NEW ZEALAND TRAVEL INFORMATION

BEST TIME TO VISIT NEW ZEALAND

School holidays and public holidays

As with most destinations public holidays and school holidays are popular times for locals to travel.  This means transport, accommodation and tours/activity prices may be higher than normal and availability will be limited. If you are able to you might want to consider avoiding these times. We can advise you at your time of booking, if you want more information on specific dates see the links below.

 

Events

There are always events happening in New Zealand such as international sporting events, wine and food festivals, live music and festival and celebrations. These events attract a lot of visitors which means transport, accommodation and tours/activities will be more expensive and limited in availability.  More information on upcoming events can be found here New Zealand Event Calendar.

Seasonal activities

New Zealand has a temperate and so anytime is a good time to go, you can decide based on activities you want to do.  The weather can vary a lot between north and south and change quickly.

 

New Zealand has four seasons:

  • Summer is from December to February (The most popular time, the most expensive and busiest for tourism)

  • Autumn is from March to May (Foliage changes, summer crowds have left, off peak rates and great weather)

  • Winter is from June to August (Skiing, snowboarding, nightlife)

  • Spring is from September to November (cool at night but warm during the day, off peak pricing)

 
 

TIME ZONES

 

New Zealand has one main time zone (NZDT).

New Zealand has one main time zone (with the exception of the Chatham Islands)

How many hours will I gain or lose traveling to New Zealand?

Traveling direct from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, Dallas for example you will arrive 2 days later.  On your return the USA you arrive the same day that you left New Zealand.

TRAVELING IN NEW ZEALAND

How will I get around in New Zealand?

You have a few options which we can walk you through to see which one suits your plans.  Options include self driving, a private driver, public transport which is buses, trains and ferries, helicopter, domestic flights and tours.

Self driving 

This is a popular way to get around and explore New Zealand.  Driving in New Zealand is different than driving in other countries and you need to be aware of these differences before getting on the roads.  Here are the key differences:

  • Always drive on the left hand side of the road the driver sits on the right hand side.  This can be a challenge if you are used to driving on the right hand side of the road.  Always remember the driver will be seated in the middle of the road and the passenger in the front seat will always be on the side of the road.

  • Make sure you take regular breaks from driving particularly if you are jet lagged.  You can't focus on the different driving conditions if you are not well rested.

  • New Zealand roads are not like the large highways you will find in the USA.  Out of the cities you will find most roads are single lane with no barriers between each side of the road.  You must focus on staying on the left hand side of the road to avoid on coming traffic on the other side of the road.  Roads can be narrow, windy, hilly with quick drops and lots of hard turns.  There will be opportunities to pull over to the side to allow other drivers to pass or there maybe clearly marked dedicated passing lanes.

  • The weather can change quickly in New Zealand so you need to be prepared to driver in all conditions.  Winter weather can make road conditions dangerous. Always check the weather before heading off on a trip. Weather forecast  - New Zealand Met Service

  • There are 1500 rail crossings in New Zealand and only half of them have red lights indicating on oncoming train. Always look both ways when at a train crossing.

  • Speed limits must be adhered to and they are visibly signposted on roads. Even if the speed limit sign is not visible speed limits still apply. The speed limit is the maximum speed permitted on that road. Speed limits are strictly enforced, be careful in school zones and residential areas.  The maximum speed limit on open roads is 100 km/h and the maximum in urban areas is 50 km/h. Slow down if any road conditions are unsafe.

  • You are not permitted to use a handheld mobile phone when driving. So NO talking on phone calls, texting, playing games or any activity on your phone.

  • Everyone in the car must wear seat belts at all times. Children must be in child restraints, New Zealand rules are found at the New Zealand Travel Agency

  • Do not drink and drive, it is a crime to drive under the influence of either drink or drugs.

  • Useful websites to help you with driving in New Zealand are as follows:

Private Driver

A private driver is your own personal driver/guide to take you anywhere around New Zealand.  You can begin and end your travel in any city throughout New Zealand. You don’t have to end the tour in the same city you started it in and you can also incorporate any day tours in any city as well as any transfers required.  A private driver can get expensive if you only have one person, but if you have a group 4 people it can become quite reasonable to have your own personal guide.

