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New Zealand travel guide - Travel S helper

New Zealand

travel guide

New Zealand is a Pacific island country located in the southwest Pacific Ocean. Geographically, the nation is divided into two major landmasses: the North Island, or Te Ika-a-Mui, and the South Island, or Te Waipounamu, as well as many smaller islands. New Zealand is located about 1,500 kilometers (900 miles) east of Australia and approximately 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga. Due to its remoteness, it was one of the last human settlements. New Zealand acquired a unique variety of animal, fungal, and plant life during its prolonged isolation. The country’s diverse terrain and steep mountain peaks, such as the Southern Alps, are mostly the result of land tectonic upheaval and volcanic eruptions. Wellington is the capital city of New Zealand, but Auckland is the most populated city.

Polynesians arrived in the islands that would become New Zealand between 1250 and 1300 CE and established a unique Mori culture. In 1642, Dutch adventurer Abel Tasman became the first European to see New Zealand. The Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840 between representatives of the British Crown and Mori Chiefs, establishing New Zealand as a British colony. Today, the bulk of New Zealand’s 4.7 million inhabitants are of European ancestry; the indigenous Mori are the biggest minority, followed by Asians and Pacific Islanders. As a result, New Zealand’s culture is mostly descended from Mori and early British immigrants, with recent expansion resulting from increasing immigration. The official languages of New Zealand are English, Mori, and New Zealand Sign Language, with English being the most widely spoken.

New Zealand is a developed economy that operates on a market economy model. New Zealand is a high-income country that scores well in worldwide assessments of national performance across a range of indicators, including health, education, economic independence, and overall quality of life. On a national level, legislative authority is vested in an elected, unicameral Parliament, while executive political authority is exercised by the Cabinet, which is presently headed by John Key. The country’s head of state is Queen Elizabeth II, who is represented by a governor-general. Additionally, New Zealand is organized for local government purposes into 11 regional councils and 67 territory administrations. Additionally, the Realm of New Zealand include Tokelau (a dependent territory); the Cook Islands and Niue (self-governing nations in free association with New Zealand); and the Ross Dependency, which is New Zealand’s Antarctic territorial claim. New Zealand is a member of the United Nations, Commonwealth of Nations, ANZUS, OECD, Pacific Islands Forum, and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation.

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New Zealand - Info Card




New Zealand dollar ($) (NZD)

Time zone



268,021 km2 (103,483 sq mi)

Calling code


Official language

English, Māori

New Zealand | Introduction

Weather & Climate in New Zealand

New Zealand has a temperate maritime climate, characterized by warm summers, cool winters, as well as regular precipitation all year round. There are four seasons: Summer in December to February and Winter in June to August (the opposite of the Northern Hemisphere). The country’s geography creates about 10 distinct climatic regions, ranging from the subtropical north of Auckland to the continental and semi-arid area in central Otago.

The mountain ranges along New Zealand’s northeast-southwest axis form a barrier to the strong prevailing westerly winds-often referred to as the roaring forties. Moist air hitting the mountains is pushed up and cooled, with the moisture falling back to the west as rain. As a result, more than average rain falls in the western half of the country and less than average in the eastern half. In the South Island, this effect tends to be the strongest, with the Southern Alps. On the west coast, they receive between 2000-7000 mm of precipitation annually, compared to only 500-800 mm on the Canterbury and Otagoin coasts in the east. Most other places receive between 600 and 1600 mm per year on average. In the north and central parts of the country, it is generally drier in summer. In the south, it is generally drier in winter.

Daily summer highs average between 17 ° C and 25 ° C. Daily winter highs average 7 ° C to 16 ° C and nighttime lows average -3 ° C to 8 ° C. The warmest temperatures are generally found in the north and east of both islands, while the coolest temperatures are generally found in the interior of both islands and on the southern South Island. Sunshine hours are highest in the Bay of Plenty, Nelson Bays and Marlborough.

Snow is found mainly in the mountainous parts of the country and in some inland areas, and may occasionally close mountain passes and high roads in winter. In the eastern and southern parts of the South Island, snow may fall to sea level every 1-2 years. Snow on the western South Island and coastal North Island is rare. Wellington brings snow to sea level on average every 40-50 years. The unprotected areas of the country can get a bit windy especially in the center through the Cook Strait and around Wellington.

The weather in New Zealand is very changeable, and even in summer you can get all four seasons in one day. Be prepared for the weather to change from good to showers (and vice versa) without notice.

Geography of New Zealand

New Zealand consists of two main islands (the North Island and the South Island) and many smaller islands in the South Pacific Ocean, about 1,600 km southeast of Australia. With a population of 4.7 million in a country the size of the United Kingdom or Italy, many areas are sparsely populated. The South Island is larger than the North Island and is sometimes called ” the mainland,” though it has only 1/3 the population of the North Island.

Make sure you have enough time to travel around New Zealand. It’s definitely worth touring each island for at least three or four weeks, although you can certainly see highlights in much less time. Roads wind along the coast and through mountain ranges, especially on the South Island. In exit surveys at Christchurch International Airport, many international visitors said they had underestimated the time it would take to really enjoy their visit.

Auckland is the largest city in New Zealand and Polynesia, with a population of about 1.49 million. A city with a population of over 1 million, it is also the most remote city in the world – the closest equivalent city is Sydney, 2,150 km away. Wellington, on the southern tip of the North Island, is the country’s capital and third largest city (population 207,000). It replaced Auckland as the capital of the country in 1865 when the parliament had decided to relocate to a more central location.

People in New Zealand

As of June 2016, 4.69 million people live in New Zealand. Just under 1.10 million live on the South Island, the majority on the North Island. Waiheke Island in the Gulf of Hauraki off the coast of Auckland is by far the most populous offshore island, with 9,200 inhabitants. Over half of the country’s population lives in the four largest urban areas: Auckland (1,495,000), Wellington (405,000), Christchurch (390,000) and Hamilton (230,000).

New Zealand, a former British colony, has a population of primarily European descent with a substantial indigenous Māori minority and significant Asian and Polynesian groups. Approximately 11% of people in New Zealand are identified with more than one ethnic group, the most common being the combination of Europeans and Māori.

About 43.5% of New Zealanders are Christian, 38.5% are non-religious, and 6% follow non-Christian religions (12% of New Zealanders did not answer the question).

Time zones in New Zealand

New Zealand leads the world in time!

Part of New Zealand but 800 kilometers east of Christchurch, the Chatham Islands observe Chatham Islands Standard Time (CIST) by adding 12 hours and 45 minutes to Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), resulting in UTC + 12: 45. Nepal is the only other formal time zone with a 45-minute increment of UTC. The Line Islands of Kiribati; Tonga and Samoa are the only time zones further ahead of UTC.

The main islands of New Zealand are 12 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (UTC + 12 = NZST = New Zealand Standard Time) and 20 hours ahead of Pacific Standard Time (PST).

Daylight saving time (UTC + 13 = NZDT = New Zealand Daylight Time) begins on the last Sunday in September and ends on the first Sunday in April.

Language in New Zealand

English is the main language of New Zealand, spoken by 97% of the population, and one of the country’s three official languages. Te Reo Māori, the language of New Zealand’s indigenous Māori people, and New Zealand Sign Language, the language of New Zealand’s deaf community, are the other two official languages.

The New Zealand English dialect generally follows the spelling conventions and vocabulary choices of the (British) Commonwealth, but also contains many local slangs, often derived from the Māori, and is sufficiently distinctive to warrant its own Oxford Dictionary version. Word usage can also vary occasionally, which can be awkward for travellers. Many words that Americans find offensive or for which they have euphemisms are considered acceptable usage. For example, a New Zealand bathroom refers to a room that contains a bath, while other facilities that an American would call a bathroom or toilet are called a toilet (in many New Zealand homes, the toilet and bathroom are separate rooms). The American habit of “paginating” swear words in broadcasts is considered quaint and is rarely practised in local programmes. New Zealand broadcast media has an unusual tolerance for swear words when used in context.

New Zealanders say that a certain place is on the North Island or the South Island (e.g. “Auckland is on the North Island”), not on the North Island. However, this rule only applies to the two main islands; New Zealanders always say, for example, on Waiheke Island.

The letter Z is always pronounced as “zed”. Nothing will make you stand out more as an American tourist than the pronunciation of NZ as en-zee.

The New Zealand accent is somewhat nasalised, with flattened vowel sounds and vowel shifts. New Zealanders consider their accent to be distinctly different from that of Australians and are often easily offended when they are mistaken for Australians. New Zealand terminology and slang also differ from Australian usage. Americans find the New Zealand accent easy to understand, as do Australians and Britons. Some European dialects find it a little more difficult and Asians can find it quite hard to understand; however, New Zealanders are happy to repeat what they have just said if necessary.

Māori is spoken by both a minority of Māori and language learners (3.7% of New Zealand’s population in the 2013 census). Māori is offered as a language of study in many educational institutions in place of English. The Māori language is spoken by some, but not all, Māori and some non-Māori speakers, especially in the far north and east of the North Island. Most travellers would not need to learn Māori, as almost all native Māori speakers can also speak English. Nevertheless, the strong Māori influence on New Zealand place names means that knowing Māori pronunciation can be useful, and even most non-native speakers of New Zealand who do not speak Māori know how to pronounce Māori words. The biggest difficulty for non-New Zealanders is pronouncing Māori ‘f’ as in father, so for example Whakatane is pronounced fa-ka-ta-nee, not wa-ka-ta-nee.

New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) was granted official language status in 2005 and is the main language of the New Zealand Deaf community. About 0.5% of New Zealand’s population “speak” it. It is closely related to British Sign Language and Australian Sign Language, with which it shares 80% of the signs and the same two-handed hand alphabet. However, NZSL places more emphasis on facial expressions and mouthing words, reflecting the oralist teaching methods historically used in schools for the deaf (before 1979, deaf students were whipped into signing in the classroom). It also includes other unique signs relating to New Zealand, such as Māori words and place names.

New Zealand is a popular destination for migrants from around the world, particularly from Asia and the Pacific Islands, and you will often find areas and suburbs where immigrant communities speak their respective languages. The most common non-official languages spoken by New Zealand residents are Samoan (2.2%), Hindi (1.7%), Mandarin (1.3%), French (1.2%) and Cantonese (1.1%). Many New Zealanders learn a foreign language at school, but few master it beyond the basic level.

Common expressions

In general, New Zealand English expressions follow British English. However, New Zealand English has also borrowed a lot from Māori and there are a number of other expressions that are not common elsewhere or may confuse the visitor.

  • Bach (pronounced “batch” as in bachelor) – holiday home; often on the beach and consisting of a fairly rudimentary dwelling. In the south of the South Island it is often called a “crèche”.
  • Bring a plate – (see also; “Ladies a plate”) means that each participant in the event must bring a plate of food to share with the other guests. Today it is outdated and not used so often.
  • BYO – Bring your own. If you give the name of a restaurant that does not have a liquor licence, you can bring your own wine to the meal, but often have to pay a small corkage fee.
  • Clayton’s – To call something Clayton’s implies that the item is not functional or is a poor imitation of the original. Named after the non-alcoholic whisky that was briefly marketed in the late 1970s and early 1980s under the slogan “The drink you are having when you are not having a drink”. It is not used as much today.
  • Dairy – convenience store, corner shop; few foreigners understand it, although it is well used by locals who encounter problems when travelling abroad and are surprised when they ask where the dairy is. The term dates from before supermarkets sold mainly dairy products (milk, cheese, butter, etc.). Today, many dairies are owned and operated by Indian immigrants.
  • Admission by gold (or silver) coin (donation) – Admission to an event, exhibition, gallery or museum is by paying a coin of the appropriate metal, often in the donation box at the door. In New Zealand, gold coins are the $1 and $2 coins, while silver coins are the 20 and 50 cent coins, and the dime is made of copper. (See also “Koha” below).
  • Glidetime – Flexible working hours often practised in the public sector. Under this system, workers can start and finish work at the times of their choice, from 7am to 6pm, although they have to work the basic hours of 9am to 12pm and 2pm to 3:30pm, and work an average of 40 hours a week. We don’t hear about that so much today.
  • Half cake or half pay – Usually a job or task that is not done satisfactorily (see Māori pay = good).
  • Jandals (= Spanish saNDALS) – “flip-flops” for most of the world; “thongs” for Australians; “slops” for South Africans.
  • Kiwi – A nickname for a New Zealander or an adjective for something New Zealand, named after an endangered flightless bird that is one of the country’s national emblems. It is not a pejorative term.
  • Lollies – sweets; candies; sweets.
  • Togs – swimming costume, swim trunks, swimming costume; clothes you wear when you go swimming.
  • Tramping – Hiking.

Slang expressions

You may be looked at funny if you use Kiwi slang in New Zealand, but it can be used inadvertently in conversation. If you don’t understand it, just ask and most New Zealanders will explain it to you.

  • on the other side of the trench – Australia. The trench refers to the Tasman Sea, which separates New Zealand and Australia (see the pond between North America and Europe).
  • Barbie – abbreviation for barbecue
  • Bro (rhymes with “snow”) – abbreviation for bro, a form of personal address like matebuddy or bud.
  • Bush – forest. Usually means indigenous forest as opposed to plantation forest.
  • Chicks – Girls.
  • The selection! – Cool, great.
  • Wellington boots – also known as Wellington boots or rain boots
  • as new – in perfect condition.
  • Partner – any other person, male or female. Can be used alone to express a range of different emotions, depending on the birth. A short “mate” combined with a slight lift of the head and eyebrows can be seen as a greeting, while a longer “maaaaaate” combined with a pinch of the head and a narrowing of the eyes can be seen as a reprimand.
  • nibbling – broken, damaged, unusable. It only became popular after the 2011 Christchurch earthquake (which essentially swallowed half the city).
  • Oi – hey. Can be understood as a warning or joke, comes from punk usage.
  • That’s very nice! – Cool, good thing, no problem. Often abbreviated to “sweet”.
  • Wop-wops – isolated rural area; in the middle of nowhere.

