New Zealand (Māori: 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.
The islands are not densely populated, the South Island even less so than the North Island, but they are easily accessible. The country has modern visitor facilities and transport networks that are reasonably well developed. New Zealand often adds an adventurous twist to nature. It is the original home of jet-boating through shallow gorges as well as bungee jumping off anything high enough to give a thrill.
Māori culture continues to play an important part in everyday life and the identity of the nation. Government and corporate New Zealand is full of Māori symbolism. There are 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.
|North Island |
Mild climate, with scenery ranging from sandy beaches, through rolling farmland and forests to active volcanic peaks with bubbling mud pools.
|South Island |
Spectacular mountains and fiords, large beech forests, beautiful beaches, large glaciers, motorcycle mecca.
|Stewart Island |
Covered in native forest and abounding in birdlife, most of the island forms a national park.
|Chatham Islands |
Remote islands far in the east, traditional home of the Moriori people.
|Subantarctic Islands |
Expedition ships take visitors to these remote and uninhabited islands to view the subantarctic flora and fauna.
The Realm of New Zealand also includes the Cook Islands, Niue, Tokelau, and the largely unrecognised 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, and have different immigration régimes, climates, and cultures. Thus, they are dealt with in separate articles, rather than here.
- 1 Wellington – the national capital, with the Parliament and Beehive buildings, and the wonderful, free Te Papa museum
- 2 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
- 3 Christchurch – the Garden City, the South Island's largest city, ever-evolving as it rebuilds from a devastating earthquake in February 2011
- 4 Dunedin – the Edinburgh of the South, proud of its Scots heritage, Southern Albatross colony and its wonderful tramping tracks within a short drive from the central business district
- 5 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
- 6 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
- 7 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
- 8 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
- 9 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.
- 1 Abel Tasman National Park – golden sand beaches, kayaking and the Abel Tasman Coastal Track
- 2 Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park – lots of hiking opportunities and New Zealand's highest mountain
- 3 Bay of Islands – pretty spot in the North Island with historical significance
- 4 Coromandel Peninsula – rugged coastline with plenty of beaches and hiking opportunities just one and a half hours from Auckland
- 5 Marlborough – the country's largest wine-growing region
- 6 Milford Sound – Fiordland National Park's most prominent and accessible fiord
- 7 Taupo – trout fishing and adventure activities in the central North Island
- 8 Tongariro National Park – three volcanoes, two skifields and one of the most popular hikes in the country
- 9 Westland Tai Poutini National Park – home of the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers
|Currency||New Zealand dollar (NZD)|
|Population||5.1 million (2021)|
|Electricity||230 volt / 50 hertz (AS/NZS 3112)|
|Time zone||UTC+13:00, UTC+12:00|
|edit on Wikidata|
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 referred to only the North Island.
The two main islands are officially named North Island / Te Ika-a-Māui and South Island / Te Waipounamu. Te Ika-a-Māui means "the fish of Māui"; in Māori legend, the North Island is a giant fish pulled up from sea by the demigod Māui, with its head to the south. Wellington is sometimes called te upoko o te ika (the head of the fish") and once boasted a monthly magazine called Fishhead. Te Waipounamu means "the greenstone waters"; greenstone is a nephrite jade found in the South Island and is highly valued by Māori people. An alternative (but unofficial) Māori name for the South Island is Te Waka-a-Māui (the canoe of Māui).
New Zealand's economic, social, linguistic and cultural characteristics closely resemble those of Australia, but there are also noticeable differences that New Zealanders are often eager to emphasise. In particular, the indigenous Māori culture has been woven into New Zealand's cultural fabric, and is seen by most New Zealanders as an integral part of their national identity.
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) southeast of Australia. The country covers 268,000 sq km (103,500 sq mi), slightly larger than the United Kingdom and around the same size as the US state of Colorado (albeit thinner and longer). The South Island is the larger of the two main islands (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.
New Zealand lies on the Pacific Ring of Fire, straddling the Pacific and Australian tectonic plates. The plate boundary cuts through the western South Island, forming the Alpine Fault and giving rise to the Southern Alps, the main mountain range stretching most of the length of the island. As a result, New Zealand is home to significant volcanic and geothermal activity and is also prone to earthquakes.
The country is long and narrow, with no point more than 130 km (80 mi) from the sea as the crow flies. From the northernmost town to the southernmost by road is 2100 km – equivalent to the distance from Vancouver to Los Angeles, or from Brussels to Málaga.
Make sure to allow sufficient time to travel New Zealand. It's worthwhile to tour for at least three or four weeks on each island, although you can see highlights in far less time. Roads wind along the coast and through mountain ranges, especially 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.
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 falls 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 ten days in advance.
New Zealand is geologically young. It was also the last major landmass to be settled by people, with Polynesians (part of the large Austronesian group) arriving about 1250 CE. Their descendants are known as Maori.
This, combined with its late European colonisation and geographical isolation, has led to the development of a young, vigorous nation with a well-travelled and well-educated population. One in four New Zealand-born people (one in three between the ages of 22 and 48) live overseas.
The Polynesian Māori settled New Zealand some time around 1280 CE, having migrated from the Cook Islands area. "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. 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 February 1840, British missionaries and Māori chiefs agreed to the Treaty of Waitangi, considered the founding document of modern New Zealand. The Treaty guaranteed Māori the continued ownership of their land and possessions and granted them the rights of British subjects, in return for them ceding sovereignty to the British Crown. 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. It turned out the Treaty of Waitangi had a number of translation errors and the English and Māori versions of it said different things (for example, the English version says "sovereignty", but the Māori version says "governance"), leading to problems between Māori and the British Crown over interpretation of the Treaty. 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. The New Zealand government has since sought to address long-standing Māori grievances, but it has been a complicated process and still continues to this day.
In 1882, the ship Dunedin completed the first successful shipment of refrigerated meat from New Zealand to England. For the next 90 years, supplying meat, wool and dairy products to the British Isles formed the basis of the New Zealand economy. On 19 September 1893, New Zealand became the first (modern-day) country in the world to give women the right to vote.
When the six British colonies federated to form Australia in 1901, New Zealand opted out of joining the federation. Instead, the British colony of New Zealand became a separate 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 provided military support to the United Kingdom in the Boer War of 1899–1902, and in both World Wars as part of the Allied war effort. The nation also participated in wars in Malaysia, Korea, Vietnam and Afghanistan, and in several peacekeeping actions. However, New Zealand notably stayed out of the second Iraq War, which the United States, United Kingdom and Australia had fought.
When the UK joined the European Economic Community in 1973, New Zealand effectively lost its main trading partner and the national economy faced an uncertain future. The country subsequently went through major economic reforms lasting into the mid-1990s, increased economic ties with its neighbour Australia, and diversified its exports to Pacific Rim markets.
The New Zealand Constitution Act was passed by both New Zealand and Britain in 1986, ending any remnant power the British parliament may have had to pass laws for New Zealand, although the British king remains the Head of State, with an appointed (New Zealander) Governor-General as his representative in New Zealand.
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. Defence relations with the US have since thawed, and in 2016 a US Navy ship (the destroyer USS Sampson) was allowed to enter New Zealand waters for the first time in nearly 30 years.
New Zealand's political system is based on the British Westminster system, with some differences, such as having only one legislative house, since the upper house was abolished in 1951. The New Zealand parliament is the 120-member House of Representatives, which is elected every three years using the mixed-member proportional (MMP) voting system. The head of government is the prime minister, who is typically the leader of the largest political party among those forming the government. Following the 2020 election, there are five main political parties (from largest to smallest): the centre-left Labour Party, the centre-right National Party, the environmentalist-left Green Party, the libertarian ACT Party, and the indigenous Māori Party.
The executive branch is the Cabinet, headed by the prime minister, who appoints Cabinet ministers from among the members of the House of Representatives. The Supreme Court of New Zealand heads the judicial branch, and has served as the highest court of appeal since taking over that role from the UK Privy Council in 2004.
King Charles III of the United Kingdom is also King of New Zealand and the head of state, with an appointed governor-general as his representative in New Zealand. As a constitutional monarch, the roles of the King and his governor-general are largely ceremonial, with the prime minister wielding 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. The first female prime minister was appointed in 1997.
Below the national government, New Zealand is divided into 16 regions, and separately into 65 cities and districts. Since regions are based on physical geography, and cities and districts are based on human geography, some districts 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. In addition, there are three Pacific island territories (Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau) that are in free association with New Zealand; in other words they are completely self governing with regards to their internal affairs, but their citizens are New Zealand citizens, they continue to use the New Zealand dollar as their currency, and New Zealand continues to be responsible for their foreign affairs and defence.
