New Zealand Travel Tips

Here are some simple pointers to make your stay in New Zealand safer and more enjoyable. From driving tips to restaurant tipping, our brief guide will give you an overview of a few important ideas and rules to remember.

Driving in New Zealand

In New Zealand you drive on the left hand side of the road. Most New Zealand roads are two-way highways without centre barriers to separate opposing traffic, which makes it so important to give the road your full concentration.

When driving in NZ, here are a few things to consider:

Speed limits
Your speed must be limited to 50 km/hour around built up urban areas, 70km/hour (where indicated) in semi-residential/country areas, and 100 km on the open road. The traffic police are fairly strict in enforcing these limits, so it pays to observe the limits, unless you fancy collecting more than just airline tickets.

Travelling distances
Look on a New Zealand map and you may think that next city is just a Sunday drive down the road. This is not always the case. It's a good idea to allow more time than you think for travelling distances, because the hilly terrain and windy roads, where it's difficult to pass, can make the journey much longer.

New Zealand's Child Restraint Law states:

Children under 5 years old

    * Must be properly restrained by an approved child restraint.
    * They must not travel in the vehicle if you can't put them in an approved child restraint.
    * Must be properly restrained in an approved child restraint.

Children 5 to 7 years old

    * Must use a child restraint if available
    * If there is no child restraint available, the child must use a safety belt if available
    * If there is no safety belt available the child must be in the back seat.

Children 8 to 14 years old

    * Must use safety belts if available
    * If there is no safety belt available, the child must be in the back seat.

People over 14 years old

    * Drivers and passengers must wear safety belts when available.

Road hazards
Be extra careful on rural roads. Many of them have gravel verges that require slower driving and extra concentration to avoid accidents. And always keep an eye out for cattle crossing the road. Yes, there are plenty of sheep in NZ, and there are no shortage of cows either.

Also, be particularly alert on central North Island roads (around Taupo, Tongariro, Mt Ruapehu and the desert road), and all South Island roads during winter. Watch out for black ice. You can't see it, but it is very slippery. Lower your speed and drive cautiously.

International driving licences and permits
In NZ, you can legally drive for up to 12 months if you hold either a current driver's licence from your home country or an International Driving Permit (IDP).

Carry your licence or permit with you all at all times when driving, otherwise you could be fined. Naturally, you will only be able to drive the same types of vehicles you are licensed to drive in your home country.

Please make sure your driver's licence is current and in English (if not in English you should bring an English translation with you, or obtain an IDP). All documents must be originals - no photocopies will be accepted.

For further information about driving in New Zealand visit NZ's Land Transport (ltsa) website.

The currency is the kiwi dollar, which you can convert into your local currency using our currency converter.

Departure Tax
Don't forget to save a few kiwi dollars for when you leave New Zealand - there is a departure tax of $NZ25.


Yes, New Zealand does have Goods and Services Tax (GST): 12.5% is added to most goods and services. Tax will either be inclusive in the price (as with most retail goods) or, as required by law, a price will be stated and either have alongside it "+GST" or a general written statement will appear such as "Prices are exclusive of GST".

It's not mandatory to tip in New Zealand, but it is becoming more common. New Zealanders often tip around 5-10% of the bill in a restaurant or cafe if the service has been good. Don't worry about it too much at breakfast or lunch time, but reward service around evening meals if you choose to do so.

Staying Safe
New Zealand has a great reputation for being a friendly, hospitable and welcoming country. All of this is true. However, unfortunately like all countries there are a few unsavoury characters, so take as much care in New Zealand as you would in any other country. Keep cars locked at all times, keep valuables out of sight, don't walk alone - don't do what you wouldn't do at home.

Public Holidays
Half of New Zealand seems to be on the road around public holidays, so it pays, where possible, to plan your trip to avoid travelling on these days:

1 Jan New Year's Day
6 Feb Waitangi Day
Mar/Apr Easter (dates change each year to include a Friday and a Monday)
25 Apr Anzac Day
1st Mon in June Queen's Birthday
4th Mon in Oct Labour Day
25 Dec Christmas Day
26 Dec Boxing Day

There is one time zone throughout the country. NZ time is 2 - 2.5 hours in advance of Australian time depending on the state you are from, and 12 hours in advance of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).

Daylight savings: from late October until the end of the first week of March New Zealanders put their clocks forward one hour to get more daylight hours over summer.

Disclaimer: Please note that we do our best to ensure the accuracy of this information, and apologise if any of the information in this section is incorrect or outdated, but accept no liability for any consequences arising from this.