Māori words and phrases

  • Kia ora – Hello, welcome, literally well. Often used as an expression of approval, especially in a one-day speech.
  • Haere mai – A greeting to a person arriving, while haere ra is a greeting to a person leaving.
  • Hui – A meeting or gathering to discuss and debate issues in the traditional Māori way.
  • Iwi – A Māori tribe or people, sometimes referred to as waka (canoe) because some Iwi are named after the sea canoes their ancestors brought to New Zealand.
  • Koha – Māori term referring to gifts or donations. Often there is a gift exchange (sometimes the entrance signs say “Entry Koha”, meaning gold coin or whatever you would like to give).
  • Kai – Food. Together for Māori and Europeans.
  • Mana – is defined in English as authority, control, influence, prestige or power. It is also an honour.
  • Marae – A traditional Māori meeting or gathering place. Also a community centre.
  • Pakeha – The Māori word for New Zealanders who are not of Māori descent. The origin of the term is disputed; one theory is that it comes from a Māori story about spirit beings called “pakepakeha”. Some New Zealanders do not refer to themselves as “pakeha” because they find it offensive; others, however, consider the name part of their unique identity.
  • Paua – The abalone for the rest of the English-speaking world.
  • Powhiri – A welcoming ceremony of the Māori. Especially in a marae, but now also at the start of a conference or similar large meeting in New Zealand.
  • Whanau – An (extended) Māori family. Kinship. Often used in advertising for illiterate people with friends, e.g. “friends and whanau”.
  • Wharenui (literally big house) is the meeting house on a marae.
  • Wharekai (literally eating house) is the dining room and/or kitchen of a marae.
  • Wharepaku (literally small house) – toilets
    • Just in case, Tāne is the place for the men’s toilet, Wāhine is the place for the women’s toilet.

Internet & Communications in New Zealand


New Zealand has a well-developed and extensive telephone system. The country’s former telephone company, Spark, claimed in 2009 that there were about 4,000 phone boxes in New Zealand, easily recognisable by their yellow and blue colours, but these numbers are now declining. They accept all major credit cards and a range of retail phone cards. You may need to look for a coin-operated payphone.

There is an online directory for the telephone. You can also call directory enquiries on 018, although the operators might be a little hard to understand if you are not Filipino.

The international dialling code or prefix is 00. (When using a mobile phone, as everywhere else, the plus sign “+” can be used instead of the prefix 00).

The country code for international calls to New Zealand is +64. When calling from abroad, omit the “0” in the area code.

There are five primaries:

03 for the entire South Island, Stewart Island and the Chatham Islands

04 for the greater Wellington area (without Wairarapa)

06 for Taranaki, Whanganui, Manawatu, the north central island south of Mount Ruapehu, Hawke’s Bay, the east coast and Wairarapa.

07 for Waikato, the Bay of Plenty and the North Central Island north of Mount Ruapehu

09 for Auckland and Northland.

You must dial the area code when calling outside the local area, even if the area code is the same (e.g. you must dial 03 when calling Christchurch from Dunedin, 07 when calling Hamilton from Tauranga, etc.). Some of the rules that define what is a local call and what is a toll call can be confusing. For example, a call to Kaiapoi in Rolleston (37 km away) is a local call, but Kaiapoi in Rangiora (11 km away) is a toll call – if in doubt, give the area code.

Freephone numbers start with 0508 or 0800 and cannot be connected from outside New Zealand.

Collect (reverse charge) calls can be made by calling the operator on 010 (or 0170 for international calls) and following the instructions.

The emergency number is 111, except in Chatham Islands where it is +64 3 305-0111.

Mobile phones

All of New Zealand’s major mobile networks claim to have reception “where 97 per cent of New Zealanders live, work and play”, although this should be taken with a grain of salt. Mobile coverage is good near urban areas, although the mountainous terrain means that outside urban areas, and especially far from the main road network, coverage can be patchy. Do not rely on mobile phones in hilly or mountainous terrain. Mobile phone users can only call *555 to report non-emergency road traffic incidents, such as a breakdown, a traffic hazard or an injury-free car accident, to the police.

In New Zealand, all mobile numbers usually start with 02 followed by eight digits (there are a few seven and nine digit numbers in the 021 range).

There are currently three major mobile networks in New Zealand.

  • 2degrees operates a relatively young 2G/3G network covering most of the country, with coverage gaps filled by national roaming from Vodafone. LTE (4G) coverage is being rolled out gradually.
  • Spark (formerly Telecom NZ) operates a nationwide 3G network (using the same frequencies as Telstra in Australia and AT&T in the US). LTE (4G) coverage is available in Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington, and other areas are being rolled out gradually. Spark no longer operates a 2G network; its CDMA network was closed in July 2012.
    • Skinny is a Spark brand that offers the same service at a lower price.
  • Vodafone NZ operates a national 2G/3G network and an LTE (4G) network in Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin, Nelson, Queenstown, Wellington and other smaller centres, with more areas being rolled out gradually. Vodafone also offers a visitor SIM card specifically designed for travellers.

SIM cards are available everywhere and no registration is required. Most airports and shopping centres have shops of all network providers where you can buy access and get information about their networks. SIM cards and vouchers are also available in supermarkets and dairies. A prepaid SIM card connection pack with a $20 credit from Vodafone costs about $30, prepaid SIM cards from 2degrees and Spark cost $5 and Skinny costs $2.

Standard SIM cards, micro-SIMs and nano-SIMs are available from all mobile phone providers, as are data packages for use in iPads or USB modems.


Some places offer free Wi-Fi to their guests. Often it is available for a fee.

Internet access is available in internet cafés, of which there are usually many in large cities. Some internet (cyber) cafés may not be properly maintained, but there are places in the area that maintain a high level of security for their systems. If you have your own laptop, many internet cafes allow wired or wireless access. It is becoming more common to allow tourists to use their own laptops for internet access.

Many public libraries have public access to the internet. There may be a charge. The Auckland City Public Library offers two 15-minute sessions daily, which are free. Hourly rates are usually in the range of $4 to $8. Internet cafes in major city centres have cheaper rates of around $2 to $4. Some providers, such as the Christchurch Public Library network, offer free access to certain websites, usually sites of interest such as Google, BBC and CNN, as well as sites in the top-level domain . nz.

You can buy vouchers for Wi-Fi access at many Starbucks cafés, and many McDonald’s fast food outlets have a free Wi-Fi connection. It is becoming more common for hotels and motels to use vouchers, but they are rarely included in the room rate. Wireless access points are available in many New Zealand towns, from specialist mobile phone providers where you can buy connection time. Many camping holiday parks also offer this service. Free Wi-Fi is not widely available, but the best free sites are in the libraries of many small and medium-sized towns.

Wellington, Auckland and Dunedin airports have free Wi-Fi, but Christchurch airport still charges for wireless service in the terminals.

Spark offers free Wi-Fi to its mobile customers through its nationwide network of payphones. Non-customers can purchase access for $9.99/week after a free trial week. The data cap is set at 1 GB per day.

The speed of the internet in New Zealand is comparable to other countries in the world, but don’t expect slow internet to access international sites. Bear in mind that the country is separated from its nearest neighbour by 2,200 km of water and undersea cables are not cheap to build and maintain. Most New Zealanders use ADSL broadband for their internet connection, with download speeds of 15 Mbit/s to ~5 Mbit/s in cities and upload speeds of up to 1 Mbit/s. Cable internet is available in parts of Wellington and Christchurch, and VDSL broadband (70 Mbps download/10 Mbps upload) is available in most cities. Fibre internet to the home (‘Ultra Fast Broadband’ or UFB) with speeds of up to 100 Mbps downstream/50 Mbps upstream is being rolled out in major cities, although it won’t be fully completed in some centres until 2019. If you are travelling to a remote rural area, expect internet to be available via 3G mobile broadband if available, or via satellite or even dial-up if not.


The national post office is the New Zealand Post Office. If you stay in the same place for a while, you can rent a post office box. The New Zealand Post Office also offers night and day mail services throughout New Zealand.

Poste Restante is a low-cost service for receiving letters and parcels from overseas during your stay in New Zealand and is available at post offices across the country. Stationary delivery is available nationwide at local PostShops and some PostCentres if you need a short-term postal address for up to three months.

Postcards cost $1.00 to send within New Zealand (2 to 3 days) and $2.20 to send internationally (3 to 10 days). Letters up to DL size (130 mm × 235 mm) cost the same as postcards within New Zealand and to Australia and the South Pacific; letters to other destinations cost $2.70.

Mailing addresses usually have the following format:.

Name of the beneficiary

Street/PO Box number

Suburb/DR number/PO Box

City Postcode

Economy of New Zealand

New Zealand has a high-income advanced economy with a nominal gross domestic product (GDP) per capita of $36,254. The currency of New Zealand is the New Zealand dollar, known as the “Kiwi dollar.” It also circulates in the Cook Islands , Niue, Tokelau, and the Pitcairn Islands. In 2013, New Zealand was ranked 6th on the Human Development Index.

Historically, the extractive industry has been a strong contributor to New Zealand’s economy, focusing at different times on sealing, whaling, flax, gold, cow gum, and native timber. With the development of refrigerated shipping in the 1880s, meat and dairy products were exported to Britain, a trade that formed the basis for strong economic growth in New Zealand. During the 50s and 60s, the increased demand for agricultural products from the UK and the US has helped New Zealanders to create a high standard of living compared to Western Europe and Australia. During 1973, New Zealand’s export market decreased when the UK became a member of the European Community. Other factors, such as the 1973 oil and energy crisis, led to a severe economic depression. Living standards in New Zealand lagged behind those in Australia and Western Europe, and by 1982 New Zealand had the lowest per capita income of any industrialized nation surveyed by the World Bank. New Zealand de-regulated its agriculture sector during the mid-1980s, allowing subsidies to be phased out over a period of 3 years. Since 1984, successive governments have implemented large-scale macroeconomic reforms, rapidly changing New Zealand from a highly protectionist economy to a liberalized free-trade economy.

Unemployment peaked above 10% in 1991 and 1992 after the 1987 stock market crash, but fell to a record low of 3.4% in 2007 (ranking fifth out of 27 comparable OECD countries). However, the ensuing global financial crisis had a significant impact on New Zealand, with GDP contracting for five consecutive quarters, the longest recession in over thirty years, and unemployment rising again to 7% in late 2009. In May 2012, the General The unemployment rate was 6.7%, while the unemployment rate for youth aged 15-21 was 13.6%. In September 2014, unemployment was 5.4%. New Zealand has experienced a series of “brain drains” since the 1970s that continue today. Nearly a quarter of the highly skilled workforce lives overseas, mainly in Australia and the UK. This is the largest proportion of any industrialized nation. In recent years, however, a “brain gain” has attracted educated professionals from Europe and less developed countries.

Entry Requirements For New Zealand

Minimum validity of travel documents
⦁ Citizens and permanent residents of New Zealand and Australia are only required to present a valid passport on the day of arrival and departure.
⦁ Other persons entering New Zealand as visitors, students or temporary workers must present a passport valid for at least 3 months beyond the date of expected departure, or 1 month beyond the date of expected departure if the issuing government has a consular post in New Zealand capable of issuing and renewing travel documents (you should check with your issuing authority before departure).

Visa & Passport for New Zealand

Foreign nationals from the following countries/territories may enter New Zealand as visitors without a visa, provided they present a valid passport:

Indefinitely: Australia (Australian citizens and permanent residents)

Up to 6 months: United Kingdom (British citizens and other holders of British passports who can prove their right to permanent residence in the United Kingdom).

Up to 3 months: All Member States of the European Union, Andorra, Argentina, Bahrain, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Hong Kong SAR (including British (overseas) passports), Iceland, Israel, Japan, Kuwait, Liechtenstein, Malaysia, Mauritius (as of 21 November 2016), Mexico, Monaco, Norway, Oman, Qatar, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Seychelles (as of 21 November 2016), South Africa (as of 21 November 2016), Singapore. November 2016), Mexico, Monaco, Norway, Oman, Qatar, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Seychelles (from 21 November 2016), Singapore, South Africa (until 21 November 2016), South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan, Uruguay, United Arab Emirates, United States and Vatican City.

For more information, see the list of visa-free countries. Except for Australian citizens and permanent residents of New Zealand, entry as a visitor does not entitle you to work or study in New Zealand. Australian citizens and permanent residents enjoy all the benefits of permanent residence in New Zealand, except that they cannot vote or claim certain tax and social security benefits until they have been in New Zealand for at least two years.

Citizens of the Cook Islands, Tokelau and Niue are New Zealand citizens and therefore do not even need a passport to live and work in New Zealand. However, they still need a passport or other proof of citizenship to enter and leave New Zealand as flights go through the international terminal.

All of these visa exemptions, including those for Australians, can be refused. In particular, potential visitors who have a criminal record, have been refused entry or have been deported from a country should check with New Zealand Immigration whether they need to apply for a visa. Entry may also be refused on health grounds, for example if you have tuberculosis (TB) or if you are likely to incur significant costs to the New Zealand health system during your stay (for example, if you require kidney dialysis, hospitalisation or residential care). If you are pregnant and will be staying in New Zealand for more than 37 weeks, you may need to prove that you have sufficient funds (NZ$9,000 or more) to cover maternity costs before you are allowed to enter New Zealand.

Visitors from countries not on the visa waiver list, or those wishing to stay longer than the maximum visa waiver period for their nationality, must apply for an appropriate visa. Further details can be found on the Immigration New Zealand website.

