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New Zealand is best known for its natural beauty, stunning landscapes and friendly locals. If you are planning a trip to New Zealand, this is everything you need to know before visiting.
Visas for New Zealand
You do not need a visa to visit New Zealand if you are:
- An Australian citizen or resident
- A UK citizen and/or passport holder (you can stay up to six months)
- A citizen of a country which has a visa waiver agreement with New Zealand (you can
stay up to three months).
If you are in the above categories, you will be given a tourist visa for free on arrival. If you don’t meet the above, then you’ll need a visitor visa. You can apply for a visitor visa is online. Before travelling to New Zealand, you also need to ensure your passport is valid for at least three months longer than your expected departure date.
Weather in New Zealand
New Zealand has a saying: “Four seasons in a day”. This means that you will pretty much experience a variety of weather no matter what the season is. Summer runs from December to February and is the warmest time of year reaching highs of 25°C. Winter runs from June to August and temperatures can be anywhere between -3°C and 15°C depending on which parts of the country you are in.
Best time to visit New Zealand
When choosing the best time to visit New Zealand, you need to think about what you intend on doing. If you plan to ski, winter will be the best time to visit. The snowfields usually open around June.
Summer is the peak time, the weather is perfect for hiking and outdoor activities. Because New Zealand is so popular during summer, flights and rentals tend to be more expensive.
Autumn and spring are considered the shoulder season. During these seasons, you can find the best rates for accommodation, as well as a very low number of tourists.
Currency in New Zealand
The currency in New Zealand is New Zealand Dollars (NZD). You can exchange cash in the airports or major towns, or can withdraw cash from an ATM. You also have the option to use your credit card. When withdrawing cash and using your credit card, make sure you look into associated fees so you don’t get any nasty surprises.
Flights to New Zealand
When travelling to New Zealand, the major airport (and generally the cheapest) is Auckland Airport. Other major airports include Wellington in the north island and Christchurch and Queenstown in the south. Depending on your travel plans, these are the airports to look into when planning your trip to New Zealand.
New Zealand has their own airliner, Air New Zealand, who offer flights to New Zealand from 19 different countries, ranging from the Pacific Rim to the United Kingdom, Australia, Asia, North America and Canada. Other airlines that service New Zealand includes Air China, Emirates, Jetstar, LAN, Qantas and Virgin Australia.
Getting Around New Zealand
When travelling across New Zealand, common transport options include travel by car, bus and tour guide.
I recommend hiring a car in New Zealand so you can travel the country at your own pace. Car hire is relatively cheap considering the freedom you get to travel at your own pace, to see the places you want to see and do the things you want to do. See my 14 day North Island Road Trip Itinerary
Another alternative is to hire a campervan in New Zealand which will be your transport and accommodation. New Zealand has plenty of places to camp in a campervan. Download the Rankers App to find campsites, dump stations, petrol stations, supermarkets, hikes and more.
The National Coach service is also a popular choice as it takes passengers from town to town or city to city, for a reasonable price. There are also bus tour services, such as Busabout.
Accommodation in New Zealand
All towns and cities in New Zealand have plenty of accommodation options, ranging from motels and hotels to Airbnb and hostels. Prices vary from city to city and, of course, the quality of the place you’re staying at.
Where to visit in New Zealand / Things to do in New Zealand
While I do recommend getting off the beaten track if you can, some of the highlights include:
- Auckland – A city like no other, Auckland has incredible natural wonders on the doorstep of a world-class city. You could be hiking through a rainforest during the day and then discovering the cities nightlife by night. With outstanding food, wine and shopping, Auckland has it all. Or if you want to escape the city, these are some of the best weekend (and day) trips from Auckland.
- Mount Maunganui – The town hosts an impressive beach towered over by Mount Maunganui, or simply “The Mount”. Visitors often trek up to the peak, which is 230 metres above sea level to get a good view of surrounding areas and the ocean.
- Taupo – The lakeside town provides a base for visitors who want to ski Mount Ruapehu, explore local geothermal phenomena and fish for trout. Home to the Huka Falls, lake cruises and New Zealand’s first wakeboarding park, there’s plenty to do in Taupo.
- Rotorua – Rotorua is New Zealand in abundance. The city celebrates a healthy balance of fun and leisure, while at the same time maintaining amazing natural wonders and captivating Māori culture. See 8 fun things to do in Rotorua.
