Haggling and bargaining aren't traditionally part of commercial culture in NZ. The only circumstances where you might have some luck are farmers markets (chipping a couple of dollars off the price of a big bag of kiwifruit at the end of the day) or large private purchases (buying a local guy's car for a knock-down price).
Dangers & Annoyances
New Zealand is no more dangerous than other developed countries, but take normal safety precautions, especially after dark on city streets and in remote areas.
- Kiwi roads are often made hazardous by map-distracted tourists, wide-cornering campervans and traffic-ignorant sheep.
- Major fault lines run the length of NZ, causing occasional earthquakes.
- Avoid leaving valuables in vehicles: theft is a problem, even in remote areas.
- New Zealand’s climate is unpredictable: hypothermia is a risk in high-altitude areas.
- At the beach, beware of rips and undertows, which can drag swimmers out to sea.
- New Zealand’s sandflies are an itchy annoyance. Use repellent in coastal and lakeside areas.
Government Travel Advice
The following government websites offer travel advisories and information on current hotspots:
Australian Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade (www.smarttraveller.gov.au)
British Foreign & Commonwealth Office (www.gov.uk/fco)
Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs (www.government.nl/ministries/ministry-of-foreign-affairs)
Foreign Affairs, Trade & Development Canada (www.international.gc.ca)
German Federal Foreign Office (www.auswaertiges-amt.de)
Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (www.mofa.go.jp)
US Department of State (www.travel.state.gov)
If you're a dog owner or fishing enthusiast, it's worth looking into areas of wilderness where DOC may have distributed pesticides. Ask locally, or check the list maintained at www.doc.govt.nz/nature/pests-and-threats/pesticide-summaries.
The internationally recognised International Student Identity Card is produced by the ISIC Association (www.isic.org), and issued to full-time students aged 12 and over. It provides discounts on accommodation, transport and admission to attractions. The same folks also produce the International Youth Travel Card, available to travellers aged under 31 who are not full-time students, with equivalent benefits to the ISIC. Also similar is the International Teacher Identity Card, available to teaching professionals. All three cards ($30 each) are available online at www.isiccard.co.nz, or from student travel companies like STA Travel.
The New Zealand Card (www.newzealandcard.com) is a $35 discount pass that’ll score you between 5% and 50% off a range of accommodation, tours, sights and activities. Browse participating businesses before you buy. A Budget Backpacker Hostels (www.bbh.co.nz) membership card costs $45 and entitles you to discounts at BBH member hostels, usually snipping $4 off the price per night.
Travellers aged over 60 with some form of identification (eg an official seniors card from your home country) are often eligible for concession prices.
To plug yourself into the electricity supply (230V AC, 50Hz), use a three-pin adaptor (the same as in Australia; different to British three-pin adaptors).
Emergency & Important Numbers
Regular NZ phone numbers have a two-digit area code followed by a seven-digit number. When dialling within a region, the area code is still required. Drop the initial 0 if dialling from abroad. If you're calling the police but don't speak English well, ask for Language Line, which may be able to hook you up with a translator.
|NZ country code||64|
|International access code from NZ||00|
|Emergency (Ambulance, Fire, Police)||111|
|Directory Assistance (charges apply)||018|
Entry & Exit Formalities
Disembarkation in New Zealand is generally a straightforward affair, with only the usual customs declarations and luggage-carousel scramble to endure. Under the Orwellian title of 'Advance Passenger Screening', 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 that your check-in is stress-free.
For the low-down on what you can and can’t bring into NZ, see the New Zealand Customs Service website (www.customs.govt.nz). Per-person duty-free allowances:
- Three 1125mL (max) bottles of spirits or liqueur
- 4.5L of wine or beer
- 50 cigarettes, or 50g of tobacco or cigars
- Dutiable goods up to the value of $700
It's a good idea to declare any unusual medicines. Tramping gear (boots, tents etc) will be checked and may need to be cleaned before being allowed in. You must declare any plant or animal products (including anything made of wood), and food of any kind. Weapons and firearms are either prohibited or require a permit and safety testing. Don't take these rules lightly – noncompliance penalties will really hurt your hip pocket.
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.
Citizens of 60 countries, including Australia, the UK, the US and most EU countries, don't need visas for NZ (length-of-stay allowances vary). See www.immigration.govt.nz.
