New Zealand Travel Guide
We have put together this helpful New Zealand travel guide to assist you when planning your holiday with us. We suggest reading this New Zealand Travel guide before you arrive as it will provide you with general information including visas, currency, and driving in New Zealand.
- Country Name: New Zealand (NZ)
- Location: Oceania, islands in the South Pacific Ocean, southeast of Australia
- Population: 4,517,991 (2014)
- Capital: Wellington
- Currency: New Zealand Dollar (NZ$) $1 = 100 cents)
People and Culture
- Languages: English, Maori (English is the common and everyday language of New Zealand)
- Ethnic groups: European 69.8%, Maori 7.9%, Asian 5.7%, Pacific Islanders 4.4% other 0.5% mixed 7.8%, unspecified 3.8%
- Major religion: Christianity
New Zealand is a unique mix of Maori (the indigenous people of Aotearoa/New Zealand), European, Polynesian and, more recently, Asian cultures.
You will find that New Zealand cuisine reflects this diverse background – with a particular emphasis on fresh, local ingredients from the land and sea, and top-quality wine.
Culturally, New Zealanders are known as relaxed, friendly and accommodating.
Whilst New Zealand is small (with around 4.5 million inhabitants) we punch above our weight on the world stage – particularly in the areas of sport, music, cinema, science and technology.
- Land: New Zealand is made up of two main islands, the North and South Islands and also a number of smaller islands, with a total area of 270,534 sq km.
- Coastline: 15,134 km
- Terrain: predominantly mountainous with some large coastal plains. New Zealand has a striking landscape with features including The Southern Alps (larger than the French, Austrian and Swiss Alps combined), rainforests, fiords, glaciers, lakes, hot springs, geysers, mud pools and volcanoes.
- Lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0m
- Highest point = Aoraki Mount Cook 3,754m
- Largest lake: Lake Taupo 606 km
- Longest glacier: Tasman Glacier 29km
- Longest river: Waikato River 425 km
- Deepest Lake: Lake Hauroko (462m)
- Time Zone: GMT +12 (Daylight saving: GMT + 13 from the last Sunday of
- September to the 1st Sunday of April)
- International dialling code: +64
- Emergency phone number: 111
- Mobile Phone Companies: Vodafone, Telecom and 2 Degrees
- Weights and Measures: Metric
- Electricity: 230V/240V, 50Hz
- Internet domain name: co.nz
Seasons and Climate
New Zealand has a moderate climate; however it is very changeable and varies depending on where you are in the country. As most of New Zealand lies close to the coast, weather patterns allow for mild temperatures, moderate rainfall and abundant sunshine. Points of difference are the far north which enjoys sub-tropical weather during summer months, the west of the South Island which is dominated by rainforests and inland alpine areas in the South Island which enjoy hot summers and cold winters. In summer highs range from 20-30 degrees Celsius and lows are around the mid teens. In winter New Zealand experiences highs of around 15 degrees Celsius and lows around 0-10 degrees Celsius depending of which part of the country you are in.
- Summer: December to February
- Autumn: March to May
- Winter: June to August
- Spring: September to November
New Zealand enjoys hot summers with brilliant long sunny days and mild nights. Summer allows for many outdoor activities to be enjoyed and is a great time for walking and hiking. New Zealand is a coastal paradise and features countless beaches ideal for swimming, surfing, boating and water sports.
Temperatures start to get a little cooler but the weather can still remain settled and relatively warm. Many describe autumn as the most picturesque time of year with deciduous trees turning red and gold. Regions such as Hawke’s Bay and Central Otago are particularly famous for their autumn leaves and colours.
Cooler temperatures bring snow to the mountainous regions of New Zealand allowing for fantastic skiing and snowboarding and amazing snow capped vistas. Ski fields are situated in the central North Island and are scattered around the South Island with dominant areas including Wanaka, Queenstown and South Canterbury. Winter is an amazing time of year and is a great time to travel.
Weather can vary a lot in spring with cold and frosty mornings warming up to nice sunny days. Spring sees flowers and trees blossoming and cute new born lambs frolicking in the green pastures. Both Alexandra in Central Otago and Hastings in Hawke’s Bay celebrate spring with a blossom festival. If you are more interested in adrenalin, spring is a great time to go white water rafting as the melting snow rises water levels as it trickles into the rivers.
