About travel distance miscalculations, low speed limits and the perks of being stuck behind a slow vehicle.
Coming from a country where the lack of time management in the morning can be compensated by hitting the gas pedal on the ‘Autobahn’, I had to learn the hard way how different driving in New Zealand can be. It’s all about the patience.
Driving on the other side of the road
Driving in New Zealand in your own or a rental car might be a bit different than driving in your home country: All cars drive on the left side of the road (the ones that don’t are clearly lost tourists) which was personally not too hard to get used to.
The only time I was feeling a bit uncomfortable in the beginning, believe it or not, was when I was sitting on the passenger seat.
A thing that might happen to you, which I and friends of mine have struggled with is the switch of handle for the indication light and windshield wiper – I might have indicated some of my left turn solely by turning on the windshield wipers.
Self-driving - or getting there (eventually)
Especially driving on one-lane highways you have to schedule a bit more time for your ride. You never know when you’ll be stuck behind a truck, or a (really) slow driver.
I was fortunate enough to learn how to safely overtake a truck on an one-lane highway spending some time driving in South Africa. In case you are not comfortable with that, have some chocolate ready to calm down these nerves following slow vehicles, hoping to reach a passing lane.
Just because it looks close does not mean it is
Recently I made the mistake to calculate the distance between certain places solely by looking on a map. I was sure the distance between Auckland and Christchurch is easily doable in a day. Big no! Looking at the actual drivable route this distance unfolded differently. So check Google maps beforehand and add one or two hours to the suggested driving time (especially in the busy summer months).
Be aware that Highway #1 is closed around Kaikoura
The earthquake everybody talked about, just a few weeks back, was quite localized around the Kaikoura region. However, the highway 1 connecting for instance Nelson with Christchurch is closed off in some parts at the moment. Meaning you have to take the inland route – therefore plan a bit more time.
The main towns are connected by a reasonably priced bus network. The frequency does however vary per location and seasons, with some cities only having one departure a day. So in case you are under time pressure of getting somewhere check the timetable beforehand, otherwise you might be stuck in a city. InterCity Coachlines operate city-to-city, there are also ‘hop-on hop-off’ bus companies operating all over New Zealand.
There are major train lines running between Auckland and Wellington (Northern Explorer), between Christchurch and Greymouth (TranzAlpine) and between Picton and Christchurch (Coastal Pacific). The Coastal Pacific service is however cancelled for the summer seasons 2016/17 due to earthquake damage.
New Zealand offers numerous routes for bike enthusiasts. Check out this website and plan your cross country cycle route. If you are planning to bike from city to city be aware that you’ll have to bike next to the highway. You have to avoid motorways, as cyclist are not allowed on these.
Being on budget, or just in for an adventure you might consider hitchhiking. Your chances of getting picked up are quite good in New Zealand, with just a few major highways connecting the main points of interest. Hitchhiking to rural areas might be a bit harder and more time consuming. But you know what they say, either you’ve got the time or you’ve got the money. Be sure to stay safe!
If you spend two weeks or less in the New Zealand, consider to cover longer distances taking a short domestic flight. This way you can avoid long car journeys and still see all the locations on your bucket list. If you need a few tips on booking flights check out our blog.
I hope those tips will be helpful whilst planning your adventure to New Zealand.