Visa application forms are available from NZ diplomatic missions overseas, travel agents and Immigration New Zealand. Immigration New Zealand has more than 25 offices overseas, including the US, UK and Australia; consult the website.
New Zealanders are a laid-back, modest bunch as a whole – exercising the usual good manners will help endear you to the locals.
- Greetings Shake hands when meeting someone for the first time, and look people in the eye.
- Attitude Brash, self-satisfied, arrogant attitudes really annoy people (note: this is how they perceive Australians to be and not what Kiwis are like!).
- Māori Customs Adhere to strict Māori protocols if visiting marae (meeting-house complexes). Otherwise respectful behaviour goes a long way.
- Invitations If you're invited to dinner or a barbecue at someone's house, bring some wine, beer, meat or a bunch of flowers.
The gay tourism industry in NZ isn’t as high profile as it is in some other developed nations, but LGBT communities are prominent in Auckland and Wellington, with myriad support organisations across both islands. New Zealand has progressive laws protecting human rights: same-sex marriage and adoption by same-sex couples were legalised in 2013, while the legal minimum age for sex between consenting persons is 16. Generally speaking, Kiwis are fairly relaxed and accepting about gender fluidity, but that’s not to say that homophobia doesn’t exist. Rural communities tend to be more conservative; here public displays of affection should probably be avoided.
There are loads of websites dedicated to gay and lesbian travel in NZ. Gay Tourism New Zealand (www.gaytourismnewzealand.com) is a starting point, with links to various sites. Other worthwhile websites include the following:
Check out the nationwide monthly magazine express (www.gayexpress.co.nz) for the latest happenings, reviews and listings on the NZ gay scene. New Zealand Awaits (www.newzealandawaits.com) is a local operator specialising in tours serving LGBT travellers.
Festivals & Events
Auckland Pride Festival (www.aucklandpridefestival.org.nz) Two-and-a-bit weeks of rainbow-hued celebrations in February.
Big Gay Out (www.biggayout.co.nz) Part of the Auckland Pride Festival in February, this flagship day features live music and 'Mr Gay New Zealand'.
Gay Ski Week (www.gayskiweekqt.com) Annual Queenstown snow-fest in August/September.
- A watertight travel-insurance policy covering theft, loss and medical problems is essential. Some policies specifically exclude designated ‘dangerous activities’, such as scuba diving, bungy jumping, white-water rafting, skiing and even tramping. If you plan on doing any of these things (a distinct possibility in NZ!), make sure your policy covers you fully.
- It’s worth mentioning that, under NZ law, you cannot sue for personal injury (other than exemplary damages). Instead, the country’s Accident Compensation Corporation (www.acc.co.nz) administers an accident compensation scheme that provides accident insurance for NZ residents and visitors to the country, regardless of fault. This scheme, however, does not negate the necessity for your own comprehensive travel-insurance policy, as it doesn’t cover you for such things as income loss, treatment at home or ongoing illness.
- Consider a policy that pays doctors or hospitals directly, rather than you paying on the spot and claiming later. If you have to claim later, keep all documentation. Some policies ask you to call (reverse charges) to a centre in your home country where an immediate assessment of your problem is made. Check that the policy covers ambulances and emergency medical evacuations by air.
- Worldwide travel insurance is available at www.lonelyplanet.com/travel-insurance. You can buy, extend and claim online anytime – even if you’re already on the road.
Getting online in NZ is easy in all but remote locales. Expect abundant wi-fi in cafes and accommodation in big towns and cities, but thrifty download limits elsewhere.
Wi-fi You’ll be able to find wi-fi access around the country, from hotel rooms and pub beer gardens to hostel dorms. Usually you have to be a guest or customer to log in; you’ll be issued with an access code. Sometimes it’s free, sometimes there’s a charge, and often there's a limit on time or data.
Hotspots The country’s main telecommunications company is Spark New Zealand (www.spark.co.nz), which has more than 1000 wireless hotspots around the country. You can purchase prepaid access cards or a prepaid number from the login page at any wireless hotspot using your credit card. See Spark's website for hotspot listings.
Equipment & ISPs If you’ve brought your tablet or laptop, consider buying a prepay USB modem (aka a 'dongle') with a local SIM card: both Spark and Vodafone (www.vodafone.co.nz) sell these from around $50.
