Important tips for visiting New Zealand -from planning to shopping tips – we’ve got you covered.
New Zealand is a beautiful country with many things to see and do. It’s also one of the most expensive countries in the world, so it can be difficult to visit if you don’t have plenty of money saved up. Here are my essential tips for visiting New Zealand.
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Top Tip for Visiting New Zealand
Don’t try to see it all.
It’s a pretty simple concept (and honestly is true for every trip unless you’re visiting somewhere for an extended period of time), but harder to practice. This is especially true when visiting a faraway destination like New Zealand. It was a full 24 hours of travel time from New York, and I really wanted to see everything I could in our short two weeks. There are two islands which you can easily spend a month exploring each. As long as you have this in mind before you visit, then hopefully you won’t be disappointed.
Safety Tips for Visiting New Zealand
The country boasts a low level of violent crimes and property theft, as well as relatively few incidents involving firearms or other weapons. The basic rules always apply – no matter where you travel. Lock up your valuables, avoid walking alone at night, and be aware of your surroundings. Sometimes you’re able to research ahead of time so you know which places are best left unexplored.
In the case of an emergency, dial 111 to get connected to an ambulance, fire department, or the police.
Planning Tips for Visiting New Zealand
Plan according to the seasons
» The weather is generally good all year round but it can be cold at higher altitudes during winter.
» Summer brings warm days with little rain or wind. It also sees fewer tourists than in other seasons.
» Spring and autumn offer great hiking opportunities as well as some spectacular scenery.
» In winter you’ll need snow gear if heading up into the mountains. (not to mention great prices around the country).
Spring is when the weather is most unstable (and has some strong winds!). If you’re visiting in spring or winter, be sure to invest in a windproof jacket! You’ll be glad you’re protected from the wind.
Travel in the shoulder season
Shoulder season is always a good time to travel anywhere – so research about it. International and domestic flights are cheaper, attractions are less crowded, and accommodation is more affordable.
Pack for every kind of weather
The climate changes greatly throughout the island. On the South Island, you’ll find the semi-arid Central Otago wine region to the North Island’s forested coast. Layers are essential! Along with the windproof jacket, I recommend a waterproof (or at least resistant) bag. You’ll be glad you have a bag like this one if you get caught in a rainstorm!
Book accommodation well in advance
New Zealand is a popular place for tourists to visit. You can usually expect a lot of booked-out hotels during the high season. You need to reserve a room asap, whether you’re visiting in the summer or at an eco-resort in the winter.
Plan to see the first sunrise in the world.
While many think Japan is home to the first sunrise, it’s actually New Zealand. On the North Island, the small city of Gisborne is home to the world’s first sunrise.
Transportation Tips for Visiting New Zealand
Choose a mode of transport that suits your itinerary
It’s not necessary to drive in New Zealand unless you want to explore some really secluded locations – or if you love a good road trip, and who could blame you? If you’re planning on traveling by train, there is no direct service from Auckland to Christchurch, but it will take about 3 hours to get to Queenstown via the scenic Rimutaka Incline railway. The journey takes around 2 1/2 hours each way. The best option for getting across both islands would probably be flying – flights arrive into either Auckland or Wellington airport depending on where you are coming from. There is also a few daily ferries from Wellington to Picton, so you can get from the North to South Island easily.
Be prepared to drive on the left.
Yep. New Zealanders (Kiwis) drive on the left, so be prepared to be a bit awkward. Brush up on road rules, regulations, and signs before driving. You don’t want to be one of those tourists in a car crash on the news!
Add time to any Google Maps time.
Google knows “time to destination” if you’re going the speed limit. It doesn’t take into account being in a new destination, narrow roads, hairpin turns, or breathtaking views. Add in time for all of that!
Be aware of one lane bridges
Most bridges around the country are only wide enough for one car. Slow down, read the signs. It’ll typically indicate who has the right of way – but be prepared in case the other driver isn’t aware.
Extra Travel Tip: Gas is expensive. It’s per liter, not gallon (sorry Americans!) This means, whatever you see on the sign, multiply it by FOUR for the price per gallon.
Shopping Tips for Visiting New Zealand
Prices will be rounded
The smallest coin in New Zealand is a ten-cent piece – so you won’t see any .99 cents. It’ll always be rounded to the nearest zero! Whew, less math!
Sales tax is included
I always love this. No math, no surprises. What you see is what you pay!
Jade necklaces are everywhere – and great souvenirs
New Zealand jade (or greenstone) is a common gift from Kiwis and a popular souvenir. They’re often carved with traditional Maori designs or you can design your own carving (for a price!)
Food & Drink Tips for Visiting New Zealand
Enjoy a Flat White
While the drink is available in both Australia and New Zealand, the claim to be the creator belongs to New Zealand. This unique drink is similar to a latte but different. There’s less foam and less volume than a latte. It’s also typically served in a ceramic cup. It’s the most popular drink in the country (and has started making its way throughout the world via Starbucks!)
Savor the Seafood
Since no matter where you are in New Zealand, the ocean is nearby – which means great seafood! From King Salmon in Mount Cook to the oysters in Bluff – your taste buds won’t be disappointed!
Tipping isn’t necessary
It’s not compulsory to add a tip. Many restaurants add a service charge to the bill already. If you receive exceptional service, feel free to give a small tip.
The wine is fantastic & affordable
New Zealand wine is some of my favorite. Enough said.
Extra travel tip: Bring your passport to buy booze. Some places ID anyone who look under 40!
Be prepared for food prices
Eating out can be expensive in New Zealand. Prepare for it in your budget and know how much money to bring traveling. Get your snacks at a grocery store to save money or cook in your accommodation!
General Travel Tips for New Zealand
Reapply your sunscreen often!
There’s a whole in the ozone above Oceania – so you’ll burn faster than you think. Add in a cooling breeze and your skin will be red before you even notice. Check out this reef-friendly sunscreen to help protect the environment.
Tap water is safe to drink
You don’t need to buy bottled water – the tap is delicious (basically drinking from a glacier!)
Hiking is important!
There are countless trails around the country – from hour-long easy hikes to multi-day hikes, New Zealanders take their hiking seriously. Trails are well-maintained, with toilets and trash bins at the trailheads.
Bonus travel tip: National parks are free! Unlike the US where we have an entrance fee.
Don’t skip the major cities!
While New Zealand is filled with adventure activities, hiking, and delicious food, the cities are awesome. Wellington is the southernmost capital in the world, while Auckland is the largest city. Both have incredible things to see!