Using an International Driving Permit for New Zealand
If your driving license is not in English and you want to be able to drive in New Zealand then you need an International Driving Permit! Before leaving for New Zealand, you need to apply for an International Driving Permit with your local transport authority. This guide will go through everything you need to know about using an International Driving Permit for New Zealand.
The great thing about the International Driving Permit is that it is something you can sort out before travelling to New Zealand, meaning you can hit the road straight away when you arrive in New Zealand! What’s more, it allows you to rent a vehicle in New Zealand or drive your own without having to take a driving test. All in all, getting an International Driving Permit for New Zealand is a great idea.
If your overseas driving license is in English, however, getting an International Driving License is not necessary – you are legally allowed to driver with an overseas driving license that is from an English-speaking country. Be sure to check out How to Drive in New Zealand before getting behind the wheel.
[Update: Just to confirm, if you have an overseas driver license written in English, then you do not need to carry an IDP in New Zealand – you can just use your overseas driver license].
What Happens if You are Caught Without a Valid Driving License in New Zealand?
If you are caught driving in New Zealand without your driving license from home and your International Driving Permit/appropriate translation then the following could happen:
- You will be liable for an infringement fee of NZ$400, or a fee of up to NZ$1,000 is you are convicted in court
- The New Zealand Police also have the right to forbid you to drive until you have the correct license and IDP or translation
- If you continue driving after being forbidden, your vehicle will be impounded for 28 days at the vehicle owner’s expense
- You are not likely to be covered by insurance.
Conditions of Using an International Driving Permit in New Zealand
The first condition of having an International Driving Permit is that you must travel with it along with your current and valid driving license from home.
You cannot use an International Driving Permit for commercial use.
Although IDPs are usually valid for three years, you can only use an IDP for up to 12 months in New Zealand. (More information on that below).
You can only drive vehicles in New Zealand that your current and valid overseas license allows you to in your own country. (More on that below).
You must know the New Zealand road rules! Driving on New Zealand roads is likely to be different than it is back home. Make sure you check out How to Drive in New Zealand and The 12 Golden Rules of Driving in New Zealand.
How Long Can You Drive for in New Zealand with an International Driving Permit?
You can legally drive in New Zealand if you have your full valid driving license from home accompanied by an International Driving Permit for up to 12 months. In other words, you can drive in New Zealand with an IDP and your overseas driving license for a maximum of 12 months since the date you arrived in New Zealand.
After 12 months, you will need to get a New Zealand Driver License. This is an easy process if you have an overseas driving license and you International Driving Permit, as you will just need to convert your driving license into a New Zealand Driver License. Find out more at Converting Your Driver License into a New Zealand Driver License.
What Vehicles Can You Drive with an IDP?
You are allowed to drive vehicles that you are allowed to drive in your own country according to what your overseas driving license allows. For example:
- If you have a full overseas driving license (which is usually the equivalent to a New Zealand class 1), you can drive a car or light vehicle with a weight no more than 6000kg
- If you have a learner or provisional driving license then the weight will be lower
- For a full overseas motorcycle license (usually the equivalent to a New Zealand class 6) then you can drive any weight motorcycle in New Zealand
- If you have a learner or provisional motorcycle license then you can only drive motorcycles approved by the Licence Approved Motorcycle Scheme.
How to Apply for an International Driving Permit (IDP)
You need to apply for an International Driving Permit before you leave home to come to New Zealand. It must be done in the country that your overseas license is from.
How you apply for your International Driving Permit varies between countries. While some countries only allow you to apply in person at a local transport authority or government, others can simply apply online or by post.
The best way to find this information out is to contact your country’s transport authority.
What You Will Need to Apply for an IDP
In most cases, the following is required to apply for an International Driving Permit:
- A coloured photocopy of both side of your driving license
- A recent passport-style photograph
- A completed application form
- Some countries may require a copy of your national identity card
- Some countries may require a fee
Be aware that your application could take up to a month to process so be sure to sort this out as soon as possible! Your IDP is usually valid for three years since the date it is issued.
What if You are Already in New Zealand?
If you are already in New Zealand and have missed your chance to get an IDP, then you can get an approved translation to go with your overseas driving license. There are many translation services in New Zealand who can do the job for you but the translation service you use must be approved by the NZ Transport Agency.
Until you have this translation, you cannot legally drive in New Zealand using just your overseas driving license in a different language to English.
To find out more about driving license translations, see How to Translate an Overseas Driving License for New Zealand.