There are fewer internet cafes around these days than there were five years ago, but you’ll still find them in the bigger cities (frequented more by gamers than tourists). Access costs anywhere from $3 to $6 per hour.
Similarly, most hostels and holiday parks have done away with actual computers in favour of wi-fi. Most hotels, motels, B&Bs and holiday parks also offer wi-fi, sometimes free but usually for a small charge.
If you are questioned or arrested by police, it’s your right to ask why, to refrain from making a statement, and to consult a lawyer in private.
Plans are brewing for a referendum on whether personal use of cannabis should be decriminalised, but at the time of writing it was still illegal. Anyone caught carrying this or other illicit drugs will have the book thrown at them.
Drink-driving is a serious offence and remains a significant problem in NZ. The legal blood alcohol limit is 0.05% for drivers aged 20 years and over, and zero for those under 20.
New Zealand's Automobile Association produces excellent city, town, regional, island and highway maps, available from its local offices. The AA also produces a detailed New Zealand Road Atlas. Other reliable countrywide atlases, available from visitor information centres and bookshops, are published by Hema and KiwiMaps.
Land Information New Zealand (www.linz.govt.nz) publishes several exhaustive map series, including street, country and holiday maps, national park and forest park maps, and topographical trampers’ maps. Scan the larger bookshops, or try the nearest DOC office or visitor information centre for topo maps.
Online, log onto AA Maps (www.aamaps.co.nz) or Wises (www.wises.co.nz) to pinpoint exact NZ addresses.
- Newspapers Check out Auckland’s New Zealand Herald (www.nzherald.co.nz), Wellington’s Dominion Post (www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post) or Christchurch’s The Press (www.stuff.co.nz/the-press).
- TV Watch one of the national government-owned TV stations – including TVNZ 1, TVNZ 2, Māori TV or the 100% Māori-language Te Reo.
- Radio Tune in to Radio New Zealand (www.radionz.co.nz) for news, current affairs, classical and jazz. Radio Hauraki (www.hauraki.co.nz) cranks out rock.
- DVDs Kiwi DVDs are encoded for Region 4, which includes Australia, the Pacific, Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean and South America.
Credit cards are used for most purchases in NZ, and are accepted in most hotels and restaurants. ATMs are widely available in cities and larger towns.
ATMs & Eftpos
Branches of the country’s major banks across both islands have ATMs, but you won't find them everywhere (eg not in small towns).
Many NZ businesses use Eftpos (electronic funds transfer at point of sale), allowing you to use your bank card (credit or debit) to make direct purchases and often withdraw cash as well. Eftpos is available practically everywhere: just like at an ATM, you'll need a PIN.
You'll need to open a bank account if you want to work in NZ in any capacity (including working holiday scenarios) and it's best to do your homework before you arrive. Some banks, such as ANZ, allow you to apply before you arrive and activate the account at a branch when you get here (armed with the requisite ID, usually a passport, certified translation if applicable, and proof of NZ residence). Proof of address might involve using an identity verification service.
Credit cards (Visa, MasterCard) are widely accepted for everything from a hostel bed to a bungy jump, and are pretty much essential for car hire. Credit cards can also be used for over-the-counter cash advances at banks and from ATMs, but be aware that such transactions incur charges. Diners Club and American Express cards are not as widely accepted.
New Zealand’s currency is the NZ dollar, comprising 100 cents. There are 10c, 20c, 50c, $1 and $2 coins, and $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 notes. Prices are often marked in single cents and then rounded to the nearest 10c when you hand over your money.
Debit cards enable you to draw money directly from your home bank account using ATMs, banks or Eftpos facilities. Any card connected to the international banking network (Cirrus, Maestro, Visa Plus and Eurocard) should work with your PIN. Fees will vary depending on your home bank; check before you leave. Alternatively, companies such as Travelex offer debit cards with set withdrawal fees and a balance you can top up from your personal bank account while on the road.
For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com.
Changing foreign currency (and to a lesser extent old-fashioned travellers cheques) is usually no problem at NZ banks or at licensed money changers (eg Travelex) in major tourist areas, cities and airports.
Tipping is completely optional in NZ.
Guides Your kayaking guide or tour group leader will happily accept tips; up to $10 is fine.