Due to New Zealand’s variable weather system it is a good idea to layer your clothing. The saying “four seasons in one day” is a common description of New Zealand weather. In one day it’s not uncommon to experience sun, rain or even hail! When travelling in New Zealand you should carry clothing to suit any condition. Layering your clothing is a good option – cold mornings often turn into hot, sunny days. It is also very important to wear sunscreen all year round as New Zealand has one of the highest UV ratings in the world.
Dress is informal and relaxed in New Zealand. Smart casual clothes are usually worn at most restaurants and while enjoying New Zealand’s vibrant night life. Men are generally not expected to wear suits and ties, except in the top formal bars and restaurants around New Zealand.
- Unit of Currency: New Zealand Dollar (NZ$)
- Denominations: Coins 10c, 20c, 50c, $1, $2 Notes $5, $10, $20, $50, $100
- Credit Cards: Visa and Master Cards are the most commonly accepted credit cards; all other credit cards are also accepted in most places
Credit Cards with “Smart Card” technology: Smart cards are payment cards containing an embedded microchip, often having no magnetic strip. We recommend you contact your card provider before leaving your country to ensure you have no problems using your credit card in New Zealand.
ATMs (Automated Teller Machines): New Zealand has an advanced banking system, with a large network of ATMs and EFTPOS (electronic funds transfer point of sale) facilities in most shops. Most overseas credit cards can be used in New Zealand ATMs, providing they have a 4 digit encoded pin-number.
- Banking Hours: Most banks are open between 9.30am and 4.30pm, Monday to Friday
- Major Banks: ANZ, ASB, Bank of New Zealand (BNZ), KiwiBank, Westpac
- Bureau de Change Kiosks and foreign exchange desks are located in most major centres
- Travellers Cheques are accepted in all banks and some hotels and stores
- Goods and Services Tax: All goods and services are subject to a non claimable 15% Goods and Services Tax.
Goods and Services Tax (GST)
Goods and services are taxed at 15% in New Zealand. All visitors to New Zealand have to pay GST and the tax is non refundable when leaving New Zealand. All of the tours on our website have GST included in the price – so no hidden surprises.
Offices and businesses operate Monday-Friday, 9.00am-5pm; some tourist agencies and airlines have longer hours. Petrol (gas) stations often open 24 hours, stocking food and newspapers. Shops are usually open 9am to 5.30pm Monday-Friday, with late shopping usually Thursday or Friday. Many supermarkets, grocery stores, some large retail chains, most shopping malls and markets also operate Saturdays and Sundays; large supermarkets are often open 24 hours. Local convenience stores – dairies – usually open 7am-7pm daily.
Dial 111 for police, fire or ambulance services. For non-emergency calls, full instructions appear in the front of telephone directories.
Most hotels offer WiFi internet access either in the comfort of your room or in the public areas of the hotel. You will also find a great selection of Internet Cafes providing fast and convenient WiFi Internet connections to keep in touch with those at home.
Passports and Visas
Before travelling to New Zealand, make sure your passport is:
- Valid for at least three months past your date of departure
- Not damaged, defaced or excessively worn
- Showing a visa or permit if required
Visas and permits
You do not require a visa or permit to visit New Zealand if you are:
- A New Zealand or Australian citizen
- A New Zealand resident with a returning resident visa
- A holder of a current Australian permanent residence visa or a current Australian
- resident return visa
- A British citizen and or British passport holder who can produce evidence of the
- right to reside permanently in the UK (you can stay up to six months)
- A citizen from a visa-free country and intend to say no longer than three months.
- For further information and a list of visa-free countries visit: http://glossary.immigration.govt.nz/visafreecountries.htm
If you are only passing through New Zealand as a traveller in transit you will still need a transit visa, unless you are specifically exempted by immigration policy.
Applying for a Visitor’s Visa
If your country is not in the visa-free list, or you wish to stay longer than three months or six months if you are British you will need to apply for a Visitor’s Visa. For more information and application forms visithttp://www.immigration.govt.nz/migrant/stream/visit/visitors/ or contact your closest New Zealand Embassy.
