Travel to New Zealand
New Zealand is a relatively remote island country located in the southwestern Pacific Ocean.
Geographically it comprises of two separate islands; the North Island and the South Island and 600 or more smaller offshore islands. It’s closest neighbour is Australia, located 2000 km to the east across the Tasman Sea. 1000 km to the north lie the South Pacific islands of Fiji and Tonga.
The remoteness of its location meant that New Zealand was settled fairly late in world history although Polynesians settled here as early as 1250 AD, giving rise to the Maori culture. This isolation also resulted in a unique biodiversity of flora and fauna.
Presently, the majority of the population comprises of people of European descent with the Maori being the largest minority group, followed by Asians and Pacific Islanders. Accordingly, official languages in New Zealand are English and Maori.
New Zealand is a highly developed country meeting high standards with regards to quality of life, healthcare, education and economic standards. Tourism is an important source of the country’s revenue.
Travelers visit New Zealand for its stunning unspoiled natural beauty, great weather, outdoor adventures, the unique wildlife, the accessibility of the country, the wine and the local culture. This hits just the tip of the iceberg.
We hope that this carefully prepared travel guide will ease your travel planning and encourage you to plan a future trip to New Zealand.
Travel tips for New Zealand
Visa Requirements for New Zealand
Foreign nationals of Australia, the United Kingdom, the European Union and a host of other select countries do not require a New Zealand tourist visa. Check the list of Visa Free countries that applies for New Zealand.
Only Australians and permanent residents can enter New Zealand as visitors to work.
Nationals from countries that do not feature on the Visa Free List should refer to the New Zealand Immigration Page for further details.
If you require a New Zealand visa application, you can apply for it in a New Zealand Diplomatic Post in your home country or a British Embassy in the absence of one.
Please check the current guidelines, of the visa requirements for your country and ways to get a New Zealand visa before you travel to New Zealand.
Important Cultural Information
The majority of New Zealand’s population identifies themselves as having European descent. There is an indigenous Maori minority, people of African and American descent and Polynesians occupying the other minorities.
English and Maori are the main official languages of New Zealand. New Zealanders or Kiwis as they are called, have an accent that has a prominent nasal tone and flattened vowel sounds.
New Zealanders are a polite group of people, as a rule, but may seem to be a little aloof or distant at first acquaintance. Always remember to be polite. Saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ goes a long way. Tipping in New Zealand is not practiced. Don’t be surprised if your tip is refused or met with amusement.
The New Zealand way of expressing something is often understated. This is considered part of the polite behavior etiquette. New Zealanders dislike discussion related to disclosure of wealth, property or income.
Experiencing the Maori culture is a popular tourist pastime. Remember to be respectful and quiet during a particular ceremony or ritual.
Banking & Money in New Zealand
The currency of New Zealand is the New Zealand Dollar (NZD). This is mostly, the only currency accepted in the country.
Coin denominations are 10c (copper color), 20c (silver with Maori carving), 50c (silver with Cook’s ship – The Endeavour), 1 dollar (gold with a kiwi) and 2 dollar (gold, with a heron).
Banknotes come in $5 (orange with Sir Edmund Hillary), $10 (blue with Kate Sheppard), $20 (green with Queen Elizabeth II), $50 (purple with Sir Apirana Ngata) and $100 denominations (red with Lord Rutherford).
ATMs are widely available in almost every small or big town. Many shops have Electronic Funds Transfer at Point of Sale (Eftpos) terminals for credit card and debit card purchases. A minimum purchase amount is usually required, however, to avail of this facility. Diners Club and AMEX may have lower acceptability with some retailers. Cards with a CHIP and PIN system are used in New Zealand. ATM’s may not accept cards without a CHIP.
Some of the major banks in New Zealand are ANZ Bank New Zealand, Bank of New Zealand, Kiwibank, Rabobank New Zealand, TSB Bank and Westpac New Zealand.
Medical Emergency Information
Some Emergency numbers to keep at hand when visiting New Zealand include the following:
- 111 – for Fire, Police or an ambulance in emergency
- 105 – for non-emergency situations when you want to contact the police
- 555 – reporting of minor traffic incident from a mobile phone
- 0800 611 116 – for Helpline – advice on medical issues
- 018 – National Directory
- 010 – National Operator
Major hospitals in New Zealand include:
- Auckland City Hospital
- Bellevue Hospital in Auckland (Private)
- Bowen Hospital in Wellington
- Hutt Hospital in Wellington
- Wellington Hospital
- Mercy Hospital Dunedin
- Christchurch Hospital
If you’re looking for travel insurance, we are an affiliate of World Nomads.