Restaurants The total on your bill is all you need to pay (though sometimes a service charge is factored in). If you like, reward good service with 5% to 10%.
Taxis If you round up your fare, don't be surprised if the driver hands back your change.
Amex, Travelex and other international brands of travellers cheques are a bit old hat these days, but they're still easily exchanged at banks and money changers. Present your passport for identification when cashing them; shop around for the best rates.
Opening hours vary seasonally depending on where you are. Most places close on Christmas Day and Good Friday.
Banks 9am–4.30pm Monday to Friday, some also 9am–noon Saturday
Post offices 8.30am–5pm Monday to Friday; larger branches also 9.30am–noon Saturday
Pubs & bars noon–late ('late' varies by region, and by day)
Restaurants noon–2.30pm and 6.30pm–9pm
Shops & businesses 9am–5.30pm Monday to Friday and 9am to noon or 5pm Saturday
Supermarkets 8am–7pm, often 9pm or later in cities
The services offered by New Zealand Post are reliable and reasonably inexpensive. See the website for info on national and international zones and rates, plus post office (or 'post shop') locations.
New Zealand’s main public holidays are as follows:
New Year 1 and 2 January
Waitangi Day 6 February
Easter Good Friday and Easter Monday; March/April
Anzac Day 25 April
Queen’s Birthday First Monday in June
Labour Day Fourth Monday in October
Christmas Day 25 December
Boxing Day 26 December
In addition, each NZ province has its own anniversary-day holiday. The dates of these provincial holidays vary: when they fall on Friday to Sunday, they’re usually observed the following Monday; if they fall on Tuesday to Thursday, they’re held on the preceding Monday. To see an up-to-date list of provincial anniversaries during the year you travel, see www.govt.nz/browse/work/public-holidays-and-work/public-holidays-and-anniversary-dates.
The Christmas holiday season, from mid-December to late January, is part of the summer school vacation: expect transport and accommodation to be booked out in advance, and queues at tourist attractions. There are three shorter school-holiday periods during the year: from mid- to late April, early to mid-July, and late September to mid-October. For exact dates, see the Ministry of Education website (www.education.govt.nz).
Smoking Like much of the Western world, smoking rates in NZ have been on the slide in recent decades. Smoking on public transport and in restaurants, cafes, bars and pubs is banned.
Taxes & Refunds
The Goods and Services Tax (GST) is a flat 15% tax on all domestic goods and services. New Zealand prices listed by Lonely Planet include GST. There’s no GST refund available when you leave NZ.
New Zealand uses regional two-digit area codes for long-distance calls, which can be made from any payphone. If you’re making a local call (ie to someone else in the same town), you don’t need to dial the area code. But if you’re dialling within a region (even if it’s to a nearby town with the same area code), you do have to dial the area code.
To make international calls from NZ (which is possible on payphones), you need to dial the international access code 00, then the country code and the area code (without the initial '0'). So for a London number, for example, you’d dial 00-44-20, then the number. If dialling NZ from overseas, the country code is 64, followed by the appropriate area code minus the initial '0'.
European phones should work on NZ’s network, but most American or Japanese phones will not. It's straightforward to buy a local SIM card and prepaid account at outlets in airports and large towns (provided your mobile is unlocked).
Most NZ mobile phone numbers begin with the prefix 021, 022 or 027. Mobile phone coverage is good in cities and towns and most parts of the North Island, but can be patchy away from urban centres on the South Island.
If you want to bring your own phone and use a prepaid service with a local SIM card (rather than pay for expensive global roaming on your home network), Vodafone (www.vodafone.co.nz) is a practical option. Any Vodafone shop (in most major towns) will set you up with a NZ Travel SIM and a phone number (from around $30; valid for 30, 60 or 90 days). Top-ups can be purchased at newsagents, post offices and petrol stations all over the country.
Phone Hire New Zealand (www.phonehirenz.com) rents out mobiles, modems and GPS systems (from $3/10/7 per day).
Local calls from payphones cost $1 for the first 15 minutes, and $0.20 per minute thereafter, though coin-operated payphones are scarce (and if you do find one, chances are the coin slot will be gummed up); you’ll generally need a phonecard. Calls to mobile phones attract higher rates.
