Split over two major islands and a couple of smaller ones, with stunning landscape, sandy beaches, rich culture and vivid wildlife, it’s really no surprise New Zealand is such a famous travelling destination. Covering everything from cultural attractions to radical sports, it offers travellers the experience of a lifetime. Whether you are backpacking, attending an event, travelling for business or on a family holiday, two things are certain - there is plenty to do in sunny New Zealand and you will never forget your visit.
Spring – September to November – enjoy mild temperatures and booming wildlife as well as an ever changing scenery. Spring is waterfall season in New Zealand and the country has that many waterfalls and rapids that there are guides on how to visit and find them!
Summer – December to February – pleasantly warm weather combined with water and sun activities make for the perfect summer in New Zealand. There are many activities to choose from, from walks on the beach and wine tastings, to hiking and cycling, through to windsurfing and skydiving, depending on taste, lifestyle and fitness level.
Autumn – March to May – the perfect time of the year for slower sunny days. As the temperature cools down from the summer days but is still warmer than spring, you can bask in the sun and enjoy slower paced activities.
Winter – June to August – there is no time to hibernate in New Zealand. Winter is when the skiing season begins on the surrounding mountains and all the winter festivals start.
Important Information & Travel Tips
The official language of New Zealand is English, with most of the population speaking it as their first and only language.
Visas depend on where you are coming from, how long you intend to stay and what you will be doing during your stay, but there is a wide list of nationalities that don’t need a visa if only coming for a holiday, including British. Check the New Zealand immigration website for more information.
Money & Banking
• The currency in New Zealand is the New Zealand Dollar (NZ$), which is divided into 100 cents.
• Cash machines, or ATM's, are widely available at malls, shopping streets and banks throughout the country.
• Most major credit cards are widely accepted throughout New Zealand and ATM’s will accept them as long as they use a four-digit PIN.
• There is no limitation on how much cash you carry in or out of the country, but anyone carrying more than NZ$ 10,000 will be requested to fill a Boarder Cash Report.
• Because New Zealand doesn’t have any coins smaller than 10 cents (10c), a lot of prices in New Zealand are subject to “Swedish rounding”, when they are rounded to the next full amount either up or down. Prices ending in between 1 and 4 cents are rounded down and prices ending between 6 and 9 cents are rounded up.
• Travel Cheques are not widely accepted in stores, but are accepted and can be exchanged into New Zealand dollars at the airport, banks and hotels.
Tipping and Service Charges
Tipping is discretionary in New Zealand, so it is perfectly acceptable to simply pay the amount stated on the bill. However, tipping for good service is commonplace. In restaurants where table service is provided, a tip of between 5-10% is sufficient.
Voltage & Electricity
New Zealand voltage is 240AC (50 hertz). Most hotels and motels will also provide 110AC sockets for electric razors only. Power outlets use a flat three- or two-pin plug.
Phones & Emergency Numbers
The dialling code for New Zealand is +64.
In case of an emergency 111 can be dialled from any public or domestic line, free of charge. This will connect you to the emergency operators for Police, Fire and Ambulance services.
The same number can be dialled from any mobile phone even if it’s out of credit.
New Zealand has two times zones. The main islands use New Zealand Standard Time (NZST), 12 hours forwards from the Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). Chatham Islands use the Chatham Island Time (CHAST) 12 hours and 45 mins ahead of UTC.
New Zealand observes a number of public holidays including:
1st and 2nd January - New Year Holiday
6th February – Waitangi Day
25th April - ANZAC Day
First Monday in June - Queen's Birthday
Fourth Monday in October – Labour Day
25th December - Christmas Day
26th December - Boxing Day
There are also Province Anniversary Days which are observed in January, February, March, November and December depending on where you are travelling to.
When a public holiday falls on the weekend (Saturday or Sunday) the following Monday, and Tuesday if necessary, are sometimes declared public holidays in lieu.
Most tourist attractions are closed during public holidays and shop opening times may alter.
The two main long-distance international airports in New Zealand are Auckland Airport (AKL) in the North Island and Christchurch International Airport (CHC) in the South Island. Other smaller international airports running limited services are Dunedin Airport (DUD) and Queenstown International Airport (ZQN) in the South as well as Hamilton Airport (HLZ), Rotorua Airport (ROT) and Wellington International Airport (WLG) in the North Island.
Domestic air travel is also relied upon in New Zealand and there is an extensive network of scheduled domestic services connecting several smaller domestic airports in both North and South Island.
Cruising is not only an amazing way to explore New Zealand’s exotic and extensive coastline, but it is also a well-established tradition, as until the 1960s there was no other way to get to the islands but by boat. There are many international cruise liners that make a stop here, the most popular travel from Australia and the South Pacific stopping at several points in both the North and South Island with the main hub for cruises sitting at Auckland.
New Zealand also boast a wealth of domestic day or overnight boat tours and boat cruising is considered part of the ‘New Zealand experience’. There are four main hubs for boat cruising in the country – Bay of Islands and Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf in the North Island and Marlborough Sounds and Fiordland in the South Island.
Although the rail network in New Zealand isn’t vast, it provides one of the most panoramic views in the world, snaking through the challenging landscape by sheer engineering prowess and ingenuity. There are three major routes – The Northern Explorer running in the North Island and the Coastal Pacific and TranzAlpine in the South Island. You can purchase individual trips or a rail travel pass.
The Norther Explorer route is longest and takes 12 hours to complete. As a whole, the Kiwirail network travels through over 40 tunnels and 170 bridges. Particular routes also benefit from observation carriages with outdoor or glass panoramic views.
An excellent national coach system links most major towns and cities. It’s cost effective and you can buy a single trip ticket or a travel pass that allows you to hop on and off. Several providers cover the main touristic routes.
For driving, while New Zealand benefits from a well-maintained and connected highway network, due to its geography and landscape, most of the roads are single lanes and can be windy, hilly or narrow outside metropolitan regions. There are very few motorways and not all rail crossings have automatic barriers, so you might need to manually stop and look if there are any trains approaching. Gravel roads and extreme weather conditions are also not uncommon. During winter, roads are regularly affected by snowfall and fog. For these reasons, it’s generally easy to underestimate the time it takes to drive any given distance outside a metropolitan area and journeys could take considerably longer. It’s advisable to allocate plenty of time for any road trips.
• If renting a car, you will be requested to complete the Visiting Driver Training Programme online. You should complete this at home and print the certificate to present it to your rental car company.
• Much like in the UK, in New Zealand traffic drives on the left.
• Seat belts must be worn at all times and drivers must have their driving licence with them when driving.
• Distances and speed are measured in kilometres (Km) and speed restrictions apply with a limit of 50kph (31mph) in built-up areas and 100kph (62mph) on country roads and highways, unless otherwise sign-posted.
• Drinking, driving under the influence or speaking on a handheld mobile phone device while driving are criminal offences in New Zealand.
• There are also different rules on parking, overtaking and turning at junctions that are worth checking.