Driving a New Zealand rental car on South Island Roads
When driving a rental car in New Zealand, you will be keen to avoid ruining your trip through any accidents or damage to your rental car. New Zealand is a rural country and its roads offer a unique, and enjoyable driving experience, but it's always a good idea to be aware of what makes driving in New Zealand different and what hazards you may encounter.
Which South Island Roads Should I be Careful on with a Rental Car in New Zealand?
Here are a few things about New Zealand's South Island roads and road hazards to bear in mind:
- Inclement weather closing roads – New Zealand is primarily a rural destination and in the South Island some roads, particularly the mountain passes, are occasionally closed by snow and ice. (Note: the New Zealand winter season is between June and August). Sometimes roads may only be passable when snow chains are fitted.
- Road and rail – Some roads, particularly on the West Coast, combine road and rail bridges. Be extra vigilant before you commit your rental car to crossing these bridges.
- The Homer Tunnel – For tourists en route to Milford Sound, the one-lane Homer Tunnel will be encountered. It tends to be busy, especially with large tourist buses and extra care should be taken.
- Farming – You may find that your rental car on the odd occasion is surrounded by flocks of slow-moving sheep or herds of cattle. It's all part of the driving experience in New Zealand's rural areas—slow down to a crawl, stop if necessary and be patient.
- One lane bridges – On one lane bridges, you must follow the signs decreeing which traffic has the right of way. Slow down before you approach these bridges and allow other drivers time to clear the bridge before you proceed.
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