- He aha te mea nui o te ao? He tangata, he tangata, he tangata. (What is the most important thing in the world? It is people, people, people.) –Māori proverb
New Zealand is home to around 5.12 million people as of June 2020. Around 1.20 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 9,800 residents. The country as a whole is sparsely populated, with an average of 18 people per square kilometre. The country is highly urbanised: 86.5% of the population live in towns and cities, and over half the country's population lives in the five largest urban areas: Auckland (1,463,000), Wellington (433,000), Christchurch (381,000), Hamilton (179,000) and Tauranga (155,000).
New Zealand's population is mainly of European descent, owing to being a former British colony and the nation's immigration policy pre-1987 giving preference to European, North American and Australian citizens. In total, around three-quarters of the population is of direct or indirect European descent. The indigenous Māori make up a sizable minority, with around one-sixth of all New Zealanders claiming Māori ancestry. There are also significant Asian and Polynesian groups, especially in the Auckland area and to a lesser extent in the Wellington area. Around 11% of New Zealanders identify with more than one ethnic group, with European-Māori being the most common combination.
The number of people claiming to be Christian has been steadily falling in New Zealand with increased immigration from Asia and an increasing number of people claiming to be irreligious. As of 2013, around 49% of the population are Christian, 6% follow non-Christian religions, 42% are irreligious, and 4% objected to stating their religion.
New Zealand leads most of the world, time wise!
The Chatham Islands, part of New Zealand but 800 km (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.
The national holidays in New Zealand are:
- 1 January: New Year's Day. If the day falls on the weekend, 3 January is observed as a public holiday.
- 2 January: New Year's Holiday. If the day falls on the weekend, 4 January is observed as a public holiday.
- 6 February: Waitangi Day, marking the anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840. If the day falls on the weekend, the following Monday is observed as a public holiday.
- Easter weekend: a four-day long weekend in March or April (set according to the Western Christian dates). Good Friday and Easter Monday are public holidays. Most shops 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 shops must remain closed until 1PM. If the day falls on the weekend, the following Monday is observed as a public holiday.
- First Monday in June: King's Birthday.
- Friday in June or July: Matariki, marking the Māori new year. As the holiday is linked to the lunar calendar, the date changes yearly (it was 14 July in 2023 and will be 28 June in 2024).
- Fourth Monday in October: Labour Day.
- 25 December: Christmas Day. Most shops must remain closed. If the day falls on the weekend, 27 December is observed as a public holiday.
- 26 December: Boxing Day. If the day falls on the weekend, 28 December is observed as a public holiday.
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.
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.
English is the primary language of New Zealand, spoken by 96–98% of the population. English is a de facto official language, alongside two other de jure official languages: Māori (te reo Māori), the language of the indigenous Māori people, and New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL), the language of the deaf community.
New Zealand English is most similar to Australian English, but is somewhat more conservative, retaining many British words that Australian English has abandoned in favour of American ones. It also contains many local slang words, and words derived from the Māori language, and is distinct enough to justify its own version of the Oxford Dictionary. The New Zealand accent is mostly non-rhotic (i.e. no rolling r sound after vowels), except in the lower half of the South Island where the rhotic "Southland burr" accent persists due to high Scottish immigration in the region's early days. The most noticeable difference in the New Zealand accent compared to other accents is the pronounced shift in the short-i (as in kit) and the short-e (as in dress) sounds; 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. Another noticeable difference is the New Zealand bear–beer merger, so words like "air" and "ear", "bear" and "beer", "chair" and "cheer", and "fairy" and "ferry" are identical in pronunciation, leading to the odd joke about an inebriated Goldilocks. New Zealand spelling generally follows British conventions.
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". This only applies to the two main islands; New Zealanders say "on Waiheke Island", for example.
Māori (te reo Māori) is spoken fluently by a minority of both Māori and language learners (3.7% of New Zealand residents at the 2013 census, and roughly 11–20% of Māori), with the largest concentration of speakers in the far north and east of the North Island. There are a number of Māori-medium and bilingual Māori-English schools across New Zealand, and most English-medium schools offer Māori as a learning language. In addition, there are also free-to-air television and radio channels that broadcast in Māori. Most travellers would not need to learn Māori, as native Māori speakers are bilingual in English. Nevertheless, the heavy influence of Māori on New Zealand place names means knowledge of Māori pronunciation can be useful, and even locals who do not speak Māori usually know how to pronounce Māori words – although some place names seem to have two pronunciations: the "correct" one, and the one in common use by locals. 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. The Māori language today is thriving, and increasingly people of non-Māori descent learn it as a second language, even if just enough to participate in a Māori traditional welcome on to a marae.
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% 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 punished for signing in class). It also has additional unique signs related to New Zealand, such as Māori 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.
- 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 9AM-noon and 2PM-3:30PM 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.
- Pottle - a (usually plastic) food container, a tub.
- 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
- Bush - Forest. Usually meaning a native forest as opposed to a plantation forest.
- 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).
- Sweet as! - Cool, good thing, No problem. Often abbreviated to just 'sweet'. As is also sometimes used after other adjectives as slang for very: cheap as - very cheap.
- Wop-wops - remote rural area; the middle of nowhere.
Māori words and expressions
- See also: Māori phrasebook
- Haere mai - A greeting to a person arriving. Haere ra is a farewell to someone leaving.
- Hui - A meeting or gathering to discuss and debate issues, usually 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.
- Kai - Food. Commonly used by both Māori and European.
- Kia ora - Hello, welcome, thank you. Often used as an utterance of agreement, especially during speaking at a hui.
- Kia kaha - stay strong.
- Koha - A gift or donation. Often an exchange of gifts takes place at gatherings. Sometimes admission signs say, "Entry Koha", meaning gold coin or what you feel like donating.
- Mana - Defined as authority, control, influence, prestige or power. It is also honour.
- Mā te wā - See you later.
- Marae - A traditional Māori meeting or gathering place. Also a community centre.
- Pākehā - New Zealander of European descent. Widely used, including by non-Māori, who see the name as part of their unique New Zealand identity. Some New Zealanders however don't like the term and don't refer to themselves as Pākehā.
- Pāua - Abalone to the rest of the English-speaking world. See also Gemstones#Mother-of-pearl.
- Pōwhiri - 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.
- Tangi or tangihanga – a funeral, especially one conducted to traditional Māori rites. (tangi means to weep or mourn)
- Whānau - A Māori (extended) family. Kinfolk. Used often in advertising to alliterate with friends such as 'friends and whānau'.
- Wharekai (literally food house) is the dining room and/or kitchen on a marae.
- Wharenui (literally big house) is the meeting house on a marae.
- Wharepaku (literally small house) - Toilet; Tāne is the men's, Wāhine is the women's.
Passports, visas and documentation
All visitors, apart from Australian citizens, require an electronic travel authority or a visa in advance of travel to enter or transit New Zealand.
Citizens of the Cook Islands, Tokelau and Niue are New Zealand citizens. However, due to differing immigration laws, citizens of these countries need to present a New Zealand passport when entering and leaving New Zealand.
At major international airports, citizens of New Zealand, Australia, Canada, mainland China, France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, the Netherlands, Singapore, South Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States who are aged 12 and over and possess ePassports may make use of the automated border control gates (eGates). Being able to use an eGate does not exempt you from visa requirements.
Minimum validity of travel documents
Foreign nationals of the following countries and territories are eligible for visa waiver:
- Three 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, Macau, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Norway, Oman, Qatar, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Seychelles, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan, Uruguay, United Arab Emirates, United States and Vatican City.
- Six months: United Kingdom (British citizens and other British passport holders who produce evidence of the right to reside permanently in the UK)
To enter or transit New Zealand on a visa waiver, foreigners need to complete a New Zealand electronic travel authorisation (NZeTA). This will cost you $17 (via app) or $23 (via website) depending on the application method. Most visitors will also need to pay a $35 International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy (IVL) at the same time they apply for the NZeTA; citizens of most Oceanian countries and permanent residents of Australia are exempt. Approval of the NZeTA can take 72 hours or more and therefore it is critical to apply well in advance of your flight. NZeTA and IVL is valid for two years.
