Why learning how to drive in NZ is important

One of the most important skills you must learn before coming to New Zealand is knowing how to drive. Even if you’ve been driving for several years in the Philippines, it is almost guaranteed you’ve picked up a lot of bad habits.

Here in New Zealand, it is imperative you must know how to properly position your car inside the lanes, follow right-of-way and give-way rules, signal when turning (called here as “indicating”), sufficient spacing between cars, among other things.

I would strongly advise that you get a non-professional or professional card (not paper) license in the Philippines before arriving as you can use this to temporarily drive for one year while you learn your way on driving on the other side of the road and complete the conversion to full license. After one year of living here, you need to get your New Zealand license.

Public transportation is bad (and expensive!) in most places in NZ and there is sometimes a long wait for bus or train services outside of rush hours. If you are working nights or early mornings, or off the beaten path, it is almost required by some employers that you have a valid license and a reliable vehicle. If you are a newcomer, having the ability to drive makes it easier for you to come to interviews, view houses to rent, find schools for your kids and even simple tasks like carrying bulk groceries.

Cars are relatively cheap here. For around $3000-5000, you can buy a decent car on Trade Me to start. Not only are you saving on public transport, but you are saving precious time that can be used in improving your CV, learning new skills or networking with the locals. Cars also serve as protection to rain, wind or snow. New Zealand is a cold and damp country for most of the year and braving the extreme outdoor elements can put a strain on your health and well-being.

When I was new here, I was living in South Auckland but found a part time job in West Auckland which was a 15 minute drive then. Taking the bus, this would translate to about an hour changing between 2 buses and spending around $30 a day. Doing the math, I found that buying a cheap car and paying for petrol was far more economical and efficient, not to mention being home early to rest for the following working day.

One thing of caution is do not drive under the influence of alcohol as this is considered a serious offence in New Zealand and might disqualify you from gaining a work/residence visa or even citizenship down the line. There are many cases of Filipinos caught drunk while driving and this led to their deportation. Learn from their hard lessons.



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