Wi-Fi and Internet in New Zealand
Places in New Zealand where you might be able to access free internet include public libraries. The Auckland City Public Library provides 1GB of data a day at no charge. Different libraries may have different rules.
Vouchers for Internet access may be bought from Starbucks cafes although McDonalds cafes may offer free internet access. Wireless hotspots are located in and around the city and can be accessed by buying vouchers from service providers.
Internet cafes are available in New Zealand but may not be very cheap with steep hourly rates. Internet access at airports and hotels may similarly, draw a fee. Make sure to set-up a VPN before using public Wi-Fi spots.
The country code for New Zealand is 64.
There are three major mobile carriers in New Zealand. They include Spark (4G network on 850MHz and supplementary 2100 MHz in metro areas), Vodafone (4G LTE on 700MHz, 1800 MHz and 2600 MHz and a nationwide 3G network on 900 MHz with supplementary 2100 MHz coverage and a GSM network), 2degrees (4G LTE on 1800 MHz and 700 MHz in Auckland and 3G in most towns) and Skinny Direct (providing large data packages and talk time for low prices).
Vodafone provides a visitor SIM package for travelers. Prepaid SIM cards from Vodafone, Spark and 2degrees come with preloaded credit.
Arrival in New Zealand
New Zealand is a long distance away from all other countries. Even its most proximal country, Australia, is a minimum of 3 hours away by air.
The main international airports are in Auckland, Queenstown, Christchurch, Wellington and Dunedin. Many different airlines fly into Auckland, which is a major hub and is connected with international destinations on nearly every continent.
Auckland International Airport (AKL) is located near Mangere, a suburb about 21 km south of Auckland city centre. The airport handles about 70% of New Zealand’s international air traffic. The airport is connected to the city via SkyBus express buses. Two state highways – State Highway 20A and 20B connect the airport to the city.
Christchurch has direct flights to destinations in Australia and Singapore. New Zealand also has direct flights between several South Pacific Islands.
Search for flights to New Zealand on Expedia.
There are also a few cruise liners that travel to New Zealand. Search for cruises to New Zealand here.
Areas of New Zealand
Here are the major regions of New Zealand. They can be broadly subdivided into the North Island, South Island and Offshore Islands. Some of the main cities include Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Queenstown, Nelson, Dunedin, Rotorua and Hamilton.
New Zealand’s North Island
The North Island has a milder climate although there is a wide variety of scenery ranging from sandy beaches, volcanic areas, farmland and forest.
New Zealand’s South Island
South Island as a contrast to North Island has everything from beech forests, beaches, glaciers, mountains and fjords.
New Zealand’s Offshore Islands
These are a wide array of different offshore islands from the most remote islands like the Kermadecs to the nearby island of Stewart Island.
Transportation in New Zealand
Availing of domestic flights can often work out cheaper than taking the train or driving in New Zealand. Budget carriers in New Zealand are Air New Zealand, Jetstar, Sounds Air and Canterbury Aviation. Of these Air New Zealand has the most extensive network, connecting most cities in the country.
Bus travel is a convenient and inexpensive way to travel around New Zealand. The roads in New Zealand might often be narrow and winding making driving a challenge. Much better to sit back and relax and leave it to the bus driver. Backpacker buses are hop-on hop-off buses. Some companies are Stray Travel Bus, MagicBus and KiwiExperience Backpacker Bus.
Flying Kiwi is an adventure bus company with tours of different lengths, mostly taking in outdoor activities and the natural beauty of New Zealand. Intercity is the national bus company with nationwide connectivity.
Inter-city rail travel is operated by Great Journeys of New Zealand. These tourist trains take in the great scenery with open air viewing carriages and panoramic viewing windows. The names of some trains are The Northern Explorer, The Capital Connection, The Coastal Pacific and The TranzAlpine.
To travel between the North and South Islands you will need to take a ferry across the Cook Strait, with or without a car. Bluebridge and Interislander are two main ferry companies. You can also go sightseeing on the Auckland ferry.
Traffic drives on the left hand side in New Zealand. Highways here are usually just one lane highways so try to maintain the speed limit. All types of car rentals are available here from international companies to local firms and can be used for your New Zealand road trip.