Once the visitor arrive at the airport, they are automatically granted a Visa Waiver Visitor Visa for the duration stated. Once the three months is up, you can leave to a nearby country (Australia, or a Pacific Island) for a short trip and come back, and get another visa for three months. You can only stay in New Zealand for a total of 6 months in every 12 months using this method, if you wish to stay longer you will need to apply for a Visitor Visa.
The visa waiver 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 ahead of time. 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.
Citizens and permanent residents of Australia are eligible to be granted a resident visa on arrival under the Trans-Tasman Travel Agreement, provided they meet health and character requirements. They can travel, study and work in New Zealand without restriction. They may also vote in elections and claim some tax and social security benefits after a stand-down period.
Australian citizens do not need to apply for the NZeTA nor IVL, while Australian permanent residents need to apply for NZeTA before departure (but not IVL).
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.
Refugee applications should be made before arrival since New Zealand has a formal refugee induction programme. Those who turn up in an airport arrival lounge without papers, claiming refugee status, may find themselves in jail awaiting the outcome of legal proceedings.
Customs and quarantine
New Zealand has very strict biosecurity 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. A significant proportion of 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.
All travellers, regardless of age, will need to make a declaration before they proceed to passport control. This can be done online, on the NZTD app, or using a paper arrival card.
Both the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) and New Zealand Customs Service will inspect all passenger baggage and confiscate and fine for any prohibited items. Do not think you can get away with bringing items in surreptitiously by not declaring them; all passengers will be questioned and all baggage will be x-rayed and/or opened as part of standard entry procedures, and random inspections by sniffer-dogs will take place. There are amnesty bins available before the checkpoint to dispose of banned goods. If you unintentionally fail to declare controlled items, you will be given an on-the-spot fine of $400; if you deliberately smuggle in controlled items, you can be fined up to $100,000 and/or be jailed for up to 5 years. You can also be deported and banned from New Zealand, and ridiculed on national television (Border Patrol is a popular local reality series in New Zealand).
The best advice is to declare any item you think may cause problems. The worst that can happen is the border staff confiscate and destroy the item, but you will not have to pay a fine (or be deported). Even if you haven't declared an item on your arrival card or online, you can still advise staff of an controlled item when you get to the checkpoint without incurring a fine.
Items that must be declared include:
- any kind of food, regardless of whether it's cooked, uncooked, fresh, preserved, packaged or dried.
- any animal product, material or biological specimen
- any plants or plant material
- any animals
- any equipment used with animals, plants or water (e.g. gardening, beekeeping, fishing, water sport, diving)
- any items that have been used for outdoor or farming activities, such as footwear, tents, camping, hunting, hiking, golf and sports equipment.
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. 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. If you are unsure it is best to declare any questionable items as the biosecurity 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 sterilisation or fumigation before being released to you. You may be charged a fee for this.
Anti-money laundering and countering finance of terrorism (AML/CFT) laws 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 nearly all travellers get there by plane. Flight time from the Australian east coast is 3–4 hours, Southeast Asia 10–11 hours, the North American west coast 13–15 hours, and the Middle East a thrombosis-causing 17–18 hours. Travelling by plane from European destinations takes 24–26 hours, and involves at least one stopover in either Asia or the Americas.
Auckland (AKL IATA) is the primary entry point, and the main hub for flag carrier Air New Zealand. More than 20 airlines connect Auckland Airport with more than 35 destinations in Australia and the South Pacific, eastern Asia, North America, Santiago (Chile), Dubai and Doha.
Christchurch International Airport (CHC IATA) is the main secondary entry point, with flights to and from eastern Australia, Fiji, Singapore, Dubai (via Sydney) and Guangzhou, and seasonal services to and from Hong Kong, Perth and Taipei (via Melbourne). Smaller international airports at Wellington (WLG IATA) and Queenstown (ZQN IATA) primarily offer services to and from eastern Australia. 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.
If you are connecting from and international flight to a domestic flight, you will need to collect your checked baggage, pass through customs and quarantine, and then re-drop your baggage at the domestic baggage drop. This is true even if your baggage is tagged through to the final domestic destination.
A small percentage (1.5%) of passengers enter New Zealand via boat. Cruise ships regularly visit New Zealand between October and April. Most of these depart from Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane in Australia, taking three nights crossing the Tasman Sea to reach New Zealand.
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 compared with driving yourself. Booking in advance can get you great bargains on some lines.
- Flying Kiwi Adventures. Trips range from 3 to 27 days and cover both main islands. The tours focus on enjoying outdoor beauty and excitement 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. 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 the InterCity and Newmans lines, and a fleet of modern vessels and coaches for GreatSights New Zealand, Fullers GreatSights Bay of Islands and awesomeNZ. 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 $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. Online fares are often sold at a cheaper rate.
- Travelpass. A pass offered by InterCity that 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 and a scenic boat cruise in Milford Sound. Passes are valid for 1 year.
- 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 1 year.
- Atomic Shuttles operate a no-frills shuttle service in parts of the South Island.
- East West Coaches. Daily transport from Westport and Greymouth to Christchurch (via Arthur's Pass) and return.
- 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.
- Naked Bus and Mana Bus ceased operation in July 2018.
Domestic flights in New Zealand can be expensive; some domestic flights can cost as much as a flight to Australia. However, flying often works out cheaper than driving or taking a train, especially when crossing between the North and South Islands.
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, or 60 minutes if you're connecting to an international flight. Cabin baggage and personal scanning are routinely conducted for services from the major airports that have jet landings.
- Air New Zealand, ☏ , toll-free: 0800 737 000. 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, Queenstown and Wellington. Don't be late for check-in – they are very strict about check-in close times.
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. While public transport is usable in the cities of Auckland and Wellington, a car is almost essential to get around anywhere else.
Traffic drives on the left in New Zealand. The State Highway network connects major cities and destinations within the two main islands, and are indicated by a number inside a red shield. Motorways and expressways are generally only found near major cities, with most intercity driving done on undivided highways with one lane in each direction and limited overtaking opportunities. Be prepared to get caught behind slow-moving vehicles, and expect drivers behind you to become impatient if you drive slowly without a reason. If you are driving slowly and traffic builds up behind you, find a safe place to pull over and let them pass.
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 an approved child restraint until their 7th birthday. Talking or using a mobile phone while driving is illegal.
Speed limits are generally 50 km/h in urban areas, and 100 km/h in rural areas and on motorways. A select few motorways and expressways have 110 km/h limits. Heavy vehicles and towing vehicles have a blanket maximum limit of 90 km/h. Being caught 40 km/h or more over the posted limit will result in a 28-day roadside suspension and most likely an appearance in court on dangerous driving charges.
The blood alcohol limit in New Zealand is 0.05% (0.00% if aged under 20). Checkpoints for breath screening tests are common, where a police officer will randomly pick a vehicle driver to undergo the test; refusing it will usually result in arrest. Being caught more than 0.03% over the limit will result in an appearance in court, which will result in at least 6 months disqualification from driving and a hefty fine.
Some petrol stations in major towns and cities are open 24 hours, with most other manned petrol stations closing by 10PM. There are 24-hour unmanned petrol stations around the country, which accept national and international debit/credit cards with a PIN; very rarely do these sites accept cash. Petrol prices average $2.45/L for regular unleaded petrol, and $1.70/L for diesel as of December 2021 (unlike petrol, diesel is not taxed at the pump and therefore the price is lower).
Electric vehicles make up around 0.55% of the vehicle fleet (as of December 2020), and there is a rapidly expanding network of fast charging stations across the country.
- See also: Renting a motorhome in New Zealand
A campervan/motorhome provides considerable freedom and allows you to set your own schedule for travel around New Zealand by combining accommodation and transport. These practical vehicles are often equipped with two or more beds, a kitchenette, a shower and a toilet. They are generally suited for 2-6 people depending on the size.
Motorhome/campervan rentals are available in both the North Island and South Island. Some rental companies offer one way rentals so you can start and finish your travel in different locations. A minimum rental period is generally 5 days but can be up to 10 days during the peak season (especially Christmas/New Year).
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.
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. New Zealand rental vehicles may come with either a manual (stick-shift) or an automatic transmission; if you can't drive a manual, make sure to specify an automatic transmission vehicle in advance. If you have a licence from a non-English speaking country, you will be required to have an official translation of that document to rent a vehicle. If you don’t have one at the counter, some companies are able to refer you to a service at a cost of about $80 and a delay of 1 to 2 hours.