If you need a visa to enter New Zealand, you can apply for one at a British embassy, high commission or consulate in the country where you are legally resident if there is no New Zealand diplomatic mission. For example, British embassies in Belgrade and Tripoli accept New Zealand visa applications. British diplomatic missions charge £50 for processing a New Zealand visa application and an additional £70 if New Zealand Immigration requires the visa application to be forwarded to them. New Zealand Immigration may also decide to charge an additional fee if they correspond with you directly.

If you want to enter as a visitor and this standard requirement is not specifically waived by a visa, you must have a return ticket or proof of onward travel to even register with the airlines. If you do not, you must buy a ticket before you are allowed to check in. You must also prove that you have sufficient funds for your stay in New Zealand – NZ$1,000 per month or NZ$400 per month if your accommodation is prepaid (proof of payment is required in the latter case).

For those who need a visa and are travelling in a group (with the same travel plans and itinerary), it may be advantageous to apply for a much cheaper group visa. When applying for such a visa, a separate group visa application form (one form for the entire group) must be submitted in addition to the individual application forms.

Customs and quarantine

New Zealand has very strict biosecurity laws. Because New Zealand is so far from the rest of the world, many pests and diseases that are endemic elsewhere are not present in New Zealand. A significant part of the economy is based on agriculture, so the importation of even small quantities of food, unprocessed animal or plant materials is strictly controlled. These restrictions are designed to prevent the introduction of foreign diseases and pests.

At international entry points, the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) and New Zealand Customs will check passengers’ luggage and confiscate and penalise any prohibited items. Don’t think you can get away with surreptitiously brought items by not declaring them; ALL luggage will be x-rayed on arrival as part of standard entry procedures, and random checks by sniffer dogs will take place. Airside amnesty bins are available for accidental imports. On-the-spot fines of US$400 are imposed for failure to declare controlled goods; serious violations can result in a fine of up to US$100,000 or imprisonment for up to five years.

The best advice is to declare anything you think might cause problems – biosecurity staff at the border can confiscate and destroy the item, but you won’t have to pay a fine (or even be prosecuted). Even if you have not declared an item on your arrival card, you can tell staff on arrival at the border checkpoint to declare an item without risking a fine.

Reportable items include

  • all types of food, whether cooked, uncooked, fresh, canned, packaged or dried.
  • any biological products, materials or samples of animal origin
  • any plant or plant material
  • every animal
  • all devices that work with animals, plants or water (e.g. gardening, bee-keeping, fishing, water sports, diving).
  • all items used for outdoor or agricultural activities, e.g. shoes, tents, camping, hunting, hiking, golf and sports equipment.

All food must be declared at customs, even if food is permitted. Food that is packaged or processed for commercial purposes is usually allowed by the MPI, but you can still be fined if you do not declare it. Be careful with the food you received during your trip; many people have been caught and fined for not declaring fruit they received as part of a meal on board. If you are unsure, it is best to declare all the items in question as immigration officials will be able to tell you if they need to be cleaned or disposed of before entry. Some items, such as wooden souvenirs, are allowed but must be sterilised or fumigated before they are issued to you. A fee may be charged for this.

Under New Zealand law, you must make a customs declaration when you bring 10,000 New Zealand dollars or more, or the foreign currency equivalent, into or out of the country. There are no limits on the amount of money that can be brought into or out of New Zealand, provided the money is properly declared. Failure to declare can result in arrest and possible confiscation of the money.

In addition, the importation or possession of most recreational drugs, including cannabis, is illegal and will result in arrest. If convicted, you face a range of penalties, from heavy fines for minor offences to long prison sentences or even life imprisonment for more serious offences.

How To Travel To New Zealand

Get In - By plane

New Zealand is very far from any other country, so most travellers fly to New Zealand. The flight time alone from the east coast of Australia is over 3 hours.

Auckland and Christchurch are the main entry points. More than 20 airlines connect Auckland Airport with over 35 destinations in Australia and the South Pacific, East Asia, North America, Santiago (Chile), Buenos Aires (Argentina), Dubai and even London Heathrow (via the London-Los Angeles-Auckland route, Air New Zealand’s flagship). Christchurch International Airport offers flights to and from East Australia, Fiji, Singapore, Bangkok and Dubai, as well as seasonal services to and from Perth, Rarotonga and Taipei.

The smaller international airports of Wellington and Queenstown offer flights to and from Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. There are also flights between Dunedin and Brisbane, and Wellington and Fiji. If you are travelling via Australia, make sure you have a transit visa if you need one. Otherwise you will not be able to catch your flight.

You no longer have to pay a separate departure tax – it is included in the price of your ticket.

Some of the airlines are:

  • Air New Zealand:This highly respected national airline and Star Alliance member offers direct flights to New Zealand from 29 destinations in Australia and the Pacific Islands, Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Tokyo, Vancouver, Honolulu, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Houston, London (via Los Angeles), Buenos Aires. The airline offers the “Skycouch Economy” on its wide-body aircraft – a set of three economy class seats that convert into a versatile flat surface by folding up the leg rests. They recommend it for couples who want to lie down and sleep, although at 74 cm by 155 cm you either have to be a hobbit or intimate enough with your partner to do so comfortably.
  • Emirates: Four flights from Dubai to Auckland: direct, via Brisbane, via Sydney and via Melbourne. Also flies from Dubai via Bangkok and Sydney to Christchurch.
  • Hawaiian Airlines: Flights from 11 continental American cities to Auckland via Honolulu.
  • Qantas: Flights from Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne to Auckland, Queenstown, Wellington (excluding Brisbane) and Christchurch (Sydney only).
  • Singapore Airlines: Direct flights from Singapore to Auckland and Christchurch, and from Singapore to Wellington via Canberra.

How To Travel Around New Zealand

Get Around - By bus

Buses are a relatively cheap and environmentally friendly way to travel in New Zealand. Services are usually only available once a day, even between major cities. Most roads in New Zealand are quite narrow and winding (compared to US highways), and travelling a long distance by bus can be a safe and relaxing way to travel. If you book in advance on some routes, you can get good deals.

  • The Adventures of the Flying Kiwis. New Zealand’s original adventure bus company offering experiences “off the beaten track”. The company was included in National Geographic’s list of best adventure travel companies for 2009 and received a Qualmark enviro award. Trips range from 3 to 27 days and cover both islands. The tours focus on the beauty and excitement of New Zealand, with plenty of opportunities for walking, cycling and activities. It is also possible to take longer breaks in your favourite places. Discounts are available for YHA, VIP, ISIC and NOMAD cardholders.
  • InterCity Coachlines. New Zealand’s national coach operator, with services to over 600 destinations across the country. InterCity Group has voluntarily adopted European emissions standards for its entire fleet of modern coaches. It operates InterCity Coachlines, Newmans Coach Lines and also has a modern fleet of ships and buses for GreatSights New Zealand, Fullers GreatSights Bay of Islands and awesomeNZ. In May 2007, InterCity Group joined Landcare Research’s carboNZero programme, whose main aim is to reduce harmful emissions at source. They have implemented a range of activities to reduce their carbon emissions by up to 50% over five years. Tickets can be purchased at the InterCity counters at the bus stations or at the i-SITE information centres. Students or youth hostel card holders (e.g. BBH, YHA, Nomads, ISIC) receive a discount. Fares start at just $1.00 (plus booking fee) on all national InterCity services and are known to offer free seats at various times of the year. A limited number of discounted seats for that week’s trips are posted on Facebook and Twitter every Monday. Online fares are often sold at a lower price.
  • Travelpass – A transport map offered by InterCity Coachlines. It includes a wide range of fixed route passes based on New Zealand’s most popular tourist routes. National passes include the Interislander ferry and a scenic Milford Sound cruise. Passes are valid for one year.
  • Flexi-Pass – Using the combined national networks of InterCity, Newmans and GreatSights, Flexi-Pass is sold in blocks of time, just like a prepaid phone card, and allows the cardholder to travel anywhere on the corporate network. Passes start at 3pm, which is enough to travel from Auckland to Wellington on the North Island. Flexi Pass hours can also be used for trips on the Interislander ferry and dolphin-watching trips from Fuller’s GreatSights Bay of Islands, as well as trips to Cape Brett and the famous “Hole in the Rock”. Passes can also be sold to third parties and are valid for 1 year.
  • Naked Bus. New Zealand’s low-cost city-to-city bus company provides daily point-to-point connections throughout the country. Naked Bus is often the cheapest option for travellers who plan ahead. Some Naked Bus services are code-shared with other bus companies, including Atomic.
  • Bare Passport – sold in travel packages. There is also an unlimited travel card (valid for 1 year). Note that this card cannot be used as a travel card, but is ideal for travellers who want to see the whole country. You can get on and off whenever you want – but you have to make a reservation. You can also use this card to buy certain tourist activities at reduced prices. With this pass, you travel on naked buses, so you are with both travellers and locals.
  • Atomic Shuttles offer a no-frills shuttle service in parts of the South Island.
  • Daily transport of drivers between Christchurch and Dunedin.
  • West Coast Shuttle. Daily transport from Greymouth to Christchurch (via Arthur’s Pass) is cheaper than some of the larger companies.
  • Backpacker Bus – KiwiExperience Backpacker Bus and Stray Travel Bus offer bus tours around New Zealand where you can hop on and off at your convenience after purchasing a pass.

Get Around - By plane

Domestic flights within New Zealand are often cheaper than travelling by car or train, especially if the crossing between the North and South Islands is necessary.

Airlines use an electronic ticketing system. You can book online, by phone or through a travel agent. A photo ID is required for travel.

Check-in is usually at least 30 minutes before departure. Hand luggage and people scanners are regularly used for services at major airports with jet landings.

  • Air New Zealand has the most extensive domestic network and flies to most cities with a population of more than 20,000, operating jet flights between major centres and smaller turboprop aircraft in other cities. Baggage allowance is 1 piece of 23kg for Grabaseat+Bag, Saver and Flexi fares; regular Grabaseat fares do not include checked baggage. All fares include 1 piece of hand baggage weighing 7 kg.
  • Jetstar is a budget airline serving Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin, Napier, Nelson, Queenstown and Wellington. Flights to New Plymouth and Palmerston North will start on 1 February 2016.

Auckland, Christchurch, Queenstown and Wellington airports have timetables for airport buses. Regional airports usually only have shuttle and taxi services on call.

Get Around - With the motor vehicle

You can get to most of New Zealand’s sights by car or two-wheel drive motorbike, or even a small motorhome. Traffic in New Zealand runs on the left. Outside the major cities, traffic is usually light and drivers are generally courteous.

The state road network connects the main towns and destinations on the two main islands and is identified by a number within a red sign. Most of the state’s interurban roads are single lane in each direction with limited overtaking; motorways and motorways are generally only located near larger towns. Be prepared to get stuck behind slow-moving vehicles and expect drivers behind you to become impatient if you do not obey the speed limit without apology.

You can drive legally for a maximum of 12 months if you are at least 18 years old and have a driving licence valid in your home country. It must be in English or accompanied by an approved English translation, such as an International Driving Permit (IDP). You must carry your licence with you at all times while driving. All drivers and passengers must wear seat belts and children must be seated in an approved child restraint system until their 7th birthday. It is forbidden to talk or use a mobile phone while driving.

Tourist driving in New Zealand has been a hot topic since mid-2014, following a series of fatal accidents involving tourists. In February 2015 there were reports of cases where locals called in vigilantes, confiscated the keys of bad tourist drivers and in one case assaulted a tourist. Stick to the traffic rules, stay left, don’t turn or cross the centre line unnecessarily, drive slowly, don’t drink and drive, rest after a long haul flight and remember that Kiwi drivers can be just as bad.

Expect to pay $2.00 to $2.05 per litre for regular petrol (gas) in major cities. Diesel may seem cheaper ($1.25 to $1.30 per litre), but that’s because it’s not taxed at the pump; instead, diesel vehicles pay their share of the tax through road tax. As New Zealand imports almost all of its oil, mainly from the Middle East and East Asia, prices at the pump can be volatile.


A campervan/camping home offers great freedom and allows you to create your own itinerary in New Zealand by combining accommodation and transport. These comfortable vehicles are often equipped with two or more beds, a kitchenette, shower and toilet. They are usually suitable for 2 to 6 people, depending on the size.

Motorhome rentals are available in the North Island and the South Island. Some rental companies offer one-way rentals, so you can start and end your trip in different places. The minimum rental period is usually 5 days, but can be up to 10 days in high season (especially at Christmas and New Year).


New Zealand is a biker’s dreamland! Motorbikes of many brands can be rented all over New Zealand. The South Island is the main attraction for a motorcyclist and motorbike tours mostly take place there. Don’t forget to bring your full motorbike licence from your home country; a normal car licence is not sufficient to drive a motorbike in New Zealand.


Car rental companies range from large, well-known multinational brands to small, local car rental companies. The advantage of the big rental brands is that they are present throughout New Zealand and offer the widest and most up-to-date range of rental vehicles. The disadvantage is that they are usually the most expensive. Rental companies sometimes offer free rentals in the south-north direction, as the majority of tourists travel in the opposite direction, creating a shortage of cars in the north.

At the other end of the scale are the small local suppliers, most of whom have older rental cars. Even if you’re not driving this year’s latest model, the advantage is that small car rental companies can be significantly cheaper, leaving you more money to spend on the many exciting attractions New Zealand has to offer. Between these two extremes, you will find a wide range of New Zealand car rental companies to suit different needs and budgets.

It should also be noted that most car rental companies require that you are 21 years or older, that you have a full driving licence, and that it is helpful if you also have an international driving licence. Most New Zealand rental cars are equipped with a manual transmission (stick shift); car rental companies will give you a car with a manual transmission unless you indicate in advance that you want an automatic transmission.

