# 1 Learn The Rules Of The Road
First and foremost, remember that New Zealanders drive on the left side of the road and drivers yield to traffic approaching from the right side at uncontrolled intersections. This can be confusing at first, but most drivers adapt quickly. Other important rules to keep in mind are that the speed limit on open roads is 100 km or about 62 miles per hour, and that seatbelts are required for both passengers in the front and rear seats of any vehicle. New Zealand authorities strictly enforce their drinking and driving laws, and photo radar is frequently used to ticket speeding drivers.
# 2 Check The Insurance Coverage
Most reputable rental companies quote rental rates that include the basic insurance to cover damage to the vehicle. Supplemental insurance is usually available for purchase to cover additional damage like chipped or broken windshields. Insurance policies issued in other countries are not valid within New Zealand.
# 3 Have Your Driver's License Available
Before you are able to drive away in your New Zealand car rental, you will have to present your current driver's license from your home country. If the license is not written in English, you will be required to provide an English translation. An international driver's license is not required in New Zealand, but if you plan to stay for longer than one year, you will need to apply for a New Zealand driver's license.
# 4 Ask For Assistance
Rental car company representatives are trained to provide assistance to travelers when determining routes and destinations. Ask for maps and guides, and do not forget to keep the rental car company's phone number handy in case you need help along the way.
# 5 Allow Yourself Enough Time
While New Zealand is not the largest country in the world, there are few destinations that offer such diversity in its natural and cultural landscapes. If you are only able to spend a few days or a week in New Zealand, you might want to focus on touring one island. If you have several weeks, consider developing a theme for your journey such as exploring national parks or wineries. You can literally spend a lifetime discovering the wonders of New Zealand; so do not try to pack everything into a short visit.
# 6 Take It Slow
While the roads and highways in New Zealand are generally very well maintained and signed, they are frequently winding, hilly, and narrow. Allow yourself plenty of time for driving between destinations, and take extra precautions when it is raining, snowing, or icy. Snow chains are required on some South Island roads during the winter months.
# 7 Book Your Ferry Crossing In Advance
Most travelers want to explore both the North and South Islands. When renting a camper van or car, you have two choices on how to make the journey. You can leave your North Island vehicle in Wellington and pick up another one in Picton on the South Island, or you can drive your vehicle onto the ferry itself. It is generally more expensive to place your vehicle on the ferry, but it is more convenient. During the peak season, spaces on the ferries book up. So, it is important to make your reservation as soon as you can. Ask your rental car company for assistance. If you are speaking to seasickness, try to schedule the first ferry of the day when the waters are most calm.
# 8 Take Advantage Of Information Centers
Many cities and towns in New Zealand have information centers that provide excellent help to travelers. They can give you information on local sites, attractions, lodging, and restaurants. Frequently, these centers also have internet services, clean restrooms, and postcards for purchase.
# 9 Meet The Locals
One of the largest advantages of renting a vehicle in New Zealand rather than touring on a bus is the opportunity to meet the friendly locales. You will be amazed by the welcoming nature of native New Zealanders, and you might just meet some new friends. Do not forget to ask for tips on where the best places are to eat and stay.
# 10 Bring A Variety Of Clothing
In New Zealand attire is generally casual, and you most likely will not need any formal clothing. What you will need is a variety of cool and warm weather clothes that you can layer. The sub-tropical climate of the North Island offers everything from warm temperatures in the summer to very cool temperatures in the winter. Snow falls on both the North and South Islands from May through September, and both islands experience notable depths of rain, wind, and fog.