New Zealand has a wide range of phonecards available, which can be bought at hostels, newsagents and post offices for a fixed-dollar value (usually $5, $10, $20 and $50). These can be used with any public or private phone by dialling a toll-free access number and then the PIN number on the card. Shop around – rates vary from company to company.
New Zealand is 12 hours ahead of GMT/UTC and two hours ahead of Australian Eastern Standard Time. The Chathams are 45 minutes ahead of NZ’s main islands.
In summer, NZ observes daylight saving time: clocks are wound forward by one hour on the last Sunday in September; clocks are wound back on the first Sunday of April.
Toilets in NZ are sit-down Western style. Public toilets are plentiful, and are usually reasonably clean with working locks and plenty of toilet paper.
See www.toiletmap.co.nz for public-toilet locations around the country.
The website for the official national tourism body, Tourism New Zealand (www.newzealand.com), is an excellent place for pre-trip research. The site has information in several languages, including German, Spanish, French, Chinese and Japanese.
Princes Wharf i-SITE Auckland's main official information centre.
Local Tourist Offices
Almost every Kiwi city or town seems to have a visitor information centre. The bigger centres stand united within the outstanding i-SITE network (www.newzealand.com/travel/i-sites) – more than 80 info centres affiliated with Tourism New Zealand. The i-SITE centres have trained staff, information on local activities and attractions, and free brochures and maps. Staff can also book activities, transport and accommodation.
Bear in mind that some information centres only promote accommodation and tour operators who are paying members of the local tourist association, and that sometimes staff aren’t supposed to recommend one activity or accommodation provider over another.
There’s also a network of Department of Conservation (DOC; www.doc.govt.nz) visitor centres to help you plan outdoor activities and make bookings (particularly for tramping tracks and huts).The DOC visitor centres – in national parks, regional centres and major cities – usually also have displays on local flora and fauna.
Travel with Children
New Zealand's a dream for family travel: kid-centric activities, family-friendly accommodation, a moderate climate and very few critters that can bite or sting. Cuisine is chilli-free and food servers are clued up on dietary requirements. Base yourself in a sizeable town for amenities galore and excursions within a short drive.
Best Regions for Kids
- Rotorua & the Bay of Plenty
Wow, bubbling volcanic mud, stinky gas, gushing geysers and Māori haka performances! Rotorua is hard to beat from a kid's perspective. And around the Bay of Plenty coast are beaut beaches and plenty of fish and chip shops.
- Wellington Region
You need a compact city if you're walking around with kids. Wellington fits the bill, with a brilliant museum, a ratchety cable car, lots of cheery cafes and fab Kapiti Coast beaches less than an hour away.
- Queenstown & Wanaka
New Zealand's winter sports scene suits pro snowheads (and après-ski fans) but it's just as easy to enjoy with kids...actually, it's more fun. Cardrona has kid-friendly skiing, and there's Wanaka's Puzzling World for ski-free days.
- Christchurch & Canterbury
Nature parks, row boats, the International Antarctic Centre and botanic gardens in the big city, and the amazing Banks Peninsula not far away (penguins, dolphins and pretty birds).
New Zealand for Kids
Fabulous wildlife parks, beaches, parks, snowy slopes and interactive museums proliferate across NZ. There are countless attractions and amenities designed specifically for kids but families needn't stick to playgrounds and holiday parks. Kid-appropriate adventures, from glaciers to white-water rafting, are everywhere...if parents are brave enough, that is.
Admission Fees & Discounts
Kids' and family rates are often available for accommodation, tours, attraction entry fees, and air, bus and train transport, with discounts up to as much as 50% off the adult rate. Note that the definition of ‘child’ can vary from under 12 to under 18 years; toddlers (under four years old) usually get free admission and transport.
Eating Out With Children
If you sidestep the flashier restaurants, children are generally welcome in NZ eateries. Cafes are kid-friendly, and you’ll see families getting in early for dinner in pub dining rooms. Most places can supply high chairs. Dedicated kids' menus are common, but selections are usually uninspiring (pizza, fish fingers, chicken nuggets etc). If a restaurant doesn’t have a kids' menu, find something on the regular menu and ask the kitchen to downsize it. It’s usually fine to bring toddler food in with you. If the sun is shining, hit the farmers markets and find a picnic spot. New Zealand's restaurants are decent at catering for gluten-free and dairy-free diners – one less thing to worry about if kids follow a special diet.