Some car rental companies do not allow their vehicles on the Cook Strait ferries between the North and South Islands, although Hertz does allow their vehicles on the ferries if you are willing to take them back to the island where you picked them up. If your rental car ends up on the wrong island, you will have to pay the cost of returning it, which can range from $400 to $1,200. Most car rental companies allow you to drop off a car at one terminal, take the ferry and pick up another car at the other terminal at no extra cost.

Holidays by car are a great way to travel in New Zealand as they offer independence, flexibility and opportunities to interact with the locals. A number of companies offer car tours with car hire and accommodation, with pre-designed itineraries or customised to your interests.

Purchase and sale

If you are planning a longer holiday in New Zealand and prefer to have your own transport, it may be cheaper to buy a car or van and sell it just before you leave. If you use this method, crossing the Cook Strait can be expensive. If you buy a car for $500 or less, it may be cheaper to buy and sell a car separately on each island. However, if you buy your car in Christchurch, drive around the South Island and then head north to sell it in Auckland, you can take advantage of the buyers’ market in Christchurch and the sellers’ market in Auckland and possibly even make a small profit. In addition to the usual ways to search for a car (newspapers, housing posters, car markets, etc.), New Zealand’s largest online auction house, Trademe, has many ads. You can also try the Hiker Car Market, where people usually sell their cars at low prices. Car auctions can also be an interesting option if you want to buy a car. Turner’s Auctions holds regular auctions and is present in many cities. There are trade-in auctions where the cars sold are from a repossession. If there were already ownership problems, these will have been resolved before the auction starts.

New Zealand’s car fleet is mainly Japanese (Toyota, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Suzuki, etc.), but Ford and Holden (the local flagship of General Motors) also make up a large part of the market. Many used cars are imported from Japan, which are cheap but can have a chequered history. If you want to be on the safe side, look for a “new car from New Zealand”, i.e. a car that has been imported new (cars are no longer assembled in New Zealand).

The following points should be checked to buy a vehicle safely in New Zealand:

  • there is no debt on the vehicle. In New Zealand, if a loan is used to purchase a vehicle, then the debt is associated with that vehicle even if it is sold, in which case the new owner then has the debt problem. Selling a vehicle with an associated debt is illegal in New Zealand. Verifying the debt is a simple process as a central register is kept.
  • the vehicle has not been stolen. Contact the police with the number plate and the vehicle identification number (VIN).
  • Legally, the vehicle must have a Warrant of Fitness (WoF) that is less than 30 days old (unless advertised “as is, where is”).
  • the registration has not yet expired. This label is usually located on the left side of the car window.
  • the vehicle needs a material defect inspection, there are companies in the major centres that offer this service.

If you sell a vehicle, it is very important that you inform the New Zealand Transport Authority, otherwise all fines for speeding, parking tickets etc. will be registered in your name.

Car insurance is not compulsory in New Zealand, but it is recommended that you have at least third party insurance. The Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) automatically covers your personal injuries in the event of a car accident.

Get Around - By train

There are commuter trains in both Auckland and Wellington. The Auckland network is managed by Auckland Transport and has four lines running from Britomart Station in the city centre to Swanson in the west, Onehunga in the southwest, Papakura and Pukekohe in the south and Manukau in the southeast; there are no train services to the north coast or east of Auckland. The Wellington network is managed by Metlink. Four lines run north of Wellington Station and serve the northern suburbs of Wellington, Porirua, the Kapiti Coast (to Waikanae), Lower Hutt and Upper Hutt. A fifth line, the Wairarapa Connection, runs several times a day via Upper Hutt and the Rimutaka Tunnel (8.8 km) to Masterton in the Wairarapa.

Long-distance passenger rail transport in New Zealand is limited and used for tourism purposes rather than as a practical travel option, as the majority of New Zealand’s rail transport is limited to freight.

Intercity passenger services are operated by KiwiRail Scenic Journeys, with some popular tourist trains that travel through spectacular scenery and have constant commentary, panoramic windows and a viewing car.

  • Northern Explorer (replaced the Overlander) – a modern train that now runs 3 days a week all year round. It runs from Auckland to Wellington on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays and in the opposite direction on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. It is considered by many to be one of the most picturesque trains in the world.
  • Capital Connection – a shuttle service runs from Palmerston North to Wellington in the morning and back in the evening.
  • Coastal Pacific – Christchurch to Picton (via Kaikoura) and return daily. It runs along the very rugged north-east coast of the South Island and offers stunning sea views. Meet the Picton-Wellington ferry. Only from October to April. (Out of service after the earthquake of 14 November 2016 and may not operate for several months).
  • TranzAlpine – from Christchurch to Greymouth and back daily. Considered one of the greatest train journeys in the world, this journey takes you across the South Island and through spectacular mountain scenery, some of which is inaccessible by road, and the 8.5km Otira Tunnel. Many visitors get off at Arthur’s Pass National Park and spend four hours exploring the mountains before boarding the train back.

The online booking site maximises overseas revenue by showing the lowest rates only if it detects that you are accessing it from a New Zealand IP address. You may be able to get these lower rates if you wait until you arrive or book by phone. Seats on Capital Connection are on a first-come, first-served basis and cannot be reserved in advance.

Trains run at low speeds, not exceeding 110 km/h, which can drop to 50 km/h in summer due to lack of track maintenance after privatisation in the 1990s. Most New Zealanders prefer to travel long distances by car or plane, as rail fares are relatively expensive. However, if the weather is not a problem, travelling around New Zealand by train is well worth the price as you get breathtaking views that you would not get in a car and you can ride the train while someone else does the driving – benefits that no other mode of transport offers.

All long-distance trains are equipped with a dining car and you can order your food in advance and view the menu online.

Get Around - With the ferry

Between the North and South Island

Two passenger and car ferries cross the Cook Strait between Wellington, North Island, and Picton, South Island. The journey takes just over three hours and there are several crossings per day. It is a spectacular and scenic journey through Wellington Harbour, Cook Strait and Marlborough Straits. However, the weather and seas in the Cook Strait are often rough and unpredictable; crossings can be delayed or cancelled due to stormy weather, while others can quickly become a Mediterranean cruise. Be sure to take essential items for all possible weather situations in your hand luggage; you will not be able to return to your car once the ferry has left port.

Picton’s ferry terminal is close to the station, and the Coastal Pacific train connects with the Interislander crossings.

It is essential to book vehicle passes in advance. The busiest time is from late December to February. Pedestrian traffic is also important during this time and it is advisable to book well in advance.

Check with your car rental company if you can pick up your car on the Cook Strait ferry: Some companies do not allow their vehicles on ferries, but are happy to allow you to drop off one car at one ferry terminal and pick up another at the other terminal, at no extra cost.

  • Interislander, +64 4 498-3302, toll-free number: 0800 802 802, contact centre H-F 08:00-20:00, Sat-Sun 08:00-18:00. Operates three vessels: AratereKaiarahi and Kaitaki.
  • Bluebridge (Strait Shipping), +64 4 471-6188, toll free: 0800 844 844. contact centre 08:00-20:00 daily . Operates two vessels: Straitsman and Strait Feronia

Other ferries

Harbour ferries for commuters operate in Auckland and Wellington. A number of communities are served by boat rather than road, while charter boats are available for transport to various locations. Sightseeing cruises are regularly organised to various tourist destinations, including the Southern Lakes region and Fiordland.

Get Around - By bike

You can bring your own bike or rent one in some of the larger towns. By law, you must wear a helmet while riding, otherwise you will be fined on the spot. If you rent a bicycle, you must wear a helmet. Remember to ride on the left side of the road. You cannot ride on New Zealand highways. Note that the Auckland Harbour Bridge, which connects Auckland city centre with the north coast, is a motorway and there is no separate cycle path (yet), so you have to take a ferry or cycle around the harbour.

Cycling in New Zealand can be fun, but be aware that due to the geography and the small number of people cycling between towns, there are very few cycle lanes and little space on road shoulders. Beware of buses and trucks on main roads, as many drivers will not give you enough room to overtake; proportionally, five times as many cyclists are injured and killed on New Zealand roads as in the Netherlands or Singapore! You also have to be prepared for long distances between cities and generally windy weather. Although some areas of New Zealand are flat, most tourists cycling in New Zealand need to be able to manage long climbs, especially in the Coromandel. Be prepared to tackle all weathers and seasons in one day.

You can choose to buy a bike when you arrive in New Zealand or use a provider for self-guided or guided bike tours. Christchurch has the most guided and self-guided tour providers and there are also a number of bike rental companies based in Christchurch.

A network of cycle paths is currently being built in New Zealand, using a combination of off-road cycle paths and low-traffic roads. There are already some nice and safe roads: NZ Cycle Trail

Get Around - By thumb

Hitchhiking in New Zealand is pretty good everywhere. It is illegal to hitchhike on the few highways (except on exits) and illegal for drivers to stop and give you a lift. Try to get out of the city centre, especially where public transport runs. Carry your backpack and give the impression that you are touring the country and not a local looking for transport, but above all choose a place where vehicles can stop safely and don’t forget to smile. You are just as likely to get a lift from another tourist as from a local, especially in tourist areas.

Carpooling and car sharing are on the rise in New Zealand as fuel prices increase and people realise the social and environmental benefits of sharing vehicles and travelling with others. While some schemes are quite informal, others have trusted systems that provide greater certainty when choosing a route.

  • Jayride. A New Zealand carpooling and hitchhiking website. Their aim is to provide a variety of transport options for more flexibility and savings.

Destinations in New Zealand

Regions in New Zealand

New Zealand is a very diverse country with many areas worth seeing, but at a high level it is easier to divide it into its two main islands and the smaller offshore islands.

  • North Island
    Gentle, with landscapes ranging from sandy beaches, farmland and rolling forests to active volcanic peaks with bubbling mud ponds.
  • South Island
    Spectacular mountains and fjords, large beech forests, beautiful beaches, large glaciers, a mecca for motorcyclists.
  • Stewart Island
    Covered by native forests and rich in birdlife, most of the island forms a national park.
  • Chatham Islands
    Remote eastern islands, traditional homeland of the Moriori people.
  • Sub-Antarctic Islands
    Very remote, uninhabited and little frequented, you can now observe the sub-Antarctic fauna and flora on cruises.

Cities in New Zealand

  • Wellington – the nation’s capital, with Parliament and the Beehive building and the wonderful free Te Papa Museum.
  • Auckland – the city of sail with its ports on the east and west coasts, by far the largest city with 1.4 million inhabitants and everything a big city has to offer.
  • Christchurch – the Garden City, the largest city on the South Island, is in the process of rebuilding after the devastating earthquake in February 2011.
  • Dunedin – South Edinburgh, proud of its Scottish heritage, chocolate factory, southern albatross colony and beautiful walking trails, just a short drive from the central business district.
  • Hamilton – lush green centre of the rich and fertile Waikato on the banks of the mighty Waikato River south of Auckland, home of rugby mascot Mooloo
  • Napier – one of the best concentrations of Art Deco architecture in the world, famous as a wine region and close to the Cape Gannet breeding colony and nature reserve.
  • Nelson – a thriving arts culture, diverse cuisine with an emphasis on local produce, a craft brewery, with the most hours of sunshine in New Zealand and surrounded by beautiful coastal and mountain landscapes, three national parks, stunning vineyards and orchards.
  • Queenstown – the adrenaline and adventure capital of the world where you can ski, skydive, bungee jump, jet boat and have fun.
  • Rotorua – famous for Māori culture and geothermal activities including geysers, fascinating pools of boiling mud and beautiful pools and hot springs.

Other destinations in New Zealand

New Zealand is rich in national parks, rural areas and other remote places worth visiting. Here are some of the best.

  • Abel Tasman National Park – golden sandy beaches, kayaking and Abel Tasman Coastal Trail
  • Mount Cook d’Aoraki National Park – lots of hiking opportunities and New Zealand’s highest mountain
  • Bay of Islands – a beautiful place on the North Island of historical significance
  • The Coromandel Peninsula – a rugged coastline with many beaches and hiking opportunities just an hour and a half from Auckland
  • Hawke’s Bay – hillside vineyards and art deco architecture in Napier
  • Milford Sound – beautiful fjord in Fiordland National Park
  • Taupo – Trout fishing and adventure activities in the centre of the North Island
  • Tongariro National Park – three volcanoes, two ski fields and one of the country’s most popular hikes
  • Westland National Park – home of the Franz Josef and Fox glaciers

Accommodation & Hotels in New Zealand

New Zealand offers a wide range of accommodation. Luxury hotels of international quality can be found in the larger cities.

New Zealanders seem to have perfected the art of staying in a private home at a high price. Luxury lodges are the high-end equivalent of the bed-and-breakfast market and there are over 40 internationally recognised lodges in New Zealand. Per head of population, this is probably the highest number in the world. They tend to be located far from cities and can be difficult to access, although some are right in the heart of major centres. At the top of the hierarchy, helicopter transfers and private jets allow luxury travellers to travel between the lodges they have chosen to visit.

Hotels of various levels, from luxury to simply essential, can be found on the outskirts of most towns. Most New Zealand motels have a kitchenette, usually equipped with cooking utensils, pots, pans, crockery and cutlery, so travellers can reduce meal costs by cooking their own meals from their motel room. In winter, however, heating can be a problem. While more and more motels have insulated ceilings and walls, double glazing is still rare. Smaller central heating systems are also rare, and most motel rooms have electric or gas heating.

Bed and breakfasts are very popular with British and Swiss tourists, as are homestays, farm stays and similar accommodation, some of which are in the most unlikely places. They can be a good choice if the traveller wants to benefit from the insider tips of the resident hosts, and many visitors are happy to get a taste of country life. For typical New Zealand accommodation, there are homestays and marae stays for Māori tourists.

There is a wide range of backpacker accommodation on these islands, including a network of 50 youth hostels (aimed at independent travellers of all ages) that are members of the Youth Hostel Association. There are also two marketing networks of independent hostels: BBH, with over 280 registrations, and the Nomads network, which is much smaller.