Public Transport

Buses are the most common form of public transport and the cheapest to get between towns and cities.  There are daily scheduled passenger bus services throughout the country.  Coach companies also service main tourist routes.

 

Trains are not that common but there are three main train lines operated by Kiwirail. The Northern Explorer runs from Auckland to Wellington, The Coastal Pacific from Picton to Christchurch and the TranzAlpine from Christchurch to the West Coast. The TranzAlpine route is one of the most scenic rail journeys in the world.

Ferries are available for travel between the North and South Island, the South Island and Stewart Island, the mainland and New Zealand's offshore islands.  Popular islands near Auckland are Waiheke, Rangitoto and Great Barrier Island. The main ferry providers are InterIslander and Bluebridge. Water taxis are also offer scheduled services visiting smaller for example Queen Charlotte Sounds and Abel Tasman National Park.

Helicopter

Helicopter Charters offer the flexibility of point-to-point travel getting you, and your group, directly to where you need to be in luxury, comfort and style.  The versatility of helicopters allows you to land in both remote areas and busy city centers and get access to exclusive experiences such as heli-fishing, heli-skiing, private island dining – even landing on an active volcano! 

Domestic Flights

Domestic flights in New Zealand are very affordable and you can fly between all New Zealand cities and most major towns. Air New Zealand and Jetstar are the main providers with regional areas serviced by regional carriers, charters and scenic tour operators. No flights are more than 2 hours.

Tours

Group tours use both buses and ferries to get around New Zealand.  There are a number of group tour operators, if you are interested in these tours we can help you find the right tour provider to suit your needs.

 

Can I hire a car in New Zealand?

Yes you can and car hire companies have locations conveniently located in all major centers.  Most hire car companies will require a valid home country drivers license, a credit card for security and a passport for ID.  There are age restrictions to be able to hire a car.

Please see Self Drive information above for more details about driving in New Zealand.

VISA INFORMATION

Do you need a visa to enter New Zealand?

If you are a US citizen you do need a visa to enter Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji or French Polynesia. For travel to New Zealand you will need a US passport valid for at least 6 months and a Visa to enter New Zealand.  Nationalities of any other countries please ask your agent to see if you may need a Visitor Visa. 

 

You can process this Visa online here.  If you require assistance in getting your Visa, then one of our staff can assist you and we charge a USD30 processing fee for the assistance as well as the Visa issuance. Please let us know if you require assistance.

More information about the NZeTA New Zealand is summarized here

CUSTOMS & QUARANTINE REGULATIONS

 

What items can’t I bring into New Zealand?

There are strict customs laws to control what comes into New Zealand and there are biosecurity procedures upon arrival in New Zealand.  You will fill out an arrival card before you land and it lists all the items that must be declared or disposed of in marked amnesty bins. More information can be found at the Ministry of Primary Industries. Please read these rules and regulations carefully so you are not caught unaware upon arrival at a sea or air port.

How much money can I bring into New Zealand?

There's no restriction on how much foreign currency you can bring in to or take out of New Zealand. However, if you arrive at an airport carrying more than NZ$10,000 in cash you'll need to complete a Border Cash Report.

How much duty free can I bring into New Zealand?

  • Tobacco: 50 cigarettes or 50 grams (1,76 ounces) of cigars or tobacco products per adult.

  • Alcohol: 4.5 litres of wine or beer, and 3 bottles of spirits or liqueur — each bottle can hold up to 1.125 litres.

  • General goods: If you're bringing in more than NZ$700 worth of goods (not including your clothes, jewellery and toiletries), you'll need to declare it as you may have to pay duty fees or GST.

More information can be found at the New Zealand government website.

 

BANKING, SHOPPING & MONEY

What is the currency in New Zealand?

New Zealand dollars (NZD) is the currency and you will find notes in $100, $50, $20, $10, $5 and coins come in $2, $1, 50c, 20c, 10c. You can find more information about the currency at the Reserve Bank of New Zealand.

What is the currency conversion for USD to NZD?

You can calculate the conversion rate using XE Currency Converter

Should I get money out before I go to New Zealand and what is the best way to pay for things?

