Getting there & away
There are no restrictions when it comes to foreign citizens entering NZ. If you have a current passport and visa (or don’t require one), you should be fine.
Automated online ticket sales work well if you’re doing a simple one-way or return trip on specified dates, but are no substitute for a travel agent with the lowdown on special deals, strategies for avoiding layovers and other useful advice.
A Circle Pacific ticket is similar to a RTW ticket but covers a more limited region, using a combination of airlines to connect Australia, NZ, North America and Asia, with stopover options in the Pacific islands. As with RTW tickets, there are restrictions on how many stopovers you can take.
For online ticket bookings, including RTW fares, start with the following websites:
Cheapest Flights (www.cheapestflights.co.uk) Cheap worldwide flights from the UK; get in early for the bargains.
Flights.com (www.flights.com) International site for flights; cheap fares and an easy-to-search database.
Roundtheworldflights.com (www.roundtheworldflights.com) This excellent site allows you to build your own trip from the UK with up to six stops. A six-stop trip including Asia, Australia, NZ and the USA costs from UK£740 in the NZ winter.
STA Travel (www.statravel.com) Prominent in international student travel but you don’t have to be a student; site linked to worldwide STA sites.
Travel Online (www.travelonline.co.nz) Good place to check worldwide flights from NZ.
Travel.com.au (www.travel.com.au) Good Australian site; look up fares and flights to/from the country.
Travelocity (www.travelocity.com) US site that allows you to search fares (in US dollars) from/to practically anywhere.
It’s possible (though by no means easy or safe) to make your way between NZ and Australia, and some smaller Pacific islands, by hitching rides or crewing on yachts. Try asking around at harbours, marinas, and yacht and sailing clubs. Popular yachting harbours in NZ include the Bay of Islands and Whangarei (both located in Northland), Auckland and Wellington. March and April are the best months to look for boats heading to Australia. From Fiji, October to November is a peak departure season as cyclones are starting to spin in that neck of the woods.
There are no passenger liners operating to/from NZ and finding a berth on a cargo ship (much less enjoying the experience) is no easy task.
Disembarkation in NZ is generally a straightforward affair, with only the usual customs declarations to endure and the uncool scramble to get to the luggage carousel first. Recent global instability has resulted in increased security in NZ airports, in both domestic and international terminals, and you may find customs procedures more time-consuming. One procedure has the Orwellian title Advance Passenger Screening, a system whereby documents that used to be checked after you touched down in NZ (passport, visa etc) are now checked before you board your flight – make sure all your documentation is in order so your check-in is stress-free.
There’s a number of competing airlines servicing NZ and a wide variety of fares to choose from if you’re flying in from Asia, Europe or North America, though ultimately you’ll still pay a lot for a flight unless you jet in from Australia. NZ’s inordinate popularity and abundance of year-round activities mean that almost any time of year airports can be swarming with inbound tourists – if you want to fly at a particularly popular time of year (eg Christmas), book well in advance.
The high season for flights into NZ is during summer (December to February), with slightly less of a premium on fares over the shoulder months (October/November and March/April). The low season generally tallies with the winter months (June to August), though this is still a busy time for airlines ferrying ski bunnies and powder hounds.
Seven NZ airports handle international flights, with Auckland receiving most traffic:
Auckland (AKL; 0800 247 767, 09-275 0789; www.auckland-airport.co.nz)
Christchurch (CHC; 03-358 5029; www.christchurch-airport.co.nz)
Dunedin (DUD; 03-486 2879; www.dnairport.co.nz)
Hamilton (HLZ; 07-848 9027; www.hamiltonairport.co.nz)
Palmerston North (PMR; 06-351 4415; www.pnairport.co.nz)
Queenstown (ZQN; 03-450 9031; www.queenstownairport.co.nz)
Wellington (WLG; 04-385 5100; www.wellington-airport.co.nz)
NZ’s own overseas carrier is Air New Zealand, which flies to runways across Europe, North America, eastern Asia and the Pacific. Airlines that connect NZ with international destinations include the following (note that 0800 and 0508 phone numbers mentioned here are for dialling from within NZ only) :
Aerolineas Argentinas (airline code AR; 09-379 3675; www.aerolineas.com.ar; hub Buenos Aires Ezeiza International Airport)
Qantas (airline code QF; 0800 808 767; www.qantas.com.au; hub Kingsford-Smith Airport, Sydney)
Singapore Airlines (airline code SQ; 09-303 2129; www.singaporeair.com; hub Changi International Airport)
Common one-way fares to Auckland cost approximately US$650 from Singapore, US$850 from Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and Hong Kong, and US$775 from Tokyo. Going the other way, return fares from Auckland to Singapore cost around NZ$1350, and around NZ$1600 to Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Hong Kong and Tokyo, depending on the airline.
