Driving in New Zealand


NZ cars are in right-hand drive configuration, similar to Singapore. Steering wheel’s on the right, and traffic moves on the left. Phew, that’s one problem out of the bag. Car rental companies in NZ accepts Singapore driving licenses. That alleviates another headache. We reserved ours at Hertz, but there are quite a few other companies including Avis, Budget, Europcar and Jucy (their cars look like little Barneys – cute).

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Our rental car parked just outside Mount Cook Alpine Lodge

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Our rental car parked just outside Mount Cook Alpine Lodge

Here are some key considerations that I’ve learn during this travel. Hope this list helps you!

Roundabouts

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | A roundabout in Queenstown

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | A roundabout in Queenstown

New Zealanders have a real obsession with roundabouts, instead of relying on traffic light controlled junctions. Roundabouts are everywhere, in towns and linking state highways (abbreviated as ‘SHx’ with ‘x’ being the highway number). In Singapore, there is hardly any. Roundabouts are already dangerous because of the multiple entrances and exits. Add zebra and train crossings and you’ll definitely need (want) to keep your eyes peeled. One more thing to note: The roundabouts do not have kerbs. You can miss them and drive straight over them. Be careful.

Rest stops

Along state highways, there are ‘lookouts’ (for great photos) and ‘recreation areas’ (white text on brown signs), and unlabelled gravel lined road shoulders. You can also stop by small towns along the way or visit one of NZ’s beautiful lakes. As always, do stop only when it’s safe and have a good rest before driving as driving between major towns can take hours. If you need some coffee or to use a restroom, look out for the self explanatory blue signs. Some images below for your reference.

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Toilets are nearby

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Toilets are nearby

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Lookouts are great for photos

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Lookouts are great for photos

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | You can keep yourself awake by reading the names of bridges. Entertaining.

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | The names of bridges will keep you awake. Entertaining.

Varying speed limits

You can travel 100km/h along NZ’s state highways, but you would not do it all the time. Firstly, the views are magnificent. No need to rush. Secondly, windy or narrow roads come with lower speed limits – drops to 20+ km/h at certain locations. Thirdly, as mountains are ever-moving, road works are not uncommon. These works demand you drive along at 30 km/h. Drive too fast and the workers will signal you to slow down. Fourthly, the speed limit in and around towns are at 50 km/h or slower especially in school zones. Pay attention to them signs.

Pay attention to the road signs

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Scenic drive means windy roads :)

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Scenic drive (brown triangular sign) signals windy roads ahead🙂

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Scary, stomach churning notice

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Scary, stomach churning notice

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Road works due to an earlier land slip

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Road works due to an earlier land slip

You can call 0800 444449 to enquire about current road conditions. We did that and got the all-clear (with the usual be safe while driving) before making our way up and down the steep and winding Crown Range Road.

Fueling up

Some major brands include Caltex and Mobil. Fuel prices vary widely. The sole pump at Franz Josef charges $2.499/ litre, while pumps at Greymouth charge about $2.149, a whooping 30 cents difference. If you are going to drive quite a bit, get the AA Smartfuel discount card. You can save about 6 cents/litre just by swiping the card at participating pumps (so far, Caltex and bp). Registration is free. When we were there, a minimum spend at certain supermarkets got us significant fuel discounts as a promotion. We got 10 cents off per litre at Z’s pump when we bought groceries at a Countdown supermarket.

Hertz cars require Octane 91 fuel.

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Octane 91 is the default petrol to use. Check with your rental company

Photo | BIG_MOUSE | Octane 91 is the default petrol to use. Check with your rental company

For more tips, please click here to visit the 100% Pure New Zealand website. If you have any other tip to share, feel free to comment on this post.

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Click here to return to the main content page on my trip to New Zealand.

One thought on “Driving in New Zealand

  1. Pingback: Family trip to New Zealand – Brief Itinerary | big_mouse..confusingABCrandom123

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