New Caledonia is a collection of beautiful islands belonging to the French overseas territories. Most visitors stay on the big main island and do some excursions to visit the smaller ones. As the island is on the bigger side many people rent a car and experience driving in New Caledonia themselves.
Driving in New Caledonia is pretty easy. The roads are very well maintained if a bit narrow at places. The traffic is light flowing and it’s hard to get lost on the island. Nouméa is the only place where driving can get a bit difficult but it’s still manageable.
In this article, we’ll cover what you can expect from driving on this paradise island in the Pacific Ocean. It’s a good resource to get ready for your vacation and decide if you need a car rental or not.
Do you need a car in New Caledonia?
As always, we’ll start with the most important question. Do you actually need to rent a car for your New Caledonia vacation? Would you be fine with just public transport and/or taxis? Let’s find out!
New Caledonia sees a high car ownership rate due to its population spanning out on the big island. Locals are used to driving everywhere and as such the public transport system is lacking, to say the least.
Inside Nouméa it’s fine and you can get around with the local buses but if you want to visit tourist attractions out of the city you are better off renting a car.
We would say taxis are not a great idea either. They can be expensive and the island is big. Getting around with taxis will quickly eat up your budget and you’ll be left with empty pockets. It’s fine once or twice but you shouldn’t depend on them.
All things considered, you should rent a car in New Caledonia if you want to see the most beautiful spots on the island.
Driving in New Caledonia – Visitor’s Guide
Now it’s time to dive into the actual driving in New Caledonia. This is the part where you can decide if driving on this island will be a good fit for you or if you won’t take on the challenge. Luckily though, it’s not actually a challenge.
As New Caledonia is part of France the roads are well maintained and the rules are the same as they are in France.
Roads in New Caledonia
People drive on the right-hand side in New Caledonia. While this is perfectly normal for France and most of Europe let’s remember that the nearest neighbors of New Caledonia are Australia and New Zealand.
This means that if you come from AU or NZ you’ll need to give yourself some time to accommodate the different driving sides. Don’t worry your mind will get used to it quickly but you’ll have to make an effort at the beginning.
Apart from the possible driving side differences, the general state of roads in New Caledonia is pretty good. The main road connects most of the cities and towns and runs on both sides of the island. This road is high-quality asphalt.
Smaller roads maintain the great quality but get narrower and you might end up on some dirt roads. Even the dirt roads are maintained well. Apart from the missing pavement, they don’t feel bad to drive on it.
There are no toll roads in New Caledonia.
Traffic in New Caledonia
When you are driving in New Caledonia, you will see that the traffic is mostly concentrated around Nouméa, the capital city of the island.
As you drive out of town and get further away traffic becomes less of a problem. It’s mostly sparse and you’ll probably meet more tourists than locals.
The traffic that exists in the form of locals is not a problem either. We’ve found that the locals are extremely courteous towards tourists. They seem patient and understanding so it’s a pleasant experience to drive around the island.
Basic Rules of Driving in New Caledonia
As already mentioned before New Caledonia is part of France. This means that the rules are generally the same as they are in France. If you are coming from the EU or UK you won’t run into any surprises. The main difference from mainland France is probably the speed limit as you will see.
- Speed Limit
- 30 km/h in Urban, 50 km/h in rural, and 110 km/h in expressway areas.
- The driver needs to be at least 18 years old
- Seatbelts must be worn
- You can’t drive with your phone in your hand
- Be wary of big fines if you are caught doing this!
- No drinking and driving
- Drive on the right
- EU driving license accepted
- Technically you would need a French translated license if you don’t have an EU one but most rental companies don’t ask for it. Always inquire at your rental company before you travel if they accept your domestic license or not.
Tips for renting a car in New Caledonia
Now you know what driving in New Caledonia is like and what rules you will need to follow. It’s time to also give you some tips on renting a car in New Caledonia.
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Things to keep in mind while renting
First of all, you are in French territory. Just like in mainland France you should expect the majority of cars to be a manual gearbox. It’s possible to rent automatic but you’ll need to pay extra.
You’ll also need to book in advance to make sure you get one of the few automatic cars available. Luckily in recent years, companies invest a bit more into automatic transmission cars as people love to drive them.
As the roads are great you can rent almost anything you like. If you want a small car then go with a small car. If you want a sedan then you can rent a sedan. This time we have no real advice for you on the rental class. Go with whatever you want.
Maybe for fun, you can try renting a French car. For example, if you are coming from the US you can try a Citroen or Peugeot as they are not available in the states.