|Currency||New Zealand dollar (NZD)|
|Electricity||230V/50Hz (Plug Type I - "Australian")|
|Time zone||UTC +12
(Chathams UTC +12:45)
New Zealand (Maori: Aotearoa) is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, a country of stunning and diverse natural beauty: jagged mountains, rolling pasture land, steep fiords, pristine trout-filled lakes, raging rivers, scenic beaches, and active volcanic zones. These islands form a unique bioregion inhabited by flightless birds seen nowhere else, such as kakapo and kiwi. New Zealanders have adopted the kiwi as a national symbol, and have even taken the word Kiwi as a name for themselves.
These islands are sparsely populated, particularly away from the North Island, but easily accessible. There are sparklingly modern visitor facilities, and transport networks are reasonably developed. New Zealand often adds an adventure twist to nature: it's the original home of jet-boating through shallow gorges, and bungy jumping off anything high enough to give a thrill.
Māori culture continues to play an important part in everyday life and government and corporate symbolism with abundant opportunities for visitors to understand and experience the history and present day forms of Māori life.
New Zealand is a very diverse country with many regions that are worth seeing, but at a high level it's easiest to break it down according to its two main islands and the smaller offshore islands.
Mild, with scenery ranging from sandy beaches, through rolling farmland and forests to active volcanic peaks with bubbling mud pools.
Spectacular mountains and fjords, large beech forests, beautiful beaches, large glaciers, motorcycle mecca.
Covered in native forest and abounding in birdlife, most of the island forms a national park.
Remote islands far in the east, traditional home of the Moriori people.
Very remote, uninhabited and rarely visited, cruises now go to view the subantarctic flora and fauna.
The realm of New Zealand also includes the Cook Islands, Niue, Tokelau and the Ross Dependency in Antarctica. Although these destinations share with New Zealand the same monarch as head of state, and their citizens are issued New Zealand passports, they are also self-governing, have different immigration régimes, climates, and cultures. Thus, they are dealt with in separate articles, rather than here.
- Wellington – the national capital, with the Parliament and Beehive buildings, and the wonderful, free Te Papa museum
- Auckland – the City of Sails with east and west coast harbours, by far the biggest city with 1.4 million people and all a big city offers
- Christchurch – the Garden City, the South Island's largest city is ever-evolving as it rebuilds from a devastating earthquake in February 2011.
- Dunedin – the Edinburgh of the South, proud of its Scots heritage, chocolate factory, Southern Albatross colony and its wonderful tramping tracks within a short drive from the central business district
- Hamilton – leafy centre of the rich and fertile Waikato on the banks of the mighty Waikato River south of Auckland, home of the Mooloo rugby mascot
- Napier – one of the best concentrations of Art Deco architecture in the world, famous as a wine region and close to Cape Kidnappers gannet breeding colony and wildlife sanctuary
- Nelson – thriving arts culture, varied cuisine emphasising local produce, craft brewing, with New Zealand's highest sunshine hours, and surrounded by marvellous coastal and mountain scenery, three stunning national parks, vineyards and orchards
- Queenstown – adrenaline and adventure capital of the world, where you can ski, skydive, bungy jump, jet-boat and thrill yourself to your heart's content
- Rotorua – famous for Māori culture and geothermal activity, including geysers, fascinating boiling mud pools and beautiful hot pools and springs
New Zealand has a wealth of national parks, rural areas and other out-of-the-way places that are worth a visit. Here are a few of the best.
- Abel Tasman National Park – golden sand beaches, kayaking and the Abel Tasman Coastal Track
- Aoraki Mount Cook National Park – lots of hiking opportunities and New Zealand's highest mountain
- Bay of Islands – pretty spot in the North Island with historical significance
- Coromandel Peninsula – rugged coastline with plenty of beaches and hiking opportunities just one and a half hours from Auckland
- Hawke's Bay – wineries in the hills and art deco architecture in Napier
- Milford Sound – beautiful fiord in Fiordland National Park
- Taupo – trout fishing and adventure activities in the central North Island
- Tongariro National Park – three volcanoes, two skifields and one of the most popular hikes in the country
- Westland National Park – home of the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers
New Zealand is increasingly known, both in the indigenous Māori language and in New Zealand English, as Aotearoa, often translated as "land of the long white cloud". Originally, Aotearoa was a name for just the North Island, the South Island being known as Te Waipounamu or Te Waka a Maui. In 2009, the New Zealand Geographic Board discovered both the North and South Islands had never been officially named, so in October 2013 they were officially named North Island / Te Ika-a-Māui and South Island / Te Waipounamu.
New Zealand consists of two main islands (the North Island and the South Island) and many smaller ones in the South Pacific Ocean approximately 1,600 km (1,000 mi) south east of Australia. With a population of 4.5 million in a country about the size of the United Kingdom or Italy, many areas are sparsely settled. The South Island is larger than the North Island (150,400 sq km vs 113,700 sq km) and is sometimes referred to as "the mainland", despite having only one-third the population of the North Island.
Be sure to allow sufficient time to travel New Zealand. It's certainly worthwhile to tour for at least three or four weeks on each island, although you can certainly see highlights in far less time. Roads wind along the coast and through mountain ranges, particularly in the South Island. In exit polls at Christchurch International Airport, many international visitors commented that they had underestimated the time they would need to properly enjoy their visit.
Auckland, with a population of around 1.45 million people, is both the largest city in New Zealand and Polynesia. It is also the most remote city in the world with a population over 1 million - the nearest comparable city is Sydney, 2,169 km (1,348 mi) away. Wellington, at the southern tip of the North Island, is the country's capital and third-largest city (pop. 203,000). The city replaced Auckland as capital in 1865, after Parliament decided to move to a more central location.
In general, New Zealand has a temperate maritime climate, with warm summers, cool winters, and regular rainfall throughout the year. There are four seasons, with summer in December–February and winter in June–August (the opposite of the northern hemisphere). The geography of the country does create around 10 distinct climate regions, ranging from near sub-tropical north of Auckland to near continental and semi-arid in central Otago.
The mountain ranges along the northeast-southwest axis of New Zealand provide a barrier for the strong prevailing westerly winds - often referred to as the roaring forties. Moist air hitting the mountains is pushed upwards and cooled, with the moisture falling back westward as rain. As a result, the western half of the country receives more than average rainfall and the eastern half less than average. This effect is most pronounced in the South Island with the Southern Alps: the West Coast receives 2000–7000 mm of rain per year, while coastal Canterbury and Otago in the east receive just 500–800 mm. Most other places on average receive between 600 and 1600 mm per year. In the northern and central parts of the country, it is generally drier in the summer; in southern parts, it is generally drier in the winter.
Summer daily highs average from 17°C to 25°C. Winter daily highs average 7°C to 16°C and nightly 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 inland parts of both islands and the southern South Island. Sunshine hours are highest in coastal Bay of Plenty, Nelson Bays and Marlborough.
Snow mainly in the mountainous parts of the country and some inland areas, and can occasionally close mountain passes and high roads during winter. Snow may fall down to sea level in eastern and southern parts of the South Island once every 1-2 years. Snow in the western South Island and coastal North Island is a rare occurrence; Wellington on average gets snow down to sea level once every 40-50 years. The unsheltered areas of the country can get a bit breezy, especially in the centre, through Cook Strait and around Wellington.
New Zealand's weather is very changeable, and even during summer you may receive all four seasons in one day. Be prepared for the weather to change from fine to showers (and vice versa) without notice. Metservice has weather forecasts for five days in advance.
Settlement and history
New Zealand was the last significant land mass to be inhabited by humans (indigenous settlement) and to be colonized by Europeans. This, combined with geological youth and geographical isolation, has led to the development of a young, vigorous nation with a well-travelled, well-educated population. One in four New Zealand-born people (one in three between the ages of 22 and 48) currently live overseas.
The Polynesian Māori settled New Zealand in the late 13th century. "Nieuw Zeeland" appeared on Dutch maps from as early as 1645, after the explorations of Abel Tasman in 1642 (after whom, incidentally, Tasmania is named); cartographers named the country after the Dutch province of Zeeland (not the Danish island of Zealand). It is possible that other European explorers knew of the existence of New Zealand as early as the mid-14th century. Captain Cook rediscovered, circumnavigated and mapped the main islands in 1769.
Some sealers, whalers, traders and missionaries settled over the next 80 years, with many encountering fierce resistance from the local Māori people. In 1840, with the assistance of missionaries, the Māori agreed to accept British sovereignty over the islands through the Treaty of Waitangi. More intensive settlement began that same year. Initially annexed to the colony of New South Wales, New Zealand was split off to form a separate colony in 1841. A series of land wars between 1843 and 1872, coupled with political manoeuvring and the spread of European diseases, broke Māori resistance to land settlement, but left lasting grievances. In recent years the government has sought to address long-standing Māori grievances, and this is a complicated process. In 2005, the Māori Party was formed, in part in response to the Government's law on the Foreshore and Seabed but also to promote an independent Māori perspective at a political level.
When the six British colonies federated to form Australia in 1901, New Zealand decided not to join the federation. Instead, the British colony of New Zealand became a self-governing British dominion in 1907. It was offered complete independence under the 1931 Statute of Westminster, although it did not adopt this until 1947. New Zealand supported the United Kingdom militarily in the Boer War of 1899–1902, as well as both World Wars as part of the Allied war effort. It also participated in wars in Malaysia, Korea, Vietnam and Afghanistan, and in several peacekeeping actions.
All remaining constitutional links with the United Kingdom were severed with the passing of the New Zealand Constitution Act by both parliaments in 1986, although the British queen remains the Head of State, with an appointed Governor-General as her representative in New Zealand.
From the early days of European settlement until the 1970s, New Zealand's economy largely evolved around exporting lamb and wool to the United Kingdom. When the UK joined the European Economic Community in 1973, New Zealand started to diversify its economy to new products and new markets. The 'Think Big' projects of Rob Muldoon's National Government (1975-84) tried to diversify the economy away from agriculture into petrochemicals and metals, but the subsequent 1980s oil glut saw many of the project become white elephants. Between 1984 and 1993, two successive finance ministers, Roger Douglas and Ruth Richardson, controversially transformed New Zealand from a protectionist economy to a market economy. Today, agriculture still makes up a majority of New Zealand's exports, but lamb and wool has given way to other agricultural industries, most notably dairy. Australia, the European Union, China and the United States are now New Zealand's main trading partners.
Many New Zealanders have strongly opposed the testing and use of nuclear weapons. New Zealand opposed French nuclear testing at Mururoa Atoll, leading French secret agents to bomb the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior while it was docked in Auckland in July 1985. The United States' refusal to declare whether its visiting ships were carrying nuclear weapons led to the government banning them from New Zealand territorial waters in 1987. In response, the US suspended its commitments to New Zealand under the joint US-Australian-New Zealand defence alliance.
New Zealand's government is largely based on the British Westminster system of government. Unlike most Westminster systems though, New Zealand's parliament only has one chamber, the popularly-elected 121-member House of Representatives; its upper house, the Legislative Council, was abolished in 1951.
Elections are held every three years, with the last in September 2014 and the next due by November 2017. The Prime Minister sets the date for the election and can call it early if s/he wants. In 1984, Prime Minister Robert Muldoon got drunk and decided to call a snap election – which he lost by a landslide.
The Prime Minister is head of government, and is typically the leader of the political party with the most seats in parliament. The current Prime Minister is John Key, who is the leader of the centre-right National Party in the House of Representatives. The National Party is the largest party in the House, and holds the government benches with the support of three minor parties. Other major parties include the centre-left Labour Party, the left-wing environmentalist Green Party, and the populist New Zealand First Party.
Queen Elizabeth II is the head of state and appoints a Governor-General, currently Sir Jerry Mateparae, as her representative in New Zealand. The regal and vice-regal roles are largely ceremonial and politically powerless, and the Prime Minister wields the most authority in government.
New Zealand was the first modern-day country in the world to grant women the right to vote, way back on 19 September 1893. However, women weren't allowed to stand for election to Parliament until 1919, and it was 1933 before New Zealand had its first female MP.
Below the national government, New Zealand is divided firstly into 16 regions, and secondly into 65 cities and districts. Since regions are based on physical geography and cities and districts are based on human geography, it is possible for a district to fall into two or more regions. Five cities or districts (Auckland, Gisborne, Marlborough, Nelson and Tasman) are unitary authorities - they are both a region and a city/district.
New Zealand is home to 4.60 million people. Just under 1.08 million live in the South Island, with most of the rest living in the North Island. Waiheke Island, in the Hauraki Gulf off the coast of Auckland, is by far the most populous offshore island, with 8,600 residents. Half the country's population lives in the four largest urban areas: Auckland (1,454,000), Wellington (398,000), Christchurch (382,000) and Hamilton (224,000).
A former British colony, New Zealand has a population mainly of European ethnicity, with a sizeable indigenous Māori minority and significant Asian and Polynesian groups. Around 11% of New Zealanders identify with more than one ethnic group, with European-Māori being the most common combination. The ethnic mix varies across the country: while Auckland is a cultural melting pot, the South Island outside Christchurch and Dunedin is still overwhelming European.
Around 43.5% of New Zealanders are Christian, 38.5% are irreligious, and 6% follow non-Christian religions (12% of New Zealanders didn't answer the question).
New Zealand leads most of the world, time wise!
The Chatham Islands, part of New Zealand but 800 kilometres (500 mi) east of Christchurch, keep Chatham Islands Standard Time (CIST) by adding twelve hours and forty five minutes to Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) resulting in UTC+12:45. The only other official time zone with a 45-minute increment from UTC is Nepal. The Line Islands of Kiribati; Tonga and Samoa are the only time zones further in advance from 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 (UTC+13 = NZDT = New Zealand Daylight Time) begins on the last Sunday in September and ends on the first Sunday in April.
Rugby union inspires more passion than religion and New Zealand's national team are the mighty All Blacks, whose ground-trembling opening haka are arguably better known than any other aspect of New Zealand. They generally play matches at home Jun-Sep, mainly in The Rugby Championship (formerly the Tri Nations) against South Africa, Australia and, since 2012, Argentina. The All Blacks won the inaugural Rugby World Cup in 1987 and are the current holders after winning it again in 2011 and 2015. As evidenced by their success, New Zealand is probably one of the most formidable if not the most formidable national side in the sport of Rugby and playing against - let alone beating - the All Blacks is a dream come true for many Rugby players around the world.