Commercial campsites are strategically located, as are campsites in all national parks. If you are travelling in the hinterland, the Department of Conservation (DOC) has many backcountry cabins that can be used under a permit system.

Wilderness camping outside recognised and marked camping areas is less and less possible. It used to be common to find a tent or hammock for the night in many picnic areas or in a grove of trees off the road or any other place where there was no “No Camping” sign. Due to the growing concern of local residents about the improper disposal of rubbish and human waste, and the displeasure of moteliers at the decline in their income, many local authorities are now introducing strict restrictions and posting announcements of on-site sanctions. Always dispose of all waste properly and leave your campsites exactly as you found them (if not in better condition). Please respect this privilege and avoid leaving more ammunition for people who want to further restrict the freedom to camp. The Tourism Industry Association, DOC and the i-SITE network of information centres have produced a useful online map resource containing over 1500 paid and free sites, based on Google Maps.

Many visitors travel to New Zealand in rented minibuses and vans, including self-sufficient campervans that can be driven by anyone with a regular driver’s licence.

New Zealand was one of the first countries in the world, after the UK, to establish a dense WWoOF network. “Willing Workers on Organic Farms” introduced the concept of travellers (“WWoOFers”) staying overnight on farms as volunteers and receiving food and accommodation in exchange for half a day’s help for each night spent on the farm. The Nelson-Tasman region in the South Island is particularly rich in WWOOFing opportunities. HelpX, which is similar to WWOOF but not limited to organic produce, was born and has its largest network in New Zealand.

Couchsurfing is also very popular in New Zealand, with active forums and groups in most major centres, as well as hosts around the country.

Qualmark, a government agency, provides a star rating system for accommodation and other tourism services.

Things to see in New Zealand

Mountains, lakes and glaciers

You could say that in New Zealand it is the landscape that is beautiful, and perhaps nowhere more so than in the Southern Alps of the South Island. In Mackenzie country, the jagged snowy peaks rising above the turquoise lakes have inspired many postcards. The country’s highest peak, Mount Aoraki Cook, nestles behind. The lakes and mountains continue south, providing a stunning backdrop to the towns of Wanaka, Queenstown and Glenorchy.

Another area where mountains meet water is Fiordland National Park, where steep, densely forested mountains rise from the sea. The most accessible and perhaps one of the most beautiful is Milford Sound. The drive there is spectacular and the views are even more spectacular when you arrive.

Glaciers may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of an island in the South Pacific, but New Zealand has several. The most famous are the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers in the Westland National Park. These glaciers are unique in their proximity to sea level and are supported by the enormous amounts of precipitation that fall on the west coast of New Zealand.

Volcanoes and geysers

New Zealand is a geological hotspot and has many dormant and active volcanoes, geysers and hot springs. The best place to start is Rotorua, where the smell of sulphur lets you know you’re close to the action. There are many parks in the area with geysers and hot springs, and Mount Tarawera, the site of one of New Zealand’s most famous eruptions, is just a short drive away.

South of Rotorua, the town of Taupo lies on the shores of the country’s largest lake, which was formed 26,500 years ago in a massive volcanic explosion and increased in size 1,800 years ago in an equally massive explosion (it would have turned the skies over China and Rome red). Beyond Lake Taupo is Tongariro National Park, dominated by its three volcanoes, Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu. All three mountains are still active (Tongariro last erupted in 2012) and Ruapehu has a crater lake that can be seen while hiking. Ngauruhoe is famous for its role as Mt Doom in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

North-east of Rotorua is Whakatane, with excursions to White Island, a volcanic island not far from the coast. The island is truly another world with its plume of smoke, green crater lake and pohutukawa trees clinging to a fragile existence on the volcanic rock.

Extinct and dormant volcanoes dot the landscape in many other areas, including Taranaki and three of the largest cities (Auckland, Christchurch and Dunedin). Hot springs are scattered throughout the country and are often popular bathing spots.

Flora and fauna

New Zealand is so isolated that it has some very special plants and animals. One of the most impressive is the kauri, one of the largest tree species in the world. There are only a few of these giants left (due to overpopulation), but you can catch a glimpse of them on a visit to Waipoua Forest in the Northland. New Zealand has a large number of ferns for a temperate country, including the silver fern, the national “flower”.

The beaches of the South Island, especially those of the Catlins and the Otago Peninsula, are good places to see marine animals such as penguins, seals and sea lions in their natural habitat. The Otago Peninsula is also known for its albatross colony.

Unfortunately, the introduction of parasites and human activities have meant that many of New Zealand’s most unique animals are now threatened with extinction and can only really be seen in captivity. This is the case with the kiwi, the country’s national bird; this nocturnal, flightless bird the size of a chicken is unique because it has its nostrils at the end of its beak and lays the largest egg in the world for its size. Other unique (yet endangered) wildlife species include the takahe, the kakapo (made world famous by the “rare parrot” incident) and the tuatara (a small reptile thought to have existed in the time of the dinosaurs). One of these non-indigenous parasites is the brush-tailed opossum, which was imported from Australia for its silky fur used to make warm, lightweight knitwear.

New Zealand’s national parks are maintained by the Department of Conservation (DOC) and various local governments. Access is generally free, but may be restricted in some parks at certain times of the year due to weather conditions (e.g. avalanche danger) or agricultural requirements (e.g. lambing season). Up-to-date information on accessibility is best obtained from local tourist information centres.

Proposals to eradicate or heavily manage non-native animals are a controversial issue in New Zealand. The most common means of pest control are poison baits. They are applied by ground-based bait stations or, more cost-effectively (though controversially), by helicopter drops. The Department of Conservation and OSPRI/TBfreeNZ provide pesticide summaries that include warnings, maps of affected areas and poisons used. These pesticide summaries are updated regularly.

Urban fare

Although the landscape is New Zealand’s main attraction, it is worth spending some time in the cities. Auckland is a pleasant city with its coastal neighbourhoods like Viaduct Harbour and Mission Bay, its ancient volcanoes (Mt Eden and One Tree Hill), a handful of museums and the Sky Tower, the tallest freestanding building in the southern hemisphere. The most interesting architecture and the beautiful Te Papa Museum are in Wellington, the capital. Napier is worth a visit, if you have time, for its Art Deco shopping centre and Christchurch is interesting for its English character.

Things To Do in New Zealand

Outdoor and adventure activities include:

  • Abseiling from Waitomo
  • Round trip (helicopter and plane)
  • Birdwatching
  • Black water rafting (rafting in caves)
  • Boat tours
  • Bungy Jump Queenstown, Auckland, Taupo – the modern bungy jump was invented here by New Zealander A.J. Hackett.
  • Canoeing and kayaking on rivers and lakes
  • Canyoning
  • Caving: Waitomo, Nelson, West Coast of the South Island, Te Anau
  • Climbing
  • Diving
  • Fishing: Freshwater fishing (some of the best trout fishing in the world) and sport fishing (some of the best sport fishing in the world for marlins, yellowfin tuna, sharks, tuna, kingfish and many other saltwater species).
  • Fly by wire (invented here)
  • All-wheel drive
  • Gliding – Omarama is one of the best places in the world for gliding
  • Hang glider
  • Helicopter ride to Fox Glacier
  • Hiking – New Zealand has a number of national parks and other wilderness and forest areas, most of which are managed by the Department of Conservation (DoC). The activity known as hiking, trekking or bushwalking in other countries is known as ‘tramping’ in New Zealand and is a very popular activity for visitors and locals alike.
  • Riding
  • Hot air balloon
  • Hunting – several species of deer, wild boar, tahrs, chamois, goats, wallabies (they are protected in Australia but are pests here), wild birds.
  • Ice climbing
  • Jet Ski
  • Kite surfing
  • Sledging (on concrete, not ice) Auckland, Queenstown, Rotorua.
  • Mountaineering – this is the training ground of Sir Edmund Hillary, one of the two first climbers of Everest.
  • Mountain bike
  • Nature Tours
  • Paragliding/Parenthood
  • The foursome
  • Rafting
  • Rope skipping
  • River Jetboating – the Hamilton Jet was invented by New Zealander William Hamilton.
  • Climbing
  • The New Zealand Rodeo offers steer racing, barrel racing, bull racing and bareback bronco, as well as sheep fights for the little ones.
  • Sailing – New Zealand has produced many world champion yachts and is the only country, apart from the United States, to have won and successfully defended the ultimate prize in sailing, the America’s Cup.
  • Diving and snorkelling, especially on the Rainbow Warrior, which is sunk in Matauri Bay, not far from Kerikeri.
  • Abel Tasman Marine Reserve Sea Kayaking and the Colder Waters of Milford Sound
  • Cage diving for Kaikoura sharks
  • Skiing and snowboarding, including heli-skiing in Queenstown
  • Skydiving
  • Paddleboard, especially in the warm, sheltered waters of Tasman Bay.
  • Surfing on
  • Swimming with Dolphins Kaikoura, Bay of Islands
  • Swimming with seals
  • Whale watching in Kaikoura
  • White water rafting on the Fox Glacier
  • White water toboggan / dam waterfall
  • Windsurfing board
  • Zorbing (invented here) Agrodome in Rotorua


Rugby union inspires more passion than religion and the New Zealand national team is made up of the mighty All Blacks, whose opening ground-shaking haka is arguably more famous than any other aspect of New Zealand. The All Blacks have a winning record against every other team they have faced and are the only team to have won the Rugby World Cup three times in a row (1987, 2011, 2015). As their success proves, New Zealand is probably one of the greatest, if not the greatest, national rugby teams. Playing against the All Blacks is a dream come true for many rugby players around the world, let alone beating them.

The All Blacks usually play at home during the southern hemisphere winter (June to August), mainly during the Rugby Championship against Argentina, Australia and South Africa. Unlike many other national teams, the All Blacks do not have a single home stadium; Test matches are played at various stadiums in major centres, including Eden Park in Auckland, Westpac Stadium (“The Cake Tin”) in Wellington, AMI Stadium in Christchurch, Waikato Stadium in Hamilton and Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.

New Zealand has hosted many international sports tournaments, including three Commonwealth Games (1950 and 1990 in Auckland, 1974 in Christchurch) and two Rugby World Cups (1987 in association with Australia and 2011).

  • Golf – New Zealand has over 400 registered golf courses, ranging from local clubs to world-class resorts, offering uncrowded courses and beautiful scenery.

Food & Drinks in New Zealand

Food in New Zealand

Modern New Zealand cuisine is mainly influenced by the country’s British heritage, although immigrants have begun to give it Mediterranean and Asian-Pacific accents since the 1950s. The Māori have their own traditional cuisine. The evening meal, called dinner or tea, is considered the main meal of the day; breaks between meals are called morning/afternoon tea or smoko.

There is no culture of eating out in New Zealand: restaurant dining is generally only done on special occasions such as birthdays or romantic dates, although eating out is becoming more common. New Zealanders generally do not ask for the restaurant bill at the table, but leave the table and ask for the bill at the counter or bar.

New Zealand has a very special coffee culture, with probably some of the best espressos in the world. Coffee shops often offer excellent meals, ranging from a muffin to a full meal.

In small towns, food is always available at the local pub/hotel/bistro, even if the quality is usually of the “burger chips” variety.

There are many fast food and ready meal establishments. Every major city has a KFC, Pizza Hut, McDonald’s and Subway, and most have Burger King and Domino’s. There are a number of local fast food chains; Burger Fuel and Burger Wisconsin are both worth a try, while American pizza chains have competition from the local Satanic-themed Hell Pizza chain.

Most cafés and restaurants in New Zealand regularly cater for vegetarians, gluten-free people and most people with simple allergies. Cafés and restaurants that cater to vegans and meet religious dietary requirements (e.g. halal, kosher) are hard to find outside the major cities.

Cuisine in New Zealand

Distinctive New Zealand foods are:

  • ANZAC biscuits – simple hard biscuits made mainly from oatmeal and bound with golden syrup. Originally made for and by ANZAC troops during the First World War. They can also be found in Australia.
  • Fish and chips – originally a British dish, New Zealand has its own unique style. The menu consists of portions of breaded (or crumbled, if you prefer) fish fried in oil, accompanied by large chips and various other meats, seafood, pineapple slices and even chocolate bars, all wrapped in newsprint (today we use plain food paper, but traditionally it was yesterday’s newspaper). Traditional condiments in New Zealand are tomato sauce (ketchup) and tartar sauce. Unfortunately, the quality can range from very good to very poor; it’s best to ask locals for recommendations from fish-and-chips shops.
  • Kiwi – a plum-sized, green fleshed fruit with fine black seeds in the flesh, native to China, selectively grown in New Zealand and first known to hobby gardeners as Chinese gooseberry. Today it is grown commercially, with production concentrated on Te Puke, but also in many other fruit-growing areas. New Zealand kiwi is in season from mid-March to September; out of season it is imported from the Northern Hemisphere. The slices are often served on pavlova (see below).
  • Kumara or sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) – is roasted like potatoes and often served instead or as a side dish. It can also be deep-fried like crisps and is known as “kumara chips”. It is served with sour cream, but is rarely cooked well, as kumara is cooked at a different temperature than potatoes, so it takes an experienced cook to make the dish perfect. The “red” variety with dark red/purple skin is the most popular variety in New Zealand and is rather sour compared to the well-known Beauregard sweet potato from overseas (this variety is sold in New Zealand as “orange” kumara).
  • Paua’s Fritter – Essentially chopped abalone wrapped in batter and deep fried. Available in many chip shops, but note that a cheaper alternative to abalone is often used instead. As a general rule, a donut that costs less than $10 does not use real abalone.
  • Pavlova or pav – a dessert cake made of beaten egg whites and sugar, baked slowly to form a crisp meringue on the outside but a soft marshmallow in the middle, topped with whipped cream and decorated with sliced fruit. Pavlovas can be very tricky to cook and are known to go off if cooled too quickly. So don’t expect New Zealand’s homemade medium pavlovas to look like the picture. The dessert is also common in Australia, and there is a lot of debate between the two countries about where it was invented!
  • Pies – New Zealanders eat a large number of pies without puff pastry with fillings such as beef, lamb, pork, potatoes, kumara, vegetables and cheese that fit nicely in one hand (about 170 g). They are sold in almost every coffee shop, dairy, petrol station and McDonald’s restaurant (it’s a long story) in New Zealand. Some companies now sell a range of “gourmet” pies and there is an annual competition for the best pie in various categories.
  • With no point in the country more than 130 km from the sea, fish (ika) and seafood (kaimoana) are fresh, varied and (for the most part) abundant. Crustaceans are harvested from rocks and tidal beaches, as are crayfish (lobster, Jasus edwardsii) and coastal fish caught with lines or nets. Species such as paua (black-footed abalone, Haliotis iris) and toheroa are overfished and harvest restrictions are strictly enforced, while green mussels (Perna canalicula) are commercially farmed and sold live or processed in supermarkets.
  • Whitebait – the translucent sprats or fry of native freshwater fish species that migrate each year after spawning in the sea. After being caught in nets at the mouths of coastal rivers or in hand nets in spring (September to November), the coveted delicacy is shipped across the country. They are often served as “white bait fritters” (a white bait fried in egg batter). They may be available in season at a local fish market and are cooked without gutting or removing the head as they are tiny (2-7 mm wide).
  • The hangi or earth oven is the traditional Māori way of preparing food for large gatherings. Meat, vegetables and sometimes puddings are slowly steamed for several hours in a covered pit that has previously been lined with stones and in which a hot wood fire has been lit. The wood used for the fire is usually mānuka (New Zealand tea tree), which gives hangi its unique smoky flavour.

