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Travel
 New Zealand
by Car

 Travel New Zealand by car is for sure one of the best experiences you can have in this beautiful country. The roads in new Zealand are in very good shape. Pot wholes are quickly fixed even before it gets large enough to eat you and your car alive. Anyway, one must remember that in new Zealand one drive at the left side of the road, or the same as in mother England. If you don't feel confident driving in the English hand, you can take a 2 hour practical driving training with a driving school after your arrival. Just tell the instructor where you came from and that you want to drive in the "wrong hand". Two hours later I guarantee you'll be driving better than any kiwi. 

Another thing to remember is that New Zealanders drive like sheep, meaning they follow each other on the road, for endless boring kilometres. So, if your are from a country which changing lanes every 2 seconds is the norm, suicidal over takings are a fun gamble, or ad another zero to the speed limit sign is exciting, know in advance that in New Zealand these things are not permitted. The use of seat belts are compulsory for all passenger in a car and police reinforce all these rules with fines that will make you cry tears big enough to fill the Amazon river. Once one drives with responsibility there is nothing much to worry about when driving in New Zealand.

There are some tips about the roads in New Zealand we think you should know before you go. The first tip regards the fact New Zealand is a very mountainous country. So expect many curves and bends as well as ups and down hills. I don't know the reason, but the road engineers of New Zealand decided to place the most beautiful landscapes and breathtaking views just at the middle of the curves. This mean that if you don't turn your neck (and eyes) away from the landscape when dealing a curve, chances are you will end up in a vast green pasture with a sheep liking your face. The beauty of New Zealand has an extreme capacity to distract even the most concentrated drivers while beautiful sceneries are made to pause and appreciate, so this is what we recommend to everyone driving in New Zealand.

The second tip is about the wideness of the roads and safe pull-over areas. New Zealand engineers decided that a continuous white line located each side of the road dotted with another line in the middle was enough to call it a road. For some obscure reason there is nothing else beyond theses continuous white lines except grass, trees, a precipice, or rock walls. So if you need an emergency stop or even a stop to shoot some pictures, you'll have to wait until you find a spot beside the road large enough to accommodate you vehicle and its four legs outside the danger area. In some roads there are no available areas at all, in some other road, the only solution is to stop with two wheels on the bush and two wheels on what was left of bitumen beyond the white continuous line. Of course many roads in New Zealand are not like, but I will risk to say that half are.

The third tip is about driving in winter time, specially in the South Island and on the Desert Road (north Island), passing lake Taupo bound to Wellington. These roads can get frosts during winter months or even outside these months around the first hours of the day and after sunset. What happens is that a thin layer of ice cover the bitumen. It is no white in the shade, just the opposite. Usually the driver don't see it, except if a ray of light is spotted on it. These frosts on the road are slippery as grease, so, the best recommendation is if the weather is very cold, reduce your speed, specially early morning. The road department, the police, some tourist information centres, and the radio of you car, are places where you can get information about the conditions of the roads, including if the road is open or not due avalanches, land slides, and others.

Tip number Four - Is there any advantage to cross the Cook straight and take the rental car in the ferry or not? Usually not !. It is much cheaper leave the car and cross the ferry as a passenger and then rent again in the other side (sometimes with the same company). The exception will be the case of many people travelling together carrying big loads of luggage. It is a convenience matter of course.

Tip Five - If you have let's say 7, 15, or 21 day to travel New Zealand what we recommend is...Supposing you are arriving in Auckland and you want to rent a car to travel down the North island and after the South Island till Queenstown or whatever town. What we do NOT recommend is to go and come back by car (campervan or motorhome) unless you have more time than that. Why? Because the road you go down is basically the same you will have to take to come back again to Auckland (with a few variants). What we recommend and will save you a lot of money is to fly from Auckland to Queenstown and rent a car to drop it off in Picton. Then you rent another car in Wellington and explore the North Island to drop the car off in Auckland. Doing so, you will travel mostly in only one direction being able and having more time to explore better side roads and localities of interest.

Travel New Zealand by car is a great option and can be mixed with plane , train and bus if you wish. It is very safe if you take care and follow the road rules.  Just make sure you understand well the topography of New Zealand because due its mountainous terrain sometimes it takes much longer than it appears on the map to go from A to B. Along the way and beside the roads there are often rest areas with picnic table for you to have a break from the road. If tired stop and rest specially if you're not familiar with driving in the wrong side of the road. 

More tips:

- Have a warm jacket, a raincoat or/and an umbrella for prompt use in the boot of the car. Temperatures and weather can change without notifications to the weather bureau.

- The Police have speed radars in many roads of New Zealand. Speed limit is 50 km/h in build up areas and 100 Km/h on open roads except if a sign says something different.

- A driving license from your country is valid for 3 months in New Zealand (or Is it 6 months?) Anyway, if not in English bring a translation. Seat belts are compulsory all over the country and small children must seat in a special chair with seat belts (supplied by the rental companies).

- Drinking and driving is a No No in New Zealand. It is taken very seriously and can lead to prison or heavy fines depending how drunk the driver is. Breath tests are common on intercity roads and urban roads as well.

- In case of accident the police must be notified in 48 hours or your insurance claim may not proceed.

Well, besides the cautions and following the rules, as we said before New Zealand is a great and easy country to travel by car. You won't forget. Have a nice and safe trip.

More info about Car Rentals in NZ 

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