Some rental car companies do not allow their vehicles on the Cook Strait ferries between the North and South Island, or only allow them on if you promise to return them back to their originating island. If you do return a rental car on the wrong island, expect to be charged upwards of $500 to repatriate the vehicle. 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.
When you buy and sell a vehicle, you need to notify the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) and (if you are buying) pay the appropriate fee. It is very important to notify the NZTA if you are selling since this limits your liability for any subsequent costs (overdue licence fees, speed camera tickets, etc.). Other obligations as a vehicle owner include paying the licence fees ("rego") and having a current Warrant of Fitness (WoF). Diesel vehicles owners also have to pay Road User Charges (RUC) since diesel is not taxed at the pump. Third party insurance to cover your liability in an accident is not mandatory but is highly 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.
Long distance passenger-rail services are slow and limited in New Zealand, and are primarily used for sightseeing purposes rather than as practical travel options, with the bulk of New Zealand's rail traffic being used for freight transport. If time is of importance to you, driving yourself usually works out faster than taking the train.
Inter-city passenger services are operated by state-owned KiwiRail under the brand Great Journeys New Zealand, 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. The most historically significant train route in New Zealand, and an engineering marvel in its time.
- 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. Timed to meet the Interislander ferry between Wellington and Picton. Oct–Apr only.
- TranzAlpine – from Christchurch to Greymouth and return daily. Widely regarded as the most scenic train journey in New Zealand, this trip crosses the South Island, passing through spectacular mountain scenery, some of which is inaccessible by road, and 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, travelling around 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 menus online.
There are also some tourist trains run by private operators on otherwise disused lines purely for sightseeing purposes. The most famous of them is Dunedin Railways that operates tourist trains out of Dunedin along the scenic Taieiri Gorge, which otherwise no longer has passenger rail service.
Uber and Ola are available in major cities.
Between the North and South Islands
- Main article: Cook Strait ferries
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 3.5 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 8AM–8PM, Sa–Su 8AM–6PM. Operates three ships: Aratere, Kaiarahi and Kaitaki.
- Bluebridge (Strait Shipping), ☏ , toll-free: 0800 844 844. Contact centre 8AM–8PM 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.
A network of cycle trails is 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
- See also: New Zealand national parks
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 (3724 m). 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 Tai Poutini 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.
New Zealand's sceneries have featured famously in the Lord of the Rings film series, and many natural and artificial settings on the island can be visited.
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). North of Taupo and at Kawerau, New Zealand's geothermal resources are put to use generating electricity, supplying around 17.5% of the country's electricity demand. Hot springs are sprinkled across the country, and are often popular bathing spots.
Flora and fauna
- See also: Australasian wildlife
Because New Zealand has been so remote from other lands for millions of years, its plants and animals are unique and distinctive. Its wildlife evolved in isolation, in the absence of land mammals (apart from three species of bat), and the roles of mammals were taken by reptiles, giant insects, and flightless birds (most notably the giant moa, now extinct, whose 3-metre-tall skeletons can be seen in museums).
New Zealand's forests are mostly cool-temperate rainforest, resembling tropical jungle, with vines, tree ferns and a thick understorey. The most impressive native tree is the kauri, one of the largest tree species in the world. Heavily logged in the 19th and early 20th century, few of these giants remain (a result of over-logging), but a visit to 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, over-hunting since humans arrived means many of New Zealand's unique animals are now endangered and can be seen practically only in captivity or in mammal-excluded nature reserves. This includes the kiwi, the country's national bird; this flightless nocturnal chicken-sized bird is unique in having nostrils at the tip of its beak and laying the largest egg in the world relative to its body size. Other unique (and endangered) wildlife includes the flightless takahē, the kākāpō (made famous internationally after the "shagged by a rare parrot" incident), and the tuatara (a lizard-like reptile, last survivor of a branch of the reptilian family tree dating back to the dinosaurs). One non-native pest is the brush-tailed possum, which was imported from Australia for its silky fur, which is used to make warm, lightweight knitted goods.
New Zealand's national parks are maintained by the Department of Conservation (DOC) and various local governments. Access is 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 before venturing into the wilderness, even for a day hike.
Eradication or suppression of non-native animals that threaten native species is common, but sometimes contentious, in New Zealand. Visitors from overseas may be surprised by the lack of affection New Zealanders have for what would be cuddly bunnies or fluffy possums in other countries. Much pest management is through poisonous baits, notably sodium fluoroacetate or "1080". These are delivered through ground bait stations or, more cost effectively (though controversially), by helicopter drops. Department of Conservation and OSPRI/TBfree NZ provide regularly-updated pesticide summaries that include warnings, maps of the areas affected, and which poisons have been used.
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 is interesting for its English character and the rebuilding of the city after the 2011 earthquake. Dunedin has a Scottish character with some fine nineteenth century buildings.
Outdoors and adventure
Outdoor and adventure activities include:
- Bungy Jumping – The modern bungy jumping was invented here by New Zealander A.J. Hackett. Popular locations are Queenstown, Auckland, or Taupo.
- Canoeing and Sea kayaking – Sea kayaking in Abel Tasman Marine Reserve or the colder waters of Milford Sound
- Caving – Waitomo, Nelson, South Island West Coast, Te Anau
- Scuba diving
- 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)
- 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.
- Hunting – For conservation purposes a large range of mammals (aka game) are up for hunting in New Zealand, since they have been introduced by early settlers, and with no natural predators around, they have become a pest to the local environment, forests and farming industry. The three most common ways to go hunting are:
- Head over to the DoC website for more information on hunting.
- Hot-air ballooning
- Jet boating – the Hamilton jet was invented in New Zealand in 1954 by Bill Hamilton, specifically to overcome the country's shallow braided rivers.
- Mountain biking
- Off-road driving
- 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.
- Skiing and snowboarding – The Queenstown-Wanaka area is New Zealand's premier ski destination, with many top international skiers and snowboarders coming to the area in chase of the eternal winter. Other public ski areas exist in the Canterbury foothills, and on Mount Ruapehu in the North Island.
- Whale watching in Kaikoura
- Windsurfing and Kitesurfing
Rugby union inspires more passion than religion, and New Zealand's national team is the mighty All Blacks, whose ground-trembling opening haka are arguably better known than any other aspect of New Zealand. The All Blacks have won the Rugby World Cup three times (1987, 2011, 2015), tied with South Africa for the most wins. They also have a winning record against every other team they've played, with only seven countries (South Africa, Australia, France, England, Ireland, Argentina and Wales) having ever beaten them. New Zealand is the most formidable national side in the sport of rugby, and playing against them, let alone beating them, is a dream come true for rugby players from around the world.
The All Blacks generally play at home in the southern hemisphere winter (June to August), mainly in The Rugby Championship against Argentina, Australia and South Africa. Unlike many other national teams, the All Blacks do not have a single home stadium; test matches circulate between stadiums in the major centres, including Eden Park in Auckland, Sky Stadium ("The Cake Tin") in Wellington, Orangetheory Stadium in Christchurch, Waikato Stadium in Hamilton, and Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.
Super Rugby is a competition among clubs from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Argentina and Japan, with 5 of the 15 sides based in New Zealand. New Zealand sides tend to perform well in the competition and have won more finals than teams from any other country. Women's rugby was rather insignificant until the mid-2010s, but since then interest and participation have increased exponentially. The women's national team is known as the Black Ferns, and their record puts the All Blacks to shame - they have won six World Cups, and only England has won more than one game against them!
The All Blacks winning all the time gets rather repetitive and boring, so New Zealanders also enjoy a wide variety of other spectator sports. Other popular team sports in New Zealand include cricket, rugby league, football (i.e. association football or soccer), netball (a variant of basketball popular in Commonwealth countries and played almost exclusively by women), and increasingly, basketball (third to only netball and rugby union in terms of high school participants). On the Olympic stage, New Zealand's best sports include rowing, sailing, kayaking, track cycling, and athletics (track and field) middle distance and throwing events.
New Zealand has over 400 registered golf courses, from local clubs to internationally renowned resorts, offering uncrowded golfing and superb scenery.
Exchange rates for New Zealand dollars
As of January 2023:
Exchange rates fluctuate. Current rates for these and other currencies are available from xe.com
The currency used in New Zealand is the New Zealand dollar, denoted by the symbol "$" or "NZ$" (ISO code: NZD). It is divided into 100 cents. In this guide, the "$" symbol denotes New Zealand dollars unless otherwise indicated.