The Edmonds Cookery Book is one of the most comprehensive guides to traditional New Zealand cooking. First published in 1908 and revised more than a dozen times, it is apparently more widely used in New Zealand households than the Bible.

Drinks in New Zealand

Alcoholic drinks

New Zealanders have a reputation for enjoying their beer. The average Kiwi consumes 71 litres per year. Although there are only three major breweries left, there are many regional brands, each with its own flavour and following. Home-brewed beer is also becoming more popular and available, especially in the larger cities (Wellington in particular). Look out for New Zealand beers like Tuatara, Garage Project or Epic, to name a few. International brands such as Heineken, Guinness, Carlsberg and Budweiser are also available.

The New Zealand wine industry has developed into a major export industry. The country is now known worldwide as one of the leading producers of Sauvignon Blanc, accounting for over 70% of the national harvest of this grape variety. The Hawke’s Bay area is known for its Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Chardonnay and more recently Viognier. Marlborough is the largest wine region and is famous for its Sauvignon Blanc. Waipara, north of Canterbury, specialises in Riesling and Pinot Gris, while Wairarapa and Central Otago specialise in Pinot Noir. Many wineries now offer cellar tours, wine tastings and vineyard wine sales.

The minimum legal age to purchase alcohol in New Zealand is 18, and alcohol may only be supplied to persons under 18 by a parent or guardian. Bars and retailers generally require photo identification from any customer who appears to be under 25 years of age. Only a passport, New Zealand driver’s licence or New Zealand hospitality card (HANZ) will be accepted as identification.

The national opening hours for the sale of alcohol are 8am to 4am the next day for business licences (bars, pubs, restaurants) and 7am to 11pm for business licences (liquor shops, supermarkets), although there may be local restrictions. All unlicensed shops must close and there are restrictions on the sale of alcohol in licensed shops all day on Christmas Day, Good Friday and Easter Sunday and before 1pm on Anzac Day (25 April). If you want to visit a winery on these days, you may be out of luck.

Be careful where and when you engage in public activities. New Zealand has recently introduced alcohol-free zones, which means that alcoholic drinks cannot be consumed or even transported in certain streets, such as city centres and popular beaches, at certain times of the day and night. The police may ask you to empty your bottles and stop you if you do not respect this prohibition.


Coffee shops are available during the day in many major cities and tourist destinations. The coffee culture is notable in downtown Wellington, where many office workers take their tea breaks. Most types of coffee, cappuccino, latte, espresso/short black, long black, white, Viennese, etc. are available. Flat White is probably the most popular. Cappuccinos are usually served with a choice of cinnamon or chocolate powder sprinkled on top. It is customary to ask which you would like. Cuddles are a frothy whey for children, sprinkled with chocolate powder.

Tap water in New Zealand is considered some of the cleanest in the world and is safe to drink in all cities, as most of it comes from artesian wells or freshwater reservoirs. However, some comes from rivers that are chlorinated to make them safe but are not always very pleasant tasting. Some of Auckland’s water comes from the Waikato River, a long river that rises in Lake Taupo in the centre of the North Island. But when it arrives in Auckland, it has been treated so that its quality is no worse than that of the Thames in London or the Hudson in New York. Auckland’s water is also drawn from runoff reservoirs in the Waitakere and Hunua mountain ranges. Tap water in places like Christchurch and Hastings is not chlorinated at all, being drawn from the pure artesian aquifers of the Canterbury and Heretaunga Plains. Bottled water is available if you prefer.

& P (Lemon & Paeroa) is a sweet, carbonated, lemonade-like drink that is said to be “world famous” in New Zealand. It is sold in a brown plastic bottle with a yellow label, similar to the traditional brown glass bottles it used to be sold in. Originally produced under its name, Paeroa in Waikato, it is now manufactured in Auckland by Coca-Cola.

Money & Shopping in New Zealand

The currency in New Zealand

The currency in New Zealand is the New Zealand Dollar (NZD, $), divided into 100 cents. It is freely floating and exchange rates can change dramatically in just one week. As of October 2015, one US dollar is exchanged for about 1.50 New Zealand dollars. Australian dollar coins are sometimes accepted in place of New Zealand dollars. Other foreign currencies are not readily accepted, except in some major hotels and banks throughout New Zealand.

Coins are available in 10¢ (copper), 20¢, 50¢ (silver), $1 and $2 (gold). When you pay cash, the total price is rounded up to the nearest 10¢ (5¢ can be rounded back and forth, but most companies round down). Especially in restaurants, it is not uncommon for prices that end in multiples of 10 cents to drop the last zero, e.g. $9.4 instead of $9.40.

Tickets are available in $5 (orange), $10 (blue), $20 (green), $50 (purple) and $100 (red). There are two series of tickets in circulation, the sixth (1999) and the seventh (2015). The two series are essentially similar, with a notable New Zealander (except on the $20 note, which features Queen Elizabeth II) on the obverse and a native New Zealand bird on the reverse. All the notes are printed on polymer so they won’t be mishandled if you leave them in the wash.

New Zealanders are among the largest users of electronic banking in the world. Almost all shops are equipped with payment terminals for debit and credit cards, so most purchases can be made electronically. International credit and debit cards are not accepted by some merchants with Eftpos terminals, especially small food retailers such as dairies, takeaways and non-alcoholic cafes. Small retailers can often set a minimum purchase amount of around $10 if they agree to spend cash. Many New Zealanders do not carry large amounts of cash as they see this as a risk and inconvenience compared to using their Eftpos card. However, it is always a good idea to carry cash for emergencies as electronic payment systems can fail and many retailers are reluctant to use their emergency ‘Zip-Zap’ printers. All New Zealand banks offer telephone and internet banking. If you plan to stay in New Zealand for a while, it may be wise to open a New Zealand bank account and set up a local debit card. Paying by cheque is becoming increasingly rare in New Zealand and most shops do not accept it. Most businesses and individuals now include their 15-digit account number (e.g. 12-3456-0789123-00) on their bills, and customers transfer money to their account via internet banking. This practice is common when buying a car or pre-booking a flat; payment is usually made the next working day.

All New Zealand banks allow visitors and migrants to open an account through their respective websites less than six months before arrival. It takes about two weeks for your Eftpos card to arrive. The bank will be happy to send it to the branch of your choice. In New Zealand, the ‘Big Four’ banks are ANZASBBNZ and Westpac; the other major banks are Kiwibank and TSB.

Automated teller machines (ATMs), popularly known as “holes in the wall” or “cash dispensers”, can be found in almost every town, even those without a bank. Be careful who you use, however, as most banks will charge you a fee to use a competing machine, usually $1. If you withdraw money from ANZ with a foreign card, you will be charged $3 to use the ATM. BNZ and Kiwibank do not charge for cards from overseas.

New Zealand uses the almost universal (except in the US) chip and PIN system, which uses a microchip in the card and the cardholder’s personal identification number to verify the transaction. Most merchants also accept the swipe and sign method; if you use a card without an embedded chip, the terminal will ask for your PIN after you swipe your card. Simply press “ENTER” and your transaction should be approved. After you have signed the printed receipt, you may be asked to show photo identification. Vending machines, e.g. at unattended petrol pumps, are not allowed to accept cards without a PIN.

MasterCard and Visa are universally accepted, other cards are not. American Express is widely accepted, Diners Club is less common. Theoretically, you can use a Discover Card anywhere you see the Diners Club International acceptance mark; however, almost no merchant will know this. So as long as you have a Chip & PIN card, it’s worth putting it in the terminal and trying it out. UnionPay cards are accepted at the 420 Bank of New Zealand ATMs around the country and at selected EFTPOS merchants.

Costs in New Zealand

New Zealand is a fairly expensive country for most visitors, as its relative isolation increases the cost of imports. Prices are comparable to those of neighbouring Australia, although individual items can vary both up and down.

As a guide, here are the average prices of some common items (as of September 2016):

  • Bread (600g) – 1.10
  • Two litre milk bottle – $3.30
  • Apples – $2.80 per kg
  • Potatoes – $2.40 per kg
  • Lamb chops – $13.40 per kg
  • Fish and chips, one portion – $6.30
  • Big Mac – $6.00
  • Glass of beer (400ml) – 6,20
  • Cup of coffee (flat white) – 5,00
  • Petrol (91 octane) – $1.75 per litre

Taxes and fees in New Zealand

Advertised prices usually include Goods and Services Tax (GST), a 15% sales tax – exceptions must state that GST is excluded or additional. Some shops, especially in tourist destinations, ship purchases abroad or make them available for collection at the airport, as exported goods are not subject to GST. Find out about this service before you make your purchase. GST is levied on goods purchased and taken home.

Some restaurants and cafés charge a 15% surcharge for public holidays, often justified by the need to cover the cost of higher wages for staff working on public holidays (staff working on public holidays are required by law to be paid one and a half times their regular wage and given a paid day off to take later).

Price negotiation in New Zealand

Due to strict fair trade laws, the posted price is usually the purchase price of most goods sold in New Zealand. The principle of The posted price is the price you pay is strongly rooted in New Zealand culture.

Most retailers do not negotiate on price, although some have a formal policy of aligning their prices with the competition and will match or even lower their prices for you if you can find a better price for exactly the same product elsewhere within a reasonable distance (for example, Wellington and Lower Hutt, but not Wellington and Auckland). However, this seems to be changing as there are stories of people finding that appliance and electronics shops are very willing to negotiate prices to get contracts, especially if you are looking for high-end items or if you have a list of several high-priced items. In some places, you will have to ask for a discount, while in others, salespeople will offer discounts on expensive items as soon as they approach you. With the exception of high-end home appliance shops, haggling is generally considered extremely rude. As a customer, it is considered a waste of time to set the price of goods at a reasonable level (and a shopkeeper would be wasting his time if he set the price too high in the hope that customers will haggle).

If you are in New Zealand for an extended period of time, the Trade Me website offers a business model similar to that of the foreign giant eBay. However, Trade Me focuses more on direct bank transfer transactions (the requirement is that you have a New Zealand bank account) and there is little or no fee for registering an item for the first time.

Tipping in New Zealand

Tipping is not part of New Zealand culture and is often treated with suspicion or active disapproval, as many people see it as a largely American custom that overcompensates some workers while leaving others out; there is also a perception that tipping means paying twice for a service. Do not be surprised or offended if you receive astonished looks or your tip is initially rejected or questioned, as New Zealanders themselves do not generally tip and it is also a form of politeness in New Zealand culture to initially decline such a gesture before accepting it. Nevertheless, some forms of tipping are common, such as rounding up a taxi fare. However, it is almost as likely that the taxi driver will round down the fare to the nearest dollar. In some cafés, there is a jar on the counter labelled “Tip the staff” where customers can leave change.

Occasionally people will tip in a restaurant for exceptional service, especially in big cities like Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland. But in these cities it is increasingly common for bar staff, especially waiters, to receive tips of around $30, which accumulate over the course of the evening. Again, this is not a percentage of the bill, but a simple gesture of goodwill on the part of the patrons. Others may feel that people who do this are ostentatious and flaunt their wealth. New Zealanders travelling abroad often find this custom difficult and confusing. It is customary and polite to donate the change from the meal to the charity that has a collection jar on the counter, and this usually replaces the tip.

However, many New Zealanders travel and live in other countries, often returning to New Zealand and taking the habit of tipping with them. Generally, people who provide a service in New Zealand, such as waiters and hairdressers, are tipped in the form of a smile and a thank you, rather than money. This is considered appropriate as their average salary is significantly higher than their American counterparts.

Shopping hours in New Zealand

Most shops must remain closed on Christmas Day, Good Friday, Easter Sunday and before 1pm on Anzac Day (25 April). Exceptions are dairies, convenience stores, petrol stations, cafes and restaurants, pharmacies and some other shops in airports and tourist attractions such as Taupo and Queenstown. If you are in New Zealand on one of these days, make sure all your needs are met by then.