Breastfeeding & Nappy Changing
Most Kiwis are relaxed about public breastfeeding and nappy changing: wrestling with a nappy (diaper) in the open boot of a car is a common sight! Alternatively, most major towns have public rooms where parents can go to feed their baby or change a nappy. Infant formula and disposable nappies are widely available.
For babysitters who have been fully interviewed, have supplied child-care references and undergone a police check, try www.rockmybaby.co.nz (from $16 per hour). Alternatively look under ‘baby sitting’ in the Yellow Pages (www.yellow.co.nz).
- Book accommodation far in advance: many motels and hotels have adjoining rooms that can be opened up to form large family suites, but they are snapped up fast, especially in peak season.
- If you're planning to roam between locations, stock up on food in larger towns. There's much more choice, and prices in smaller food shops in remote locations can be sky high.
- Plan stops in advance if you're travelling by road. Distances can feel long but fortunately NZ is rich in gorgeous lookouts, roadside waterfalls and many towns have prominent public toilets, hurrah!
Children Will Love...
- Queenstown Everything from kids' rafting trips to paragliding, bungee jumping, ziplines, ice skating and (of course) skiing.
- Whanganui Journey A slow-roaming canoe trip the kids will never forget.
- Abel Tasman Horse Trekking Paddock rides for little ones and beach horse treks for those aged 12 and up.
- Cape Reinga & Ninety Mile Beach Go sandboarding on gigantic dunes.
- The Catlins Flat rambles a few minutes long, rewarded by waterfalls...no tired little legs here.
- Redwoods Whakarewarewa Forest Big-timber mountain biking for older kids in Rotorua.
- Hahei Beach The classic NZ summer beach. On the Coromandel Peninsula.
- Ngarunui Beach Learn to surf on gentle Waikato waves in view of lifeguards.
- Mt Maunganui Sand and surf for the kids, cafes and bars for the oldies.
- Hot Water Beach Dig your own hot pool in the Coromandel sand (but check the temperature).
- St Kilda & St Clair Beaches Kids don't mind chilly Dunedin, parents can warm up in the saltwater pool.
- Kiwi Birdlife Park, Queenstown Spot a kiwi and myriad squawking birds.
- Akaroa Dolphins Watch dolphins from a catamaran, in the company of a wildlife-spotting dog.
- West Coast Wildlife Centre, Franz Josef Meet the world's rarest kiwi and tuatara (pint-sized dinosaurs).
- Zealandia, Wellington Twittering birds in the predator-free Wellington hills.
- Royal Albatross Centre Watch little penguins waddle ashore at dusk from Pilots Beach on the Otago Peninsula.
Culture with Kids
- Te Papa, Wellington Earthquakes, Māori culture and molten magma.
- Auckland Museum The Auckland volcanic field and a 25m waka taua (war canoe).
- Hobbiton, Matamata Tours of hobbit holes and a drink in the Green Dragon Inn.
- Canterbury Museum, Christchurch A mummy, dinosaur bones and a cool Discovery Centre.
- Puke Ariki, New Plymouth A mighty big shark plus Māori exhibits and more.
- Shantytown, Greymouth All aboard a steam train for gold-panning in a recreated gold-rush town.
But We're Hungry Now...
- Mt Vic Chippery, Wellington Exceptional fish and (five kinds of!) chips.
- Hastings Farmers Market Fill a basket and have a picnic.
- Kiwifruit, Motueka Pick up a ripe bag at harvest time at the Sunday market.
- Sweet Alice's Fudge Kitchen, Hokitika Candies, ice cream and fudge on the West Coast.
- Gisborne Farmers Market Macadamia nuts, oranges, pastries...and all of it local.
For all-round information and advice, check out Lonely Planet’s Travel with Children. Plan ahead by browsing Kidz Go! (www.kidzgo.co.nz) or pick up a free copy of its booklet from tourism info centres in Queenstown, Wanaka and Fiordland.
When to Go
New Zealand is a winner during summer (December to February), but summer is peak season and school-holiday time. Accommodation will be pricey and will require booking far ahead, especially for family-sized rooms. A better bet may be the shoulder months of March, April (sidestepping Easter) and November, when the weather is still good and there’s less pressure on the tourism sector. Winter (June to August) is better again – chances are you’ll have the whole place to yourselves! Except for the ski fields, of course, most of which are fully geared towards family snow-fun.
