new zealand roads

As exciting as planning a road trip can be, don’t let the anticipation distract you from considering essential details such as your licence. To make sure you’re all sorted to hit the road in an Escape Rentals campervan, our article below covers everything you need to do before driving legally in New Zealand.

Can I drive in New Zealand without a New Zealand driver licence?

Dependent on the length of your stay and the type of licence you hold, you may not need to get a New Zealand driver licence to drive in New Zealand. If your licence is written in English and you’re staying in New Zealand for less than 12 months, you’re pretty much good to go. As long as your licence is current and you haven’t been disqualified or suspended from driving, your road trip can begin as soon as you touch down.

Don’t worry non-English licence holders; your road trip doesn’t stop here. If you meet all the other requirements mentioned above, all you need to do is acquire an additional English translation of your licence. This translation needs to be done by either:

  • The authority that issued you your licence.
  • A diplomatic representative at a high commission, consulate, or embassy.
  • An approved NZTA translator.

Alternatively, you can apply for an International Driving Permit (IDP). As this permit is issued following the United Nations Convention on Road Traffic, New Zealand will accept this as an approved translation.

It’s important to remember that an IDP is simply a translation of your licence, not a driver licence itself. Accordingly, it’s only valid when accompanied by your current driver licence.

uk driver license

What vehicles can I drive on my overseas licence?

When you hold a current and valid overseas driver licence, you can drive the vehicles listed under the equivalent New Zealand driving class.

  • If you have a full overseas car licence (equivalent to a New Zealand class 1), you can drive a car or light vehicle with a total weight of up to 6000kg. This type of licence is required for you to hire and drive an Escape Rentals campervan.
  • If you have a learner, restricted, or provisional licence the weight limit will be lower, and you may not be able to hire a campervan.
  • If you have a full overseas motorcycle licence (equivalent to a New Zealand class 6), you’re able to ride any size motorcycle.
  • If you have a learner, restricted, or provisional motorcycle licence, you can only ride specifically approved motorcycles.

When will I need to convert to a New Zealand licence?

Each time you visit for less than 12 months, you can continue to use your valid overseas licence for another 12 months.

If your holiday is more than 12 months, you’ll need to apply for a New Zealand driver licence or convert your current one. You can do so by contacting a New Zealand driver licencing agent.

Once you’re granted a New Zealand driver licence, your overseas driver licence will no longer be valid for driving in New Zealand.

Will I need to sit another test if I convert my licence?

Some overseas licencing systems are very similar to New Zealand. Therefore, you won’t have to sit a theory test if you’re converting car or motorbike licence when the licence is:

  • Currently valid OR recently expired (up to 12 months ago), AND is from one of the following countries:
    • Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK or the USA.

If you’ve had this licence for more than two years, you’re in luck. In addition to skipping the theory test, you also won’t need to do a practical exam.

Alternatively, if your licence is from a country that isn’t listed above, you’ll need to pass both the theory and practical tests before receiving your new licence.

Each test will have a fee, which you can find out more on the NZTA fee chart.

driving an escape rental camper

Do I have to carry my licence with me at all times?

In New Zealand, it’s a legal requirement for all drivers to carry their licence when on the road. As a result, whenever you’re driving, you’ll need to carry your current local licence and your IDP or valid translation.

What happens if I don’t have a valid driver licence in New Zealand?

If you’re caught without your licence, and the necessary translation, you risk:

  • Receiving an NZ$400 infringement fee.
  • Receiving fines of up to NZ$1,000 if you’re summoned to court.
  • Having an insurance claim declined.
  • Being forbidden to drive until you have the correct documentation.

If you continue to drive after being banned, your vehicle may be impounded for 28 days. It’s your own personal responsibility to pay for any infringement fees, fines, or impound costs while driving in New Zealand.

Should I learn the New Zealand road rules?

Before beginning your road trip, you must be aware of the New Zealand road rules. In addition to reading the driving handbook you receive when collecting your campervan, it’s best to familiarise yourself with the NZ Road Code before you arrive. You can even test your knowledge using a practice quiz to make sure you’re confident to take on the kiwi roads.

For more information on driving in NZ, read our articles “Campervan Driving Tips for Staying Alert on the Road” and “The Do’s and Don’ts of a New Zealand Road Trip”.

We hope this article has helped you prepare for your upcoming road trip. If you’ve realised you need an IDP or an approved translation, we suggest getting this sorted before you leave. This way you can start driving as soon as you arrive.

If you have any questions or are ready to organise your epic road trip, don’t hesitate to contact Escape Rentals.