Driving in New Zealand: A Visitor’s Guide

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It’s well-known that the best view in New Zealand is along the roadside. However, except for Christchurch, public transportation is underdeveloped in other cities. Therefore, a self-drive tour is the best option to explore New Zealand.

driving in new zealand

1. Driving Rules and Tips

  • Speed Limits

i. Urban arterial roads – 60 km/h: including those through rural townships

ii. Rural area – 80 km/h: rural access roads, winding rural roads, and limited-access urban arterial roads

iii. Motorways – 110 km/h

  • Traffic and Road Signs

new zealand road signs

For more information about New Zealand road signs, here is an infographic from EasyRentCars.

2. Road Condition and Toll Roads

  • Road Condition

National roads in New Zealand are mostly bi-directional single lanes. Only near the ‘important main road’ there is two-way four-lane and two-lane will be set up in important cities, such as Oakland and Wellington as well as in ports.

If possible, please avoid driving on the rocky road. If not, note that this section of the road may be very narrow, please always drive to the left and slow down or give way to oncoming cars. Please be careful that the dust will affect the sight and stone will break the windshield.

Expert tips: Please be cautious if someone straightens his arm and wave up and down, indicating there is a danger ahead.

  • Toll Roads

Most of the highways are almost free of charge throughout New Zealand. Only a few, such as Northern Gateway Toll Road and Tauranga Eastern Link Toll Road, are one-way tolls. The fee varies from NZ$1.8 to NZ$ 2.3. There are always signs and instructions about alternative routes before toll roads.

Expert tips: It is suggested that when planning your journey, you can check in advance whether there is a toll road. If so, GPS can be programmed to avoid it. If it cannot be avoided, please pay promptly in different ways.

How to pay?

To smooth the flow of cars and improve efficiency, there are not toll stations on highways and cars are monitored by the live traffic camera.

Ways to pay are various in New Zealand. Drivers can pay the toll 80 days before or 5 days after passing the toll roads. Paying at the machine or online or through the telephone is common.

  • Self-Service

Enter information like plate number. Credit cards and cash are both acceptable.

  • Pay online

Steps1: Log in NZ Transport Agency website

Steps2: Enter plate number

Steps3: Enter credit card or visa

Steps4: Pay the charge

  • Pay through telephone

Call 0800 40 20 20 and pay by credit card

Expert tips: If you don’t pay the toll in 5 days, the notification will be sent and there will be extra ‘administration fee’ and fine.

3. Gas

Gas price in New Zealand is connected to the international gas price, about NZ$1.8-NZ$2.2/liter. Diesel is about 10%-15% cheaper than gasoline.

There are many refueling brands in New Zealand, such as BP, Mobi, Z Energy, Challenge, Caltex, Alliance. Gas price varies from places to places. The types of gasoline in New Zealand: 91, 95/96 and 98. The larger the number of oil, the higher the quality of the oil and the more expensive the price.

When refueling in New Zealand, you can follow the instructions on the car or the fuel tank cap and fill the tank with the designated fuel. If you are not sure which fuel to choose, consult the branch staff when picking up the car. Generally, the cars should be fueled with 91 Unleaded, with a green oil gun. Diesel is marked with a black oil gun and ‘Diesel’.

Expert tips: Please be careful not to fill the tank with the wrong fuel. If you refuel with the wrong fuel, please contact the branch as soon as possible to clean up the fuel tank and the fuel system and conduct an overall inspection of the engine. Don’t start the car in haste in case of car damage.

How to pay?

i. Self refueling

The basic steps of self refueling are as follows:

Step1: Stop the car near the fuel pump, select the oil type

Step2: Pick up the fuel pump to the fuel tank, pull the handle

Step3: The price and the amount of oil will be shown on the screen

Step4: The handle will pop up when the fuel tank is full, or lose the handle if the charge has reached to a certain amount, the fueling process will be stopped

Step5: Put back the pump, close the lid, and remember the number of the oil pump

Step6: Enter the store in the oil station and inform the staff of the number. Pay by card or in cash is accepted

ii. Refueling by credit card

In some places, there is no manual charge and only use a credit card.

The refueling process of credit card payment is as follows: insert the card to the machine, take out the card after reading, then enter the password according to the instructions. And you can refuel your car and then print the receipt.

When the credit card is being scanned, you may receive a message of consuming NZ$100-200. Please note that this charge is pre-authorization and it will charge the actual amount after refueling.

Expert tips:

1. With large territory and few populations, the price of petrol is high and it’s inconvenient to fill the fuel in a remote area. It’s suggested that before the long journey please ensure the full oil tank.

2. Please remember to ask for a receipt when refueling. Some oil stations only give the receipts if you ask.

3. Please note that only you can start the car after payment; otherwise, drivers may be charged.

4. Parking

  • Public Parking Lot

There are exclusive parking lot near the shopping centers and supermarkets. The scenic spot and the busy area are generally charge-free parking area. In addition to the city center and popular cities such as Wellington, Auckland, it is convenient to park in other places.

  • Self-Parking Area

The parking area marked with ‘PAY HERE’ is usually tolled, but not for the night. More details refer to the timetable.

  • Free Parking within a Specific Period

There are many free parking lots with various time limitations in New Zealand. Time-limited parking signs like P5, P10, P30, P60 will be set there. The number indicates the free parking period. As shown below, from Monday to Friday it can park for 60mins for free. Generally, in this area, the staff will mark the beginning time on the tires; and fine the drives if overtime.

How to pay?

i. Self-payment at the roadside

Charging varies from places to places, from NZ$3 to NZ$8. Credit cards and coins are acceptable.

Steps are as follows:

Step1: Put in coins /insert the card

Step2: Select the period

Step3: Confirm

Step4: Print the receipt

Step5: Put the receipt at the windshield

ii. Pay at the parking lot

You can pay the charge by yourself or by the staff.

Self-payment always pay after parking, the steps are as follows:

Step1: Get the tickets at the entrance

Step2: Park the car

Step3: Put the tickets in the self-payment machine

Step4: Pay the charge

Step5: Print the receipt and parkin tickets

Step6: Leave the tickets at the exit when leaving

Please note that the parking tickets should be taken with you, not in the car.

Expert tips: Please remember to put the parking tickets at the windshield for inspection. If you lost it, regardless of parking time, you will be charged at the highest price.

5. Tickets

The rental company may pay the fine for you if there is unknown fine when coming back. But usually it is more expensive than the fee for breaking rules, which is included administration fee from the rental company.

How to pay?

i. If the violation is photographed by a road camera, the car rental company will contact the customer later, and charge the fine from the credit card and provide a receipt according to the procedure.

ii. If the violation (such as exceeding the speed limit) is caught during the trip, the customer will be required to pull over, show their driving license and do an alcohol test. Then the police will issue the ticket. The fine should be paid within 28 days, by calling 0800 4 FINES to inform the info of the credit card to charge the fine; or by logging in the website on the ticket to fill in the needed info and pay the fine. Or the customer can pay the fine at the on the site at the designated place. Each spot has a processing spot.

If there is no illegal record, the deposit will be unfrozen and returned to the credit card of the main driver.

Expert tips: It would be better to check whether there is a toll road and toll bridge while traveling. And some possible illegal behaviors. If there is a fine, pay as soon as possible or a higher extra fee will be charged.

Visit easyrentcars.com now.

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