Motorcycling is an idyllic way to take in the scenery and a lovey addition to your New Zealand tours. Both Auckland and Wellington have good commuter rail services.
Or, you could always get around New Zealand in a camper van!
Accommodations in New Zealand
New Zealand has a wide array of accommodation options. There will certainly be some sort of accommodation options to suit every kind of traveler’s needs and budget.
International Standard high-end hotels are not uncommon in New Zealand. Brand names like the Hilton Queenstown Resort and Spa, Sofitel Auckland Viaduct Harbour, Hilton Auckland and the InterContinental Wellington are examples of plush, high-end hotels.
If you are thinking of backpacking New Zealand, a number of backpacker friendly accommodations are available. BBHNZ or Budget Backpacker Hostels NZ has a network of over 275 hostels all over the country. Check out all the options available on Hostelworld.
Gay and Lesbian travelers can avail of ‘Gaystay’ accommodations that are found all over New Zealand. Maori homestays are also searchable.
A number of alternative budget accommodation options presents itself to the New Zealand visitor. WWOOF (We’re Welcome on Organic Farms) is a great option for the environmentally conscious traveler. WWOOF’ers can volunteer on farms in lieu of food and lodging. HelpX is similar to WWOOF but is not limited to organic farming. Hovos need hosts providing services like animal care, gardening, language practice and more. Couch surfing is also a popular option in New Zealand.
We recommend looking for accommodation on Booking or Hostelworld.
What to Eat and Drink in New Zealand
The cuisine in New Zealand is heavily influenced by the abundance of local produce that is amassed from both the land and the sea. The food is influenced by neighboring Australia but also by Southeast Asian, European and American cuisine.
The indigenous Polynesian inhabitants of the land, the Maori, have their own style of cooking with unique cooking methods in a ‘hangi’ or underground earth oven.
Some unique New Zealand food, drink and snack items to sample include:
- Roast kumara (sweet potato) and kumara chips
- Pavlova (meringue, whipped cream and fruit)
- ANZAC biscuits
- Kiwi Fruit
- Hangi cuisine of the Maori (meat and veg that have been cooked slowly in an oven that is under the ground)
- Hokey Pokey Ice Cream (caramelised honeycomb)
- Kaimoana (seafood) extending to crayfish (rock lobster), paua (blackfoot abalone) and kina (sea urchin)
- Kiwi Burger (burger patties, beetroot and fried egg in a bun)
- Jaffas (sugar-coated chocolate balls with an orange flavor)
Things to Do and See in New Zealand
Visiting places of staggering natural beauty top the New Zealand itinerary. There are a number of things to do in New Zealand North Island. The list of things to do in New Zealand South Island don’t lag far behind.
Fiordland National Park is a region of stunning beauty where the steep, forested and often snow-capped mountains sweep down to the water at Milford Sound (make sure you do a Milford Sound cruise). The lakes and mountains of Queenstown, Wanaka and Glenorchy form the perfect backdrop for picture postcard scenery of these towns.
Westland National Park has glaciers. None as mighty as the Franz Josef and the Fox Glaciers. These glaciers are close to the sea and are sustained due to the high levels of rainfall on the west coast of the country.
New Zealand is a geothermal hotspot. A visit the Te Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley is a trip you must do in New Zealand. Hot springs and geysers abound in Rotorua along with the not so pleasant smell of sulphur. White Island is a volcanic island north of Rotorua. The island is out of this world with green crater lakes, indigenous flora and fauna and smoke plumes filling the atmosphere.
Auckland is a pleasant harbor city and there are several things to do in Auckland. With several waterfront districts, volcanoes (Mt Eden and One Tree Hill) and the emblematic Sky Tower- the tallest free-standing building in the Southern Hemisphere these are some New Zealand landmarks. The nation’s capital is Wellington, known as the ‘Windy City’ and home to many of New Zealand’s cultural attractions.
Lastly if looking to visit somewhere magical and a little bit surreal on your New Zealand holidays, make sure to visit the Waitomo Gloworm Caves spread on two levels. Learn about the fascinating ancient history and legends related to the caves. And don’t miss an opportunity to visit Abel Tasman National Park.
Shopping in New Zealand
Some traditional items to buy in New Zealand are:
- Merino Wool Jumpers
- Whittaker’s Chocolate and New Zealand Sweets (pineapple lumps, jet planes and jaffas)
- Wine (especially the Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc)
- Manuka Honey
- Jade (pounamu or greenstone) Jewelry and shell jewelry
- Lord of the Rings Memorabilia
- Maori Art- wall art, prints and more
- Sheepskin rug
There are many great places to shop in New Zealand. There are a number of malls and markets where you can shop for all your heart desires so keep this on your list of New Zealand activities.