The New Zealand dollar is free-floating, however barring a major change in the international market, exchange rates are generally stable. Payment in foreign currencies is rarely accepted, and if it is, expect the exchange rate to be poor (e.g. Australian dollars being accepted at 1:1). As the New Zealand dollar is one of the world's most actively traded currencies (10th most traded as of April 2016), it is widely available in banks and money changers throughout the world.
Coins come in denominations of 10¢ (copper), 20¢ (small silver), 50¢ (large silver), $1 (small gold) and $2 (large gold). All the coins feature Queen Elizabeth II on the "heads" side. In 2006, New Zealand phased out the 5¢ coin and replaced the 10¢, 20¢ and 50¢ coins with smaller versions. Prior to the change, the 5¢, 10¢ and 20¢ coins were identical to their Australian counterparts, save for different "tails" sides, meaning it was common to see Australian coins in New Zealand circulation and vice versa. Since there is no coin smaller than 10¢, cash transactions are rounded to the nearest 10¢ (5¢ can round either way, but most businesses round down).
Banknotes come in denominations of $5 (orange), $10 (blue), $20 (green), $50 (purple), and $100 (red). All the notes in circulation are printed on polymer, with the front side featuring a notable New Zealander (except for the $20 note, which features Queen Elizabeth II) and the rear side featuring a native New Zealand bird. There are two series of banknotes in circulation, the 1999 series (small transparent window) and the 2015-16 series (large transparent window).
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.
Eftpos terminals are divided into two types: ones that only accept domestic (New Zealand-issued) cards, and those that accept domestic and international cards.
You can usually identify terminals that only accept domestic cards by the "no credit" sticker placed over the terminal. These will only take domestic debit and Eftpos cards. Credit cards and international debit cards are not accepted. You will find these types at smaller retailers such as dairies, takeaways and cafés that do not serve alcohol.
Terminals without a sticker will accept international and domestic debit and credit cards, in addition to Eftpos cards. As to the types of cards accepted, MasterCard and Visa are universal. American Express is available in most big stores, 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 selected merchants. If you are using a foreign debit card, make sure you push "Credit" when asked for an account so the transaction is routed into the Visa/MasterCard network; "Cheque" and "Savings" will route the transaction into the domestic Eftpos network and your card will decline due to an invalid transaction.
New Zealand is a user of the nearly universal chip-and-PIN card system, which uses an electronic chip in the card and the holder's Personal Identity Number (PIN) to verify the transaction. Most merchants also accept the swipe and sign method. If you're using a card with no embedded chip and the terminal asks you to enter a PIN, just press the "Enter" key 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.
Contactless payment, known in New Zealand as "Paywave", is available at most places that accept credit cards. No PIN or signature is necessary for purchases under $200.
The vast majority of stores still accept cash. Many New Zealanders don't carry large amounts of cash, seeing it as a risk and bothersome compared to using their Eftpos card. As a tourist, you should still carry cash as there will be stores that don't accept foreign cards.
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. Banks no longer charge fees for using a competitor's ATM, however independent ATM operators may still charge a withdrawal fee. If you withdraw with an overseas card at ANZ you'll be charged $3 for using their ATM. BNZ and Kiwibank don't charge overseas cards. There is a $2,000 limit on cash withdrawals from ATMs per day.
Supermarkets and some retailers may agree to dispense a small amount of cash when you pay for your purchase using a domestic debit card. Smaller retailers may often set a minimum purchase of around $10 when doing so.
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 card. All NZ banks offer telephone and internet banking services. 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 in a few hours, or the following business day at the latest.
All New Zealand banks will allow visitors and migrants to set up an account via their respective websites up to six months before arrival. Your 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.
You will be offered a choice between an Eftpos and a debit card. An Eftpos card can be used to pay in shops in New Zealand and be used to withdraw money from ATMs. A debit card does everything an Eftpos card does, and additionally can be used to spend online and overseas whenever Visa or MasterCard is accepted. A debit card will usually have a small annual fee (around $10) while Eftpos cards are free.
Cheques are extinct in New Zealand since 27 August 2021. Banks no longer cash them and businesses will not take them.
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.
As a guide, here is the average prices of some common items (as of October 2020):
- Loaf of bread (600g) – $1.30
- Two-litre bottle of milk – $3.60
- Apples – $3.30 per kg
- Kiwifruit (green) – $4.00 per kg
- Potatoes – $2.20 per kg
- Beef mince – $16.40 per kg
- Lamb chops – $18.20 per kg
- Fish and chips, one portion – $7.40
- Big Mac – $6.60
Taxes and fees
Goods and services sold in New Zealand are subject to 15% Goods and Services Tax (GST). The tax is usually included in the advertised price; 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. Ordinary visitors cannot claim a refund on GST already paid when leaving the country. Business visitors may be able to claim back the GST paid on their company's return, in which case you will need to give your accounting department a tax receipt for all purchases $50 and over.
GST and duty (if applicable) are payable on all goods imported over the duty-free allowance. The duty-free allowance per person is 50 cigarettes or 50 grams of tobacco, three 1125 mL bottles of spirits, 4.5 litres of beer or wine, and NZ$700 of other duty-free goods.
New Zealand law requires staff working on public holidays to be paid 1.5 times their normal rate and be given a day of paid leave to take later. Businesses, especially cafes and restaurants, may add a public holiday surcharge (typically 15%) to cover the extra labour costs. As with GST, if the surcharge is not included in the advertised price, it must be stated that the surcharge is additional.
New Zealand has strong fair trading and consumer protection laws, which among other things requires goods and services to be sold at a reasonable price. In most cases, price negotiation or haggling on advertised prices is therefore viewed as an insult on the shopkeeper. If you think the prices are too high, the best advice is to vote with your feet.
Some retailers may be willing to match or discount the price of an item if you find a competitor selling the same product for a lower price. For big-ticket items such as home appliances and furniture, retailers may be willing to negotiate the price if you are buying multiple items or are paying in cash or Eftpos.
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 an Americanism 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 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, though more often than not, locals do not leave any.
Restaurants are generally required to include the cost of service and taxes in posted prices. However, restaurants may impose a surcharge on top the posted prices during public holidays, provided they clearly advertise so, as they are required to pay their employees higher wages on those days.
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 goodwill 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 and 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 instead of money. This is considered reasonable because their average wage is substantially larger than their American counterparts.
New Zealand has very liberal shopping hours law. There are only 3.5 days of the year where shops must close: Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Christmas Day, and before 13:00 on Anzac Day (25 April). Exceptions include dairies, convenience stores, petrol stations, cafes and restaurants, pharmacies, souvenir shops, and shops in airports and public transport terminals. Certain cities and areas are exempted from one or more of these mandatory closing days.
High street stores generally open between 08:00 and 09:00 on weekdays, and close between 16:30 and 18:00. When they trade at weekends and public holidays, they generally open between 09:00 and 10:00 and close between 13:00 and 17:00. Shopping malls are generally open 09:00 to 18:00 Monday to Saturday and 10:00 to 17:00 on Sunday; most have one or two late nights per week, usually on Thursday and/or Friday, where stores stay open until 21:00. Supermarkets and most big box retailers open every day between 07:00 and 08:00 and close between 21:00 and 22:00.
Major retail chains
The Warehouse, commonly referred to as The Red Shed, is the New Zealand equivalent of Walmart. The Warehouse group sells a variety of cheaper products including clothing, camping equipment, electronics, toys, CD's, DVD's, Gaming etc. Regular stores are found in all cities and most large towns, with some smaller stores also operating in rural towns. Despite its Walmart-like reputation, stores do sell some respected upmarket brands, such as Sony, LEGO, Apple, and Adidas. Prices are cheap, and if you're buying products to use for the duration of a New Zealand holiday (and don't plan on taking them home) then The Warehouse is recommended. The Warehouse also has a very liberal change-of-mind returns and exchange policy - you can return or exchange an item within 12 months of purchase as long as it's in re-saleable condition and you have proof of purchase (some items such as underwear, swimwear, recorded media and perishables are excluded). More traditional department stores include mid-market Farmers and the upmarket department stores in the major cities: Smith & Caughey's in Auckland 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); Noel Leeming, an electronics retailer; and Mitre 10 Mega, a home improvements retailer.
Modern New Zealand cuisine has been influenced mainly by the country's British heritage, although immigration since the 1950s has put Mediterranean and Asia-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.