- Wellington – Surrounded by nature, Wellington is New Zealand’s creative heart. The city is compact, embracing different cultures, environments and cuisine. The city has so much to offer that you could be paddling the harbour in the morning and mountain biking in the afternoon. See free things to do in Wellington.
- Napier – Considered the Art Deco capital of New Zealand, the town is home to many fine wineries, restaurants, bars and cafes. As well as showcasing a wide range of art styles throughout the CBD and surrounding areas.
- Cape Reinga – Cape Reinga is best known for its iconic lighthouse, but it was the rolling hills, warm colours and deep blues of the ocean meeting the cape that struck my interest. Expect amazing hiking conditions, beautiful landscapes, campgrounds and sand dunes. If you dare, you can rent a board and go sandboarding!
Check out this 14-day North Island New Zealand Road Trip Itinerary
- Queenstown – Surrounded by majestic mountains and on the shores of Lake Wakatipu. With stunning scenery, a huge range of activities and a warm welcome, the city should be the first place you go to on your way around the South Island.
- Christchurch – Christchurch is one of New Zealand’s most unique destinations, combining urban development and innovation with New Zealand heritage, culture and plenty of activity. Street art, state-of-the-art architecture and a booming hospitality scene are all on offer at Christchurch.
- Mt. Cook / Aoraki – New Zealand’s highest peak and quite possibly the most picturesque part of the country, Mt Cook is certainly an area that shouldn’t be missed. Travel by foot on the Hooker Valley Track, or go by air, either way, Mt Cook is a must in the South Island.
- Dunedin – A region of unique landscapes and fascinating cultural history, Dunedin has a quirky quality to it. There’s an abundance of wildlife and local characters, with heritage buildings and a nightlife not to be missed. One of New Zealand’s best-kept secrets. See free things to do in Dunedin.
- Stewart Island – Stewart Island is home to New Zealand’s largest and most diverse bird population. Over 240km of walking tracks where you’re likely to spot kaka, albatross, penguins and even the national Kiwi bird. The island is home to beaches and rainforests, and even some more hidden gems.
- Te Anau – Inside the town of Te Anau lies one of the most memorable places in New Zealand, the picturesque Fiordland National Park. You can experience the beautiful scenery by foot, by boat or by air. Just be warned, you’ll be stopping every five minutes to take a scenic landscape photo.
Need more ideas? Check out this New Zealand bucket list.
Budget in New Zealand
New Zealand certainly isn’t the cheapest country to travel around, but there are ways that you can save, such as travelling by campervan and cooking your own meals.
$ – Expect to pay around $30NZD + for a bed in a hostel dorm room.
$$ – Expect to pay $50NZD + for a basic Airbnb.
$$$ – Expect to pay $80NZD + for a basic hotel room and upwards from there.
Car Hire starts at $20NZD per day and Campervan hire starts from $35NZD per day. I recommend Jucy World for your car hire!
Expect to pay $5 for a takeaway coffee and $20 for a meal in a restaurant. To save on food, buy groceries and snacks and cook your own meals.
Phone and Internet in New Zealand
Phone and data plans in New Zealand are not cheap, especially if you use a lot of data. For 1 GB of data, you will pay around $15 NZD. For 2Gb you will pay around $30 NZD. Most hotels, Airbnb and restaurants have internet that you can use, but if you are on the road you will need to purchase yourself at least a little bit of data for navigation.
Travel Insurance in New Zealand
Travel insurance is a necessity when visiting New Zealand. I recommend World Nomads. Recently, however, I arranged a new credit card that covers all my travel insurance. If you travel a lot, this is something I recommend looking into. If you are still unsure if you should buy travel insurance or not, read this.
Safety in New Zealand
I felt extremely safe in New Zealand, but I still recommend exercising all the usual safety precautions. To find out more about safety in New Zealand, visit the Smart Traveller Website.
Vaccinations in New Zealand
Check the Travel Doctor website to find out what vaccinations you need when visiting New Zealand.
New Zealand Slang
Kiwi’s do have an interesting way of talking. Find out more about the local slang here.
Overseas Travel Checklist
If you found this guide on planning a trip to New Zealand helpful, pin it for later!