Tips for Visiting New Zealand: Your Ultimate Guide

New Zealand tips for visiting
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Here are my top ten tips for making the most out of your visit to New Zealand.

New Zealand, with its stunning landscapes, rich culture, and vibrant cities, is a dream destination for many travelers. Whether you’re an adventure enthusiast or a nature lover, there’s something for everyone in this beautiful country. Here are some essential tips for visiting New Zealand to make the most of your trip.

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1. Plan Your Itinerary Wisely

Tips for visiting New Zealand - plan your itinerary wisely

North Island

Famous for its natural hot springs, vibrant Maori traditions, and lively cities such as Auckland and Wellington.

I flew into Auckland from LAX, and here’s a tip for you: To catch the best views of New Zealand from the plane into Auckland, be sure you’re seated on the left side. That’s right, the left side is the “right” side for breathtaking views!

South Island

Renowned for its stunning landscapes, cascading waterfalls, adrenaline-pumping adventure sports, and the towering Southern Alps!

2. Best Time to Visit New Zealand

tips for visiting new zealand - the best time to visit

Always be prepared for any kind of weather because, in New Zealand, it can change faster than a mood swing. This is not an exaggeration, so keep a rain jacket or sunglasses handy, or better yet, carry both and be ready for anything!

The best time to visit depends on what activities you want to do:

  • Summer (December to February)

    Ideal for beach activities, hiking, and outdoor adventures. The prices will be higher, and the crowds will be more plentiful, but you will be much warmer and enjoy the beaches more. 

  • Autumn (March to May)

    This time is great for wine tours and enjoying the fall foliage. I visited during this time, and the weather was incredible. It wasn’t hot, but it was warm enough to enjoy a beach day, and it was cool enough in the mountain region to wear a light jacket at times. 

  • Winter (June to August)

    Perfect for skiing and snowboarding in the South Island; the North Island is a bit warmer, but you will still need a jacket.

  • Spring (September to November)

    This is the ideal time to visit for vibrant gardens and a tranquil atmosphere. You won’t want to miss the beautiful lupines in full bloom during this season.

3. Transportation Tips

Transportation tips around New Zealand
  • Rent a Car or Campervan:  

    The best way to explore New Zealand is by road. