Haggling and bargaining aren't traditionally part of commercial culture in NZ. The only circumstances where you might have some luck are farmers' markets at the end of the day or large private purchases (buying a local guy's car for a knock-down price). Otherwise, the price is the 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.
- 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.
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 over 150,000 discounts across more than 130 countries – on accommodation, transport, entertainment and 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. Similar is the International Teacher Identity Card, available to teaching professionals. All three cards are $30 and can be bought online.
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 one-year Budget Backpacker Hostels (www.bbh.co.nz) membership card costs $35 and entitles you to discounts at BBH member hostels, usually snipping 10% 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 numbers have a two-digit area code followed by a seven-digit number. When dialling within a region, the area code is required.
|NZ country code||64|
|International access code from NZ||00|
|Emergency (Ambulance, Fire, Police)||111|
|Directory Assistance (charges apply)||018|
Entry & Exit Formalities
Entering NZ is a fairly straightforward affair and customs officials are relatively friendly, provided you have all your paperwork in order and follow the rules around what you need to declare to maintain NZ's biosecurity. Most airlines will not let you check in to your flight to NZ without your 90-day NZeTA pre-approved.
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. Hiking 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 – non-compliance penalties will really hurt your wallet.
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.
Visitors need an NZeTA (NZ$12 online). Also, tourists are expected to pay an International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy (IVL; NZ$35).
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 for exact requirements and the list of nationals entitled to a visa waiver. Such entrants to NZ must still obtain a NZeTA (New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority), unless they're NZ nationals or Australians travelling on Australian passports. NZeTAs take from 10 minutes to three days to come through, and cost $9 through the Immigration Department's app, or $12 through its website.
Citizens of Australia don’t need a visa to visit NZ and can stay indefinitely (provided they have no criminal convictions). UK citizens don’t need a visa either and can stay for up to six months.
Citizens of another 58 countries that have visa-waiver agreements with NZ don’t need a visa for stays of up to three months, for no more than six months within any 12-month period, provided they have an onward ticket and sufficient funds to support their stay: see the website for details. Nations in this group include Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, the Netherlands, South Africa and the USA.
Citizens of other countries must obtain a visa before entering NZ. Visitor visas allow stays of up to nine months within an 18-month period, and cost $170 to $220, depending on where in the world the application is processed.
A visitor's visa can be extended from nine to 12 months, but if you get this extension you’ll have to leave NZ after your 12-month stay has expired and wait another 12 months before you can come back. Applications are assessed on a case-by-case basis; you may need to provide proof of adequate funds to sustain you during your visit ($1000 per month) plus an onward ticket establishing your intent to leave. Apply for extensions at any Immigration New Zealand office − see the website (www.immigration.govt.nz) for locations.
It’s illegal for foreign nationals to work in NZ on a visitor visa, except for Australian citizens or permanent residents, who can legally gain work without a visa or permit. If you’re visiting NZ to find work, or you already have an employment offer, you’ll need to apply for a work visa, which can be valid for up to three years, depending on the type in question and your particular circumstances. You can apply for a work permit after you’re in NZ, but its validity will be backdated to when you entered the country. The fee for a work visa can be anything upwards of $495, depending on where and how it’s processed (paper or online) and the type of application.
Working Holiday Scheme
Eligible travellers looking for short term and seasonal employment to supplement their travels can take part in one of NZ’s working-holiday schemes (WHS). Under these, citizens aged 18 to 30 (occasionally 35) from 45 countries − including France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Scandinavian countries and the USA − can apply for a working-holiday visa. For most nationalities the visa is valid for 12 months, but citizens of Canada and the UK can extend theirs for up to 23 months. It’s only issued to those seeking a genuine working holiday, not permanent work, so you’re not supposed to work for one employer for more than three months.
Eligible nationals must apply for a WHS visa from within their own country. Applicants must have an onward ticket, a passport valid for at least three months from the date they will leave NZ and evidence of at least $350 in accessible funds for each month of their stay. The application fee is $280 and isn’t refunded if your application is declined.
The rules vary for different nationalities, so make sure you read up on the specifics of your country’s agreement with NZ at www.immigration.govt.nz.
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. Always say hello and shout a 'thanks' when getting on and off a bus.
- Māori Customs Adhere to strict Māori protocols if visiting marae (meeting-house complexes). Otherwise respectful behaviour goes a long way, as always.
- Invitations If you're invited to dinner or a barbecue at someone's house, bring some wine, beer, food 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 LGBTQI+ 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 (ahead of anywhere else in the Asia-Pacific region). Generally speaking, Kiwis are fairly relaxed and accepting about same-sex relations and gender fluidity, but that’s not to say that homophobia and/or transphobia don’t exist. Rural communities tend to be more conservative, and public displays of affection may attract unwelcome attention.
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. RainbowYOUTH (www.ry.org.nz) supports queer and gender-diverse people between 13 and 28, and New Zealand Awaits (www.newzealandawaits.com) is a local operator specialising in tours serving LGBTQI+ 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 February's Auckland Pride Festival, this flagship day features live music, DJs, stalls, art and more.
Winter Pride (www.winterpride.co.nz) Ten days and two weekends of inclusive partying in and around Queenstown every August/September.
- A watertight travel-insurance policy covering theft, loss and medical problems is essential whenever travelling. Some policies specifically exclude designated ‘dangerous activities’, such as scuba diving, bungy jumping, white-water rafting, skiing and even hiking. 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 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.
Checking insurance quotes…
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, and you should 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, recognisable by the company's pink-and-white phone boxes and wi-fi signs. You can purchase prepaid access cards or a prepaid number from the login page at any wireless hotspot using your credit card, while all Spark mobile and broadband plans come with up to 1GB of free daily data. See the 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 for from $65.
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.
A binding referendum on the decriminalisation of marijuana will be held in New Zealand in 2020, but for the time being it remains illegal, with the threshold for presumption of supply standing at 28 grams, or 100 joints. 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 sells maps. Scan the larger bookshops, or try the nearest Department of Conservation (DOC) office or visitor-information centre for topo maps.
Map geeks will also love www.topomap.co.nz.
Online, log onto AA Maps (www.aamaps.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.
Bank cards are used for most purchases, 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 provide ATMs (cashpoints) across the country, but you may not find them in the very smallest towns. It's generally better to decline the on-the-spot conversion rate ATMs will offer, although this depends on your home bank's rates and market movements.
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. With over 52,500 devices connected to its New Zealand network, the system is close to universal. Just like at an ATM, you'll need your PIN unless it's a small purchase where contactless payment is available.
You'll need to open a bank account if you want to work in NZ in any capacity (including working holidays) and it's best to arrange this in advance. 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. All interest earned on accounts is taxed at 33% (the highest rate) for those without an Inland Revenue (IRD) number.
Credit cards 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 as Visa and Mastercard.
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 prepaid currency 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 travellers cheques) is usually no problem at NZ banks or at licensed money changers (eg Travelex) in major tourist areas, cities and airports. However, withdrawing directly from ATMs usually secures the most favourable rates.
Tipping is completely optional in NZ.
Guides Your kayaking guide or tour-group leader would happily accept tips; and $10 is kind.
Restaurants The total on your bill is all you need to pay. 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, and shop around for the best rates if you can.
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
Cafes 7am or 8am–3pm or 4pm
Post offices 8.30am–5pm Monday to Friday; larger branches also 9.30am–1pm Saturday
Pubs & bars noon–late ('late' varies by region, and by day)
Restaurants noon–2.30pm and 6pm–9pm
Shops & businesses 9am–5.30pm Monday to Friday and 9am–noon or 5pm Saturday
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
To see an up-to-date list of provincial anniversaries, 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 some 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 the country.
New Zealand uses regional two-digit area codes for long-distance calls, which can be made from any landline or mobile. 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.
To make international calls from NZ, the international access code is 00. 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'.
It's simple to buy a local SIM card and prepaid account at outlets in airports and large towns (provided your mobile is unlocked).
Mobile coverage is good in built-up areas and most of the North Island, but can be patchy in places on the South Island.
Local carriers can set you up with a NZ Travel SIM and phone number from around $20.
Local calls from payphones cost $1 for the first 15 minutes, and 20c per minute thereafter, though coin-operated machines are scarce (and if you do find one, chances are the coin slot will be gummed up). You’re better off relying on a phonecard. Calls to mobile phones or numbers outside the locality attract higher rates.
Premium-Rate & Toll-Free Calls
- Numbers starting with 0900 sometimes charge nearly $2 per minute (more from mobiles). These numbers cannot be dialled from payphones, and sometimes not from prepaid mobile phones.
- Toll-free numbers in NZ have the prefix 0800 or 0508, and can be called from anywhere in the country, though they may not be accessible from certain areas or from mobile phones.
- Numbers beginning with 0508, 0800 or 0900 cannot be dialled from outside NZ.
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 (AEST).
- 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.
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.
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, itineraries 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 staff shouldn't recommend any providers over others.
There’s also a network of 19 Department of Conservation (DOC; www.doc.govt.nz) visitor centres to help you plan outdoor activities and make bookings (particularly for hiking tracks and huts). The 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 little danger. Unadventurous palates can always be accommodated 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, Coromandel Peninsula The classic NZ summer beach.
- Ngarunui Beach, Raglan 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, Coromandel Peninsula Dig your own hot pool in the sand (but check the temperature).
- Long Beach, Russell A short walk or cycle from Russell, calm waters and a couple of trees for shade.
- Kiwi Birdlife Park, Queenstown Spot a kiwi and myriad squawking birds.
