Driving on the LEFT side of the street
This paragraph is only for folks who drive in their home country on the right side of the street — all others certainly feel no difference when in New Zealand.
For all of you who do drive on the right hand side of the street in your home country it will be a huge change. Basically, once you get your rental car you are on your own and you have to throw yourself into the traffic.
You get the taste once you get into your rental car: the driver, of course, sits on the right side of the car, wiper and signal are on the opposite site compared to your car at home. That means you are likely to turn on the wipers when you actually wanted to set a turn signal.
New Zealand has tons of round-abouts — that’s in general a great thing, however, if you are not used to drive on the left side of the street, it requires again much concentration in order to do everything right. You’ll go into the roundabout clock-wise. If it has two lanes, it feels better to use the left lane in order to exit. After some practice you might then feel comfortable to use the right lane as well.
If you are driving on streets with 2 lanes for the same direction then the right one is the passing lane. When not passing you choose the left lane.
Please study the following websites before driving in New Zealand:
Driving in New Zealand: www.nzta.govt.nz/resources/driving-in-nz/
Driving in New Zealand: Driving in New Zealand (NZ Transport Agency)
After 2-3 days you will feel better about driving on the left side; after a week you feel likely comfortable on the streets, and after 2-3 weeks it feels normal. No guarantee, though.
Who can drive?
Details can be found here: Driving in New Zealand (NZ Transport Agency)
In general, given you have a valid overseas driver licence or international driving permit (IDP), you can drive using that for a maximum of 12 months from the date you arrive in New Zealand. If your overseas licence or permit isn’t in English, the New Zealand Foreign Affairs & Trade office recommends that you apply for an international driver’s license (IDP).
Please study the following websites before driving in New Zealand.
Watch out for cross-walks. Yield to pedestrians. We fee that New Zealanders do quite a good job with that compared to the United States. Well, that’s may be subjective, but that is how it feels.
If you are the pedestrian and you want to cross a street then you need to look to your right FIRST, then left. Remember, cars do approach from right (because they are driving on the left lane). That seems a hard thing to do as well when you are coming from a country where you drive on the right hand side of the street. You learned tens of years to look left, then right, … and here in New Zealand then suddenly it is opposite. If you are not focused when crossing a street you can quickly be hit by a car (and you never saw it coming)!