Banks are open from 9.30am to 4.30pm Monday to Friday. Automated Teller Machines (ATM) are widely available at banks, along main shopping streets and in malls. International credit cards and ATM cards will work as long as they have a four-digit PIN encoded. Check with your bank before leaving home.

EFTPOS is available in most shops and restaurants etc, so you can pay for goods and services using debit or credit cards.  If you are using a card associated with an international account there are usually foreign transaction fees charged.  American Express, Bankcard, Diners Club, MasterCard, Visa are accepted in most places.  Merchants may charge a fee for using credit cards in some places.  A good idea is to carry multiple credit cards and some cash so that you are prepared for any purchasing restrictions.

​What you need to know about Goods and Service tax.

All goods and services are subject to a 15 percent Goods and Services Tax (GST) included in the displayed price. Visitors cannot claim this tax back, however when a supplier ships a major purchase to a visitor's home address the GST will not be charged.

Do I tip for services in New Zealand?

In Australia, New Zealand, and the South Pacific, tipping is not customary or expected. If you feel that your server, tour guide, or resort staff has gone above and beyond, you can feel free to tip 10-20%, but you shouldn’t feel obligated to tip.

​Can I bargain with retailers and in markets for a better price?

It is not customary or expected that shoppers will bargain with the market prices in stores.

OTHER USEFUL INFORMATION

What is the legal drinking age in New Zealand?

The legal drinking age in New Zealand is 18 years old. You will be expected to provide acceptable proof of age, either a passport or drivers license.

What is the power in New Zealand and will I need an adapter?

The voltages is 220 - 240V, AC 50 Hz.  It would be wise to pack an adapter to be able to plug in electronics like laptops, ipads, iphones etc. What you need to get is a Type 1 plug like this one at World Standards.

What is the emergency number in New Zealand?

There is one number for police, ambulance and the fire brigade - 111

What is the mobile coverage like in New Zealand?

There is mobile phone coverage across New Zealand but can be patchy in more remote areas. For more information on coverage in areas you will be located you can use Open Signal. Most cellphone networks operate internationally, check with your local carrier before you leave home to see what international roaming packages they have to New Zealand. 

Where can I find WiFi?

New Zealand has fast WiFi/internet connections in most cities.  You will find many cafes and accommodation options provide free WiFi and internet access.  For more information on WiFi coverage in areas you will be located you can use Open Signal.

Can I use a drone in New Zealand?

Yes you can but you need to adhere to New Zealand's rules and regulations surrounding their use. They can be found on the Airshare website.

 
 
 
 
 

TRAVEL ADVICE

 

WEIRD & INTERESTING FACTS

Facts about New Zealand

  • The official language is English and Maori. You will find a lot of Maori words used for place names.

  • The Maori name of New Zealand is Aotearoa which means the land of the long white cloud.

  • Queen Elizabeth II is officially Queen of New Zealand, represented in the country by a Governor General.

  • To become a New Zealand citizen, among other things you must swear an oath of loyalty to Queen Elizabeth.

  • New Zealand is one of the world’s least populated countries with over 4 million populations.

  • New Zealanders are known as Kiwi's after New Zealand's native bird the Kiwi.

  • Some famous films have been made in New Zealand including The Whale Rider, The Piano, Lord of the Rings trilogy

  • Some famous New Zealander's are Lorde / Ella Maria Lani Yelich-O'Connor, Sir Edmund Hilary, Sir Ernest Rutherford, Sir Peter Jackson, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Jonah Lomu.

  • The world’s first commercial bungee jump was a 43 metre leap off the Kawarau Bridge in Queenstown in 1988.

  • In 1893, New Zealand became the first country to give women the right to vote.

  • Auckland also has the largest number of boats per capita than any other city in the world.

  • If you love surfing and other watersports there is nowhere in New Zealand is more than 120 km from the coast.

  • There are no nuclear power stations in New Zealand.

  • The longest place name in the world is Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateapokaiwhenuakitanatahu, a hill in Hawkes Bay. Which roughly translates as, “the place where Tamatea, the man with the big knees, who slid, climbed and swallowed mountains, known as the land-eater, played his nose flute to his loved ones”.

  • Wellington is the southernmost capital city in the world.

  • More people live in Auckland than in the whole of the South Island.

  • New Zealand has more Scottish pipe bands per capita than any other country in the world.