The two main rugby union competitions at club level are Super Rugby, a regional competition incorporating regional teams from South Africa and Australia, and the domestic ITM Cup (formerly the National Provincial Championship from 1976 to 2005, and Air New Zealand Cup from 2006 to 2009). The Super Rugby season begins in February and normally ends in August (in Rugby World Cup years, the season ends in July); the ITM Cup starts in July and runs through to October. The Ranfurly Shield is considered the country's premier domestic rugby prize: during the ITM Cup, the team holding the "Log o' Wood" must defend it against the opposition during home games - if the opposition wins the game, they become the new holders of the shield. As at the end of the 2014 season, the Hawke's Bay Magpies are the holders of the Ranfurly Shield.
Other popular sports in winter include football (soccer), rugby league and netball with cricket played in summer. At the Summer Olympic Games and Commonwealth Games, the nation traditionally punches well above its size on the medal table; New Zealand won 13 medals (including six gold) at the London 2012 Olympics, or one medal for every 340,000 population. New Zealand's traditional sporting colours are black and silver, with football being the notable exception, using white due to an old FIFA regulation reserving black for referees. Nearly all national sporting teams have nicknames, with some exceptions, derived from Black for men's teams and Ferns for women's teams, e.g. Silver Ferns (netball), Black Ferns (women's rugby), Black Caps/White Ferns (cricket), Kiwis/Kiwi Ferns (rugby league), All Whites/Football Ferns (football).
Sporting passions do run high, and this has caused problems in the past. New Zealand's sporting ties with apartheid-era South Africa were always controversial – twenty-five African nations boycotted the 1976 Montreal Olympics after the All Blacks toured South Africa and the IOC refused to ban New Zealand over it, and then in 1981 when the Springboks toured New Zealand, the country almost erupted in riot when anti-apartheid groups clashed with rugby fans.
The national holidays in New Zealand are:
- 1 January: New Year's Day
- 2 January: New Year's Holiday
- 6 February: Waitangi Day, marking the anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840.
- Easter weekend: a four-day long weekend in March or April (set according to the Western Christian dates) consisting of Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Easter Monday and the intervening Saturday (not a public holiday). Most businesses must remain closed on Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
- 25 April: ANZAC Day, marking the anniversary of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps landing at Gallipoli in 1915. Most businesses must remain closed until 13:00.
- First Monday in June: Queen's Birthday
- Fourth Monday in October: Labour Day
- 25 December: Christmas Day. Most businesses must remain closed.
- 26 December: Boxing Day.
Each part of the country has its own Anniversary Day public holiday. The anniversary days are based on pre-1876 provincial boundaries, which do not match up to today's regional boundaries. The most widely observed of these are Auckland Anniversary Day, which is observed on the Monday closest to 29 January by the North Island north of (and including) Taupo, and Wellington Anniversary Day, which is observed on the Monday closest to 22 January by Greater Wellington and most of the Manawatu-Wanganui Region. While Auckland Anniversary is observed by more people directly (2.5 million), Wellington Anniversary is observed by more people indirectly because all the government departments and embassies are based in Wellington. Each region's page should detail the dates of its anniversary day.
Upcoming school holidays
The Ministry of Education sets the school year for all state and state-integrated schools (96.5% of all schools). Secondary school students (age 13-18) typically break for the summer holidays once they finish exams at the beginning of December, while primary school students (age 5-12) break in mid-December. Students return to school at the end of January or the beginning of February. There are three term breaks of two weeks each - one in April (usually starting Good Friday), one in July, and one in September/October. Tertiary students typically start in Late February or the beginning of March, and finish in early November, with a three-to-four-week winter break in June/July, and two one-week mid-semester breaks at Easter and the end of August.
Electricity is supplied at 230 volts (plus or minus 6%) 50 hertz. Outlets are the Australian AS/NZS 3112 "Type I", with two flat slanted pins for phase and neutral and a vertical flat pin below for earth. Bathrooms may be fitted with a 115/230V shaver outlet which accepts type A (North American), C (European), and I (Australian) – these outlets are not powerful enough to take appliance more than around 50 watts. Generally speaking, U.S. and Canadian travellers should pack an adapter and a converter if they plan to use North American electrical equipment. European travellers may need to check the amperage on some high-draw devices; New Zealand household outlets are designed for a maximum of 10 A (2300 W), lower than the maximum 13 A and 16 A used in Britain and mainland Europe respectively. If you draw too much power, you'll pop the circuit breaker.
The electricity supply is generally stable and reliable. The electricity network in eastern Christchurch is still being repaired following the 2011 earthquake, with some suburbs (especially in the north-east) being supplied by temporary lines built hastily in the days after the quake, so be prepared for power outages. Great Barrier Island, Stewart Island, the Chatham Islands, and some isolated parts of the South Island (including Haast and Milford Sound) are not connected to the national electricity grid. Watch your electricity usage when in these areas, as they are largely reliant on diesel generators, and diesel fuel is not cheap.
If you're a greenie, you'll be pleased to know that 75 percent of the electricity is generated from renewable resources, namely hydro (55 percent), geothermal (15 percent) and wind (5 percent). Of the OECD countries, only Iceland and Norway generate a bigger share of their electricity from renewables.
Topics in New Zealand
The vast majority of travellers arrive by plane. A small percentage arrive by boat (mostly cruise ships through Auckland, Wellington or Christchurch, and a few private yachts).
Refugee applications should be made before arrival since NZ has a formal refugee induction programme. Those who turn up in a New Zealand airport arrival lounge without papers, claiming refugee status, may find themselves in jail awaiting the outcome of legal proceedings.
Passports, visas and documentation
Minimum validity of travel documents
Foreign nationals of the following countries/territories can enter New Zealand visa-free as a visitor as long as they present a valid passport:
Indefinitely: Australia (both Australian citizens and permanent residents)
For up to 6 months: United Kingdom (British citizens and other British passport holders who produce evidence of the right to reside permanently in the UK)
For up to 3 months: All European Union member states, Andorra, Argentina, Bahrain, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Hong Kong SAR (including British National (Overseas) passports), Iceland, Israel, Japan, Kuwait, Liechtenstein, Malaysia, Mexico, Monaco, Norway, Oman, Qatar, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan, Uruguay, United Arab Emirates, United States and Vatican City
With the exception of Australian citizens and permanent residents, entry as a visitor does not permit employment or studying in New Zealand. Australian citizens and permanent residents entering New Zealand enjoy all benefits of a New Zealand permanent resident, except they cannot vote or claim some tax and social security benefits until they've been in New Zealand for at least two years.
Citizens of the Cook Islands, Tokelau and Niue are New Zealand citizens, and so do not require even a passport to live and work in New Zealand. However, you still need a passport or other proof of citizenship to enter and leave New Zealand, since flights go through the international terminal.
For more information, check the list of visa-free countries. All these visa waivers, including the one for Australians, can be refused. In particular, potential visitors who have a criminal record or who have been refused entry to or deported from any country should check with Immigration New Zealand if they need to apply for a visa. You may also be refused entry for health reasons, especially if you have tuberculosis (TB) or are likely to inflict large costs on New Zealand's health system during your stay (e.g. you need renal dialysis, hospitalisation or residential care). If you are pregnant and going to be in New Zealand beyond 37 weeks, you may need to prove that you have sufficient funds (NZ$9,000 or more) to cover maternity costs before being allowed to enter New Zealand.
Visitors from countries not in the visa-free list or those wishing to stay longer than the maximum visa-free period for their nationality need to apply for an appropriate visa. Check the Immigration New Zealand web page for details.
If you require a visa to enter New Zealand, you might be able to apply for one at a British embassy, high commission or consulate in the country where you legally reside if there is no New Zealand diplomatic post. For example, the British embassies in Belgrade and Tripoli accept New Zealand visa applications. British diplomatic posts charge £50 to process a New Zealand visa application and an extra £70 if Immigration New Zealand requires the visa application to be referred to them. Immigration New Zealand can also decide to charge an additional fee if they correspond with you directly.
If you seeking entry as a visitor and this standard condition is not specifically waived by a visa, you must have a return ticket or evidence of onward travel to even check-in with airlines. If you don't, then you'll have to purchase a ticket before being allowed to check in. You also need to prove you have sufficient funds available for your time in New Zealand – NZ$1,000 per month, or $400 per month if your accommodation is pre-paid (proof of payment is required in the latter case).
For those who need visa and are travelling in a group (having the same travel plans and itinerary), it may be better to apply for the considerably cheaper group visas. While applying for such a visa, apart from individual application forms, a separate group visa application form (only one form for the entire group) should also be submitted.
Customs and Quarantine
New Zealand has very strict bio-security laws. Being a long way from anywhere else in the world, many pests and diseases that are endemic elsewhere are not present in New Zealand. The economy is based on agriculture, so importing even small quantities of food, unprocessed animal or plant materials is tightly controlled. These restrictions are designed to prevent the introduction of foreign diseases and pests. Do not think you can get away with bringing items in surreptitiously by not declaring them; ALL baggage will be x-rayed on arrival as part of standard entry procedures.
Take care with any items of food that you have obtained during your travel; many people have been caught and fined for not declaring fruit they were given as part of an in-flight meal. The best advice is to declare any item you think may cause problems — bio-security control border staff may confiscate and destroy the item, but you will not have to pay a fine (or even face criminal prosecution). Even if you haven't declared an item on your arrival card, you can still advise staff when you get to the border check of any item without incurring a fine.
At ports of international entry, both the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) and New Zealand Customs Service may inspect passenger baggage and confiscate and fine for any prohibited items. There are air-side amnesty bins available to cater for accidental importation.
Items that must be declared include:
- any kind of food, whether packaged or not and especially honey
- any plant material
- any animals
- animal material or biological specimens
- dirty or soiled sports gear, footwear, and used camping gear and anything that may have been in contact with soil, been used on a farm or has been used with animals. If declared, the owners of dirty items are often required to clean them thoroughly; if not declared, fines are often applied.
Expect random inspections by sniffer-dogs - you may need to have your luggage inspected if you have had food in it recently that the dogs can smell.
All food must be declared to customs, even if the food items are permitted. Commercially-packaged or processed food is usually allowed through by MPI, but you can still be fined if you do not declare them. If you are unsure it is best to declare any questionable items as the immigration officers will be able to tell you if it needs to be cleaned or disposed of before entry. Some items may be allowable such as wooden souvenirs but be taken for sterilization or fumigation before being released to you. You may be charged a fee for this.
On the spot fines of $400 are issued for not declaring controlled items. The law provides for deliberate breaches to receive a fine of up to $100,000 or a prison term of up to five years. Either declare items as required or dump them in the amnesty bins before you reach customs. If you have difficulty with the arrival card, most airline staff are able to assist you, and there are also officials at the major airports air-side who can assist.
New Zealand law requires you to make a declaration to customs if you are bringing NZ$10,000 or more, or its equivalent in foreign currency, in or out of the country. There are no restrictions on the amount of money that may be brought into or out of New Zealand provided the money is properly declared. Failure to declare could lead to arrest and a possible seizure of the cash.
In addition, importation or possession of most recreational drugs, including cannabis, is illegal and results in arrest. If found guilty, you would be subject to a range of penalties from hefty fines for minor offences to lengthy imprisonment, even life imprisonment, for larger offences.
New Zealand is a long way from any other country, so most travellers get there by plane. Flight time from the Australian east coast alone is over 3 hours.
Auckland and Christchurch are the main entry points. More than a dozen airlines connect Auckland Airport with more than 25 destinations in Australia and the South Pacific, eastern Asia, North America, Santiago de Chile, Dubai and even London Heathrow (via Air New Zealand's flagship London-Los Angeles-Auckland route). Christchurch International Airport offers flights to and from eastern Australia, Fiji, Singapore, Bangkok and Dubai, and seasonal services to and from Perth, Rarotonga and Taipei.
Smaller international airports at Wellington and Queenstown offer flights to and from Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. There are also flights between Dunedin and Brisbane, and between Wellington and Fiji (from June 2015). If you fly through Australia, make sure you have a transit visa if you need one. You won't be able to get on your flight otherwise.
You no longer have to pay a separate departure tax – it's included in your ticket price.
Some of the airlines are:
- Air New Zealand: The highly regarded national airline and Star Alliance member operates direct flights to New Zealand from 25 destinations in Australia and the Pacific Islands, Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Tokyo, Vancouver, Honolulu, San Francisco, Los Angeles, London (via Los Angeles), and from December 2015, Buenos Aires and Houston. The airline offers the "Economy Skycouch" on its Boeing 777-300 and 787 aircraft (coming soon to the 777-200) – a set of three seats in economy that transform into a flat multi-purpose surface by raising the leg rests. They recommend it to couples who want to lie down and sleep, although at 74 by 155 cm (29 by 61 in), you have to be either a hobbit or quite intimate with your partner to do so comfortably.
- Emirates: Flies to Auckland from your choice of Brisbane, Sydney or Melbourne; also to Christchurch via Bangkok and Sydney.
- Hawaiian Airlines: Flies from 11 continental US cities to Auckland via Honolulu.
- Qantas: Flies from Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne to Auckland, Queenstown, Wellington (not from Brisbane), and Christchurch (Sydney only).
- Singapore Airlines: Flies from Singapore direct to Auckland and Christchurch.
Buses are a relatively cheap and environmentally friendly way to get around New Zealand. Services are usually only once a day, even between major towns. Most roads in New Zealand are quite narrow and winding (when compared to the highways of the USA), and travelling a long distance in a bus can be a safe and relaxing way to travel. Booking in advance on some lines can get you great bargains.
- Flying Kiwi Adventures. New Zealand’s original adventure bus tour company offering "beyond the tourist trail" experiences. The company was listed in National Geographic's Best Adventure Travel Companies for 2009 and received a Qualmark enviro award. Trips range from 3–27 days and cover both islands. The tours focus on enjoying the outdoor beauty and excitement of New Zealand with numerous hiking, cycling and activity options. There are also options to take extended breaks in your favourite places. Discounts are available for holders of YHA, VIP, ISIC and NOMADs cards.
- InterCity Coachlines. New Zealand’s national coach company, with services connecting over 600 destinations nationwide. InterCity Group has voluntarily adopted European Emission standards across its fleet of modern coaches. Operates InterCity Coachlines, Newmans Coach Lines and also operates a modern fleet of vessels and coaches for GreatSights New Zealand, Fullers GreatSights Bay of Islands and awesomeNZ. In May 2007 InterCity Group signed up to Landcare Research's carboNZero programme which has a core focus on working to reduce harmful emissions at source. They have used a range of activities to reduce their carbon emissions by up to 50% over the five years. Tickets can be purchased from the InterCity ticket counters at bus stations or i-SITE information centres and a discount is given to students or youth-hostel membership card holders (e.g. BBH, YHA, Nomads, ISIC). Fares start from just $1 (plus a booking fee) on all InterCity’s national services and they’ve even been known to give away free seats at various times of the year. A limited number of heavily discounted “Cheap-as-Seats” for travel that week are released via the company’s Facebook and Twitter feeds every Monday. On-line fares are often sold at a cheaper rate.
- Travelpass - A transport pass offered by InterCity Coachlines. Brings together an extensive range of “hop on and off” fixed itinerary passes, based on the most popular touring routes throughout New Zealand. National passes include the Interislander ferry as well as a scenic boat cruise in Milford Sound. Passes are valid for 1yr.
- Flexi-Pass - Utilising the combined national networks of InterCity, Newmans and GreatSights, Flexi-Pass is sold in blocks of time, just like a prepaid phone card, and enables the holder to travel anywhere on the company’s network. Passes start at 15 hr, which is enough to travel from Auckland to Wellington in the North Island. Flexi-Pass hours can also be used to travel on the Interislander ferry and on Fullers GreatSights Bay of Islands Dolphin Watching cruises and tours to Cape Brett and the famous "Hole in the Rock". Passes can also be sold on to third parties and are valid for 1yr.
- flexitrips - A simple trips based transport pass offered by InterCity Coachlines which enables the holder to travel anywhere on the company’s network and includes selected tour options with awesomeNZ.com. Passes start at 5 trips with greater savings the more trips you pre-purchase. Like flexi-pass, flexitrips provides options on the Interislander ferry and on Fullers GreatSights Bay of Islands Dolphin Watching cruises and tours to Cape Brett and the famous "Hole in the Rock". Passes can also be on sold and are valid for 1yr.
- Naked Bus. New Zealand's low price city to city bus company provides daily point-to-point services across the country. Naked Bus is often the cheapest option for travellers who plan ahead. Some Naked Bus services code-share with other bus companies, including Atomic.
- Nakedpassport - sold in bundles of trips. Also an unlimited trip pass available (valid for 1yr). Note this pass cannot be used as a commuter pass but is ideal for travellers wishing to see the whole country. You can get on and off when you please - but bookings are required. This pass also allows purchase of selected tourist activities at discounted prices. With this pass you travel on naked buses, so you are travelling with both travellers and locals.
- Atomic Shuttles operate a no-frills shuttle service in parts of the South Island.
- Knight Rider Transport between Christchurch and Dunedin daily.
- West Coast Shuttle. Daily transport from Greymouth to Christchurch (via Arthur's Pass) return at more affordable prices than some of the larger firms.
- Backpacker buses - KiwiExperience Backpacker Bus and Stray Travel Bus offer bus trips around New Zealand where you can get on and off as you please after purchasing a pass.
Domestic flights in New Zealand are often cheaper than driving or taking the train, especially if crossing between the North and South Islands is required.
Airlines operate an electronic ticket system. You can book on-line, by telephone, or through a travel agent. Photo ID will be needed for travel.
Check-in times are usually at least 30 minutes prior to flight departure. Cabin baggage and personal scanning are routinely conducted for services from the major airports that have jet landings.
- Air New Zealand has the most extensive domestic network, serving most cities over 20,000 people, with jet services between main centres and smaller turboprop aircraft elsewhere. Free baggage allowance is 1 piece of baggage weighing 23 kg on Grabaseat+Bag, Saver and Flexi fares; standard Grabaseat fares don't include checked baggage. All fares include 7 kg carry-on baggage.
- Jetstar is a budget no-frills carrier that flies to Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin, Napier, Nelson, Queenstown and Wellington. Flights to New Plymouth and Palmerston North will commence on 1 February 2016.
Auckland, Christchurch, Queenstown and Wellington airports have timetabled buses to the airport. Regional airports generally have only on-demand shuttle services and taxis.
By motor vehicle
- Main article: Driving in New Zealand
You can reach most of New Zealand's sights in a two-wheel-drive car, motorcycle or even a small camper van. Traffic drives on the left in New Zealand. Outside the major cities, traffic is normally light and drivers are usually courteous.
The State Highway network connects major cities and destinations within the two main islands, and are indicated by a number inside a red shield. Most intercity State Highways are undivided with one lane in each direction with limited overtaking opportunities; motorways and expressways are generally only found near major cities. Be prepared to get caught behind slow-moving vehicles, and expect drivers behind you to become impatient if you don't keep up with the speed limits without an excuse.
You can legally drive for up to 12 months if you are at least 18 years old and have a current full driving licence from your home country. It must be in English or you must have an approved English translation such as an International Driving Permit (IDP) to accompany it. You must carry your licence at all times when driving. All drivers and passengers must wear a seat belt, and children must be seated in a approved child restraint until their 7th birthday. Talking or using a mobile phone while driving is illegal.
Tourists driving in New Zealand has been a hot topic since mid-2014, after a spate of fatal crashes involving tourists. In February 2015, there were reports of locals turning vigilante, confiscating keys from bad tourist drivers and, in one case, assaulting a tourist. Make sure you follow the basic road rules, keep left, don't cut corners or needlessly cross the centre line, slow down, don't drink and drive, get plenty of rest after a long-haul flight, and remember Kiwi drivers can be just as bad.
Expect to pay $2.00 to $2.05 per litre for regular petrol (gasoline) in the major cities. Diesel may appear cheaper ($1.25 to $1.30 per litre), but that's because it's not taxed at the pump; diesel vehicles instead pay their share of tax through Road User Charges. As New Zealand imports nearly all of its oil, mainly from the Middle East and eastern Asia, pump prices can be volatile.
- See also: Renting a motorhome in New Zealand
New Zealand is a motorbike rider's dream country! Rentals of many makes of motorcycles are available throughout New Zealand. The South Island is the main attraction for a motorcyclist and motorcycle tours base most of their time here. Remember to bring your full motorcycle licence from your home country; a standard car licence is not suffice to ride a motorcycle in New Zealand.
Paradise Motor Cycle Tours are the pre-eminent suppliers of motorcycling touring. The only New Zealand based Certified BMW Motorrad Travel Partner ensures all motorcycles are less than two years old and main dealer maintained. Superb accommodation and itineraries that include all the best motorbiking roads delivers exemplary holidays.
South Pacific Motorcycles offer both motorbike rental and motorbike tours (Harley-Davidson, BMW, Honda, Triumph & other late-model motorcycles) as well as self-guided motorcycle tours. Based in Christchurch in the South Island, motorcyclists have easy access to some of the best motorcycling in the world.
Car rental firms range from the familiar multi-national big brands through to small local car rental firms. The advantage of the big name rental firms is they can be found throughout New Zealand and offer the biggest and newest range of rental vehicles. The disadvantage is that generally they are the most expensive. Occasionally rental firms offer free rental in the direction from south to north due to the majority of tourists travelling in the opposite direction, creating a deficit of cars in the north.
At the other end of the scale are the small local operators who typically have older rental cars. Whilst you may not end up driving this year's latest model the advantage is that the smaller car rental firms can be substantially cheaper, so leaving you more money to spend on the many exciting attractions New Zealand offers. Between these extremes you will find a wide range of NZ car rental firms catering to different needs and budgets.
Other things to note are that most car hire firms require you to be 21 or over, hold a full licence and it will help if you have an International licence too. The majority of New Zealand rental vehicles have manual (stick-shift) transmissions; rental car companies will give you a manual transmission car unless you specify in advance you want an automatic one.
Some rental car companies (including Bargain Rental Cars, Avis, Budget, Hireace, Europcar, Hertz and Thrifty) do not allow their vehicles on the Cook Strait ferries between the North and South Island, although Hertz will allow their vehicles on the ferries if you are prepared to return it back to the island you picked it up from. If your rental car ends up in the wrong island, then you will have to pay the cost of relocating it back, which can be anywhere between $400 and $1200. Most rental car companies will allow you to drop off a car at one terminal, travel on the ferry and pick up another car at the other terminal at no extra cost.
Self-drive holidays are a great way to travel around New Zealand as they offer independence, flexibility and opportunities to interact with the locals. A number of companies offer inclusive self-drive holidays with rental car & accommodation, pre-set itineraries or customised to suit your interests.
Purchase and sale
- Main article: Buying or renting a vehicle in New Zealand
If you want to have an extended holiday in New Zealand and you would prefer to have your own transport, it may be cheaper to buy a car or van and resell it just before leaving. If you use this method, travel across Cook Strait can be expensive. If purchasing a car for $500 or less it may be cheaper to buy and sell a car in each island separately. However, if you buy your car in Christchurch, tour the South island and then travel North to sell 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 look for a car (newspapers, accommodation noticeboards, car markets etc.) New Zealand's biggest on-line auction website Trademe and biggest free classifieds Trade and Exchange have many listings. You can also try the backpackers car market where there are usually people selling their cars off cheaply. Car auctions can also be a suitable option if you are looking to buy a car. Turner's Auctions have regular auctions and are based in many cities. Look out for "Repo" auctions, where the cars being sold are as a result of repossession. Should any previous ownership problems have existed, these will have been resolved before auction commences.
New Zealand's car fleet is mainly of Japanese origin (Toyota, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Suzuki, etc.), but Ford and Holden (the local General Motors badge) also make up a large portion of the market. A large number of cars have been imported used from Japan, and while cheap to buy, they may have a chequered history. If you want some piece of mind, try looking for a "New Zealand new" car; that is, a car that was imported brand new (cars are no longer assembled in New Zealand).
The following things need to be checked in order to safely purchase a vehicle in New Zealand:
- there is no debt on the vehicle. In NZ, if a loan of money 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 problem of the debt. Selling a vehicle with debt associated with it in NZ is illegal. Checking for debt is an easy process as a central register is kept.
- the vehicle has not been stolen. Contact the police with the registration plate and VIN (vehicle identification number).
- 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 expired. This label is usually on the left side of the car window.
- the vehicle needs a physical check for faults, there are companies in main centres that provide this service.
When you sell a vehicle it is very important you notify the New Zealand Transport Agency otherwise any subsequent speeding fines, parking tickets etc. will be recorded in your name.
Car insurance is not compulsory in New Zealand but at least third party insurance is recommended. The Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) automatically covers you for personal injuries in car accidents (see Stay healthy below for more information).
- Main article: Rail travel in New Zealand
Both Auckland and Wellington have commuter rail services. Auckland's network is managed by Auckland Transport, and has four lines spreading 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 south-east; there is no rail to the North Shore or to eastern Auckland. Wellington's network is managed by Metlink, and has four lines spreading north from Wellington station serving Wellington's northern suburbs, Porirua, the Kapiti Coast (as far north as Waikanae), Lower Hutt and Upper Hutt. A fifth service, the Wairarapa Connection, travels several times daily to Masterton in the Wairarapa via Upper Hutt and the 8.8 km Rimutaka Tunnel.
Inter-city passenger services are operated by KiwiRail Scenic Journeys, with just a few popular tourist services that pass through spectacular scenery and have a running commentary, panoramic windows and an open-air viewing carriage.
- Northern Explorer (replaced the Overlander) – a modern train that now operates 3 days a week all year. It heads south from Auckland to Wellington on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays and in the opposite direction on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. This is reckoned by many to be one of the world's most scenic rail journeys.
- Capital Connection – commuter service leaves from Palmerston North to Wellington in the morning, returning in the evening.
- Coastal Pacific – from Christchurch to Picton (via Kaikoura) and return daily. Travels along the rugged north-east coast of the South Island with terrific sea views. Meets the Picton–Wellington ferry. Oct–Apr only.
- TranzAlpine – from Christchurch to Greymouth and return daily. Classed as one of the world's great train journeys, this trip crosses the South Island, passing through spectacular mountain scenery, some of which is inaccessible by road, as well as the 8.5 km Otira Tunnel. Many visitors disembark at Arthur's Pass National Park and spend four hours exploring the mountains before catching the return train.
The online booking site maximises overseas revenue by only showing the cheapest fares when it detects that you are accessing it from a New Zealand IP address. You may be able to get these cheaper fares if you wait until you arrive or book by phone. Seating on the Capital Connection is on a first-come-first-served basis and cannot be booked in advance.
Trains run at low speed, no faster than 110 km/h and can drop to 50 km/h in the summer due to the lack of track maintenance following privatisation in the 1990s. Most New Zealanders prefer to drive or fly long distances, as train fares are comparatively expensive. However, if time is not an issue, going through New Zealand by train is well worth the price-tag as you get breathtaking views you wouldn't get from a car and can wander around the train while someone else does all the driving - benefits no other mode of transportation offers.
All long distance trains have a dining car and you can pre-order your food and have a look at the menu online.
Between the North and South Islands
There are two passenger and car ferry operators which cross Cook Strait between Wellington in the North Island and Picton in the South Island. The journey lasts just over three hours and there are several sailings daily. It is a spectacular and scenic trip through Wellington Harbour, Cook Strait and the Marlborough Sounds. However, the weather and seas in Cook Strait are frequently rough and unpredictable; sailings can be delayed or cancelled due to stormy weather, while others can quickly turn from a Mediterranean cruise into a spew-fest. Make sure you pack essentials for every possible weather situation in your carry-on luggage; you can't return to your car once the ferry has left port.
The ferry terminal at Picton is close to the railway station, and the Coastal Pacific train connects with Interislander sailings.
It is essential to book vehicle crossings in advance. The busiest period is from late December to February. Foot passenger traffic is also heavy at this time, and it is advisable to book well in advance.
Check with your rental car company whether you can take your vehicle on the Cook Strait ferry: some do not allow their vehicles on the ferries but will happily allow you to drop off a car at one ferry terminal and pick up another car at the other terminal at no extra cost.
- Interislander, ☎ , toll-free: 0800 802 802. Contact centre M–F 08:00–20:00, Sa–Su 08:00–18:00. Operates three ships: Aratere, Kaiarahi and Kaitaki.
- Bluebridge (Strait Shipping), ☎ , toll-free: 0800 844 844. Contact centre 08:00-20:00 daily.. Operates two ships: Straitsman and Strait Feronia
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 expeditions in several places. There are regular sightseeing cruises in several tourist destinations, particularly in the Southern Lakes and Fiordland area.
You can bring your own bike or hire one in some of the larger cities. By law, you must wear a helmet while riding, otherwise you may be issued an on-the-spot penalty. When hiring a bike you should be supplied with a helmet. Remember to ride on the left. You cannot ride on motorways in New Zealand - be aware that the Auckland Harbour Bridge between downtown Auckland and the North Shore is a motorway and there is no separate cycle path (yet), so you'll have to take a ferry or cycle around the harbour.
Cycling in New Zealand can be fun, but be aware that because of the geography and small number of people cycling between towns there are very few cycle lanes and limited shoulder space on roads. Beware of buses and trucks on main highways as many drivers will not give you sufficient overtaking clearance; proportionately, five times as many cyclists are injured and killed on New Zealand roads as in the Netherlands or Singapore! You should also be prepared for the large distances between towns and cities and the generally windy weather. While some areas of New Zealand are flat, most tourists cycling in New Zealand will find that they need to be able to cope with long periods of cycling up hills, especially in the Coromandel. Be prepared for any weather and for all seasons in one day.
You can choose to get a bike on arrival in New Zealand, or use a self-guided or guided cycle tour operator. Christchurch had the largest number of guided and self-guided tour operators and there are a number of bike rental companies based there also. There are also several tour operators who incorporate cycling with tours such as Pedal Tours as well as specialist cycle tour companies like Adventure South.
Currently, there is a network of cycle trails being built around New Zealand, using a combination of off-road cycleways and low-traffic roads. There are some safe and beautiful routes already constructed: NZ Cycle Trail.
Hitchhiking around New Zealand is quite good everywhere. It's illegal to hitchhike on the few motorways (except on the on-ramps) and illegal for motorists to stop there to pick you up. Try to get out of the middle of town, especially where public transport operates. Wear your pack and look like you're touring the country rather than just being a local looking for a lift, but above all else pick a place that's safe for vehicles to stop and don't forget to smile. You have as much chance of being picked up by another tourist as a local, particularly in tourist areas.
Rideshare and carpooling is increasing in New Zealand as fuel prices rise and people recognise the social and environmental benefit of sharing vehicles and travelling with others. While some systems are quite informal, others have trust systems which give greater security when choosing a ride.
- Jayride. A New Zealand ridesharing and hitch hiking website. Their focus is providing a variety of ride options, for flexibility and cost savings.
Mountains, lakes and glaciers
It can be said that in New Zealand it's the countryside that's magnificent, and perhaps no more so than the Southern Alps of the South Island. In the Mackenzie Country, the snow-capped jagged peaks rising above turquoise lakes have provided the inspiration for many a postcard. Tucked in behind is the country's highest peak, Aoraki Mount Cook. The lakes and mountains continue south, becoming a stunning backdrop for the towns of Wanaka, Queenstown and Glenorchy.
Another region where mountain meets water with striking effect is Fiordland National Park where steep, densely forested mountains rise from the sea. The most accessible, and perhaps one of the most beautiful, spots is Milford Sound. The road in is spectacular and the view even more so 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 notable are the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers in Westland National Park. These glaciers are unique in how close they get to sea level and are sustained by the enormous amount of precipitation that falls on New Zealand's west coast.
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. The surrounding countryside has many parks with geysers and hot springs, and Mount Tarawera, the site of one of New Zealand's more famous eruptions, lies a short drive away.
South of Rotorua is the town of Taupo, on the shores of the country's largest lake, which was formed in a massive volcanic explosion 26,500 years ago, and expanded by an equally massive explosion 1800 years ago (it reputedly turned 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 viewed with a bit of hiking. Ngauruhoe is famous for filling in as Mt. Doom in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Northeast of Rotorua is Whakatane, with tours to White Island, a volcanic island not far off the coast. The island is truly a different world with its smoke plume, green crater lake and the pohutukawa trees clinging to a fragile existence on the volcanic rock.
Dormant and extinct volcanoes help define the landscape in many other regions, including Taranaki and three of the largest cities (Auckland, Christchurch and Dunedin). Hot springs are sprinkled across the country, and are often popular bathing spots.
Flora and fauna
Being so remote, New Zealand has very unique plants and animals. One of the most impressive is the kauri tree, one of the biggest species of tree in the world. Few of these giants are left (a result of overlogging), but a visit to the Waipoua Forest in Northland will afford a glimpse. 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, particularly 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 noted for its albatross colony.
Unfortunately, many of New Zealand's most unique animals are endangered and can only really be seen in captivity. This includes the kiwi (the country's national bird), the flightless takahe, the kakapo (made famous internationally after the "shagged by a rare parrot" incident), and the tuatara (a small reptile believed to have existed at the time of the dinosaurs).
New Zealand's National Parks are maintained by the Department of Conservation (DOC) and various local governments. Access is usually free but may be restricted in some parks during some parts of the year due to weather (e.g.: avalanche risk) or farming needs (e.g.: lambing season). It's best to check with local tourist information centres for up to date information on access.
While the countryside is the main attraction of New Zealand, it's worthwhile to spend some time in the cities. Auckland is a pleasant city with its waterfront districts like the Viaduct Harbour and Mission Bay, old volcanoes (Mt Eden and One Tree Hill), a handful of museums and the Sky Tower, the tallest free standing building in the Southern Hemisphere. The more interesting architecture and the fine Te Papa museum can be found in Wellington, the capital. Napier is worth a stop, if you have the time, for its Art Deco CBD and Christchurch was interesting for its English character.
Outdoor and adventure activities include:
- Abseiling Waitomo
- Aerial sightseeing (helicopter and fixed-wing)
- Black water rafting (cave rafting)
- 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
- Caving: Waitomo, Nelson, South Island West Coast, Te Anau
- Fishing: both Freshwater (some of the finest trout-fishing in the world) and Gamefishing (some of the best sport fishing in the world for marlin, broadbill, sharks, tuna, kingfish and many other salt-water species)
- Fly by wire (invented here)
- Four-wheel driving
- Gliding - Omarama is one of the best places in the world for gliding
- Golf - New Zealand has over 400 registered golf courses, from local clubs to internationally renowned resorts, offering uncrowded golfing & superb scenery.
- Heli-hiking at Fox Glacier
- Hiking - New Zealand has a number of national parks and other wilderness and forested areas, much of which is managed by the Department of Conservation (DoC). The activity known in other countries as hiking, trekking or bush walking is known as tramping in New Zealand and is a very popular activity for visitors and locals.
- Horse trekking
- Hot-air ballooning
- Hunting - several species of deer, wild pig (wild boar), tahr, chamois, goat, wallabies (they are protected in Australia but a pest here), game birds.
- Kite surfing
- Luge (on concrete not ice) Auckland, Queenstown, Rotorua.
- Mountaineering - this was the training ground for Sir Edmund Hillary, one of the first two people to climb Mt Everest.
- Mountain biking
- Nature tours
- Quad biking
- Rap jumping
- River jetboating - the Hamilton jet was invented by New Zealander William Hamilton.
- Rodeo in New Zealand features steer roping, barrel racing, bull riding and barebacck bronco as well as sheep wrangling for the toddlers
- Rugby - the national game. Major tournaments include Super Rugby, Tri Nations and ITM Cup. New Zealand hosted the last Rugby World Cup in 2011
- Sailing - New Zealand has produced many world-champion yachties and is the only country apart from the US to have won and successfully defended yachting's ultimate prize, the America's Cup.
- Scuba diving and snorkelling, especially down to the sunken Rainbow Warrior at Matauri Bay, not far from Kerikeri.
- Sea kayaking Abel Tasman Marine Reserve and the colder waters of Milford Sound
- Shark cage diving Kaikoura
- Skiing and snowboarding including heli-skiing Queenstown
- Stand up paddleboarding, especially in the warm and sheltered waters of Tasman Bay
- Swimming with dolphins Kaikoura, Bay of Islands
- Swimming with seals
- Whale watching Kaikoura
- White water rafting Fox Glacier
- White water sledging / dam dropping
- Zorbing (invented here) Agrodome in Rotorua
Eat your fush 'n' chups and then go to bid.
New Zealand English has a very pronounced shift in its short-e (as in dress) and its short-i (as in kit) compared to other English dialects. The short-i has moved and merged with schwa (the a in comma), while the short-e has moved to the place of the short-i sound. Hence, foreigners might interpret New Zealanders pronouncing six, fish, bed, deck as saying sux, fush, bid, dick.
English, Māori and New Zealand Sign Language are the official languages of New Zealand. English is universal, and is written with Commonwealth (British) spelling. New Zealand English is one of the major varieties of English and is different enough from other forms to justify the publication of the Oxford New Zealand English dictionary.
Word usage may also differ occasionally, in potentially embarrassing ways for the traveller. Several words that Americans may consider offensive, or have euphemisms for, are considered acceptable usage. For example: A New Zealand bathroom refers to a room containing a bath while the other facilities that an American might refer to as a bathroom or washroom are known as a toilet (in many New Zealand homes, the toilet and bathroom are separate rooms). The American habit of "bleeping" swear words from broadcasts is considered quaint and rarely done in local programming. The New Zealand broadcasting media are unusually tolerant of swear words when used in context.
New Zealanders say a particular place is in the North Island or in the South Island (e.g. "Auckland is in the North Island"), not on North Island. However this rule only applies to the two main islands; New Zealanders still say on Waiheke Island, for example.
The letter Z is always pronounced zed'. Nothing will make you stick out like an American tourist more than pronouncing NZ as en-zee.
The New Zealand accent is somewhat nasalised with flattened vowel sounds and vowel shifting. New Zealanders consider their accent to be markedly different from the Australian one and are often mildly offended when mistaken for or confused with Australians. New Zealand terminology and slang are also different from Australian usage. Americans find New Zealand accents easy to understand, and so do Australians and Britons. Some European dialects find it slightly harder and Asians may find it rather hard to understand; New Zealanders are quite happy however to repeat what they just said if necessary.
Māori is spoken by a minority of both Māori and language learners (3.7% of New Zealand residents at the 2013 census). Māori is available as a language to study in, instead of English, at many educational institutes. The Māori language is spoken by some, but not all, Māori and a few non-Māori, especially in the far north and east of the North Island. Most travellers would not need to learn Māori, as nearly all native Māori speakers can also speak English. Nevertheless, as many place names are in Māori, some knowledge of Māori pronunciation can be useful. The biggest trip-up with Māori pronunciation to non-New Zealanders is wh, which is pronounced "f" as in father, so for example Whakatane is pronounced fa-ka-ta-nee, not wa-ka-ta-nee. Non-native Maori speakers also tend to change the a sound preceding ng or k to an o sound, so Whakatane can also be pronounced fo-ka-ta-nee.
New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) was given status in 2005 as an official language and is the primary language of New Zealand's Deaf community, with around 0.5% of New Zealand residents "speaking" it. It is closely related to British Sign Language and Australian Sign Language, sharing 80 percent of the signs with them and the same two-handed manual alphabet. However, NZSL has greater emphasis on facial expressions and mouthing words, reflecting the oralist teaching methods historically used in Deaf schools (before 1979, Deaf students were caned for signing in class). It also has additional unique signs related to New Zealand such as Maori words and place names.
New Zealand is a popular destination for migrants from all over the world, particularly Asia and the Pacific islands, and you will often find areas and suburbs with immigrant communities that 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 in school, though few master it beyond the basic level.
Generally, New Zealand English expressions follow British English. However, New Zealand English has also borrowed much from Māori and there are a number of other phrases that are not commonly encountered elsewhere or may confuse the visitor.
- Bach (pronounced "batch" as in bachelor) - Holiday home; often by the beach and comprised of fairly basic accommodation. In the southern South Island often called a crib.
- Bring a plate - (see also; "Ladies a plate") means each attendant of the event should bring a plate of food to share with the other guests. Now dated and not used so often.
- BYO - Bring Your Own. An addition to the name of a restaurant that may not have a liquor licence means that it is okay to bring your own wine to enjoy with your food, but they often charge a small corkage fee.
- Clayton's - Describing something as a Clayton's means that the item lacks full functionality or is a poor imitation of the real thing. From the name of the unsuccessful non-alcoholic whisky that was briefly marketed during the late 1970s/early 1980s under the catch phrase The drink you're having when you are not having a drink. Not used so commonly now.
- Dairy - Convenience store, corner shop; one few outsiders understand though heavily used by locals, who find problems when travelling overseas and are surprised when asking where the dairy is. The term comes from the days before supermarkets when they primarily sold dairy products (milk, cheese, butter, etc.). Many dairies today are owned and operated by Indian immigrants.
- Entry by gold (or silver) coin (donation) - The admission charge to an event, exhibit, gallery or museum is by making a payment of a coin in the appropriate metal, often in the donation box at the door. The gold coins in NZ are the $1 and $2 coins, while silver are the 20c and 50c coins, and the 10c coin is copper. (See also "Koha" below).
- Glidetime - Flexible working hours, often worked by public servants. Under this system, workers can start and finish work at hours of their choosing 07:00–18:00, although they must work the core hours of 09:00-12:00 and 14:00-15:30 and average 40 hours per week. Not heard so often now.
- Half pie or half pai - Usually a job or task not performed to satisfaction (cf Māori pai = good)
- Jandals (=JApanese saNDALS) - "Flip-flops" to most of the world; "thongs" to Australians; "slops" to South Africans.
- Kiwi - Nickname for a New Zealander or an adjective for something of New Zealand, from the name of an endangered flightless bird that is one of the country's national emblems. Not a derogatory term.
- Lollies - Confectionery; sweets; candies.
- Togs - swimsuit, bathing suit, swimming costume; clothing you wear when you go swimming.
- Tramping - hiking.
You may get a strange look if you use Kiwi slang in New Zealand, but it may be used inadvertently in conversation. If you don't understand just ask and most New Zealanders will explain.
- across the ditch – Australia. The Ditch refers to the Tasman Sea, which separates New Zealand and Australia (cf. the Pond between North America and Europe)
- Barbie - Short for barbecue
- Bro (rhymed with "snow") - short for brother, a form of personal address like mate, pal, or bud.
- Bush - Forest. Usually meaning a native forest as opposed to a plantation forest.
- chicks - girls.
- Choice! - Cool, great.
- Gumboots - A.K.A. Wellington Boots or Rain Boots
- mint - in tip top condition.
- Mate - any other person, male or female. Can be used on its own to express a number of different emotions based on delivery. A short 'Mate' combined with a slight head and eyebrow raise can be a greeting, whereas a longer 'Maaaaaate' combined with a cocking of the head and narrowing of the eyes can be seen as a scolding.
- munted - broken, damaged, unusable. Only came into popular use following the 2011 Christchurch earthquake (which basically munted half the city).
- oi - hey. Can be meant as a warning or jokingly, derives from punk usage.
- Sweet as! - Cool, good thing, No problem. Often abbreviated to just 'sweet'.
- Wop-wops - remote rural area; the middle of nowhere.
Māori words and expressions
- See also: Maori phrasebook
- Kia ora - Hello, welcome, literally good health. Often used as an utterance of agreement, especially during speaking at a hui.
- Haere mai - A greeting to a person arriving, while haere ra is a salutation to one leaving.
- Hui - A meeting or gathering to discuss and debate issues in traditional Māori fashion.
- Iwi - A Māori tribe or people, sometimes known as a waka (canoe), as some iwi are named after the ocean going canoes that brought their ancestors to New Zealand.
- Koha - A Māori term for gifts or donations. Often an exchange of gifts takes place. (Sometimes the admission signs say, "Entry Koha", meaning gold coin or what you feel like donating.)
- Kai - Food. Common with both Māori and European.
- Mana - is defined in English as authority, control, influence, prestige or power. It is also honour.
- Marae - A traditional Māori meeting or gathering place. Also a community centre.
- Pakeha - The Māori word for New Zealanders of non-Māori descent. The term's origin is contentious; one theory suggests it arose from a Māori story about spirit creatures called 'pakepakeha'. Some New Zealanders do not refer to themselves as Pakeha because they find it offensive; others, however, see the name as part of their unique identity.
- Powhiri - A Māori ceremonial welcome. Especially to a marae, but now also may take place at the start of a conference or similar large meeting in New Zealand.
- Whanau - A Māori (extended) family. Kinfolk. Used often in advertising to alliterate with friends such as 'friends and whanau'.
- Wharenui (literally big house) is the meeting house on a marae.
- Wharekai (literally food house) is the dining room and/or kitchen on a marae.
- Wharepaku (literally small house) - Toilet
- Just in case, Tāne is the mens' toilets, Wāhine is the womens' toilets.
The currency used throughout New Zealand is the New Zealand dollar (NZD, $), divided into 100 cents. The New Zealand dollar is free-floating so exchange rates can change drastically in just a week; as of October 2015, one US dollar will trade for approximately 1.50 New Zealand dollars. Australian Dollar notes are sometimes accepted in-lieu of New Zealand Dollars. Other foreign currencies are not readily accepted other than at some of the larger hotels and at banks throughout New Zealand.
Coins come in 10¢ (copper), 20¢, 50¢ (both silver), $1 and $2 (both gold). If paying in cash, the total price will be rounded to the nearest 10¢ (5¢ can round either way, but most businesses round down.) It is also not uncommon to see prices, especially in restaurants, that end in multiples of 10¢ to drop the last zero, e.g. $9.4 instead of $9.40.
Banknotes come in $5 (orange), $10 (blue), $20 (green), $50 (purple), and $100 (red); the front of each note features a notable New Zealander (except the $20 note, which features Queen Elizabeth II) while the rear features a native New Zealand bird. All banknotes are printed on polymer, so they won't get badly mangled if you leave them in your laundry. Counterfeit notes are very rare, but there is no harm double-checking: the current (1999) series of notes have two clear windows, one oval-shaped embossed with the value of the note and one fern-shaped, and a watermark of Queen Elizabeth II which can be seen if the not is held up to the light. A new series started entering circulation in October 2015, initially with $5 and $10 notes; these are the same colour and feature the same people and birds as their predecessors, but have a larger single holographic window featuring the silver fern, a map of New Zealand, the denomination, and the note's featured bird.
New Zealanders are among the highest users of electronic banking services in the world. Nearly all shops have Eftpos terminals for debit and credit cards, so most purchases can be made electronically. Credit cards and international debit cards are not accepted by some merchants with Eftpos, especially smaller food retailers such as dairies, takeaways and cafés that do not serve alcohol. Smaller retailers may often set a minimum purchase of around $10 when dispensing cash, if they agree to provide cash. Many New Zealanders don't carry large amounts of cash, seeing it as a risk and bothersome compared to using their Eftpos card. However, it's still a good idea to carry around some emergency cash, as Eftpos systems can go down and many retailers are reluctant to use their emergency "zip-zap" imprinters. All NZ banks offer telephone and internet banking services. If you are going to be in New Zealand for a while, it may be convenient to open a New Zealand bank account and set up a local debit card. Payment by cheque is becoming rare in New Zealand, and most shops won't accept them. Most businesses and people now supply their 15 digit bank account number (eg: 12-3456-0789123-00) on their invoices, and customers transfer the money into their account via Internet banking. This is common when purchasing a vehicle, or pre-booking accommodation; the payment usually completes the following business day.
All New Zealand banks will allow visitors and migrants to set up an account via their respective websites fewer than six months before arrival. Your Eftpos card will take about two weeks to arrive, and the bank will be more than happy to have it waiting for you at the branch of your choice. In New Zealand, the 'Big Four' banks are ANZ, ASB, BNZ, and Westpac; other major banks include Kiwibank and TSB.
Automatic teller machines (ATMs), locally known as 'the hole in the wall' or a 'cash machine', are available in just about every town, even those without a bank. Watch where you stick your card though, as most banks will charge you a fee for using a competitor's ATM.
New Zealand is a user of the nearly universal (except for the US) chip and PIN card system which uses an electronic chip in the card and the holder's Personal Identity Number to verify the transaction. Most merchants also accept the swipe and sign method; if you're using a card with no embedded chip, then after your card is swiped, the terminal will prompt you for your PIN. Just press "ENTER" and your transaction should be approved. After signing the printed receipt, you may be asked to present photographic ID. Automated machines such as those at unattended fuel pumps may not accept cards without a PIN.
MasterCard and Visa are universally accepted; other cards are not. American Express is widespread, Diners Club less so. Theoretically, you can use a Discover card everywhere you see the Diners Club International acceptance mark; however, almost no merchant will know this so, as long as you have a chip and PIN card, it's worth sticking it in the terminal and giving it a try. UnionPay cards are accepted at the Bank of New Zealand's 420 ATMs nationwide and selected EFTPOS merchants.
New Zealand is a fairly expensive country for most visitors, as its relative isolation drives the cost of importing items up. Prices are comparable to neighbouring Australia, although individual items may vary both higher and lower.
Taxes and fees
Advertised prices usually include the Goods and Services Tax (GST), a sales tax, of 15% – exceptions must state that GST is excluded or is additional. Some shops, especially in tourist destinations, will ship purchases overseas or make them available to pick up at the airport, as export goods are not subject to GST. Ask about this service before making your purchase. Goods purchased and taken with you will be subject to GST.
A few restaurants and cafés may charge a holiday surcharge of 15%, often claimed to cover the cost of higher wages for staff working on public holiday (staff working in public holidays must by law be paid one and a half times their ordinary rate and get a paid day off to take later)
Because of strong fair trading laws, the displayed price is normally the purchase price for most goods sold in New Zealand. The principle The price stated is the price you pay is strongly ingrained in New Zealand culture.
Most retailers will not negotiate on price, although some have a formal policy of matching the competition and will match or even discount their prices for you if you can find a better price for exactly the same product elsewhere within a reasonable distance (eg, Wellington and Lower Hutt, but not Wellington and Auckland). However, this seems to be changing as there are stories about people finding appliance and electronics stores very willing to negotiate on price in order to get business, especially if you're looking at high-end items or have a shopping list of multiple high-priced items. Some places you have to ask for a discount, while others have salespeople that offer discounts on pricey goods as soon as they approach you. Other than high end appliance stores, haggling is generally viewed as extremely rude. As a customer you are seen as wasting a shopkeeper's time because they believe that they have priced the goods at a reasonable price (and a shopkeeper would be wasting the customer's time if they overpriced the item expecting customers to haggle).
If you are in New Zealand for an extended period of time, the website Trade Me provides a similar business model to overseas giant eBay. However Trade Me has a greater focus on direct bank transfer based trading (a pre-requisite is that you must have a New Zealand bank account) and minimal to no fees required upon an item's initial listing.
Tipping is not part of New Zealand culture and is often treated with suspicion or actively frowned upon, as many people view it as a largely American custom that over-compensates certain workers while others are left out; additionally there is a feeling that tipping is paying twice for one service. Do not be surprised or offended if you receive bemused looks or if your tip is initially refused or questioned, as New Zealanders themselves generally do not tip, and it is also a form of courtesy in New Zealand culture to first decline such a gesture before accepting it. Despite this, some forms of tipping are common, such as rounding up a taxi fare. It is almost as likely, however, that the taxi driver will round the fare down to the nearest dollar. Some cafés keep a jar on the counter marked "tips for staff", in which customers can leave small change.
Occasionally tips are given in a restaurant for exceptional service, particularly in the larger cities like Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland. But in these cities it is becoming quite common for bar staff to be given tips of around 30 dollars built up over the whole night, especially the waiting staff. Again this is not a percentage amount of the bill but just a good will gesture by the patrons. Others may feel that the people who do this are being ostentatious and showing off their wealth. New Zealanders travelling overseas often find the custom difficult and confusing. It is common practice and polite to donate your spare change from the meal to what ever charity has a collection jar on the counter, and this acts as the standard substitute for tipping.
However, many New Zealanders travel and live in other countries, often returning to New Zealand; bringing the tipping habit back with them. In general, people who perform a service in New Zealand, such as waiters and hairdressers, are tipped with a smile and a thank you. This is considered reasonable because their average wage is substantially larger than their American counterparts.
On Christmas Day, Good Friday, Easter Sunday, and before 13:00 on Anzac Day (25 April), most businesses must remain closed - exceptions include dairies, convenience stores, petrol stations, cafes and restaurants, pharmacies, and some other shops located in airports and tourist hotspots such as Taupo and Queenstown. If you are in New Zealand on one of these days, ensure you have all your needs met prior to the date.
Major retail chains
The supermarket sector has three major chains: Countdown, New World and Pak'nSave. If you are looking for the lowest prices, Pak'nSave is probably your best bet. However, they carry a limited range of brands, force everyone to pack their own bags, and if you forget your reusable bags they charge you 10c per plastic bag - they even use stick figures in their adverts to show how cheap they are. Countdown and New World pretty much the same, except the former's Australian-owned and the latter's New Zealand-owned; they carry a full range and checkout staff will pack your bags free of charge, but keep an eye on the prices if you are on a budget. Countdown has a coupon card called Onecard - you can pick a temporary visitor card up from the supermarket and most hotels and motels if you want to get the discounts.
The Warehouse, commonly referred to as The Red Shed, is the New Zealand equivalent of Wal-Mart, containing a variety of bottom-end products including clothing, tools, camping equipment, toys, music, etc. Their motto is "where everyone gets a bargain" and most things are made in China. While you might not find the top quality brands here, prices are cheap. More traditional department stores include mid-market Farmers, and the upmarket department stores in the major cities: Smith & Caughey's in Auckland, Kirkcaldie & Stains in Wellington, and Ballantyne's in Christchurch.
Other 'big box' chains include Briscoes, a homewares store which seems to hold a "30–60% off everything sale" every other weekend.
Modern New Zealand cuisine has been mainly influenced by the country's British heritage, although immigration since the 1950s has started to put Mediterranean and Asian-Pacific twists to it. Māori have their own distinctive traditional cuisine. The evening meal, called dinner or tea, is considered the main meal of the day; snack breaks between meals are referred to as morning/afternoon tea, or smoko.
New Zealand does not have a culture of going out to eat: meeting for dinner at a restaurant is typically something that is done only on special occasions such as birthdays, or on romantic dates, although eating out is becoming more common. New Zealanders typically don't ask for the restaurant bill at the table, but rather vacate the table and ask for the bill at the front counter or bar.
New Zealand has a distinctive café culture, with arguably some of the best espresso on the planet. Cafés often have excellent food, serving anything from a muffin to a full meal.
In smaller towns food is always available at the local pub/hotel/bistro, although the quality tends to be of the burger-and-chips variety.
Fast food and convenience food outlets are plentiful. Every major town 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 trying, while the American pizza chains face competition from satanic-themed local chain Hell Pizza. Petrol stations often sell pies that can be heated in-store.
Fish and chips are a local specialty. The fish is often supplied by local fishermen and of extremely good quality. The style is somewhat different to the English style: chips tend to be crisper, and vinegar is never used as a dressing (except by British expats); traditional condiments in New Zealand include tomato sauce (ketchup) and tartare sauce. The menu consists of battered (or crumbed if you prefer) fish portions deep fried in oil together with chunky cut potato chips (fries) as well as a range of other meats, seafood, pineapple rings and even chocolate bars, all wrapped in newsprint paper – today, unprinted food-grade paper is used but traditionally it was yesterday's newspaper. A good meal can often be had for under $5; a poor one for the same price.
Distinctive New Zealand foods include:
- ANZAC biscuits – plain hard biscuits made primarily from oatmeal bound with golden syrup. Originally made for and by ANZAC troops during the First World War. Also found in Australia.
- Kiwifruit – a plum-sized green fleshed fruit, with fine black seeds in the flesh, originating from China, selectively bred in New Zealand, and first known to the home gardener as a Chinese gooseberry. Now commercially farmed, with production centred on Te Puke but in many orcharding areas. New Zealand kiwifruit is in season from mid-March to September; outside the season it is imported from the northern hemisphere. Slices often served on pavlova (see below).
- Kumara or sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) – roasted in the same manner as potatoes and often served instead of or alongside. May also be deep fried like potato chips and known as kumara chips – nice served with sour cream but rarely done well as kumara cooks at a different temperature than potatoes, so it needs a skilled chef for the dish to be done perfectly. The "red" variety with its dark red/purple skin is the most popular in New Zealand and is rather tart compared to the familiar Beauregard sweet potato found overseas (this variety is sold in New Zealand as "orange" kumara).
- Pavlova or pav – a dessert cake made of whipped egg whites and sugar and slowly baked to have a crusty meringue-like outside but a soft marshmallow-like middle, topped with whipped cream and decorated with sliced fruit. Pavlovas can be very finicky to bake and are notorious for deflating if cooled too quickly, so don't expect the average New Zealand homemade pav to look like the picture. The dessert is also common in Australia, and there is much debate between the two countries as to where it was first invented!
- Pies – New Zealanders eat large numbers of non-flakey pastry pies containing fillings such as beef, lamb, pork, potato, kumara, vegetables, and cheese that fit nicely in one hand (around 170 g/6 oz). They're so iconic in New Zealand that even McDonald's sells them (it's a long story), although their prices are a little on the steep side. Some companies now market ranges of "gourmet" pies and there is an annual competition for the best pie in a variety of categories.
- Whitebait – the translucent sprat or fingerlings of native freshwater fish species that migrate from spawning in the sea each year. After being caught in coastal river mouth set or hand nets during the spring (September to November), this highly sought after delicacy is rushed to all ends of the country. Often served in "whitebait fritters" (a fried patty of whitebait in an egg-based batter), they may be seasonally available from a local fish and chip shop and are cooked without gutting or removing their heads, as they are tiny (2-7 mm broad).
Māori have their own distinctive cuisine:
- The hangi or earth oven is the traditional way that Māori cook food for large gatherings. Meat, vegetables and sometimes puddings are slowly steam-cooked for several hours in a covered pit that has previously been lined with stones and had a hot wood fire burn down in it.
- Kaimoana (sea food) – particularly shellfish gathered from inter-tidal rocks and beaches as well as crayfish (rock lobster, Jasus edwardsii) and inshore fish caught on a line or with nets. Species such as paua (blackfoot abalone, Haliotis iris) and toheroa have been overfished and gathering restrictions are strictly enforced, while green mussels (Perna canalicula) are commercially grown and sold live, or processed, in supermarkets.
Warning: While it is common to see people collecting shellfish, crustaceans and other kaimoana, there are a number of rules, for example minimum sizes or daily catch limits, which are usually posted on signs at the approaches to the collecting area. These rules are strictly enforced; breaking them may net you a fine of up to $250,000 or up to 5 years in prison. If in doubt, check the Ministry of Primary Industries' (MPI) fisheries website: www.fish.govt.nz or with a local. Rules may be seasonal or all-year catch limits set by MPI, or they may be that certain areas are reserved solely for tangata whenua, or a combination. At times areas may have a prohibition against them for health reasons.
New Zealanders have a reputation for enjoying their beer, with the average Kiwi drinking 71 litres per year. Although there are now only three major breweries, there are many regional brands, each with their own distinctive taste and staunch supporters. International brands such as Heineken, Guinness, Carlsberg and Budweiser are also available.
The New Zealand wine industry has developed into a significant export industry. The nation is now known internationally as one of the top producers of Sauvignon Blanc; over 70% of the country's grape harvest of the variety. The Hawke's Bay region is well known for its Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Chardonnay and more recently Viognier varieties. Marlborough is the largest wine producing region and famous for its Sauvignon Blanc. Waipara in North Canterbury specialises in Riesling and Pinot Gris, while the Wairarapa and Central Otago specialise in Pinot Noir. Many vineyards now offer winery tours, wine tasting and sales from the vineyard.
The minimum legal purchase age for alcohol in New Zealand is 18, and can only be supplied to under-18s via a parent or legal guardian. It is universal policy for bars and retailers to ask for photo identification from any patron who looks under the age of 25, and the only forms of identification accepted are a passport, New Zealand driver licence, or a Hospitality Association of New Zealand (HANZ) 18+ card.
National alcohol trading hours are 08:00 to 04:00 the next day for on-licences (bars, pubs, restaurants) and 07:00 to 23:00 for off-licences (liquor stores, supermarkets), although there may be local restrictions. All off-licences must close and there are restrictions on alcohol sales at on-licences all day Christmas Day, Good Friday and Easter Sunday, and before 13:00 on Anzac Day (25 April). If you are planning to go to a winery on these days, you may be out of luck.
Take care when and where you indulge in public. New Zealand has recently introduced liquor ban areas – that means alcoholic drinks cannot be consumed or even carried in some streets, such as city centres and popular beaches, at certain times of the day or night. Police can instruct you to empty bottles and arrest you if you do not comply.
Coffeehouses are a daytime venue in many of the larger cities and tourist destinations. The café culture is notable in downtown Wellington, where many office workers have their tea breaks. Most coffee styles, cappuccino, latte, espresso/short black, long black, flat white, vienna etc., are usually available. Flat whites are probably the most popular. Cappuccinos are usually served with a choice of cinnamon or chocolate powder sprinkled on top. Its usual to request which one you want. Fluffies are a small frothed milk for children, sprinkled with chocolate powder.
Tap water in New Zealand is regarded as some of the cleanest in the world; it is safe to drink from in all cities, most come from artesian wells or freshwater reservoirs - however, some are from rivers which can be chlorinated to be made safe but do not taste very nice. Some of the water in Auckland comes from the Waikato river, a long river that has its source in Lake Taupo in the centre of the North Island. But by the time it reaches Auckland, it has been treated so that the quality is no worse than that of the Thames in London or the Hudson in New York. Auckland water is also drawn from run-off reservoirs in the Waitakere and Hunua Ranges. Tap water in places such as Christchurch and Hastings is not chlorinated at all as it is drawn from the pure artesian aquifers of the Canterbury and Heretaunga plains. Bottled water is commonly available if you prefer.
L & P (Lemon & Paeroa) is a sweet carbonated lemonade style drink said to be "world famous in New Zealand". It is a sold in a brown plastic bottle with a yellow label similar to the traditional brown glass bottles it used to be sold in. While originally manufactured in its namesake, Paeroa in the Waikato, it is now manufactured in Auckland by Coca-Cola.
New Zealand offers a wide range of accommodation. International quality, luxury hotels can be found in the major cities.
New Zealanders seem to have perfected the art of the top-dollar home-stay. Hosted luxury lodges are the top-end equivalent of the bed-and-breakfast market and New Zealand has upwards of 40 internationally recognised lodges. Per capita, that's probably the highest in the world. They tend to be situated away from cities and can be difficult to get to, though some are right in the heart of the major centres. At the very top-end, helicopter transfers and private jets help the luxury traveller move between the lodges they've chosen for their visit.
Motels of a variety of standards from luxury to just adequate can be found on the approaches to most towns. Most New Zealand motels feature kitchenettes usually with cooking utensils, pots and pans, crockery and cutlery so the traveller can reduce the cost of eating-out by self-catering from their motel bedroom. Heating can be a problem in winter though - while an increasing number of motels have their ceilings and walls insulated, double glazing is still uncommon. Small-scale central heating is also uncommon, and most motel rooms are headed by plug-in electric heating or gas heaters.
Bed and breakfasts are popular with visiting Brits and Swiss as well as homestays, farmstays and similar lodgings - some of which are in the most unlikely places. These can be a good choice if the traveller wants to benefit from local insider tips from the resident hosts, and many visitors welcome the opportunity to sample the rural life. For uniquely New Zealand accommodation, there are Māori homestays and tourist-catering marae stays.
There is a wide range of backpackers accommodation around these islands, including a 50 strong network of youth hostels (these cater for independent travellers of any age) that are members of the Youth Hostels Association. There are also two marketing networks of independent hostels: BBH with 280+ listings and the much smaller Nomads network.
Commercial camping grounds are strategically and conveniently located, as well as camping sites within all of the national parks. If you are travelling into the backcountry, the Department of Conservation (DOC) has many back-country huts that can be used under a permit system.
Freedom camping outside of recognised and marked camping areas is decreasingly available. It used to be common to find a tent or hammock pitched for the night in many picnic areas or in a grove of trees off the road or anywhere else there wasn't a "No Camping" sign. Due to growing local concerns about both rubbish and human waste not being disposed of properly together with moteliers resenting their falling incomes, many local authorities are now introducing tough restrictions with on-the-spot penalty notices being issued. Always dispose of all waste properly and leave your camping spots exactly as you found them (if not in better condition). Please respect this privilege and avoid leaving more ammunition for the people who want to restrict freedom camping even further. The Tourism Industry Association, DOC and the i-SITE network of information centres have produced a useful on-line map resource featuring over 1500 pay and free sites and based on Google maps.
Many visitors travel around New Zealand in hired minibuses and vans, including self-contained campervans, that can be driven by anyone who holds an ordinary car driver's licence.
New Zealand was one of the first countries in the world after the UK to develop a dense WWoOF network. "Willing Workers on Organic Farms" pioneered the concept of travellers ("WWoOFers") staying as volunteers on farms and receiving food and accommodation in exchange for half a days help for each night they stay. The Nelson Tasman region in the South Island is particularly rich in WWOOFing possibilities. HelpX which is similar to WWOOF but is not restricted to just organics, originated and has its largest country network in New Zealand.
Couchsurfing is also popular in New Zealand with most major centres sporting active forums and groups as well as having hosts all around the nation.
Qualmark, a government-owned organisation, provides a star rating system for accommodation and other tourism services.
For many years, New Zealand schools and universities have educated foreign students from the countries of Southeast Asia and education has now become a major source of export earnings for the country. In recent years, English language schools have been established for students from the region, particularly South Korea and China, but also many other countries.
The Ministry of Education has established a Code of Practice that New Zealand educational institutions enrolling international students need to abide by. This Code of Practice includes minimum standards for the pastoral care of international students. Primary school students, or those age 10 or under, need to either live with a parent or else board in a school hostel. Additionally, older students, who are under age 18, may live in home-stays, temporary accommodation or with designated caregivers. Where the institution arranges accommodation for students older than age 18 the code of practice applies to their accommodation situations also.
New Zealand citizens, permanent residents and refugees can receive financial assistance through loans and allowances, to pay the tuition fees and to attend tertiary education at Universities, Polytechnics, Whananga (Māori operated universities/polytechnics) and Private Training Providers. Overseas students will need to pay the full tuition fees and their own living costs while studying at a New Zealand institution.
Overseas students need to have a student visa and a reasonable level of cash to spend in order to undertake a course of study at a New Zealand based educational institution. Visas are generally valid for the duration of the course of study and only while the student is attending the course of study. New Zealand educational institutions will inform the appropriate immigration authorities if a student ceases to attend their enrolled courses, who may then suspend or cancel that student's visa. Educational institutions often also exchange this enrolment and attendance data electronically with other government agencies responsible for providing student assistance.
To work in New Zealand you need to be a citizen or current permanent resident of either New Zealand or Australia, or else have a New Zealand residence visa, work visa, working holiday visa, or another appropriate visa which permits you to work. Students on student visas can work part-time for up to 20 hours per week. Citizens of the Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau are New Zealand citizens and don't need any permits to live and work in New Zealand. If you are intending to work in New Zealand you should obtain a work visa.
You will also need to have a New Zealand bank account, as most employers pay using electronic banking rather than in cash, and an Inland Revenue Department (IRD) Number, as withholding tax and/or income tax will be deducted from your wages by your employer. You will need to complete a tax declaration form (IR330) to tell your employer your IRD number and tax code; if you don't, you'll be taxed at the no declaration rate of 45% (compared with the top tax rate of 33%). More information about New Zealand's tax system, including appropriate forms, can be obtained from Inland Revenue / Te Tari Tāke. (The Maori naming department clearly didn't think that one through.)
You should have your IRD number 8-10 working days after you apply. You will need to fill in the IRD number application form (IR595), and provide a photocopy of a passport or New Zealand birth certificate. It is possible to apply for the IRD number, then call the department around a week later to request the number by phone, however this will depend on the workload of the processing centres at the time. Calling the IRD requires several forms of ID, it is ideal to be able to provide your passport number and full address when requested. Your new IRD number will be nine digits long grouped into sets of three digits (e.g. 123-456-789), although older numbers have only eight digits (e.g. 23-456-789).
New Zealand operates a simplified tax system that tends to collect more tax than people need to pay, because of the use of the pay-as-you-earn (PAYE) deduction system. Your employer will work out how much tax you need to pay and deduct it from your wages, giving you the after-tax amount in your bank account and sending the tax deductions onto Inland Revenue. The obligation is then on the worker to claim overpaid tax back, rather than declaring their income and paying any extra tax. Be careful though, if you choose to work in New Zealand and you stay more than 183 days in any 12-month period, your worldwide income could be taxed. New Zealand has double taxation agreements with several countries to stop tax being paid twice.
Being a foreigner means that your New Zealand income is subject to local income tax at the fullest levels. Although many people believe that they can collect all their tax back when they leave the country, this is not true.
If you are a New Zealand or Australian citizen or permanent resident, or hold a resident visa, your employer will automatically start taking 3% of your wages each week in KiwiSaver, the government's retirement savings scheme. If you don't want KiwiSaver, make sure you fill in a New employee opt-out request (KS10) and give it to your employer within 8 weeks of starting your job. More information about KiwiSaver can be found on the KiwiSaver website, otherwise the CFLRI's Sorted website has a very good plain English guide to KiwiSaver.
As of 1 April 2015, the minimum wage for those aged 18 and over is $14.75 per hour before tax and deductions. Be careful as some unscrupulous employers like to pay foreigners below the minimum wage.
Seasonal work such as fruit picking and other agricultural work is sometimes formally available for tourists - and always available illegally. More information about legal seasonal fruit picking work can be found at Pick NZ.
With the Christchurch rebuild shifting into high gear, there is always demand for construction trade jobs (bricklayers, carpenters, electricians, glaziers, etc.) in the Canterbury area. If your profession is listed on the Canterbury Skills Shortage List and you are prepared to work on the rebuild, you may be able to get a one-year or three-year Essential Skills temporary work visa. You may also need to register as a Licensed Building Practitioner, especially if you want to do work affecting the structure or weather-tightness of a building.
New Zealand has a number of reciprocal Working Holiday Schemes, which allow people between 18 and 30 to travel and work in New Zealand for up to one year and vice versa. At present young citizens of a number of countries from Europe, South America, North America and Asia can apply. These schemes are enormously popular and in many instances participants can apply to stay in New Zealand longer once they have completed their one year stay. Information on all the various schemes and application details.
The main emergency number in New Zealand is 111, and can be used to contact ambulance, the fire service, police, the coastguard, and rescue services. 112 works from mobile phones; 911 and 999 may work, but do not rely on them. You can call *555 from mobiles to report non-emergency traffic incidents.
Due to their isolation, the Chatham Islands are not connected to the 111 network and have their own local emergency number: +64 3 305-0111. While you can dial this number from your mobile, it won't work as the Chatham Islands have no mobile phone reception. Deaf people can contact emergency services by fax on 0800 16 16 10, and by textphone/TTY on 0800 161 616. It is possible to send an SMS to 111, but you must register with police first.
Full instructions are on the inside front cover of every telephone book. Other emergency numbers and personal crisis numbers are located on pages 2 to 4 of the white pages section.
Crime and security
While difficult to make international comparisons, the level of crime in New Zealand is similar to other western countries. Dishonesty offences, such as theft, are by far the most frequent crime. Much of this crime is opportunistic in nature, so travellers should take simple, sensible precautions such as putting valuables away out of sight or in a secure place and locking doors of vehicles, even in remote locations.
Violent crime in public places is associated with alcohol or illicit drug consumption. Rowdy bars or drunken crowds in city centres, or groups of youths in the suburbs, are best avoided, especially late at night and in the early morning. New Zealanders can be somewhat lacking in a sense of humour when their country or their sporting teams are mocked by loud or drinking tourists.
There are occasional disturbing high profile media reports of tourists being targeted in random violent robberies and/or sexual crimes. These crimes tend to happen in isolated places, where the chances of the offender being observed by other people are low. While the chances of falling victim to such misfortune are low, you should still take the usual precautionary measures. Crime rates are decreasing in New Zealand with the exception of sexual offences, which are increasing. However, this is almost entirely due to more victims reporting such crimes to police.
The New Zealand Police is the national police force, and police officers are generally polite, helpful and trustworthy. Unlike in most other nations, New Zealand police officers do not routinely carry firearms; officers on the beat typically only carry batons, offender control pepper spray, and Tasers. Firearm-related incidents are typically left to the specialist Armed Offenders Squad (AOS, similar to SWAT in the United States) to deal with. Armed police or an AOS callout usually rates a mention in the media.
Police regularly set up checkpoints all around an area, including all lanes of motorways, checking for drunk-driving, seat belt usage, child restraints, expired Warrants of Fitness and registrations, etc. If you fail the roadside breathalyser test, you will have to accompany the officer to a police station, or a roadside "Booze Bus" for an evidential breath test, blood test, or both. Being found with excess breath alcohol, or refusal to undertake testing will result in an arrest, appearance in Court, with a possibility of time in prison if you are a repeat offender, as well as a hefty fine and disqualification from driving.
Fixed and mobile speed cameras as well as hand held and car speed detectors are used frequently. Police have no official discretion for speeding offences and will write tickets for all vehicles caught exceeding the speed limit by more than 10 km/h. In some locations, such as near schools, even exceeding the speed limit by only 5 km/h will result in a ticket.
Police fines can be paid online by credit card or internet banking, by posting a cheque or in person at any branch of Westpac Bank. Do not try to pay the police officer directly as this is considered bribery, which is illegal and punishable by up to seven years in prison.
Severe weather is by far the most common natural hazard encountered. Although New Zealand is not subject to the direct hit of tropical cyclones, stormy weather systems from both the tropics and the polar regions can sweep across New Zealand at various times of the year. There is generally 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 weather, which has a reputation for both changeability and unpredictability. The phrase is also a popular Kiwi song.
Weather forecasts are generally reliable for overall trends and severe weather warnings should be heeded when broadcast. However both the timing and intensity of any weather events should be assessed from your own location.
You should always seek advice from the Department of Conservation when trekking in alpine areas. There are annual fatalities of both foreign nationals and New Zealanders caught unaware by the weather.
There are other natural hazards you may encounter, though far more rarely:
- Strong earthquakes - New Zealand, being part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, sits astride a tectonic plate boundary and experiences large numbers (about 14,000/year) of earthquakes every year, although only around 200 are strong enough to be felt by humans, and the occasional earthquake causes damage. Only two recorded earthquakes in New Zealand have resulted in serious loss of life; the 1931 Hawke's Bay earthquake (7.8 magnitude, 256 dead), and the 2011 Christchurch earthquake (6.3 magnitude, 185 dead). The latest quake news is reported by GeoNet. In an earthquake, running outside the building is generally more hazardous than remaining inside and finding cover; buildings in New Zealand are built to high standards, and while they may be damaged in an earthquake, they should remain standing.
- If you do feel a strong earthquake, remember Drop, Cover, Hold: drop to the ground, 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 possible risk in coast parts of New Zealand. Warning of a tsunami from an overseas earthquake will be widely publicised via media. However, should you experience a very strong earthquake (over a minute long, or so strong you cannot easliy stand) you should move to high ground (35 m or more) or at least 1km inland as a precaution until an all clear is given.
- Volcanic eruptions - New Zealand has a number of volcanoes that are classified as active or dormant. Only Mount Ruapehu, Tongariro, White Island and the remote Kermadec Islands have been active recently. Volcanic activity is also monitored by GeoNet.
- There are almost no poisonous or substantially dangerous animals. The katipo and redback are the only two venomous spiders and bites from both species are extremely rare. Serious reactions are uncommon and unlikely to develop in less than three hours, though you should always seek help at your nearest hospital, medical centre, or doctor. The white-tailed spider can also deliver painful bites but is not considered dangerous to humans. No large mammalian predators are present and there are no large predatory reptiles. Certain species of Weta (an insect, that looks a bit like a grasshopper or cricket) can deliver a painful but harmless bite.
Fire brigade and civil defence sirens
Outside the major cities, New Zealanders rely on volunteer firefighters to protect their community. As pagers have the tenancy to fail, sirens are still regularly used day and night to call out firefighters; they sound like British WWII air raid sirens, and make a wailing (up and down) sound. Some tourists have been caught unaware and have panicked upon hearing the fire siren, thinking New Zealand was about to be attacked by nuclear weapons.
Some areas, especially those along the coastline, have a system of civil defence sirens. The sound signals are different from area to area - a continuous tone in one area may mean to evacuate while in another area it may mean all clear. The best advice is if you hear a siren go off and it make anything other than a wailing sound, tune your radio into Radio New Zealand National, Newstalk ZB, Radio Live, More FM or Classic Hits for further information. You'll know that you've hit one of them (and its a civil defence emergency) if you hear the Civil Defence sting, which sounds like a chorus of several different sirens.
New Zealand has very high levels of ultraviolet radiation, around 40% more intense than you will find in the Mediterranean during the summer and, consequently, has high rates of skin cancer. Sun hats, sunglasses and sunscreen are highly recommended, especially if you have white skin and/or ginger hair!
Smog is a perennial winter problem in many South Island towns and cities, especially Alexandra, Christchurch and Timaru. Like Los Angeles and Vancouver, these areas are affected by temperature inversion, whereby a layer of warm air traps cold air full of pollutants from vehicles and wood fires close to the ground. Be wary in these areas if you have any respiratory problems (including asthma).
New Zealand has high and equitable standards of professional health care comparable with Sweden or Australia. Tap water is drinkable. Precautions should be taken against Giardia when tramping: do not drink water from rural streams without boiling it first. Risk may be lower in the highlands of the South Island, especially where streams are strong and come directly from melting snow in the mountain.
While you will not need any special immunisations before travelling to New Zealand, it may pay to get a flu vaccination if you are travelling in the New Zealand winter season.
Visiting the doctor will cost about $60-70 but varies between practices and localities. Appointments outside normal business hours may cost extra. Except in the case of accidental injury (see below), the New Zealand public hospital system is free of charge to Australian, British and New Zealand citizens but will charge other nationals for treatment received. Travel insurance is highly recommended.
New Zealand is the only country in the world to have a universal, no-fault, accidental injury compensation scheme, run by the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC). Even if you are just visiting, if you are injured while in New Zealand, ACC will pay the cost of your treatment and, if you're working, will cover up to 80 percent of any lost New Zealand earnings. To claim ACC, you only need to turn up at the doctor's surgery or Accident & Emergency; they will give you a claim form to complete which will then be sent to ACC on your behalf. There may be a part charge for treatment at a doctor's clinic. You can not sue any party, whether they were to blame or not, in relation to injury covered by ACC.
ACC will not cover any incidental costs you incur, such as costs for changing travel arrangements or for relatives to come to New Zealand to assist in your care, as you will be expected to hold travel insurance for these costs. ACC coverage is limited to New Zealand, so you are liable for any medical costs relating to an injury once you leave the country. Any property damaged or lost in an accident is also not covered by ACC, but if another person was at fault you can claim via their insurance, or directly if they are uninsured (although you may need to claim through a court process if they refuse to pay).
Land ambulance services are provided by Wellington Free Ambulance in the Greater Wellington area, and St John's Ambulance elsewhere. St John's will charge for non-ACC callouts - around $80 for NZ and UK citizens and $770 for everyone else. Wellington Free Ambulance is free to use (as the name suggests), but will casually hint you should make a donation to them in return.
Prescription medication in New Zealand is generally referred to by its International Non-proprietary Name (INN) rather than any brand name. New Zealand has a single national drug-buyer, Pharmac, whose main aim to keep medicine prices low. It does mean subsidised drugs changing brands every five years (hence why drugs are known by their INNs), but it also means prescription drug shelf prices are among the cheapest in the OECD. On average, subsidised prescription medicines in New Zealand cost two-thirds of what they do in the UK and Australia, and one-third of what they do in the United States. Subsidised medications are available to New Zealand, Australian and UK citizens; a deductible of $15 applies for casual patients ($5 for enrolled patients). For those from other countries and those requiring unsubsidised medications, you will have to pay the full shelf price.
On arrival at an Accident and Emergency department of a public hospital you will be triaged and treated in order of priority rather than order of arrival. Even treatment of a simple broken bone may involve a wait of several hours if more serious cases keep arriving. Children with a similar injury to yours will probably be treated before adults. If your illness or accident is minor, you may be advised to seek assistance from a doctor's clinic or after hours medical centre. This may cost you more than $100, but will prevent you waiting up to a whole day for treatment.
Healthline, a free 24-hour hotline staffed by registered nurses, is available if you need advice on a medical condition. The phone number is 0800 611 116.
New Zealanders are generally warm and sociable, but will hold strangers at a distance.
- New Zealand is a country where "please" and "thank you" can be used more than once in a sentence without being out of place, and where an initial refusal of an offer is part of a polite banter. You should follow up a politely refused offer, with "Are you sure?", etc. Criticisms and compliments are often understated.
- If you wish to communicate with a New Zealander outside of a formal situation you are best to initiate the conversation. If you are unsure of the location of your intended destination ask a local. Your accent will trigger the local's desire to be helpful to tourists and they will normally offer to go beyond giving simple directions to help you.
- New Zealanders will often ask many (sometimes probing) questions about your home country or culture. This is not meant to be offensive: it reflects a genuine interest in other people and cultures and a desire to gain first-hand knowledge.
- If staying for more than a few days at someone's house, if they are younger than 35 it is considered polite to leave a token amount of money, say $20, to 'cover the power bill', especially if you are the guest at a shared flat/apartment/house.
- In conversations, if you want to contradict something someone has said, be gentle. New Zealanders will often be happy to learn something new and incorporate it into their knowledge but will also defend strongly something they have direct knowledge of.
- Some New Zealanders tend to swear a lot. Sometimes they may even use swear words to refer to friends. It generally isn't meant to be offensive.
- New Zealand society is understood by New Zealanders to be classless and egalitarian. While in reality New Zealand is far from classless, talking about class and personal wealth isn't usually well received. New Zealanders, even wealthy New Zealanders, tend to behave in a somewhat frugal manner.
- The majority of New Zealanders are generally open to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. New Zealand decriminalised homosexuality in August 1986, outlawed discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in February 1994, introduced de-facto relationships and civil unions in April 2005 and legalised same-sex marriage in August 2013. This was achieved in all cases through an acts of parliament which passed with support from Members of Parliament across all major political parties. While some homophobic attitudes do exist (mainly among religious fundamentalists and young uneducated males), even people who might not be comfortable with homosexuality tend to exhibit the common New Zealand pragmatic 'live and let live' attitude.
New Zealanders generally dress 'smart casual', with a prevalence of wearing black or dark clothing. You will see people in suits on weekdays only in the cities.
- Wearing brightly coloured clothing will mark you as a tourist. In most cases this will be to your advantage due to New Zealanders wanting to be hospitable to tourists. However, being marked as a tourist may attract unwanted attention from less than savoury people. Use common sense if you are approached by a local.
- New Zealand's weather can be very changeable, a cold front can make the temperature drop suddenly. Make sure you take a jacket or jumper with you at all times. Equally, if you hit a beautiful, sunny, warm day you may also need to cover up to prevent the harsh sun causing sunburn.
- If going to an expensive formal restaurant for a meal you will not need to wear a suit and tie, but wearing jeans and t-shirts is frowned upon. Smart trousers, a collared shirt and dress shoes for men, and smart trousers or skirt and blouse for women would be typical. At all non-formal dining there will be an expectation of being tidily dressed.
- If drinking in bars, check out what the locals are wearing before going. Wearing shorts and sandals may be acceptable in rural areas, but trousers and shoes are a minimum standard for most city bars and restaurants. Some nightclubs (but not all) will insist upon collared shirts and refuse entry to men wearing sports shoes. Women will generally be granted admission regardless of dress.
- At most beaches, nudity is frowned upon. If you do wish to go nude (or topless for women) you will only be breaking the law if you cause offence to another person so walking away from the main beach to a quieter spot will usually get around any problems.
Māori cultural experiences are popular tourist attractions enjoyed by many people but, as with any two cultures encountering one another, there is room for misunderstanding. Some tourists have found themselves more confronted than they expected by ceremonial challenges and welcomes. These are serious occasions; avoid chatter and laughter. Have jokes and laughs later. There will be plenty of time to relax later when the hāngi is uncovered.
Māori, Pākehā (Kiwis of European descent) and other New Zealanders (all-comers) are generally on good terms.
New Zealanders have a distinct and jealously guarded national identity. Although it has many similarities with other western cultures, it isn't a state of Australia, or still part of the British Empire (though it is a member of the Commonwealth). While Australia and New Zealand have close foreign policy ties, considerable inter-migration and overlapping cultures, saying New Zealanders are basically Australians will not gain you any Kiwi or Aussie friends. It is pretty much the same relationship as with Canadians and Americans or the Irish and Brits. In many ways, Australia and New Zealand have a similar outlook towards the other, with the same clichéd jokes being made.
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 sibling-like, with the sibling rivalry to boot. This can be traced back to ANZAC (Australia and New Zealand Army Corps), participation in two world wars (particularly the Gallipoli and North African campaigns), Korea, Vietnam, the Malaya Crisis, Solomon Islands, etc. When a disaster strikes one country, you will see charity collections for relief efforts underway in the other.
New Zealand has a well developed and ubiquitous telephone system. The country's legacy phone company, Spark, claimed in 2009 to have about 4,000 payphones in NZ which can be easily identified by their yellow and blue colours, but these numbers are now diminishing. All of them accept major credit cards and a variety of phonecards available from retailers. You may have to look hard for a payphone that accepts coins.
There is an on-line directory of telephone subscribers. You can also call directory assistance on 018, although the operators may be a bit hard to understand if you're not Filipino.
The international access code or prefix is 00. (When using a mobile phone, like everywhere else, the plus symbol "+" can be used instead of the 00 prefix.)
The country code for international calls to New Zealand is +64. When dialling from overseas, omit any leading '0' in the area code.
There are five area codes:
- 03 for all of the South Island, Stewart Island and the Chathams
- 04 for Greater Wellington (excluding Wairarapa)
- 06 for Taranaki, Wanganui, Manawatu, the Central North Island south of Mount Ruapehu, Hawke's Bay, East Coast, and Wairarapa.
- 07 for Waikato, Bay of Plenty and the Central North Island north of Mount Ruapehu
- 09 for Auckland and Northland.
You'll need to dial the area code if you are making non-local toll calls, even if the area code is the same (eg: you have to dial 03 when calling Christchurch from Dunedin, 07 when calling Hamilton from Tauranga, etc). Some of rules defining what is a local call and what is a toll call can be confusing e.g. calling Kaiapoi to Rolleston (37 km away) is a local call, but Kaiapoi to Rangiora (11 km away) is a toll call - if in doubt, include the area code.
Freephone numbers start 0508 or 0800 and can not 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 the Chatham Islands where it is +64 3 305-0111
All major NZ mobile networks claim to have coverage "where 97% of NZers live, work and play", although this needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Mobile telephone coverage is good near urban areas although the mountainous terrain means that, outside these urban areas and especially away from the main highway system, coverage may be patchy. Do not rely on mobile phones in hilly or mountainous terrain. Mobile telephone users can call *555 only to report Non-emergency traffic safety incidents, such as a breakdown, road hazard or non-injury car crash, to the Police.
All mobile phone numbers in New Zealand usually start with 02, usually followed by eight digits (there are some seven- and nine-digit numbers in the 021 range).
There are currently three major mobile networks in New Zealand. New Zealand's mobile network is the fastest on the planet as reported by Ookla.
|Carrier||GSM (2G)||UMTS (3G)||LTE (4G)|
|2degrees||900MHz/1800MHz||900MHz (main frequency), 2100MHz (metro supplementary)||Band 3 (urban), 28 (rural)|
|Spark||-||850MHz (main frequency), 2100MHz (metro supplementary)||Band 3/7 (urban), 28 (rural)|
|Vodafone||900MHz/1800MHz||900MHz (main frequency), 2100MHz (metro supplementary)||Band 3/7 (urban), 28 (rural)|
- 2degrees operates a relatively young 2G/3G network that covers most of the country, with coverage holes patched by Vodafone National Roaming. LTE (4G) coverage is gradually being rolled out.
- Spark (formerly Telecom NZ) operates a 3G network nationwide (using the same frequencies as Telstra in Australia and AT&T in the US). LTE (4G) coverage is available in Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington, with more areas being introduced gradually. Spark no longer operates a 2G network; its CDMA network shut down in July 2012.
- Skinny is a brand of Spark that provides the same service with a cheaper price.
- Vodafone NZ operates a nationwide 2G/3G network and an LTE (4G) network in Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin, Nelson, Queenstown, Wellington and other smaller centres, with more areas being introduced gradually. Vodafone also offer a visitor SIM specifically for travellers.
SIM cards are widely available and no registration is necessary. Most airports and shopping malls have stores from all network providers available for purchasing access and getting information about their networks. SIM cards and recharge vouchers are also available in supermarkets and dairies. A prepaid sim-card connection pack with $20 credit from Vodafone costs around $30, prepaid sim-cards from 2degrees and Spark costs $5 while Skinny costs $2.
Standard sim-cards, Micro-SIMs and nano-SIMs are available from all mobile providers, as are data-only plans for use in iPads or USB modems.
Some places offer free Wi-Fi to their customers. Often it may be available for a charge.
Internet access is available in cyber cafés and there are generally many of these in the major cities. Some Internet (cyber) cafés may not be maintained properly, but there are places around that maintain a high level of security when it comes to their systems. If you have your own laptop, many cyber cafés allow wired and wireless access. It is slowly becoming more common to allow tourists to use their own laptops to access the Internet.
Many public libraries have public Internet access. There may be a charge. The Auckland City Public Library allows for two 15 min sessions a day at no charge. Hourly rates for are usually in the range of $4-8, with cheaper rates of around $2-4 at cyber cafés within the main city centres. Some providers, such as the Christchurch City Library network, offer free access to some sites, usually ones of interest such as Google, BBC and CNN and those in the .nz top level domain.
You can purchase vouchers for Wi-Fi access from many Starbucks cafés and many McDonald's fast food outlets have free Wi-Fi. It is becoming more common to be provided at hotels and motels using vouchers, but it is seldom free as part of your room rate. Wireless Hotspots are located in many cities and towns all over New Zealand from dedicated Wireless providers from whom you can buy connect time. Many camping holiday parks also have such services available. Free Wi-Fi is not that common but the best free locations are at the libraries in many small and medium-sized towns.
The airport at Wellington, Auckland and Dunedin have free Wi-Fi but Christchurch airport still charges a fee for wireless service in the terminals.
Spark offers free Wi-Fi for its mobile customers through its payphone network across the country. Non-customers can buy access for $9.99/week after a free week trial. There is a data cap of 1GB/day.
New Zealand's internet speeds are comparable to other first-world nations, but don't expect light-speed internet accessing international sites; remember the country is separated from its nearest neighbour by 2200 km of water, and submarine cables aren't cheap to build and maintain. Most New Zealanders use ADSL broadband for their internet connections, with download speeds ranging from 15 Mbps to ~5Mbps in cities and upload speeds of up to 1 Mbps. Cable internet is available in parts of Wellington and Christchurch, and VDSL broadband (70Mbps down/10Mbps up) is available in most towns. Fibre internet to the premises ("Ultra Fast Broadband" or UFB) with speeds up to 100Mbps down/50Mbps up is being rolled out in major towns and cities, although this won't be fully completed in some centres until 2019. If you go to a remote rural area, expect internet to be via 3G mobile broadband if it's available; via satellite or even dial-up if it's not.
The national post office is New Zealand Post. If you are staying in one place for a while, you can rent a PO Box from them. NZ Post also offer overnight and same day courier services across New Zealand.
Poste Restante is an inexpensive service for receiving letters and parcels while you are visiting New Zealand from overseas and available at Post Offices across the country. Counter delivery is available nationally at local PostShop and some PostCentre outlets if you need a short term mailing address for up to three months.
Postcards cost 80c to send within New Zealand (2–3 days) and $2.00 to send internationally (3–10 days). Letters up to DL size (130mm × 235mm) cost the same as postcards within New Zealand and to Australia and the South Pacific, with letters to other destinations costing $2.50.
Postal addresses are generally in the following format:-
- Recipient name
- Street address/PO Box number
- Suburb/RD number/PO Box lobby
- Town Postcode
- Australia, 72-76 Hobson St, Thorndon, Wellington, ☎ . High Commission, with consulate in Auckland.
- Canada, Level 11, 125 The Terrace, Wellington, ☎ . High Commission, with consulate in Auckland.
- China, 2-6 Glenmore St, Kelburn, Wellington, ☎ . Embassy, with consulates in Auckland and Christchurch.
- South Africa, Level 7 State Insurance Building, 1 Willis St, Wellington, ☎ . High Commission, with consulate in Auckland.
- United Kingdom, 44 Hill St, Wellington, ☎ . High Commission, with consulates in Auckland and Christchurch.
- United States, 29 Fitzherbert Terrace, Wellington, ☎ . Embassy, with consulate in Auckland.
Auckland's New Zealand Herald has the largest daily readership, mostly in the upper North Island, Wellington's Dominion Post extends beyond its natural lower North Island catchment area while Christchurch's The Press mainly has a South Island readership.
The Herald on Sunday, Sunday Star-Times and National Business Review, all published weekly, would claim to have national coverage.
There are also many local and community newspapers, such as the Nelson Mail, but almost all of New Zealand's newspapers have just two foreign owners that syndicate much of their non-local content. Dunedin's Otago Daily Times remains the largest independent newspaper.
New Zealand has many radio stations, on both AM and FM, with at least one local station and a number of nationwide network stations broadcasting in each major city or town. The main FM stations are spaced at 0.8 MHz intervals (with infill stations located at 0.4 MHz intervals), so if you find one station for the local area and don't like it, just tune up or down 0.8 to find another station (note not every slot is filled).
With a lot of imported second-hand Japanese cars in New Zealand, you may come across one with a Japanese FM radio that goes from 76–90 MHz instead of 88–108 MHz like the rest of the world. Most of these radios are fitted with "band expanders" which drop the station frequencies by 12 MHz, so you can listen to 91.8 FM by tuning to 79.8 on the radio. Unfortunately, if you want to listen to a station above 102.0 (90.0), you're out of luck.
- Radio New Zealand National is a government funded, non-commercial, spoken features style national network with some music. It broadcasts news and detailed weather forecasts, generally hourly, with detailed mountain and marine forecasts a couple of times a day on both AM (Auckland 756, Wellington 567, Christchurch 675) and FM (around 101.0–101.7 MHz FM). Operated by Radio New Zealand.
- Radio New Zealand Concert is Radio New Zealand's other government funded, non-commercial network, largely dedicated to classical music. On the FM band: 92.6 Auckland, 92.5/96.1 Wellington, 89.7 Christchurch
- There are several major commercial networks, nearly all of which stream their programming from Auckland with locally-inserted advertising and weather and traffic report. Frequencies listed are Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch respectively.
- The Breeze – easy listening adult contemporary (93.4, 94.1/98.5, 94.5)
- Classic Hits – adult contemporary. Most areas have their own breakfast show from 06:00 to 10:00. (97.4, 90.1, 97.7)
- The Edge – Top 40 (94.2, 91.7, 95.3)
- More FM – adult contemporary. Most areas have their own breakfast and day shows from 06:00 to 15:00 (91.8, 95.3/99.7, 92.1)
- Newstalk ZB – news and talk (89.4, 89.3, 100.1)
- Radio Hauraki – classic rock (99.0, 93.3, 106.5)
- Radio Live – news and talk (100.6, 98.9, 99.3)
- The Rock – active rock (90.2, 96.5, 93.7)
- The Sound – classic rock (93.8, 97.3, 92.9)
- ZM – Top 40. The weekday breakfast show is broadcast from Wellington. (91.0, 90.9, 91.3)
Free-to-air high-definition ("HD") digital terrestrial television (DTT) is available to 86 percent of the population, mainly around the major towns and cities, with the remainder of the country with no choice other than to receive standard-definition digital television by satellite since analogue transmission has been switched off. As well as more than a dozen nationwide DTT channels, there are some local and regional channels and several networks with sub-national coverage. Optional subtitles, allowing hearing impaired people to enjoy TV better, are usually available only on TV One, TV2 and TV3.
Cable television is not well developed, but is widely available in parts of Wellington and Christchurch.
Satellite pay television is available through the Sky network. Most hotels and motels have the national channels, some Sky channels and whatever else is broadcast in the local area.
In the early days of New Zealand television (pre-1989), the NZBC and its successor TVNZ were funded by a combination of television licences and a modest amount of advertising. Unfortunately conflicting political views have since left TVNZ underfunded and relying almost entirely on advertising to support itself (then again, TVNZ doesn't have the market share it did pre-1989 - 100 percent). In the interim, Sky television has been left unregulated and has monopolised all the major sport events and high-brow programming, leaving free-to-air with the leftovers. A very modest amount of local content on all channels is partly funded by the government through NZ on Air; however, the number of failed local comedies and dramas means funding has largely been relegated to reality television. Local documentaries and current affairs programs are becoming increasingly rarely broadcast other than on Māori Television.
DTT channels include:
- TV One, owned by state-owned broadcaster TVNZ. News and current affairs, and local and international (especially British) drama, general entertainment, and documentaries.
- TV2, owned by TVNZ. Local and international (especially American and teenage) dramas, sitcoms, and reality shows.
- TV3, owned by independent broadcaster Mediaworks. News, current affairs and general entertainment.
- FOUR, owned by Mediaworks. Kids shows (daytime) and general entertainment (prime time). You'll be looking hard to find any local programming on this channel - it's nearly all American.
- Māori Television, state broadcaster. Bilingual English/Māori channel with news, current affairs and general entertainment from a Māori point-of-view together with an eclectic selection of documentaries and non-Anglo films
- Prime, owned by pay television operator Sky. General entertainment and sport.
- ChoiceTV, a digital-only channel launched in 2012 that airs many British programmes.
- Al Jazeera, Qatar government funded channel, broadcasting news, analysis and hard-hitting documentaries without advertising 24/7.
- Parliament TV, watch the soap-opera that is the New Zealand House of Representatives in action (when it is in session).
- CTV8, news, films, documentaries and game shows in Mandarin.