Hong Kong’s travel market can be unpredictable, but excellent bargains are sometimes available. Phoenix Services (2722 7378) is recommended.
Air New Zealand and Qantas operate a network of flights linking key NZ cities with most major Australian gateway cities, while quite a few other international airlines include NZ and Australia on their Asia-Pacific routes.
Pacific Blue, a subsidiary of budget airline Virgin Blue, offers direct flights between Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch and east-coast capitals, with connections on the domestic Virgin Blue network to many other Australian cities.
If you book early, shop around and have the gods smiling upon you, you may pay under AU$200 for a one-way fare on a budget carrier from either Sydney or Melbourne to Auckland, Christchurch or Wellington. More common prices are from AU$260 to AU$300 one-way. You can fly into Auckland and out of Christchurch to save backtracking, but you may not get the cheapest fares with this itinerary.
From key NZ cities, you’ll pay between NZ$270 and NZ$300 for a one-way ticket to an Australian east-coast city. There’s usually not a significant difference in price between seasons, as this is a popular route year-round. The intense competition, however, inevitably results in some tasty discounting.
For some reasonably priced fares, try an Australian capital-city branch of STA Travel (134 782; www.statravel.com.au). Another good option, also with dozens of offices strewn around the country, is Flight Centre (133 133; www.flightcentre.com.au).
The air routes flown from Canada are similar to those from mainland USA, with most Toronto and Vancouver flights stopping in a US city such as Los Angeles or Honolulu before continuing to NZ. Air New Zealand has direct flights between Auckland and Vancouver year-round.
The air fares sold by Canadian discount air-ticket sellers (consolidators) tend to be about 10% higher than those sold in the USA. Travel CUTS (866 246 9762; www.travelcuts.com) is Canada’s national student travel agency and has offices in all major cities.
Return fares from Vancouver to Auckland cost between C$1600 and C$1900 via the US west coast. From Toronto, fares cost around C$2000. One-way fares from NZ start at around NZ$1200 to Toronto and NZ$1100 to Vancouver.
Frankfurt and London are the major arrival and departure points for flights to and from NZ, both with extensive connections to other European cities. From these two launching pads, most flights to NZ travel via one of the Asian capitals. Return air fares from NZ to key European hubs such as Paris and Frankfurt usually cost between NZ$1800 and NZ$2400.
Nouvelles Frontières (0825 000 825; www.nouvelles-frontieres.fr/nf)
Usit Connect Voyages (0825 082 525; www.usitconnections.fr)
Voyageurs du Monde (0892 235 656; www.vdm.com/vdm)
Depending on which airline you travel with from the UK, flights to NZ go via Asia or the USA. If you fly via Asia you can often make stopovers in countries such as India, Thailand, Singapore and Australia; in the other direction, stopover possibilities include New York, Los Angeles, Honolulu and sundry Pacific islands.
Discount air travel is big business in London. Advertisements for many travel agencies appear in the travel pages of the weekend broadsheet newspapers, in Time Out, in the Evening Standard and in the free magazine TNT.
Typical one-way/return fares from London to Auckland start at around £550/750; note that June, July and mid-December fares can go up by as much as 30%. From NZ you can expect to pay between NZ$2500 and NZ$3000 for return fares to London.
Popular agencies in the UK:
Flight Centre (0870 499 0040; www.flightcentre.co.uk)
STA Travel (0871 230 0040; www.statravel.co.uk)
Trailfinders (0845 058 5858; www.trailfinders.co.uk)
Most flights between the North American mainland and NZ are to/from west-coast USA, with the bulk routed through Los Angeles but some going through San Francisco. Some airlines offer flights via various Pacific islands (Hawaii, Tahiti, Cook Islands).
San Francisco is the ticket consolidator capital of America, although some good deals can be found in Los Angeles, New York and other big cities. STA Travel (800 781 4040; www.statravel.com) has offices all over the USA.
Return tickets to NZ from the US west coast start around US$1100/1300 in the NZ winter/summer; fares from the east coast start at US$1700 in both seasons. Return fares from NZ to the US west coast are around NZ$2000; to New York NZ$2500.