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New Zealand

New Zealand essential info

New Zealand, with its high peaks, volcanic grumbling, weird wildlife, raging waters and high-octane thrills, is the ultimate outdoor playground

Travel in New Zealand: vital statistics

  • Capital of New Zealand: Wellington
  • Population of New Zealand: 4.4 million
  • Languages in New Zealand: English, Maori
  • Time in New Zealand: GMT+12 (GMT+13 end Sep-early Apr)
  • International dialling code in New Zealand: +64
  • Voltage in New Zealand: 230/240 volts, 50 Hz
  • Visas for New Zealand: Not required by UK nationals. Find out more about New Zealand visas here. 
  • Money in New Zealand: New Zealand dollar (NZ$). Foreign credit cards are widely accepted; ATMs are easily accessible. Tipping is optional; leave 10% for good service.
  • New Zealand travel advice: Foreign & Commonwealth Office
  • New Zealand tourist board: Tourism New Zealand

When to go to New Zealand

Southern hemisphere summer (Dec-Mar) is the warmest and driest time to visit New Zealand – and the most popular: hotels get booked up and prices are higher. Winter (Jun-Sep) is the wettest and coldest time in New Zealand, but great for skiing; some hikes, for example the Milford Track, are closed due to snow.

The shoulder seasons of spring (Oct-Nov) and autumn (Apr-May) are lovely – the weather is still reasonable, popular sites are less busy and airfares are lower.

New Zealand international airports

Auckland International (AKL) 25km from Auckland; Wellington International (WLG) 7km from Wellington; Christchurch International (CHC) 12km from Christchurch.

Getting around in New Zealand

Getting around New Zealand is pretty easy. Domestic airlines serve small airports across the New Zealand – if you’re short on time, consider an airpass.

Bus travel is comfortable and efficient in New Zealand but can be time consuming; there are several backpacker-style hop-on, hop-off services you can use to access the main highlights. Train travel in New Zealand is a sightseeing option, rather than a practical one – routes are slow but generally stunning.

The best way to get around is by hiring a car or campervan  – roads are quiet, rates are reasonable and you have maximum flexibility. 

New Zealand accommodation

Cool campsites, hip hostels, boutique lodges, wilderness retreats, city hotels – all types of accommodation are available in New Zealand, catering for all budgets and tastes. Maori homestays are also a possibility, as are farmstays, where you get to help out with the animals.

Touring New Zealand by campervan is a popular option – there are many campsites to stop at. Much accommodation gets busy December-February – book in advance.

New Zealand food & drink

New Zealand cuisine is generally fresh, natural and tasty. Dairy, meat and fish products are world-renowned: try New Zealand lamb, grass-fed venison, Bluff oysters, local scallops, crayfish and hokey pokey ice cream (vanilla with crunchy toffee pieces). Manuka honey is another local specialty – great for toast and your immune system. For a traditional taster of New Zealand, try a Maori hangi, a meal of meat, spices and vegetables cooked in an underground, hot-rock oven.

Vegetarians will be fine in New Zealand (if jealous of the succulent meat and fish on offer). The local fruit and veg is good – don’t miss the kumara (sweet potato) and the kiwis. Most restaurants in New Zealand will be able to cater to vegetarians.

The drinks scene in New Zealand is equally good – don’t miss a tour of a local vineyard to sample some of New Zealand’s excellent vintages (for starters, try the sauvignons in the Marlborough region and pinot noirs in Otago), then sober up for a brewery visit: good New Zealand beers include Speights and Monteiths, plus there’s a wealth of microbreweries fermenting excellent ales.

Health & safety in New Zealand

No specific vaccinations are required for New Zealand. The UK NHS has a reciprocal agreement with the NZ health service but it is advisable to take out good health insurance: see www.wanderlustinsurance.co.uk.

The weather in general, and especially in the mountains, is highly unpredictable – it’s essential to be well prepared and properly equipped with warm, waterproof gear. The sun is exceptionally strong – make sure you apply high-factor sunscreen regularly. Sandflies can be a nuisance in summer.

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