  • Baldwin Street, in Dunedin, is one of the world's steepest streets. The road has a gradient of 1 in 2.86 at its steepest section, a 38 per cent grade.

  • About one third of New Zealand is protected national park.

  • New Zealand was the last habitable land mass to be populated.

  • New Zealand is the only country in the world where all the highest positions have been simultaneously held by women: In 2006, the Queen, the Governor-General, the PM, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Chief Justice were all women.

  • With more than 400, New Zealand has more golf courses per capita than anywhere else in the world.

  • New Zealand is the 3rd closest country to Antarctica, only after Chile and Argentina.

  • Napier along with South Beach in Miami has the most art deco buildings in the world.

  • New Zealand is said to have more helicopters per capita than any other population on Earth.

  • In 2009, New Zealand topped the Global Peace Index earning the distinction of being the world’s most peaceful country.

  • New Zealanders are addicted to the outdoors, and “tramping” (walking or hiking) is the most popular national pastime.

  • Rugby is the most popular sport in New Zealand. It is the national sport of New Zealand and is played by 250,000 at the club level. The national team is named the All Blacks.

  • Cricket has been played in New Zealand for over 150 years and is New Zealand’s oldest organized sport.

  • New Zealand has won more Olympic gold medals, per capita, than any other country.

 

Facts about New Zealand animals

  • There are no snakes in New Zealand.

  • Only 5% of NZ's population is human- the rest are animals.

  • New Zealand is home to the world's smallest dolphin species, the Hector's Dolphin.

  • New Zealand is home to the giant weta, the heaviest insect in the world. It is heavier than a sparrow and looks like a giant cockroach.

  • There is a giant carnivorous snail living in the South Island, the Powelliphanta snail

  • Moa birds were native to NZ, but are now extinct. They were 12 feet tall and weighed about 230kg.

  • The only land mammals native to NZ are bats. The rest were introduced by Maoris and Europeans.

  • New Zealand is home to more different species of penguin than anywhere else in the world.

  • New Zealand has seven times as many sheep and three times as many cows as people.

  • The Kiwi, which is a little flightless bird native to New Zealand, lays eggs that are about 20% of the mother’s body. Kiwi eggs are six times as big as normal for a bird of its size.

  • The kiwi is the only bird in the world that has a sense of smell.

  • The kea, a bird native to New Zealand, is known for pulling windscreen wipers off cars and eating the strips of rubber from windows. In fact, many tourists suffer damages on their car rentals thanks to this little bird.

  • New Zealand is the world’s second-largest producer of wool (after Australia).

  • New Zealand’s eels live to 80 years old and breed only once, at the end of their life.

  • The glowworm (Arachnocampa luminosa) can be found on cave roofs in New Zealand.  It glows a bluish-green color from the sticky silk threads on it's body.

Facts about New Zealand food

  • Kiwifruit were originally called Chinese gooseberries.

  • New Zealand is one of the top five dairy producers in the world. Dairy farmers produce 220 lb. (100 kg) of butter and 143 lb. (65 kg) of cheese each year for each person living in New Zealand.

  • The hāngī was the most widely used method of cooking by Māori for more than 2000 years. Now saved mainly for special occasions, foods cooked in a hāngī  include chicken, pork and mutton, as well as various vegetables.

  • Fish and chips are a Kiwi favorite, the most common fish used is snapper, terakihi and hoki. It's battered and deep fried.  you can find them pretty much everywhere in New Zealand. Originally from Britain where fish and chips served with salt, vinegar and mushy peas, in New Zealand you'll find them served with tomato and tartare sauce.

  • Meat pies are taken very seriously in New Zealand and 70 million pies are eaten every year. There is a national pie competition and it's very competitive.

  • New Zealand has three main wine regions, Marlborough (58.1%), Hawkes Bay (20.2%) and Gisborne (16.15).  Two-thirds of New Zealand's wine production is white wine.

  • The weta is a harmless wingless insect that dates back 190 million years.  It is the world's heaviest insect at 71 grams (2.5 ounces).

  • The pavlova is a celebrated New Zealand dessert.  It is a meringue cake topped with whipped cream and fresh fruit. There is a lot of controversy as to whether the dessert originated in New Zealand or Australia. 

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