New Zealand is a country perfect for exploring by car. With a wealth of breathtaking natural attractions and endless expanses of scenic landscape, some of the best things to see and do are outside the limitations of public transportation. Eager travelers can certainly benefit from touring the country by car, but before heading out and driving in New Zealand it's best to familiarize yourself with local regulations and rules of the road. This is especially important in light of recent changes to New Zealand driver's license requirements for foreigners.
There are some obvious nuances, like driving on the left side of the road, among other general New Zealand driving regulations, but now visitors will have to be extra careful to have proper licensing before hitting the road, too. Specifically, drivers who are not carrying an officially-issued driver's license written in English can be subject to fines and are technically not permitted to drive in the country. This means that you'll have to get an international driver's permit or other officially-issued translation if your home license isn't printed in English. The New Zealand Transportation Agency (NZTA) does offer a translation service for those in need, but this service comes at a cost. At $80 NZD, travelers from non-English speaking countries are much better off securing a less costly IDP in their home country before departing.
How Does This Affect Travelers Renting a Car?
Although the recent reiteration of driver's license requirements in New Zealand mostly addresses new residents, visitors to the country will also be affected. In light of recommendations from the NZTA, Tourism Industry Association, and the Rental Vehicle Association of New Zealand, car rental suppliers will require renters to have a driver's license written in English in order to pick up a vehicle. While not explicitly mandated upon companies, many rental car suppliers have independently decided to heed the recommendation in an attempt to best serve their customers and promote safe driving practices.
The good news for travelers from the US is that those with licenses printed in English will not be affected by the recent change. In this case, no additional action is necessary if you are renting a car in New Zealand so long as you have a valid license printed in the English language (which includes all driver's licenses from the US and UK). But New Zealand's emphasis on carrying proper licensing and identification should serve as a reminder that it's always important to respect and heed local requirements as a foreign driver in whatever country you choose to visit.
More detailed information can be found in the official NZTA announcement on foreign driver's license requirements.
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