean, but now there are too many dairy cows and the effluent goes into the water. However, people are working on how to keep New Zealand rivers clean, and hey! There is an election coming up very soon. This Government will have to think again about our rivers!

Now here you will notice that in New Zealand we drive on the left hand of the road. If you visit New Zealand get used to it! Our road rules are like the United Kingdom or Australia. Like, not exactly the same.

People come from overseas to New Zealand from a destination where people drive on the right hand of the road. They get off a plane with jet lag, they are very tired and get into a rental car! So many people die on the road because of overseas tourists!

Don’t ¬†drive here when you are tired. You need at least 6 eyes in your head if you are a New Zealand driver. A Tourist, needs 8 eyes like a spider. What happens is that the tourist goes to sleep in the car drifts off to the wrong side of the road, collides with another motorist and the result is that too many people die.

Plan to to get some sleep in a hotel if you are an overseas visitor coming to New Zealand or hire an awake trusted driver to drive for you! DON’T DRIVE TIRED!

Next thing, drive and stay on the left hand side of the road.

Our highways and motorways only allow 100 kilometres an hour, top speed. You can pass another car at 110 kilometres an hour max, when it is safe. No faster than that. Our road ways are often built on peat and won’t allow people to drive safely any faster than that. Plus, you will be caught by the police for speeding. However, it doesn’t mean people obey the rules, they don’t. No matter how fast you go on New Zealand roads, you will always get that annoying person driving right behind you! Even if you are breaking the law and driving 120 kilometres an hour.

In towns and cities it is 50 kilometres an hour but everyone does 60 kilometres an hour. Read the road rules if you can spend the time on the plane before driving in New Zealand.

This has been just about driving.

Road hazards in New Zealand. In some areas, there is the occasional floods, or frosts in the winter. Drive to the conditions and stay alert!

In the countryside off the main road you may get animals like sheep or cattle walking on the road. Slow down for the animals and be patient.

Don’t drive when you are drunk.

Now I will mention the road shown here. This is Desert Road.It is a main route from Lake Taupo to Palmerston North and to Wellington. Desert road snows some times in winter. There also could be ice in patches. If it snows a lot, listen to the weather forecast if you arrive in winter. Often this road is closed or you can be trapped in this road for a very long time. If you stop to take pictures of snow, don’t take too long or you may not be able to go very far. It is a very long road and this area is extremely cold.

Should you plan to come to New Zealand to drive a rental car. A good way to do it is to share the driving and don’t drive tired. The moment you feel sleepy, stop and rest on the side of the road.

Now, we have roads through gorges like the Karangahake Gorge. Drive to the speed, don’t speed. It’s winding and very dangerous even in good weather. Watch for logging trucks and rock fall.

Then there are some roads that are winding with sheer drops on one side. It pays to be careful. Drive to the conditions.

The best way to enjoy New Zealand if you are driving is to be prepared alert and be careful. Enjoy your stay!


What do you think?

Written by Pamela Moresby


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  1. Great post, I wouldnt even dare try to drive on that side of the road, I think it would be too confusing for me. I guess I would hire a tour guide or maybe a bike. lol I would love to visit there, it is so pretty as you have portrayed in your photos. Great shots btw! Pollution is everywhere it seems. The arrogant people that just toss trash out without a thought. In our country we have an adopt a road plan. People, businesses, and organizations can adopt part of the roadway, and they keep their area of the road clean and the city or county will put up a sign with the persons, or businesses name that helps keep the road clean. In the cities we have street sweepers that are paid by the tax payer. Our top speeds on the freeways are 80 miles per hour, around cities, the speed limit is just three above yours at 65 miles per hour on the freeways. Roads are 55 mph, and residential can be anywhere from 5-40 mph.

    • Thanks Kim. My sister Felicity & husband went to LA and drove a rental part way through the USA east. She commented on how some friendly people helped them.
      I would wait for a while until I tried to drive in USA.
      I think it would be a good idea, to hire a driver local in local areas and book with them in advance for any new country, it’s better than going by a tour bus.
      You would have to hire people you could trust. I don’t know how you could do that. If it was my company, I would get police checks on people. We had to have Police checks on us with home care and it’s a good idea.

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