The motorways and main roads in New Zealand are generally of a high standard. However, the country’s stunning natural landscape has resulted in some challenging driving routes elsewhere, with bridges, tunnels and narrow winding roads all common outside the main city routes. Combined with the changeable and sometimes extreme weather conditions, these routes require drivers to be alert and vigilant, so always check conditions before travelling. Travel times may also be longer than expected.
In New Zealand, you drive on the left-hand side of the road. You can legally drive for up to 12 months with an International Driving Permit or a valid driving licence from another country as long as it is in English or you hold an approved translation. After 12 months you must obtain a New Zealand licence.
Metered taxis are readily available in all major towns and are relatively inexpensive for short distance travel, although you may want to consider a different option for longer journeys.
Public transport is easily accessible and fairly cheap to use in New Zealand. Regular bus services are available in all the main towns across the country. Wellington also operates trolleybuses. Once a fixture in New Zealand, trolleybus routes have been closed in many of the major towns and Wellington is now the only place in the country to retain its commercial system.
There are several coach operators that offer services across both islands. Fixed-price tickets that allow unlimited ‘hop-on, hop-off’ travel are very popular with tourists and backpackers, and competition between operators means there are some excellent deals to be found.
With its priority historically more freight-orientated, the rail system in New Zealand is fairly limited for commuters. Urban passenger services are available in Auckland and Wellington and there are some intercity routes, but the network is better known for its scenic journeys, which allow tourists to pass through some of the country’s most remote and inaccessible areas from the comfort of a train.
Ferry connections are widely used as a means of crossing the Cook Strait. Operators including Interislander and Bluebridge run regular services between Wellington on the North Island and Picton on the South Island. Water taxis are also widely available in coastal towns.
New Zealand has seven international airports: Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin, Hamilton, Queenstown, Rotorua and Wellington. Auckland Airport on the North Island is the largest and ranks among the busiest in Australasia. Christchurch is the South Island’s biggest airport and also offers a huge range of international destinations. There are several domestic airports across New Zealand providing internal connections across both main islands and out to some of the smaller inhabited islands including Stewart Island, the Chatham Islands and Great Barrier Island.
Other ways to get around
In the past, trams were a major part of the New Zealand transport network and systems were common in major towns and cities. However, most of the trams still operating today are heritage systems and are considered tourist attractions rather than serious contributors to the transport network.