Many motels and holiday parks have playgrounds, games rooms and kids' DVDs, and often fenced swimming pools, trampolines and acres of grass (many have laundry facilities, too). Cots and high chairs aren’t always available at budget and midrange accommodation, but top-end hotels supply them and some provide child-minding services. The bach (a basic holiday home) is a good-value option, while farmstays can be highly entertaining with the menagerie of animals on-site.
Many B&Bs promote themselves as blissfully kid-free, and most hostels focus on the backpacker demographic. But there are plenty of hostels (including YHA) that do allow kids.
What to Pack
- Lots of layers New Zealand’s weather can be fickle, even in summer. Pack beach gear for summer trips, but throw in a few thermal long-sleeve tops and jackets.
- Sunhats, sunscreen and sunglasses Sunglasses for all, even in winter.
- Food containers Farmers markets, beaches...NZ is primo picnic territory.
- Insect repellent Itchy sandfly bites make grumpy children.
If your kids are little, check that your car-hire company can supply the right-sized car seat for your child, and that the seat will be properly fitted. Some companies legally require you to fit car seats yourself.
Most public transport – buses, trains, ferries etc – caters for young passengers, with discounted fares and a helping hand getting your stroller/nappy bag/shopping aboard.
Consider hiring a campervan for the whole trip. These formidable beasts are everywhere in NZ, kitted out with beds, kitchens, even toilets and TVs. Hire companies proliferate in major centres, with reasonable rates once you consider the savings on accommodation (and goodbye unpacking, repacking and leaving teddy in a hotel room).
- Kids Friendly Travel (www.kidsfriendlytravel.com) Directs you to baby equipment hire, accommodation listings and more.
- LetsGoKids (http://letsgokids.co.nz) Download the NZ edition for family travel inspiration and money-saving vouchers.
- Kidspot (www.kidspot.co.nz) The 'Family Fun' section has suggestions for child-friendly activities, road trips and more.
- Kids New Zealand (www.kidsnewzealand.com) Listings of family-friendly cafes and activities.
Keeping Costs Down
Region by Region
Rotorua & Bay of Plenty
Bay of Islands & Northland
Taranaki & Whanganui
Taupo & the Ruapehu Region
Waikato & the Coramandel Peninsula
Christchurch & Canterbury
Dunedin & Otago
Fiordland & Southland
Queenstown & Wanaka
Nelson & Marlborough
Kiwi accommodation generally caters fairly well for travellers with mobility issues, with most hostels, hotels and motels equipped with one or two wheelchair-accessible rooms. (B&Bs aren't required to have accessible rooms.) Many tourist attractions similarly provide wheelchair access, with wheelchairs often available. Most i-SITE visitor centres can advise on suitable attractions in the locality.
Tour operators with accessible vehicles operate from most major centres. Key cities are also serviced by 'kneeling' buses (buses that hydraulically stoop down to kerb level to allow easy access), and many taxi companies offer wheelchair-accessible vans. Large car-hire firms (Avis, Hertz etc) provide cars with hand controls at no extra charge (but advance notice is required). Air New Zealand is also very well equipped to accommodate travellers in wheelchairs.
Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guides from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel.
Out and about, the DOC has been hard at work improving access to short walking trails (and some of the longer ones). Tracks that are wheelchair accessible are categorised as 'easy access short walks': the Cape Reinga Lighthouse Walk and Milford Foreshore Walk are two prime examples.
If cold-weather activity is more your thing, see Snow Sports NZ's page on adaptive winter sports: www.snowsports.co.nz/get-involved/adaptive-snow-sports.
Access4All (www.access4all.co.nz) Listings of accessible accommodation and activities around New Zealand.
Firstport (http://firstport.co.nz) Includes a high-level overview of transport in NZ, including mobility taxis and accessible public transport.
Mobility Parking (www.mobilityparking.org.nz) Apply for an overseas visitor mobility parking permit ($35 for 12 months) and have it posted to you before you even reach NZ.
New Zealand presents an array of active, outdoorsy volunteer opportunities for travellers to get some dirt under their fingernails and participate in conservation programs. These programs can include anything from tree planting and weed removal to track construction, habitat conservation and fencing. Ask about local opportunities at any regional i-SITE visitor information centre, join one of the programs run by DOC (www.doc.govt.nz/getting-involved), or check out these online resources:
Weights & Measures
Weights & measures New Zealand uses the metric system.