New Zealanders typically only go out for dinner at a restaurant on special occasions such as birthdays or on romantic dates; most don't eat out on a highly frequent basis, although it 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. Major international fast food chains with a presence in New Zealand include Burger King, Carl's Jr., Domino's, KFC, McDonald's, Pita Pit, Pizza Hut, Subway and Wendy'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. Chinese food in New Zealand is mostly of the Westernised takeaway variety, which is similar to that found in Australia or the United Kingdom, and can be found in many neighbourhoods and small towns. That being said, good, authentic Chinese food can be found in major cities such as Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.
Most cafés and restaurants in New Zealand regularly cater for vegetarians, gluten-free and most single allergies. Cafés and restaurants catering for vegans and religious dietary requirements (e.g. halal, kosher) are hard to find outside the major cities.
If preparing food yourself, there are major supermarket chains: Countdown (green/black), New World (beige) and Pak'nSave (yellow). If you are looking for the lowest prices, Pak'nSave is probably your best bet, but they carry a limited range of brands. Countdown and New World both carry a full range, but keep an eye on the prices if you are on a budget. Smaller towns may have a Four Square, Fresh Choice or Super Value grocery store. There are dairies and other convenience stores throughout the populated areas.
If you want something to bring home, manuka honey is one of New Zealand's most prized exports, which is widely available in local supermarkets. There are also numerous honey farms around the country you can visit for this product.
Generally speaking, table manners in New Zealand are in line with standard European norms.
One of the most definitive guides to traditional New Zealand cuisine is the Edmonds Cookery Book. First published in 1908 and having gone through over a dozen revisions, it's apparently more prolific in New Zealand homes than the Bible.
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.
- Feijoas – a sweet, fragrant fruit with a gelatinous centre that tastes like pineapple, apple and mint. Native to South America, it grows throughout New Zealand, and is commonly seen in suburban areas. The fruits become ripe in autumn, when it is common to see feijoas being given away out the front of houses with feijoa trees in the suburbs.
- Fish and chips – originally a British takeaway dish, New Zealand has its own unique style. Major fish species used are hoki, lemonfish (rig shark), and tarakihi, with bluefin gurnard and blue cod also featuring in the South Island. The fish is battered (or crumbed, if you prefer) and deep fried in oil together with chunky cut potato chips (fries) and a range of other meats, seafood, pineapple rings and even chocolate bars, all wrapped in newsprint paper (today unprinted food-grade paper is used; traditionally it was yesterday's newspaper). Traditional condiments in New Zealand include tomato sauce (ketchup) and tartare sauce.
- Kiwifruit – a plum-sized usually green-fleshed fruit, with fine black seeds in the flesh. While originating from China and first known to the home gardener as a Chinese gooseberry, New Zealand was the first country to selectively breed, commercially grow and export the fruit. Production today is centred on Te Puke but kiwifruit is also grown in many other horticultural areas. New Zealand kiwifruit is in season from April to January; out of season it is imported from the northern hemisphere (mainly Italy). Slices are often used as a topping on pavlova (see desserts section below). Caution: While the rest of the world calls this fruit "kiwi", in New Zealand it's always called "kiwifruit". "Kiwi" refers to the flightless national bird, which is a protected species and killing one (let alone eating it) is a criminal offence.
- Kūmara or sweet potato – 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 kūmara chips – nice served with sour cream, but rarely cooked well, because it cooks at a different temperature to potatoes, so it needs a skilled chef for the dish to be done perfectly. There are three main cultivars available: Owairaka Red ("red"), Toka Toka Gold ("gold"), and Beauregard ("orange"). Owairaka Red, with dark red/purple skin and creamy white flesh, is the most popular cultivar but is the tartest of the three. Kūmara are available year round with the new season starting in February. The main growing area is around Dargaville.
- Pies – New Zealanders eat large numbers of non-flaky pastry pies containing savoury fillings that fit nicely in one hand (around 170 g/6 oz). Popular flavours include mince, mince & cheese, steak, steak & cheese, potato top mince, bacon & egg, and chicken & vegetable. The country even tried to take on the American fast-food giants with a pie-based chain (Georgie Pie), before it went bankrupt and all the assets sold off to McDonald's. Some companies now market ranges of "gourmet" pies and there is an annual competition for the best pie in a variety of categories.
With no point of the country more than 130 km (80 mi) from the sea, fish and seafood (kaimoana) is fresh, varied and (in most part) plentiful. Shellfish is gathered from inter-tidal rocks and beaches and inshore fish caught on a line or with nets.
- Bluff oysters (dredge oysters) – while found across New Zealand, the richest beds are in Foveaux Strait, out from the small port town of Bluff, hence the name. The harvesting season for the oysters runs from March to August.
- Crayfish (spiny rock lobster; Māori kōura (papatea)) – caught all around New Zealand, but especially associated with the town of Kaikoura (whose name literally means "eat crayfish").
- Green-lipped mussels – easily distinguishable by their dark green to brown body with a bright green lip. They have been commercially farmed since the 1980s and are readily available in both processed and live form.
- Pāua – the New Zealand blackfoot abalone is found in rocky sub-tidal waters. The meat is often tenderised (otherwise it has the consistency of rubber), chopped, formed into fritters with an egg-based batter and fried. The going market for pāua meat is $130-150 per kg, so be very wary of any pāua fritter sold for less than $10; the meat could have been sourced on the black market, if it contains any real pāua meat at all.
- 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 local fish and chip shops and are cooked without gutting or removing their heads, as they are tiny (2-7 mm broad).
Desserts and sweets
- Pavlova or pav – a dessert cake made of whipped egg whites and sugar and slowly baked to have a crusty meringue-like outside and 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!
- Ice cream – New Zealanders consume an average 23 litres of ice cream per year, among the highest in the world. A unique Kiwi flavour is hokey pokey, which is vanilla ice cream containing small lumps of honeycomb toffee.
- Lollies (sweets/candy) – iconic New Zealand lollies include pineapple lumps (pineapple-flavoured chewy toffee covered in chocolate), jaffas (chocolate balls inside a hard orange shell), and chocolate fish (fish-shaped marshmallow covered in chocolate).
- The hāngi or earth oven is the traditional way that Māori cook food for large gatherings. Meat, seafood, 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. The wood used in the fire is usually mānuka (New Zealand tea tree), which gives the hāngi its unique smoky flavour. In some areas, such as Rotorua, this may also be done using the natural geothermal heat.
The minimum legal purchase age for alcohol in New Zealand is 18, and it 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; the only acceptable forms of identification are a passport, a New Zealand driver licence (foreign driver licences are not accepted), or an 18+ Card or a Kiwi Access Card issued by the Hospitality New Zealand (HNZ). If you are in a group, everyone who looks under 25 must present photo identification otherwise the entire group will be denied service.
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. Craft beer is also increasingly popular and available, especially in larger cities (and especially in Wellington). Look out for NZ beers like Tuatara, Garage Project or Epic, to give just a few examples. 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 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.
Take care when and where you indulge in public. New Zealand has 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. If you are found drunk and disorderly, the Police may detain you in custody until you sober up.
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.
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, from campsites and shared hostel rooms to international-quality luxury hotels 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 avoid 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 heated by plug-in electric heating or gas heaters.
Bed and breakfasts are popular with visiting Brits and Swiss, as are 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 backpacker accommodation around these islands, including a 20-strong network of youth hostels (catering 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. The backpacker industry has been badly impacted by the 2020-2022 closure of international borders and many hostels have closed.
Holiday parks and motor camps provide sites for tents, caravans and campervans, with shared kitchens and bathroom facilities. Many also provide built accommodation, ranging from basic cabins to self-contained motel units. 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.
The Department of Conservation (DOC) provides camping sites in national parks and other conservation reserves. If you are travelling into the backcountry, the 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 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[dead link], DOC and the i-SITE network of information centres have produced a useful online map resource featuring over 1500 pay and free sites and based on Google maps.
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 doing a half-day of work 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 in and has its largest country network in New Zealand. Beware that WWOOFing on a visitor (tourist) visa is illegal as it is considered working, but not all WWOOF accomodations adhere to the law.
Couchsurfing is popular in New Zealand, with most major centres sporting active forums and groups, and 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. English language schools have been established for students from the region, particularly South Korea and China, but also many other countries. The most prestigious university in New Zealand is arguably the University of Auckland; other major universities include Victoria University in Wellington, the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, and the University of Otago in Dunedin.
The Ministry of Education has established a Code of Practice that New Zealand educational institutions enrolling international students under 18 years old need to abide by. This Code of Practice includes minimum standards for the pastoral care of international students. Primary school students (ages 5–12) need to either live with a parent/guardian or else board in a school hostel. Secondary school students (ages 13–18) 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. Australian citizens and permanent residents pay the same tuition fees as New Zealand citizens, but must have lived in New Zealand for at least 3 years to be eligible for loans and allowances. Overseas students will need to pay the full tuition fees and their own living costs while studying at a New Zealand institution. Many universities and polytechnics in New Zealand have minimum English language requirements, and may require proof through an English proficiency test such as IELTS for students who have not completed at least three years in a New Zealand secondary school.
Non-Australian 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.
New Zealand takes pride in its sailing tradition and skill. Team New Zealand won the America's Cup in 1995 and 2000, under the leadership of Sir Peter Blake, becoming the first team from a country outside the United States to win and successfully defend the America's Cup. There are many "learn to sail" programs offered by yacht clubs across the country.
To work in New Zealand as a non-Australian foreign citizen you will need to obtain a work visa, which generally requires a job offer from either an accredited employer or in an area of skill shortage to obtain. Students on student visas can work part-time for up to 20 hours per week. Australian citizens and permanent residents are granted a resident visa on arrival thus entitled to work in New Zealand indefinitely. It is illegal to work in New Zealand on a visitor visa, and doing so runs a risk of arrest, imprisonment and deportation.
You will need to have a New Zealand bank account, as most employers pay using electronic banking rather than in cash. You will also need to apply for an Inland Revenue Department (IRD) Number if you don't already have one, so your employer may deduct income tax at the correct rate. If you don't supply your employer with your IRD number, you'll be taxed at the no declaration rate of 45% (compared with the top tax rate of 39%).
The New Zealand tax year runs from 1 April to 31 March. If you are a wage and salary earner, then you don't need to file a tax return unless you have undeclared income or need to claim expenses. If the IRD calculates you've overpaid or underpaid tax in the last tax year, they will contact you from mid-May onwards. 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. 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.
Unless you choose to opt out, employers will automatically deduct 3% of your wages each week in KiwiSaver, the government's retirement savings scheme. If you permanently leave New Zealand and move to any country other than Australia, you can claim back any KiwiSaver funds after one year. If you move to Australia, you can transfer your KiwiSaver funds to your Australian superannuation scheme at any time; contact your provider to arrange this.
As of 1 April 2022, the minimum wage for those aged 18 and over is $21.20 per hour before tax and deductions. Be careful as some unscrupulous employers like to pay foreigners below the minimum wage thinking they don't know better.
Seasonal work such as fruit picking and other agricultural work is sometimes available for tourists. More information about legal seasonal fruit picking work can be found at Pick NZ.
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. Young citizens of many 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. You can call 105 for non-emergency police, e.g. to report a theft or burglary (from overseas, you can call ☏to reach 105).
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 on pages 2 to 4 of the white pages section.
Crime and security
While difficult to make direct international comparisons, the level of crime in New Zealand is lower than in most 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 uptight and 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 sexual crimes. These crimes tend to happen in isolated places, where the chances of the offender being observed by other people are low. However, the chances of falling victim to such misfortune is low; statistics show you're more likely to be attacked by someone in your travelling party than a complete stranger.
A major terrorist attack occurred in Christchurch on 15 March 2019, in which a white supremacist carried out consecutive shootings on two mosques, killing 51 people. However, the long-term terrorist threat in New Zealand is similar to other Western countries.
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 wear firearms, but have them in their cars, only taking them out when necessary; the exception is those guarding key installations such as airports, diplomatic missions and some government buildings. 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 when possible. Armed police or an AOS callout usually rates a mention in the media.
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 and will be dealt with accordingly.
New Zealand is in general a fairly tolerant country with respect to race, and most visitors to New Zealand do not run into any incidents. While it is not particularly difficult to encounter someone who has racist views in the pub, it is in general rare to face open aggression in the street on the basis of one's race. Legislation prohibits hate speech and racial discrimination in a wide range of public spheres such as education and employment. New Zealanders are very open-minded people, yet the country's extreme isolation means that certain ethnicities are not as prevalent there as in places like the USA. People who are of African or Latin American descent might, for example, attract stares in remote areas of New Zealand. This is more out of curiosity than racism.
Most illicit drugs, including preparations, precursor substances and paraphernalia, are illegal to possess and to deal in New Zealand. Possession of illicit drugs is punishable by up to 6 months in prison, although it is rare for offenders to get more than a fine or community service. Police may offer diversion for possession of cannabis or another class C drug (e.g. barbiturates, benzodiazepines) as an alternative to being convicted in court. New Zealand has a "presumption of supply law", which means if you're found in possession of drugs above a certain quantity (0.5 grams for cocaine and heroin, 5 grams for methamphetamine, 28 grams for cannabis), you'll be presumed to be a supplier and will be charged with dealing in drugs rather than possession.
The penalties for dealing in illicit drugs, whether it be importing/exporting, trafficking, manufacturing, cultivating or selling, are much stiffer than for possession; dealing in class A drugs (e.g. heroin, cocaine, LSD, methamphetamine) can attract a sentence of life imprisonment with the possibility of parole after 10 years.
A referendum on legalising cannabis in New Zealand was held alongside the 2020 general election, but failed by a narrow margin (50.7% opposed to 48.4% in favour).
Tabaco is not an illegal drug, but smoking is banned almost everywhere in public spaces. An ongoing trend to regulate purchase and consumption has widespread support from the population.
Expect prices to be high and availability limited.
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 only 1-2 causes any material 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 coastal 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 easily 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. Active volcanoes include Mount Ruapehu, Tongariro, White Island and the remote Kermadec Islands. Volcanic activity is also monitored by GeoNet.
- There are almost no poisonous or dangerous animals. The katipo and Australian 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 bite of the white-tailed spider is painful but not in fact, despite folklore, especially dangerous to humans. Certain ferocious-looking species of wētā (a giant flightless cricket) can deliver a painful but harmless bite. New Zealand has no wolves, bears, big cats, crocodiles or other predators, and no snakes at all: it's safe to walk alone in the bush, or even lie down and have a nap.
Volunteer fire brigade sirens
Outside the major cities, New Zealanders rely on volunteer fire brigades to protect their community. As mobiles and pagers have a tendency to fail, sirens are still regularly used day and night to call out firefighters. These sirens sound similar to British World War II air-raid sirens, and make a wailing (up and down) sound. Don't be alarmed if the siren goes off: tourists in the past have been caught unaware and have panicked thinking New Zealand was under nuclear attack!
New Zealand does not have constitutional rights with regards to firearm ownership, and possession of any type of firearm requires a licence from the police. The standard firearms licence only allows the person to possess sporting type shotguns and rifles, and for pre-charged pneumatic (PCP) air rifles; semi-automatic weapons and military-grade assault rifles are illegal for civilians to possess, and all other types of firearms require an additional endorsement. Air weapons, and PCP airsoft and paintball rifles, are an exception to this rule, and may be purchased by anybody over the age of 18 without a licence. It is extremely rare for civilians to carry firearms in urban areas, and doing so would likely draw suspicion from the public and police.
Visitors who wish to bring firearms into New Zealand are required to obtain a permit from the police at least one month before arrival. In practice receiving one is difficult, and is only possible if you are entered in an official shooting competition or are travelling for hunting.
New Zealand has very high levels of ultraviolet radiation, around 40% more intense than you will find in the Mediterranean during summer, and consequently has high rates of skin cancer. Sun hats, sunglasses and sunscreen are highly recommended.
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 in New Zealand is regarded as some of the cleanest in the world; it is safe to drink in all cities. Most comes from artesian wells or freshwater reservoirs, but some comes from rivers, which can be chlorinated to be made safe, but does not always taste very nice. Tap water in places such as Christchurch is usually not chlorinated at all as it is drawn from the pure artesian aquifers of the Canterbury Plains. Bottled water is commonly available if you prefer. 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.
Tourists require two doses of COVID vaccination before travelling to New Zealand. It is also recommended that you are up-to-date with vaccinations for whooping cough (pertussis) and measles, as there have been sporadic outbreaks, especially among children and teenagers. It may pay to get a flu vaccination if you are travelling in the New Zealand winter season.
Healthcare in New Zealand is generally of a similar standard to other developed countries. In certain situations, the government will provide subsidize medical costs.
Everyone regardless of visa type is subsidized for injury treatment thanks to ACC.
Subsidy for illnesses is available for: citizens and permanent residents of Australia or New Zealand; work visa holders authorised to stay in New Zealand for at least two years; and British citizens (acute conditions only). Funding for illnesses is not available for short term workers; international students; and visitors, for which travel insurance is highly recommended. Students and other middle-term stayers may be required to take up private health insurance as part of their visa conditions, and do wisely to check their insurance regardless.
There are three ways to see the doctor: general practice (GP), urgent care clinics, and emergency departments.
There are many general practices around the country. If you're not eligible for funding you can be seen as a casual patient, which will cost around $100 depending on location, although if you're subsidized you pay a lower cost. Not all GPs see casual patients so you may need to ring around. GPs can be booked in advanced so you don't have to sit around waiting. Most GPs only operate weekdays (excluding public holidays) 8AM to 6PM or similar.
Urgent care clinics operate longer hours at night, weekends and public holidays. You usually cannot make an appointment and should just turn up, although you can phone ahead to get an idea of wait times. You will be triaged and treated in order of priority rather than order of arrival. For example, someone with chest pain is likely to be seen before someone with a broken arm, and children are likely to be treated before adults with a similar injury. These cost around $200 for unfunded patients.
Emergency departments are located at hospitals and should be reserved for life or death emergencies, or where you need urgent care that is out of scope of the local urgent care clinic (e.g. outside the major cities, many urgent care clinics don't have X-ray or plastering facilities). Again, you will be triaged and seen in order of priority. For unfunded patients, the emergency department will cost thousands. For funded patients these are free.
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). Everything big or small from a sprained ankle up to a car crash is included. No matter your visa type, if you have an accident while in New Zealand, ACC will pay some or all of the cost of your treatment and, if you're working, will cover up to 80% of any lost New Zealand earnings. To claim ACC, you only need to turn up at one of the medical facilities mentioned above, or at a physiotherapist directly. The medical professional will submit a claim to ACC on your behalf. There may be a co-pay depending on the treatment or provider. You can not sue an at-fault party in relation to an injury covered by ACC, except for exemplary damages (and even then, there is a high threshold).
ACC will cover some incidental costs you incur, such as travelling to and from treatment, but will not cover other costs such as 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).
Ambulance services are provided by Wellington Free Ambulance in the Greater Wellington area, and St John's Ambulance elsewhere. As stated in the name, WFA is free; St John's is only free for accidents and COVID, if you call it for illnesses (such as a heart attack) you will be charged $100 if subsidized or $800 if not. Fire and Emergency New Zealand generally co-responds to any report of cardiac or respiratory arrest, so don't be surprised if a fire engine turns up before an ambulance does.
Most prescription medicines in New Zealand are subsidised, and if are you're eligible for funded healthcare, you pay $5 per subsidised medicine. For those who are not eligible for funding and those requiring unsubsidised medications, you will have to pay the full shelf price. You may claim the cost back from ACC if you're prescribed the medicine for accidents. For minor ailments, pharmacies can also sell some medicines that does not require prescriptions.
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.
- New Zealanders, especially younger generations, tend to swear a lot. It generally isn't meant to be offensive; sometimes they may even use swear words to refer to friends.
- 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.
- As with most countries in the 21st century, politics is becoming a touchy subject in New Zealand. Though discourse manages to remain alive and well among Kiwi politicians, the same does not always apply to the general populace. Avoid bringing up politics until you feel comfortable with the people you are speaking to.
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.
- New Zealanders, as a general rule, dress more casually than is common in Europe or North America, and over-dressing might make you stand out in the wrong way. Higher end restaurants might publish a dress code on their website. New Zealanders are generally hospitable to a fault, if you are invited to a function, do not be shy to ask what the expected dress code is.
- 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 insist upon collared shirts and refuse entry to men wearing sports shoes. Women will generally be granted admission regardless of dress.
- It is common for young people to go barefoot more frequently than travelers from Europe or America might be used to. It's fairly common for students to go barefoot at school (especially for athletic practice), and even in stores and fast food restaurants. Be certain not to mistake this as a sign of poverty nor as a lack of sophistication. It's not the least bit unusual to find students from wealthy families walking around barefoot at an excellent junior or high school.
- 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.
- Main article: Maori culture
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. There will be plenty of time to relax and joke later after the formalities are over.
Māori tikanga (cultural customs and etiquette) is generally simple for foreigners to follow even if the reasoning behind them may not seem clear:
- Do not eat, drink or wear shoes inside the wharenui (carved meeting house).
- A person's head is considered tapu (sacred). Do not touch someone's head without permission, pass anything over anyone's head, or sit on a pillow (since it's used to rest your head).
- Do not sit on a table or any surface used to prepare or serve food.
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 and the British Monarch is the head of state). 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 is one of the world's most welcoming nations towards gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. There is an equal age of consent of 16 for heterosexual and homosexual couples, and there are anti-discrimination and hate crime laws in relation to sexual orientation and gender (which implicitly includes gender identity). While some homophobic attitudes do exist (mostly among religious fundamentalists), even people who might not be comfortable with homosexuality tend to exhibit the common New Zealand pragmatic 'live and let live' attitude.
In August 2013, New Zealand became the first country in the Asia-Pacific region to legalise same-sex marriage. There is a small but thriving same-sex marriage tourism industry in New Zealand.
Historically, New Zealanders have never been very religious, and contemporary New Zealand society is one of the more secular in the world, with regular church-goers being in the minority. Nevertheless, most New Zealanders are (usually) tolerant towards people of all faiths as long as you do not proselytise or inconvenience others with your religious beliefs. If you do so, do not be surprised to get an earful.
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 online directory of telephone subscribers. You can also call directory assistance on 018.
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, Whanganui, 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 the 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).
|Carrier||GSM (2G)||UMTS (3G)||LTE (4G)||5G|
|2degrees||n/a||900MHz/2100MHz||Band 3/28||Band n78|
|One NZ||900MHz/1800MHz||900MHz/2100MHz||Band 3/7/28||Band n78|
- 2degrees operates a relatively young 3G/4G network.
- Spark operates a 3G/4G network nationwide (using the same frequencies as Telstra in Australia and AT&T in the US).
- Skinny is a sub-brand of Spark that provides the same service with a cheaper price.
- One NZ (formerly Vodafone NZ) operates a nationwide 2G/3G/4G and 5G network. One NZ 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 SIM card from One NZ costs just $5, a prepaid sim-card from 2degrees or Spark also cost $5 while Skinny costs $2.
Standard sim-cards, Micro-SIMs and nano-SIMs and eSIMs 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. There are wireless Hotspots 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 airports 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 low-latency 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. Gigabit-capable fibre to the premises ("Ultra Fast Broadband" or UFB) is available to over 80% of the population, mainly in large towns and cities. ADSL/VDSL broadband internet is available in most areas, while cable internet is available in parts of Wellington and Christchurch. If you go to a remote rural area, expect internet to be via 3G/4G mobile broadband if it's available; via satellite or even dial-up if it's not.
The national post office is New Zealand Post. NZ Post offer overnight and same day courier services across New Zealand; at one point there was an overnight FastPost service, but this has been replaced by overnight courier.
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 $1.70 to send within New Zealand (2–3 days) and $3.00 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 $3.80.
New Zealand uses 4-digit postcodes. Rural addresses use RD (rural delivery) numbers instead of suburbs. Postal addresses are generally in the following format:
- Recipient name
- Street address/PO Box number
- Suburb/RD number/PO Box lobby
- Town Postcode
- See also: Electrical systems
Electricity is supplied at 230 volts (plus or minus 6%) 50 Hz. 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 115/230 V shaver outlet which accepts type A (North American), C (European), and I (Australian) – these outlets are not powerful enough to take appliances 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). If you draw too much power, you'll pop the circuit breaker.
The electricity supply is generally stable and reliable. 75% of the electricity is generated from renewable resources, namely hydro (55%), geothermal (15%) and wind (5%). 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. Due to the greater costs, watch your electricity usage when in these areas.
- 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.
Newspapers & websites
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.
Radio New Zealand (RNZ) News is a government-funded broadcasting service and good source of information across NZ.
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 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 (but 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 for example you can listen to 91.8 FM by tuning to 79.8 on the radio. If you want to listen to a station above 102.0 (90.0), you're out of luck.
Free-to-air high-definition ("HD") digital terrestrial television (DTT) is available to 86% of the population, mainly around the major towns and cities, with the remainder of the country receiving standard-definition digital television by satellite. 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 TVNZ 1, TVNZ 2 and Three.
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.