We advise you to visit www.immigration.govt.nz for up to date visitor information and for any further information regarding Visas and permits.
The following goods are prohibited and restricted:
- Firearms and weapons, visit http://www.police.govt.nz/service/firearms/importing.html for more information
- Prescription medicines unless accompanied by a doctor’s prescription
- Pirated copyright goods
- Indecent articles e.g. DVDs
New Zealand has strict agricultural restrictions and quarantine laws. To avoid paying substantial fines do not arrive with the following prohibited materials:
- Animal products (skin, hair, faeces, feathers, bone, coral, eggs and sea shells)
- Perishable food e.g. fruit, vegetables, meat
- Goods manufactured from plant products
For more information visit
If you hold a current driver’s licence from your country of origin or an International Driving Permit (IDP) you can legally drive in New Zealand for up to 12 months. After 12 months you must gain a New Zealand Driving Licence.
Legalities: You must carry your current licence or permit at all times while driving. You can only drive the same types of vehicles that you are currently licensed for in your home country. If your licence in not written in English, you must bring an English translation with you or hold an IDP.
To watch a very informative video about how to drive in New Zealand covering New Zealand road rules, please click here.
- Drive on the left-hand-side of the road
- The speed limit is 100km/h on the open road and 50km/h in urban areas, unless otherwise marked
- All drivers and passengers must wear a safety belt
- All Children under the age of seven years / under 148 centimetres tall must be restrained by an approved child restraint when travelling in vehicles
- Do not drink alcohol and drive
- Helmets for riders of cycles and motorbikes must be worn at all times
- Rear and front lights on cycles are required at night
- Motorbikes should drive with a headlight on at all times
- Cycling is not permitted on motorways
- The common age requirement to rent vehicles in New Zealand is 21 years.
- Visit Transit New Zealand for full details of road and driving laws.
People with Special Needs
Under New Zealand law, all new buildings and major reconstruction must provide ‘reasonable and adequate’ access for people with disabilities. Most facilities have wheelchair access, however to make sure you should check when booking.
Most transport operators cater for people with special needs, but we recommend you to confirm this when booking. Urban transport buses, however, are not generally equipped to cater for the disabled.
Most parking areas have parks specifically allocated for the disabled. To park in these parks you must obtain a parking concession display card. To obtain a display card you must bring your home mobility card or medical certificate as proof of disability and once in New Zealand you can contact NZCCS on 0800 227 225 to obtain a card.
For more information visit New Zealand’s disability website www.weka.net.nz
Public and private health facilities have a high standard of treatment and care. Larger hotels and motels often have a local doctor on call; otherwise, doctors and other medical services are listed in the front of the telephone directory.
Accident Compensation and Personal Insurance
Visitors are covered by the Government-run scheme for personal injury by accident. Claims may be lodged with the Accident Compensation and Rehabilitation Insurance Corporation (ACC) irrespective of fault. Some medical/hospital expenses and physical disability compensation are covered, but not loss of earnings outside New Zealand. Actions for damages may not be brought, and personal travel insurance should therefore cover accidents. Medical services are not free. Accident care is subsidised. ACC does not cover any medical treatment relating to illness.
Pharmaceuticals and Medicines
Available from chemists during normal shopping hours. Most cities have urgent dispensaries open outside these hours, listed in the front of the telephone book under Hospitals. Chemists also sell cosmetics and insect and sun protections. A certificate for Customs is advised if visitors plan to bring pharmaceuticals into the country. Many drugs sold over the counter in other countries are often not available without a prescription.
New Zealand Public Holidays
New Zealand school holiday dates can be found on the Ministry of Education website.
The major New Zealand Public Holidays are:
New Year’s Day: 1 January
Day Following: 2 January
Waitangi Day: 6 February
Good Friday: Varies
Easter Monday: Varies
Anzac Day: 25 April
Queen’s Birthday: 1st Monday in June
Labour Day: 4th Monday in October
Christmas Day: 25 December
Boxing Day: 26 December