New Zealand is a one of a kind country full of unique character found no where else in the world – from original accents to stunning landscape and scenery. Our Driving Road Code also has a few unique rules which you may not know about if you are an International visitor. Here are a few specific highlights….

Driving On The Left

In New Zealand vehicles must drive on the left-hand side of the road.

Open Road Speed Limits

The maximum speed that you can travel at is 100 km/h. This includes the open road speed limit. If you exceed this limit by more than 40km per hour you may face an instant licence suspension of 28 days.


It is illegal to park on the right-hand side of the road in New Zealand, except if you are parking in a one-way street. You must park on the left-hand side of the road in all other circumstances.

The Give Way Rule

Road users must stop or give way as necessary at Stop signs, Give Way signs and traffic signals. If you are turning, give way to vehicles not turning. If you are turning right, give way to all vehicles coming towards you including those turning left. At a T-intersection or driveway, traffic on a terminating road (bottom of the T) must give way to all traffic on a continuing road (top of the T). When turning left or right, give way to cyclists who are going straight through.

Passing On The Left

When passing other vehicles on the road, normally you pass on the right-hand side of the vehicle you wish to over take. In New Zealand, you may pass other vehicles on the road from the left (also known as under-taking) but you may only do this when there are two or more lanes on your side of the centre line;  if you are able to pass safely by using the left hand lane; or the vehicle you are passing has stopped or is signalling to turn right or is already turning right.  At all other times when passing you must pass on the right.

Mobile Phones

While driving you cannot create, send, or read a text message on a mobile phone or use a hand held mobile phone to make, receive or end a phone call.  You can, however, use your mobile phone to make, receive or end a telephone call while driving if the phone is secured in a mounting fixed to the vehicle. This does not apply to text messaging however. The only time you can hold your mobile phone and talk on it while driving is if you are making a 111 call and it is unsafe to pullover at the side of the road to make the call.

Driving While Under The Influence

It’s definitely against the law to drive if the amount of alcohol in your blood or breath exceeds certain age-related limits.

  • Under twenty

The legal alcohol limit, if you are under 20, is 150 micrograms per litre of breath or 30 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood, which is pretty much a zero limit because if you drink just one alcoholic beverage you will mean that you could be charged with drink driving.

  • Twenty or over

You must not drive if you have consumed more than the legal alcohol limit, which is 400 micrograms per litre of breath or 80 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood.

Of course it is difficult to judge how many alcoholic drinks you can have before you reach these limits and it all depends on whether you are male or female, your size and weight and how much food you have eaten.

The law also says you must not drive if you have taken any type of drug that may affect your driving ability. If you are prescribed drugs by a doctor, it’s probably a good idea to check that they won’t effect your driving.

Seat Belts

If you are aged 15 years or over and you drive or ride in a vehicle you must wear a seat belt. If you are the driver, you can be fined if any passengers under the age of 15 are riding in your vehicle without wearing a seat belt or child restraint.

Children under five years old must be sit in an approved child restraint. The only exception to this rule is when the child is in a taxi which doesn’t have an approved child restraint, and in this case, the child must sit in the back. Children aged between five and seven years old must use a child restraint if available. If there is no child restraint available, then they must wear a seat belt.


If you are driving a motorbike or scooter you must turn on your headlight during daylight hours if your motorbike or scooter was manufactured on or after 1 January 1980. During the hours of darkness from 30 minutes after sunset until 30 minutes before sunrise, all motorbikes and scooters must also drive with their headlight on. You must also wear an approved helmet when you drive your bike.


If you need to tow a trailer or caravan be sure to check that it has a current Warrant of Fitness. You must also drive a maximum limit of 90 km/hr on the open road.

Blocking Rule

If you find yourself in a traffic queue, it is important that you don’t block other roads, railway lines or pedestrian crossings. You must not place your vehicle into the intersection, railway crossing, pedestrian crossing or an area controlled by pedestrian traffic signals unless there is space for your vehicle on the other side of the intersection or crossing.

Country Driving

If you are driving and approach horses on the road, you must not sound your horn, rev your engine or pass at speed as it might frighten the horse. At night you must dip your headlights when approaching a horse. Two vehicles should avoid passing near a horse. Also be patient when approaching sheep or cattle on country roads and do not intently harm or scare the animals. If you don’t follow these rules you could be charged with careless or dangerous driving.

Pedestrians Crossing The Road

It is not illegal to jay-walk nor cross the road without using a pedestrian crossing or traffic lights in New Zealand, but you must use your common sense and cross the road only when it is safe.


Cyclists must wear an approved safety helmet when riding their bike, at all times.


You must carry your driver licence with you at all times when driving. If you don’t product your license to a traffic officer upon request, you will be fined. If you are visiting from another country or have recently arrived in New Zealand, and you have a valid driver licence or international driving permit (IDP) from your country, you can drive for a maximum of 12 continuous months from the date you arrive in New Zealand. Each time you visit New Zealand, you may drive for a further 12-month period on a valid international licence or IDP, as long as you stay for no more than a year at a time.

Emergency Services

Please dial 111 for all emergency services. To report traffic incidents you can dial *555.

For more information please visit the New Zealand Transport Agency, and be sure to check out Yellow Maps to get some helpful driving directions around New Zealand – you’ll also find some great articles about places to visit in our beautiful country!

Understanding The New Zealand Road Code, 4.5 out of 5 based on 2 ratings

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  1. JD says:

    You might want to update “The Give Way Rule” section to reflect the changes that came into force on March 23 this year. Unfortunately, this section will no longer read so simply or succinctly.

    VA:F [1.9.17_1161]
    Rating: 5.0/5 (4 votes cast)

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