- Akaroa Dolphins, Akaroa Watch dolphins from a catamaran, in the company of a wildlife-spotting dog.
- West Coast Wildlife Centre, Franz Josef Meet the tuatara (pint-sized dinosaurs).
- Zealandia, Wellington Twittering birds in predator-free hills.
- Royal Albatross Centre, Otago Peninsula Watch little penguins waddle ashore at dusk from Pilots Beach.
- Aroha Island, Kerikeri Do a DIY kiwi-spotting walk at this private eco reserve.
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.
- Mt Vic Chippery, Wellington Exceptional fish and (five kinds of!) chips.
- Bennetts Watch chocolate makers at work in Mangawhai.
- Hawke's Bay 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.
Queenstown Ice Arena Skate the rink, watch ice-hockey or hire frisbees for disc golf.
Family Adventures, Queenstown Kids as young as three can shoot the rapids on the Shotover River.
Coromandel Zipline Tours, Coromandel Peninsula Eight separate sections traversing the canopy of the Driving Creek Conservation Park.
Paddles & Saddles, Great Barrier Island Explore the island by bike, kayak or scooter.
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).
- Lonely Planet Kids (www.lonelyplanetkids.com) Loads of activities and great family-travel blog content.
- 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.
Keeping Costs Down
Campsites, holiday parks and kid-friendly motels are all great options for family travel on the cheap with shared kitchens to cook in. Coastal campsites are often located near beaches and may offer other free outdoor activities. Motels sometimes include a kitchenette.
Most museums, galleries, entertainment parks, wildlife sanctuaries and similar attractions offer kids' concessions and/or family tickets that let the whole tribe in for less.
Most midrange restaurants and pubs will offer a kids' menu, with choices, portions and prices adapted to the needs of younger diners. When the weather's good, hit farmers' markets for an al fresco picnic, where kids don't need to sit still.
Urban transport networks all offer discounts to children and students; infants usually travelling for free. When weather, terrain and your plans allow, consider kitting the family out with rental bikes to take advantage of NZ's fantastic cycling infrastructure, or the flat topography of cities like Christchurch.
Region by Region
Bay of Islands & Northland
Waikato & the Coromandel Peninsula
Taranaki & Whanganui
Taupo & the Ruapehu Region
Rotorua & Bay of Plenty
Head around East Cape for an earthy, authentic, no-frills driving tour with the kids. Empty beaches; dune-side holiday parks; fish and chips at the pub; Māori dudes with full-face tā moko … it’s one of the last really untouristed places on the North Island.
Christchurch & Canterbury
Dunedin & Otago
Fiordland & Southland
Queenstown & Wanaka
Nelson & Marlborough
Good to Know
Look out for the c icon for family-friendly suggestions throughout this guide.
Babies and Toddlers Attitudes to public breastfeeding are pretty enlightened throughout New Zealand, while infant formula, nappies and other essentials are readily available in supermarkets, pharmacies and smaller groceries.
Dining Out The golden rule is ‘be considerate’: kids are welcome in most eating establishments, but their behaviour is your responsibility, and fine-dining patrons will expect to enjoy an adults-only environment. Generally, licensed establishments such as pubs welcome well-behaved kids, but not after dinner time.
Prams and Pushchairs New Zealand’s cities are well-paved, well-lit and easy to negotiate for parents pushing prams and pushchairs.
Seat Belts Everyone must wear seat belts while in moving vehicles, with appropriately anchored chairs and capsules mandated by law for the very youngest.
Public Transport Kids’ discounts of different kinds exist for all mass-transit systems in New Zealand. Infants travel free.
Hire Vehicles 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. Consider hiring a campervan. These formidable beasts are everywhere in NZ, kitted out with beds, kitchens, and even toilets and TVs.
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. For advice on local attractions with maximum accessibility ask at i-SITE visitor centres.
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 booking is required, of course). Air New Zealand accommodates 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.facebook.com/Access4all.Ltd) Now only a Facebook page, but a travel company with good links to accommodation and other accessible essentials.
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 (for a further $10).
New Zealand presents an array of active, outdoorsy volunteer opportunities for travellers to get some dirt under their fingernails and participate in conservation and other programs. These 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/get-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 hitch-hike 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 ($17.70 per hour, at the time of writing with $18.90 mooted for 2020 and $20 an hour planned in 2021), 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 − and 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:
For most visitors, Kiwi dollars earned in NZ will be subject to income tax, which is deducted from payments by employers – a process called PAYE (Pay As You Earn).
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. The national Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) scheme levy (around 1.2%, but fluctuating each year) will also be deducted from your pay packet.
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 0800 775 247.
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.
Smoking Smoking on public transport and inside public spaces such as restaurants, bars and pubs is banned.
Weights & Measures New Zealand uses the metric system.