Large retail chains in New Zealand

There are three major chains in the supermarket sector: CountdownNew World and Pak’nSave. If you are looking for the lowest prices, Pak’nSave is probably your best bet. However, they only offer a limited range of brands, force everyone to take their own bags, and if you forget your reusable bags, they charge 10c per plastic bag. They even use stickers in their advertising to show how cheap they are. Countdown and New World are pretty much the same except the former is run by Australians and the latter by New Zealanders. They offer a comprehensive range and the checkout staff will pack your bags for free, but watch the prices if you’re on a budget. Countdown has a voucher card called Onecard; you can pick up a temporary visitor card at the supermarket and most hotels and motels if you want to take advantage of the discounts.

The Warehouse, commonly known as “The Red Shed”, is the New Zealand equivalent of Walmart. The Warehouse Group sells a variety of cheaper products including clothing, camping equipment, electronics, toys, CDs, DVDs, games, etc. The Warehouse Group is also known as “The Red Shed”, the New Zealand equivalent of Walmart. There are regular shops in all cities and most major towns, and there are also some small shops in rural towns. Despite the Walmart-like reputation, the shops sell some prestigious high-end brands such as Sony, LEGO, Apple and Adidas. The motto of the shops is “where everyone gets a good deal”. Prices are reasonable, and if you are buying products to use during your New Zealand holiday (and not planning to take them home), it is advisable to use The Warehouse. The more traditional department stores are the mid-sized Farmers and high-end department stores in the big cities: Smith & Caughey’s in Auckland and Ballantyne’s in Christchurch.

Other “superstore” chains include Briscoes, a homeware shop (which seems to offer a “30-60% discount on all sales” every other weekend), Noel Leeming, an electronics retailer, and Mitre 10 Mega, a DIY shop.

Festivals & Holidays in New Zealand

Public holidays in New Zealand are as follows:

  • 1 January: New Year’s Day
  • 2 January: New Year
  • 6 February: Waitangi Day, marking the anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840.
  • Easter weekend: a four-day weekend in March or April (set according to Western Christian dates) that includes Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Easter Monday and Middle Saturday (which is not a public holiday). Most shops must remain closed on Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
  • 25 April: ANZAC Day, the anniversary of the landing of the Australian and New Zealand Corps at Gallipoli in 1915. Most businesses are closed until 1pm.
  • First Monday in June: The Queen’s Birthday
  • Fourth Monday in October: Labour Day
  • 25 December: Christmas Day. Most shops have to remain closed.
  • 26 December: Boxing Day.

Each region of the country has its own birthday holiday. Birthdays are based on pre-1876 provincial boundaries, which are not the same as today’s regional boundaries. The most widely observed are Auckland’s birthday, celebrated on the Monday closest to 29 January by the North Island north of (and including) Taupo, and Wellington’s birthday, celebrated on the Monday closest to 22 January by Greater Wellington and most of the Manawatu-Wanganui region. While Auckland’s birthday is celebrated directly by a larger number of people (2.5 million), Wellington’s birthday is celebrated indirectly by a larger number of people as all ministries and embassies are located in Wellington. The dates of each region’s birthday should be indicated on their page.

The Ministry of Education sets the school year for all government and government-integrated schools (96.5 per cent of all schools). Secondary school students (13-18 years) usually take summer holidays after exams in early December, while primary school students (5-12 years) go on holiday in mid-December. Students return to school in late January or early February. There are three quarterly breaks of two weeks each: one in April (which usually starts on Good Friday), one in July and one in September/October. Postgraduate students usually start in late February or early March and finish in early November, with a three- to four-week winter break in June/July and two one-week semester breaks at Easter and late August.

Traditions & Customs in New Zealand

Social behavior

New Zealanders are generally warm and sociable, but they keep strangers at bay.

  • New Zealand is a country where the words “please” and “thank you” can be used more than once in a sentence without being inappropriate, and where an initial rejection of an offer is part of polite banter. You should respond to a politely declined offer with a ‘Are you sure? Criticism and compliments are often underestimated.
  • If you want to communicate with a New Zealander outside of a formal situation, it is best to engage in conversation. If you are not sure where you want to go, ask a local person. Your accent triggers locals to want to be helpful to tourists and they will usually offer more than directions to help you.
  • New Zealanders will often ask you many (sometimes profound) questions about your country of origin or culture. This is not meant to be insulting: it reflects a genuine interest in other people and cultures and a desire to learn first-hand.
  • If you are staying with someone for more than a few days and that person is under 35, it is considered polite to leave a token amount, say $20, to “cover the electricity bill”, especially if you are a guest in a shared apartment or house.
  • In conversation, if you want to contradict something someone has said, be nice. New Zealanders are often happy to learn something new and incorporate it into their knowledge, but they are also strong advocates of something they know first-hand.
  • Some New Zealanders tend to swear a lot. Sometimes they even use swearing to refer to friends. It is not usually meant to be insulting.
  • New Zealanders see New Zealand society as classless and egalitarian. While in reality New Zealand is far from classless, talk of class and personal wealth is generally not well received. New Zealanders, even wealthy New Zealanders, tend to be somewhat frugal.
  • The majority of New Zealanders are generally open to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. New Zealand decriminalised homosexuality in August 1986, banned discrimination based on sexual orientation in February 1994, introduced cohabitation and civil unions in April 2005, and legalised same-sex marriage in August 2013. In all cases, these goals were achieved through laws passed by parliament with the support of MPs from all major political parties. Although there are some homophobic attitudes (especially among religious fundamentalists), even people who are uncomfortable with homosexuality tend to adopt the pragmatic “live and let live” attitude common in New Zealand.

Dress code

New Zealanders generally dress “smart casual”, with black or dark clothing predominating. In the cities, you will only see people in suits on weekdays.

  • If you wear colourful clothes, you will make a good impression as a tourist. In most cases, this will work to your advantage as New Zealanders want to be very hospitable to tourists. However, being branded as a tourist can attract unwanted attention from less tasteful people. Use common sense when you are approached by a local.
  • The weather in New Zealand can be very changeable, a cold front can cause a sudden drop in temperature. Be sure to take a jacket or jumper with you. Even if you have a nice warm sunny day, you may need to cover up to avoid sunburn.
  • If you go out to eat in a fancy and expensive restaurant, you don’t have to wear a suit and tie, but jeans and T-shirts are frowned upon. Smart trousers, a collared shirt and suit shoes for men and smart trousers or skirt and blouse for women would be typical. Smart attire is expected at any informal meal.
  • When drinking in bars, check what the locals are wearing beforehand. Wearing shorts and sandals may be acceptable in rural areas, but trousers and shoes are a minimum standard for most bars and restaurants in the city. Some (but not all) nightclubs insist on the wearing of collared shirts and refuse entry to men wearing sports shoes. Women are generally admitted regardless of what they are wearing.
  • Nudity is frowned upon on most beaches. If you want to get naked (or topless for women), you are only breaking the law if you offend another person. So if you move away from the main beach and go to a quieter spot, you can usually avoid the problems.

Māori culture

Māori cultural experiences are popular tourist attractions appreciated by many people, but as with any encounter between two cultures, there is room for misunderstanding. Some tourists faced more challenges and ceremonial receptions than expected. These are serious occasions; avoid gossip and laughter. Make jokes and laugh later. You will have plenty of time to relax later when hāngi is discovered.

Māori, Pākehā (Kiwis of European origin) and other New Zealanders (who all came) generally get along well.

National identity

New Zealanders have a distinct and jealously guarded national identity. Although it shares many similarities with other Western cultures, it is not a state of Australia, nor is it still part of the British Empire (although it is a member of the Commonwealth). Although Australia and New Zealand are closely linked in foreign policy, there is considerable mutual immigration and the cultures overlap, saying that New Zealanders are essentially Australian will not win you any Kiwi or Australian friends. It’s a similar relationship to Canadians and Americans or Irish and British. In many ways, Australia and New Zealand have a similar view of each other, with the same cliché jokes.

Despite the jokes about New Zealand, most Australians have a genuine affection for New Zealanders (and vice versa); the relationship between the two countries is often described as brotherly, with fraternal rivalry as a bonus. This rivalry goes back to ANZAC (Australia and New Zealand Army Corps), participation in two world wars (notably the Gallipoli and North Africa campaigns), Korea, Vietnam, the Malaysian crisis, Solomon Islands, etc. The relationship between the two countries is often described as fraternal, with fraternal rivalry as a bonus. When disaster strikes in one country, you see fundraising for relief efforts in the other.

Culture Of New Zealand

Initially, the Māori adapted the tropical culture of eastern Polynesia to the challenges associated with a larger and more diverse environment, and eventually developed their own distinctive culture. Social organisation was essentially community-based, with families (whanau), sub-tribes (hapu) and tribes (iwi) led by a chief (rangatira) whose position was subject to community approval. British and Irish immigrants brought aspects of their own culture to New Zealand and also influenced Māori culture, especially with the introduction of Christianity. Nevertheless, Māori consider their membership of tribal groups to be an essential part of their identity, and Māori kinship roles are similar to those of other Polynesian peoples. More recently, American, Australian, Asian and other European cultures have had an impact on New Zealand. Polynesian cultures are also visible in Māori. Pasifika, the largest Polynesian festival in the world, is now an annual event in Auckland.

The predominantly rural life of early New Zealand conveyed the image of the hardy, hard-working, problem-solving New Zealander. Modesty was expected and imposed by the “big son syndrome”, where the best people were harshly criticised. At this time, New Zealand was not known as an intellectual country. From the early 20th century until the late 1960s, Māori culture was suppressed by attempts to assimilate Māori to British New Zealanders. In the 1960s, as higher education became more accessible and cities expanded, urban culture began to dominate. Although the majority of the population now lives in cities, much of New Zealand art, literature, film and humour has rural themes. From the mid-20th century, many cultural icons called Kiwiana emerged, which today help define what it means to be a New Zealander, such as the silver fern and the paua shell.


As part of the resurgence of Māori culture, traditional carving and weaving are now practised more frequently and Māori artists are becoming more numerous and influential. Most Māori sculptures depict human figures, usually with three fingers and either a detailed, natural-looking head or a grotesque head. Surface motifs consisting of spirals, crests, notches and fish scales adorn most of the sculptures. The prominent Māori architecture consisted of carved meeting houses (wharenui) decorated with symbolic carvings and images. These buildings were originally designed to be constantly rebuilt, altered and adapted to different whims or needs.

The Māori decorated the white wood of buildings, canoes and cenotaphs with red paint (a mixture of red ochre and shark fat) and black paint (made from soot), and painted images of birds, reptiles and other patterns on cave walls. Māori tattoos (moccasins) of coloured soot mixed with rubber were cut from the flesh with a bone chisel. Since the arrival of Europeans, paintings and photographs were dominated by landscapes, originally not as works of art but as factual representations of New Zealand. Portraits of Māori were also common. Early painters often portrayed them as ‘noble savages’, exotic beauties or friendly natives. The country’s isolation delayed the influence of European art movements and allowed local artists to develop their own style of regionalism. In the 1960s and 1970s, many artists combined traditional Māori and Western techniques to create unique art forms. New Zealand art and craft gradually reached an international audience, with exhibitions at the Venice Biennale in 2001 and the Paradise Now exhibition in New York in 2004.

Māori coats are made of fine linen fibre and decorated with black, red and white triangles, diamonds and other geometric shapes. The green stone was made into earrings and necklaces. The most famous design is the Hei-Tiki, a deformed human figure sitting on a tailor’s chair with its head tilted to one side. Europeans brought the etiquette of English fashion to New Zealand, and by the 1950s most people dressed for social occasions. Since then, standards have relaxed and New Zealand fashion has gained a reputation for being casual, practical and chic. However, the local fashion industry has grown significantly since 2000, doubling exports and growing from a handful to about 50 established labels, with some labels gaining international recognition.


The Māori quickly adopted writing as a means of exchanging ideas, and many of their oral stories and poems were put into written form. Most of the earliest English literary works were acquired in Britain, and it was not until the 1950s, when local publishing houses proliferated, that New Zealand literature began to be widely known. Although still heavily influenced by global trends (modernism) and events (Great Depression), writers in the 1930s began to develop stories that increasingly focused on their experiences in New Zealand. During this period, literature moved from journalistic activity to more academic research. Participation in the World Wars gave some New Zealand writers a new perspective on New Zealand culture, and with the expansion of universities in the post-war period, local literature flourished. Dunedin is a UNESCO City of Literature.

Media and entertainment

New Zealand music has been influenced by blues, jazz, country, rock’n’roll and hip-hop, and many of these genres have been given a unique interpretation in New Zealand. The Māori have developed traditional songs and chants from their ancient origins in Southeast Asia, creating a unique ‘monotone’ and ‘sad’ sound after centuries of isolation. Flutes and trumpets were used as musical instruments or signalling devices in times of war or special occasions. Early settlers brought their ethnic music with them as brass bands and choral music were popular, and musicians began touring New Zealand in the 1860s. Bagpipes became widely used in the early 20th century. The New Zealand recording industry began to develop from 1940 and many New Zealand musicians achieved success in Britain and the United States. Some artists publish songs in Māori and there has been a resurgence of interest in the traditional art of kapa haka (song and dance). The New Zealand Music Awards are organised annually by Recorded Music NZ; the awards were first presented in 1965 by Reckitt & Colman as the Loxene Golden Discawards. Recorded Music NZ also publishes the country’s official weekly charts.

Radio arrived in New Zealand in 1922 and television in 1960. The number of New Zealand films increased significantly in the 1970s. In 1978, the New Zealand Film Commission began to support local filmmakers and many films reached a worldwide audience, some of them internationally acclaimed. Some of the most successful New Zealand films include Hunt for the WilderpeopleBoyThe World’s Fastest IndianOnce Were Warriors and Whale Rider. Deregulation in the 1980s led to a sudden increase in the number of radio and television stations. New Zealand television broadcasts mainly American and British programmes, as well as a large number of Australian and local programmes. The diversity of landscapes and compact size of the country, as well as government incentives, have encouraged some producers to shoot big-budget films in New Zealand, including Avatar, The Lord of the RingsThe Hobbit, The Chronicles of Narnia, King Kong and The Last Samurai. The New Zealand media industry is dominated by a small number of companies, most of which are foreign-owned, although the state retains ownership of some television and radio stations. Between 2003 and 2008, Reporters Without Borders regularly ranked New Zealand in the top 20 for press freedom. In 2011, Freedom House ranked New Zealand 13th in the world for press freedom, with the second freest media in the Asia-Pacific region after Palau.


Most of the major sports played in New Zealand are of British origin. Rugby XV is considered the national sport and attracts the most spectators. Golf, netball, tennis and cricket have the highest participation rates among adults, while netball, team rugby and football (football) are popular among teenagers. Approximately 54% of New Zealand teenagers participate in sport as part of their school. Successful rugby tours of Australia and Britain in the late 1880s and early 1900s played an early role in the development of a national identity. Horse racing is also a popular spectator sport and became part of the “Rugby, Race and Beer” culture in the 1960s. Participation in European sports was particularly evident in rugby. The country’s team performs a haka, a traditional Māori challenge, before international matches.

New Zealand has competitive international teams in rugby, netball, cricket, rugby-13 and softball and has traditionally performed well in triathlon, rowing, sailing and cycling. New Zealand competed in the 1908 and 1912 Summer Olympics as a joint team with Australia before competing alone for the first time in 1920. The country finished well in terms of medals per capita at the last Games. The All Blacks, the men’s national rugby union team, are the most successful team in the history of international rugby and the reigning world champions. New Zealand is known for its extreme sports, adventure tourism and strong mountaineering tradition, as evidenced by the achievements of the famous New Zealander Sir Edmund Hillary. Other outdoor activities such as cycling, fishing, swimming, running, hiking, canoeing, hunting, snow sports and surfing are also popular. The Polynesian sport of Waka-Ama racing has grown in popularity and is now an international sport involving teams from all over the Pacific.


The national cuisine is described as that of the Pacific, with inspirations from Europe, Asia and Polynesia. The most popular ingredients or dishes are lamb, salmon, lobster, dredge oysters, white bait, pāua (abalone), mussels, scallops, pipis and tuatua (two types of New Zealand shellfish), kumara (sweet potato), kiwi, tamarillo and pavlova, the national dessert. A hāngi is a traditional Māori method of cooking food with heated stones buried in a pit oven. After European colonisation, Māori began cooking with pots and pans and the hāngī was used less frequently, although it is still used for formal occasions such as the tangihanga.

Stay Safe & Healthy in New Zealand

Stay safe in New Zealand

The main emergency number in New Zealand is 111 and can be used to contact ambulance, fire, police, coastguard and rescue services. 112 works from mobile phones; 911 and 999 can work but are not dependent on them. You can call *555 from your mobile phone to report non-urgent traffic incidents.

Due to their remoteness, the Chatham Islands are not connected to the 111 network and have their own local emergency number: +64 3 305-0111. You can dial this number from your mobile phone, but it will not work as the Chatham Islands do not have mobile phone reception. Deaf people can contact the emergency services by fax on 0800 16 16 10 and by SMS/TTY on 0800 161 616. It is possible to send a text message to 111, but you must first register with the police.

Complete instructions can be found on the inside cover of each phone book. Further emergency and personal crisis numbers can be found on pages 2 to 4 of the “White Pages”.

Crime and security

Although it is difficult to make international comparisons, the level of crime in New Zealand is similar to other Western countries. Dishonesty crimes, such as theft, are by far the most common. Most of these crimes are opportunistic in nature, so travellers should take simple and sensible precautions, such as keeping valuables out of sight or in a safe place and locking vehicle doors, even in remote areas.

Violent crimes in public places are related to the consumption of alcohol or illegal drugs. It is best to avoid speakeasies or drunken crowds in city centres or youth groups in the suburbs, especially late at night and early in the morning. New Zealanders may not have a sense of humour when their country or sports teams are mocked by noisy or drunken tourists.

There are sometimes disturbing and high-profile reports in the media about tourists being the target of violent robberies and/or sexual crimes. These crimes usually occur in remote locations where the likelihood of the perpetrator being observed by others is low. However, the chances of becoming a victim of such a mishap are slim; statistics show that it is more likely that you will be attacked by a member of your travel group than by a complete stranger.

The New Zealand Police is the national police force and police officers are generally polite, helpful and trustworthy. Unlike most other countries, New Zealand police officers do not routinely carry firearms; officers on duty generally only carry batons, pepper spray to control offenders and tasers. Incidents involving firearms are usually referred to the Armed Offender Specialist Team (AOS, similar to SWAT in the United States). Armed police or a call for AOS is usually mentioned in the media.

Police regularly set up checkpoints in an area, including on all motorway lanes, to check for drink driving, seat belt use, child seat use, expired tickets and registrations, etc. If you fail the roadside breathalyser test, you must accompany the officer to a police station or roadside “alcohol bus” for a probationary breathalyser test, a blood test, or both. If you are found impaired or refuse to submit to a test, you will be arrested, appear in court and face imprisonment, a heavy fine and a driving ban if you repeat the offence.

Stationary and mobile radar units as well as hand-held and motor vehicle speed measuring devices are often used. The police have no official discretion regarding speeding and will issue tickets for any vehicle caught speeding over 10 km/h. In some places, even a speed limit as low as 5 km/h will result in a fine. In some places, e.g. near schools, even a speed limit of only 5 km/h will result in a ticket.

Police fees can be paid online by credit card or internet banking, by cheque or in person at a Westpac Bank branch. Do not attempt to pay the police officer directly as this is considered bribery, which is illegal and punishable by up to seven years in prison.


New Zealand is generally a fairly tolerant country in terms of race and most visitors to New Zealand do not experience any incidents. Although it is not particularly difficult to encounter someone with racist views in a pub, it is generally rare to experience an overt racial attack on the street. Current legislation prohibits hate speech as well as racial discrimination in many public areas such as education and employment.

Natural hazards

Severe weather is by far the most common natural hazard. Although New Zealand is not directly affected by tropical cyclones, storms from the tropics and polar regions can hit New Zealand at different times of the year. There is usually a seven to ten day cycle of a few days of wet or stormy weather, followed by calmer and drier days as weather systems move across the country. The phrase “four seasons in one day” is a good description of New Zealand’s weather, which has a reputation for being both changeable and unpredictable. This phrase is also a popular Kiwi song.

Weather forecasts are generally reliable in terms of general trends and severe weather warnings should be taken into account in the output. However, the timing and intensity of a weather event should be assessed from your own location.

When hiking in alpine areas, always seek advice from the Ministry of Conservation. Every year there are deaths of foreign nationals and New Zealanders caught in the weather.

There are other natural hazards that you can encounter, although much less frequently:

  • Strong earthquakes – New Zealand, part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, lies on the edge of a tectonic plate and experiences a large number of earthquakes each year (about 14,000 per year), although only about 200 are strong enough to be felt by humans and cause only one or two property damages. Only two recorded earthquakes in New Zealand have resulted in serious loss of life: the 1931 Hawke’s Bay earthquake (magnitude 7.8, 256 deaths) and the 2011 Christchurch earthquake (magnitude 6.3, 185 deaths). The latest earthquake news is reported by GeoNet. In an earthquake, it is generally more dangerous to run out of a building than to stay inside and seek shelter. In New Zealand, buildings are built to a high standard and although they can be damaged in an earthquake, they must remain standing.

If you feel a strong earthquake, remember the “Drop, Cover, Hold” operation: drop to the floor, cover yourself under a table or desk (or cover your head and neck with your hands if no table or desk is available), and hold on until the shaking stops.

  • Tsunami is a potential hazard in coastal regions of New Zealand. The warning of a tsunami caused by an earthquake overseas is widely publicised through the media. However, if you experience a very strong earthquake (lasting longer than a minute or so strong that you cannot easily stand upright), you should take the precaution of moving over high ground (35 m or more) or at least 1 km inland until the coast is clear.
  • Volcanic eruptions – New Zealand has a number of volcanoes classified as active or dormant. Only Mount Ruapehu, Tongariro, White Island and the remote islands of Kermadec have been active recently. Volcanic activity is also monitored by GeoNet.
  • There are almost no poisonous or very dangerous animals. The katipo and the redback are the only two venomous spiders and bites from these two species are extremely rare. Serious reactions are rare and are unlikely to occur within three hours, but you should always visit a hospital, medical centre or the nearest doctor. The white-tailed spider can also inflict painful bites, but is not considered dangerous to humans. There are no predators of large mammals or large predatory reptiles. Some species of weta (an insect that looks a bit like a grasshopper or cricket) can inflict a painful but harmless bite.

Fire and civil defence sirens

Outside the major cities, New Zealanders rely on volunteer firefighters to protect their communities. As pagers are scarce, sirens are still regularly used day and night to call the fire brigade; they resemble the British air-raid sirens of World War II and emit a groaning sound (from top to bottom). Some tourists were caught off guard and panicked when they heard the fire siren, thinking that New Zealand was about to be attacked with nuclear weapons.

Some areas, especially on the coast, have a civil defence siren system. Sound signals vary from zone to zone – a continuous tone in one zone may mean evacuation, while in another zone it means all clear. The best advice is that if you hear a siren go off and it sounds something other than a moan, tune into Radio New Zealand National, Newstalk ZB, Radio Live, More FM or Classic Hits for more information. You’ll know you’ve hit one of these places (and that it’s a civil defence emergency) when you hear the civil defence tone, which sounds like a chorus of several different sirens.

Stay healthy in New Zealand

New Zealand has very high ultraviolet radiation, about 40% more intense than that found in the Mediterranean in summer, and therefore has a high rate of skin cancer. Sun hats, sunglasses and sunscreen are highly recommended, especially if you have white skin and/or red hair!

Smog is a persistent winter problem in many South Island cities, particularly Alexandra, Christchurch and Timaru. Like Los Angeles and Vancouver, these areas are affected by temperature inversion, where a layer of warm air traps cold, pollutant-laden air near the ground from vehicles and wood fires. Be careful in these areas if you have respiratory problems (including asthma).

New Zealand has high and fair standards of professional health care, comparable to Sweden or Australia. Tap water is safe to drink. Precautions should be taken against giardia: Do not drink water from rural streams without boiling it first. The risk may be lower in the highlands of the South Island, especially where streams are strong and come directly from melting snow in the mountains.

You do not need any special vaccinations before travelling to New Zealand. However, it is recommended that you check that your whooping cough and measles vaccinations are up to date, as sporadic outbreaks have been reported in recent years, particularly among children and young people. It may be worth getting a flu vaccination if you are travelling to New Zealand during the winter season.

Medical care

A visit to the doctor costs around $60-70, but varies depending on the practice and location. Appointments outside regular office hours may cost more. With the exception of accidental injuries (see below), New Zealand’s public hospital system is free for citizens and permanent residents of Australia or New Zealand, British citizens and holders of a work visa who have been in New Zealand for at least two years, but all others are charged a fee for the treatment received. International students are usually required to take out private health insurance as part of their visa requirement. It is strongly recommended that visitors take out travel insurance.

New Zealand is the only country in the world that has a universal, no-fault compensation system for accidents, administered by the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC). Even if you’re just visiting and get injured in New Zealand, the ACC will pay for your treatment and, if you’re working, cover up to 80% of the loss of New Zealand earnings. To apply for CCA, simply go to your doctor’s surgery or emergency room. They will give you an application form to fill in and send to CCA on your behalf. You may have to pay part of the cost of treatment at a doctor’s surgery. You cannot sue any party in connection with a claim covered by CCA, whether they are liable or not.

ACC does not cover incidental costs you incur, such as the cost of changing your itinerary or relatives travelling to New Zealand to assist you with your care, as you will need to take out travel insurance to cover these costs. CCA cover is limited to New Zealand. Therefore, you will be responsible for any medical expenses related to an injury once you leave the country. Property damaged or lost in an accident is also not covered by CCA, but if someone else is at fault, you can make a claim through their insurance or directly if they are not insured (although you may need to take a claim to court if they refuse to pay).

Land ambulance services are provided by Wellington Free Ambulance in Greater Wellington and by St. John’s Ambulance in other areas. St. John’s charges for calls outside the service area (about $80 for New Zealand and British citizens and $770 for others). Wellington Free Ambulance is free (as the name suggests), but you can donate in return.

In New Zealand, prescription medicines are generally referred to by their international non-proprietary name (INN) rather than a brand name. In New Zealand, there is a single national purchaser of medicines, Pharmac, whose main aim is to keep medicine prices low. This means that subsidised medicines change brands every five years (hence the reason why medicines are known by their INN), but it also means that prescription medicine prices on the shelf are among the cheapest in the OECD. On average, subsidised prescription drugs in New Zealand cost two-thirds of what they cost in the UK and Australia, and one-third of what they cost in the US. Subsidised medicines are available to New Zealand, Australian and UK citizens; a $15 deductible applies to occasional patients ($5 for registered patients). For people from other countries and those who need non-subsidised medicines, you will have to pay the full retail price.

When you arrive at a public hospital’s accident and emergency department, you are treated in order of priority, not order of arrival. In a moderately busy emergency room, you usually have to wait 30 to 60 minutes for a simple fracture, but if victims of a heart attack or a car accident keep coming in, it can easily take several hours. Children with an injury similar to yours are likely to be treated before adults. If your illness or accident is minor, you may be advised to go to a clinic or medical centre that is open after hours. This may cost you more than $100, but it will save you waiting up to a whole day for treatment.

Healthline, a free 24-hour telephone helpline run by registered nurses, is available if you need advice about a medical problem. The number is 0800 611 116.



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