Visitors to New Zealand often remark on just how easy it is to holiday in this southern paradise. The locals tend to be friendly and helpful, there are plenty of places you can go to find out about nearby attractions and how to get there, and the land itself welcoming - full of rolling hills, temperate climes and adorable wildlife. Up till now though, there hasn’t been a place that travellers could go to find out about the ins and outs of driving in New Zealand. That’s all about to change though, with a new Code of Practice for rental vehicle companies.
The new initiative, which has just been finalised, is designed to ensure that visitors to New Zealand are prepared for the specific conditions unique to Kiwi roads, and to keep everyone on NZ roads safe and well informed. Associate Transport Minister Craig Foss said of the Code, “This initiative builds on a large amount of work already underway, including the multi-agency Visiting Drivers Signature Project, an online training module for overseas travel agents, a Chinese-language safety guide and improvements to road infrastructure.”
In other words, the Code of Practice is simply the latest in a series of efforts to make it simpler, easier and safer to hit the road in New Zealand. Under the Code, which was jointly developed by the Rental Vehicle Association and the Tourism Industry Association, rental vehicle operators will assess the drivers’ experience and provide more pre-arrival information on New Zealand driving conditions. Mr Foss is encouraging rental vehicle operators to sign up and implement the Code before the next peak season hits in December.
While driving in New Zealand isn’t that difficult, there are a few nuances that could trip up those who are unfamiliar with Kiwi roads. It might take a little bit of time before rental operators start sending out that extra information, so in the meantime we’ve put together a handful of quick tips to help you hit the road with confidence and have a safe and incredibly rewarding trip in New Zealand.
Left is right
New Zealand is one of the few countries in the world where everyone drives on the left hand side of the road. If you’re from the UK or Australia you’ll already be used to this but otherwise it may be an unfamiliar experience. Driving down long straight stretches isn’t likely to pose any problems, but intersections can be a little tricky. Just remember to turn tight to the left and turn wide to the right and you should be fine.
Round and round the mulberry bush...
Roundabouts (sometimes known as traffic circles or rotaries) are another traffic convention that UK travellers will already be familiar with, as they originated there many years ago. For most of the rest of the world though, roundabouts may need a little explaining. This is a type of intersection characterised by continuous traffic flow around a central island. They’re very safe and easy to navigate once you have the hang of it - just remember to give way to anyone coming from your right, indicate if you’re turning left or right, and when you’re about to exit the roundabout indicate left to show that you’re leaving the intersection.
A long and winding road
You may want to readjust your travel times if you’ve been planning a trip with roads like the U.S.
Interstates or Germany
’s Autobahn in mind. While New Zealand does have well made and well maintained roads, you have to remember that this is a very hilly country. Once you get away from the few big urban centres with their motorways, Kiwi roads tend to be windy and relatively narrow. They’re perfectly safe for the judicious driver, but all the twists and turns do mean that it will take a bit longer to get to your destination than you might expect. Fortunately, New Zealand is blessed with some of the most stunning scenery on Earth, so you won’t want to rush from one place to the next anyway.