New Zealand is generally a very safe place for female travellers, although the usual sensible precautions apply (for both sexes): avoid walking alone at night; never hitchhike alone; and if you’re out on the town, have a plan for how to get back to your accommodation safely. Sexual harassment is not a widely reported problem in NZ, but of course that doesn't mean it doesn't happen. See www.womentravel.co.nz for tours aimed at solo women.
If you have been approved for a working holiday scheme (WHS) visa, there are a number of possibilities for temporary employment in NZ. Pay rates start at the minimum wage ($16.50 per hour, at the time of writing), but depend on the work. There’s plenty of casual work around, mainly in agriculture (fruit picking, farming, wineries), hospitality (bar work, waiting tables) or at ski resorts. Office-based work can be found in IT, banking, finance and telemarketing. Register with a local office-work agency to get started.
Seasonal fruit picking, pruning and harvesting is prime short-term work for visitors. Kiwifruit and other fruit and veg are harvested from December to May (and other farming work is available outside that season). Fruit picking is physically taxing toil, working in the dirt under the hot sun − turnover of workers is high. You’re usually paid by how much you pick (per bin, bucket or kilogram): if you stick with it for a while, you'll get faster and fitter and can actually make some reasonable cash. Prime North Island picking locations include the Bay of Islands (Kerikeri and Paihia), rural Auckland, Tauranga and the Bay of Plenty, Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay (Napier and Hastings); on the South Island try Nelson (Golden Bay), Marlborough (around Blenheim) and Central Otago (Alexandra and Roxburgh).
Winter work at ski resorts and their service towns includes bartending, waiting, cleaning, ski-tow operation and, if you’re properly qualified, ski or snowboard instructing.
Backpacker publications, hostel managers and other travellers are often good sources of info on local work possibilities. Base Backpackers (www.stayatbase.com/work) runs an employment service via its website, while the Notice Boards page on the Budget Backpacker Hostels website (www.bbh.co.nz) lists job vacancies in BBH hostels and a few other possibilities.
Kiwi Careers (www.careers.govt.nz) lists professional opportunities in various fields (agriculture, creative, health, teaching, volunteer work and recruitment), while Seek (www.seek.co.nz) is one of the biggest NZ job-search networks, with thousands of jobs listed.
Try the following websites for seasonal work:
Death and taxes – no escape! For most travellers, Kiwi dollars earned in NZ will be subject to income tax, which is deducted from payments by employers – a process called Pay As You Earn (PAYE).
Income tax rates are 10.5% for annual salaries up to $14,000, then 17.5% up to $48,000, 30% up to $70,000, and 33% for higher incomes. A NZ Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) scheme levy (around 1.5%) will also be deducted from your pay packet. Note that these rates tend to change slightly year to year.
If you visit NZ and work for a short time (eg on a working holiday scheme), you may qualify for a tax refund when you leave. Lodging a tax return before you leave NZ is the best way of securing a refund. For more info, see the Inland Revenue Department website (www.ird.govt.nz), or call 03-951 2020.
Travellers undertaking paid work in NZ (including working holidays) must first open a New Zealand bank account, then obtain an Inland Revenue Department (IRD) number. Download the IRD number application - non-resident/offshore individual IR742 form from the Inland Revenue Department website (www.ird.govt.nz). IRD numbers normally take eight to 10 working days to be issued.
Newspapers Check out Auckland’s New Zealand Herald (www.nzherald.co.nz), Wellington’s Dominion Post (www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post) or Christchurch’s The Press (www.stuff.co.nz/the-press).
TV Watch one of the national government-owned TV stations – including TVNZ 1, TVNZ 2, Māori TV or the 100% Māori-language Te Reo.
Radio Tune in to Radio New Zealand (www.radionz.co.nz) for news, current affairs, classical and jazz. Radio Hauraki (www.hauraki.co.nz) cranks out rock.
DVDs Kiwi DVDs are encoded for Region 4, which includes Australia, the Pacific, Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean and South America.
Smoking Smoking on public transport and in restaurants, cafes, bars and pubs is banned.
Weights & Measures NZ uses the metric system.