Friday 27 November 2015

5 Top Driving Tips that can make your New Zealand Holiday safe and pleasant

When I came to New Zealand for the first time in August 2004, it took some time for me to get used to driving. Coming from India, the road code and driving etiquette were Latin to me. The non-use of the horn was shocking. Wouldn't it go to rust and crumble?! And Give Way! What is that all about? All I knew was to Take Way when there is a gap for my car to fit into! But man, were the things different! As in DIFFERENT! If you are anything like me, this blog is for you!

Before we go any further, let me tell you straight - New Zealand is best seen by driving yourself. If you can drive, take a rental car or even better, a camper van (motor home). You will have a trip of your lifetime. Just follow these simple tips. You will enjoy your trip.

1. Keep Left. This is very important, especially if you live in a country, where you drive on the right-hand side. Our body is so programmed around our day to day routines. All it takes a momentary loss of concentration, you will find yourself in autopilot, driving on the wrong side. Not good for you, not good for other motorists. So keep your focus and keep to your left!

2. Mind those yellow lines. Pay attention to the center lines. They tell you when to pass (overtake) the vehicle in front of you safely. If the lines are in dotted white, as long as you are able to see at least 100 to 150 meters in front of you and the conditions are safe, you may pass that slow-moving caravan. If you see two solid yellow lines, it is illegal to overtake and go into the right-hand side lane. If there is an yellow line on your side and white on the other side, you are not allowed to cross the line and overtake. If you have white lines on your side and the yellow line is on the other side (like in the picture), you may pass. My personal advice? Keep your overtaking to minimum. You are in New Zealand to enjoy yourself, not to beat every other car in a race! If you must, then wait for the designated Passing Lane.

3. Stick to the Speed Limits. It is always a temptation to put your foot down, but beware of speeding tickets. There are instant fines and there is a chance of getting yourself suspended from driving. You are not only not helping yourself, but also are putting other road users in danger. It's a good time to watch this video. Remember, the speed limit within city / town limits is 50 kmph. School zones have a 40 Kmph limit at certain times of the day. When you drive into or out of a city, there is a step increase to 70 kmph (sign posted) and then to 100 kmph (sign posted). This is your maximum speed limit on the Open Road (highway / rural roads). In a few places, you might encounter a sign post with a black band across a white circle. It just means that it is an Open Road and the speed limit is 100 kmph.

4. Give Way rules could be confusing for first-time visitors. The intersections and roundabouts could put you in uncertainty. This excellent video is very handy to understand the rules around giving way. One important tip: When you see a Stop sign, bring your vehicle to an absolute stop. Don't crawl your vehicle. You MUST Stop. And pedestrian crossings are there for a reason. For the pedestrians to cross. You must stop if a pedestrian is about to cross at the designated crossing.

Oh, just another small tip - in larger places, you will find flush medians (see the picture). They are definitely not for overtaking. They are waiting space for you when you have to turn into let's say a supermarket, on a busy road. Or to merge into the traffic.

5. Enjoy your drive and have fun! The Kiwis are very friendly people. Almost all of them are. Respond to them in the same way. If the traffic queues up, be patient and follow other cars. Don't try to overtake. Don't honk. Honking is like shouting. On very rare occasions, may be twice or thrice in 10 years, I have used a short beep to warn a wayward driver who didn't respect my right of way :)

Don't make the mistake of driving from point A to point B without stopping. You are likely to encounter a lot of scenic lookouts on New Zealand roads, which will take your breath away. Make time to stop safely and enjoy the scenery!

For more ideas and tips for your self-driving New Zealand holidays, contact us today. We can help you by designing an itinerary that matches your tastes and preferences, and organise everything for you.

Monday 9 November 2015

Holidaying in New Zealand - Self drive or chauffeured?

One of the most common questions we get at TakeMe2NewZealand from our guests is "Should I be driving myself during my New Zealand holidays? Or should I be driven around?" The answer is simple; It depends on who you are!

Holiday at your own pace

You enjoy your freedom. You don't want to push yourself around. You want the flexibility to stop and enjoy if you find something interesting during your journey. While there is a definite itinerary for the day, you wish to do your own things too. If you tick these boxes, a self drive New Zealand holiday is for you.

On the other hand, you love to sit back and let someone else drive you around this beautiful country. You would also enjoy commentary from your driver-guide. In this case, there are two options available to you depending upon your budget. You can choose to travel by a private vehicle with your own driver-guide. Or you may tour around prominent New Zealand must-do's in coaches.

While choosing a private vehicle is relatively expensive - the drivers have strict rules around rest periods and breaks, and are provided with single occupancy accommodation and meals - this option gives you the flexibility similar to the self-drive option. And the drivers are very experienced and knowledgeable with local attractions. They provide commentary during your travel, which adds more value to your experience.

Flexible Coach Tours
If you prefer a structured itinerary, prefer not to drive and are on a budget, the best option is coach tours. Having said that, they need not be rigid tours. We can help you with designing a comprehensive package, which will meet all your requirements. What's more, you get picked up from and dropped off at your accommodation!

The legendary glass top coach
Ultimately the choice is purely based on your taste and preference. If you wish to discuss with someone who can make appropriate recommendations, do contact us.

Look out for our next post for useful driving tips while touring New Zealand!