Road trips in New Zealand are extremely popular all year round. We recommend allowing between 10 and 14 days in order to plan a full itinerary on both the North and South Islands.
New Zealand’s popularity over recent years has sky rocketed as travellers head there in large numbers due to the amount there is to see and do. There are so many different ideas and tips that experts and previous visitors to New Zealand will give you.
The convenience and ease of a New Zealand road trip lies in the magnificent scenery around every corner of the road and the low volume of traffic that is experienced.
The best advice we have is to plan your holiday well in advance so that you get to see everything this amazing country has to offer its visitors.
That means that you need to be super organised, plan your itinerary and book your car rental well in advance. Although New Zealand does experience a true climate of 4 different seasons a year it is still manageable to drive all around New Zealand year round.
The North Island of New Zealand offers stunning bays and beaches that are second to none. In winter the North can experience some snow around its peaks and National Park. The South Island offers glorious mountains and skiing that is simply sensational. In winter the South can experience snow anywhere especially on the Southern Alps. There are areas on the West Coast of the South Island such as the Bay of Islands where there will be some amenities closed during the winter months.
If you want to drive on both islands you can make 1 car rental booking. However most car rental companies will not allow vehicles to be taken on the ferry from 1 Island to another. This means you will need to arrange your ferry crossover date with the car hire company when picking up your car. When on the North Island you will return your rental to Wellington where you will board a ferry to Picton on the South Island. Upon arriving in Picton you can pick up your 2nd rental.
If you are beginning your road trip on the South Island you will return the rental to Picton and take the ferry to Wellington before picking up your 2nd rental.
Due to the popularity of New Zealand all year round, vehicles sell out well in advance and that is why early planning is essential. Although car hire is generally cheaper in winter, many vehicles such as 4WD sell out quickly in winter. You will also need to organise snow chains depending on where you are driving in Ski season/winter.
Summertime is when families come to New Zealand and request the larger cars and so again being organised in advance is paramount. Make sure you request the vehicle size that will comfortably fit your luggage and passengers.
Most rentals available for car hire in New Zealand are automatic and the renter must have a full valid drivers license and be over the age of 21.
When driving around you will find that the speed on open roads is 100 km per hour and 50 km per hour in cities and towns.
For planning purposes you need to consider whether you require a GPS and this will also need to be added to your rental in advance. GPS units often sell out well in advance, especially in the peak summer period.
All drivers must adhere to the road signs/rules and any changed conditions. Seatbelts must be worn at all times and unless you are overtaking on a highway you should always remain in the far left lane.
On Motorways you must indicate for a minimum of 3 seconds before changing lanes and there are no u turns permissible. There is also no stopping on motorways and be aware that the motorways are regularly patrolled. Drivers will be accountable for any fines incurred whilst driving their rental.
In general New Zealand has well signed roads on both the North and South Islands. Local emergency services are also very responsive to changes in conditions and will close some roads that connect parts of the South Island if the weather requires it.
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