Wellington Harborside Market is one of the oldest markets in the country and is a weekend market. Enjoy shopping all the food stalls at the market along with enjoying the upbeat, live music performances.
La cigale French Market is a market found in the village of Parnell, near Auckland. There’s something for everyone at this weekend market with its delicious food stalls.
There’s nothing more exciting than visiting a night market and one of the country’s best is found at Rotorua Night Market. Enjoy food, crafts, boutique shopping and more here.
If you are excited about picking up a bargain or two in New Zealand, definitely head towards Langton Quay in Wellington for clothes, books, shoes and more.
Queenstown is the place to head for expensive, brand name shopping. Sheepskin products, jewelry, original art can be bought here.
Auckland has a wide variety of shops from boutiques in Parnell, DFS Galleria Customhouse and mall shopping at St Luke’s Shopping Centre.
New Zealand’s Nightlife
Release your inner party animal in cities like Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch in New Zealand. These are definitely the best places to enjoy the nightlife in New Zealand.
There are a number of pubs, bars and nightclubs to enjoy in Auckland.
The Britomart Precinct, Ponsonby Road, K’Road, Kingsland and Parnell are places that have a high concentration of clubs and bars open at night.
If you are looking for something different, indulge in a superyacht ride with dance floors to while away the night.
The Orbit in the Skytower has a spectacular 360 degree view of the Auckland skyline. Enjoy dining there with a glittering view to feast your eyes on.
Head to Cuba Street in Wellington on Friday and Saturday to enjoy the party atmosphere. There are street shows, live performances and lots of food to keep you entertained. Some popular bars in Cuba Street include Malthouse and Mishmosh. Wellington also has an exceptional Opera House.
Enjoy some of the best music in town at ‘Darkroom’ in Christchurch. Enjoy the jazz and live music that livens the place up. The first Monday of the month means that it is magic night, with magicians and hypnotists to entertain.
Safety Tips for New Zealand
The New Zealand Police are in general, polite and helpful and are not usually armed. Crime is typically limited to theft and other forms of petty crime. Taking the usual precautions of securing valuables and locking vehicular doors should be taken, as in every other country. Violent crime can take place in rowdy settings with associated alcohol and drug consumption.
Extreme weather conditions are the most common natural hazard faced by a visitor in New Zealand. New Zealand is a part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, sits on a tectonic plate and hence experiences a fair share of strong earthquakes.
New Zealand has a number of active volcanoes. New Zealand lacks venomous animals. There are only two known species of poisonous spider, the katipo and the redback, which rarely bite.
Tap water is fit for consumption but care should be used against Giardia when tramping. Care should be used to apply sunscreen due to the high levels of UV rays in New Zealand.
New Zealand is a beautiful island country of unsurpassed natural beauty. Spread between the two main islands of the North Island and the South Island, along with a vast archipelago of smaller islands, New Zealand is separated from its nearest neighbour, Australia, by the Tasman Sea.
The natural beauty of New Zealand is so staggering and so out of this world, that it is not surprising that many of the most beautiful spots were used as locations in the stunning Lord of the Rings films.
Tongariro National Park was the setting for the land of Mordor with Mount Ngauruhoe used as Mount Doom. On New Zealand’s North Island you can find the town of Matamata where the Hobbiton set can be found.
The geothermal activities, hot springs and geysers in Rotorua can make for a rather thrilling experience.
The main islands are 12 hours ahead of GMT. The weather in New Zealand varies widely between the North and South Island and again regionally. Winters to the south of the South Island are pretty cold but much warmer to the north of the North Island. As a rule of thumb, rainfall is heavier on the western side of the island. Weather predictions in New Zealand, can be quite tricky. Make sure you are prepared for all conditions during your trip.
The towns of Auckland, Queenstown, Christchurch, Wellington and Dunedin are great entry points into the country. The high standards of living, multicultural nature of the cities, superior accommodation options make these cities good starting point for further New Zealand adventures.
The Maori name for New Zealand is Aotearoa or ‘land of the long white cloud’. May your visit to New Zealand be filled with happiness and a sense of discovery, like the early Polynesian travelers who found the country due to its surrounding cloud formations.
Travel tips for New Zealand