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A Practical Guide to Driving Safely in New Zealand

Coastal drives? Magnificent fjords? Prehistoric glaciers? You can see it all on a road trip in New Zealand.

Kiwi geography can make for quite an interesting drive, with twists, turns, and the occasional spot of black ice, so it’s worth reading some practical tips to make sure your road trip ends with the right sort of bang! Looking for cheap car hire for your road trip? Use Skyscanner’s price comparison tool now.

1. Jetlag is a killer.

Don’t underestimate how tired you are; take a few days to adjust before you set out on a mega long road trip.

Check out: 15 tips to beat timezone tiredness

2. Distracted driving is the (other) killer.

As of 2009, it is illegal to send or receive text messages or take phone calls whilst in your car in New Zealand. We don’t have to preach this stuff to you though, do we?

3. We drive on the left!

Yeah, this one’s pretty essential too. Try to keep tucked in on the left when you’re on narrow country roads – there are blindspots everywhere.

4. Plan your route.

Not only can you factor in viewpoints and stopoffs, but familiarising yourself with the route will make for a far less stressful journey.

5. Plan extra time into that route.

New Zealand’s roads can be much more narrow and windier than you’re used to, so you won’t always be cruising at 70km/h. These routes take time.

See more: 10 awesome road trip games to survive the drive

6. Our road signs are different.

We measure in kilometres, and our national speed limit is 100km/h. Read up on your road signs at the NZTA.

7. Beware the black ice.

When standing water on the road freezes, it glazes over and is near impossible to see – especially from a car. If you hit a patch, do not slam your brakes – keep the wheel straight, stay calm and try to move through it. Slowly. You can also check out the highway info for dangerous driving conditions before you leave.

8. Half full = refuel

New Zealand’s undisrupted natural beauty does come at a price: petrol stations are a rarity. If your petrol tank is half full and you can see a petrol station, refuel. You don’t know when you’ll see the next one.

See more: top 6 portable travel chargers

9. There are still single lane bridges.

These might fill you with dread, but treat them with caution and you’ll be fine. It’s not too much to beep the horn before you head over the hill, and the oncoming car will be thankful too.

10. Don’t drive on country roads after dark.

There are no street lights, and it kind of defeats the point of taking a road trip to see the scenery…and on that note:

11. Stop to take in the views.

Do your research and you’ll find viewpoints all along your journey. Stop for a photo opp, crack out the coffee flask and appreciate where you are: you’re on holiday!

See more: 15 awesome things to do in New Zealand

12. If you’re turning right, give way.

This namely applies to crossroads – oncoming traffic has right of way.

13. Top of the T goes before me.

At a T intersection, those turning into the off road have right of way.

14. Not all railway crossings are blindingly obvious.

Once again, with due care and attention this won’t cause you much trouble. Look for oncoming trains, and keep watch for these signs:

15. Watch out for the Kiwi birds!

These signs have cropped up all over New Zealand to protect this very, very cute species. This sign also tends to be a popular souvenir – but please buy yours from the gift shop.

16. And the sheep.

Well, we are known for our lamb, and it’s certainly ‘free range’. If there happens to be sheep crossing the road, the polite thing to do is to stop and wait. However, if they’re being awkward little buggers, edge forward very slowly and Chops will soon get the message.

More: Top 10 UK road trips!

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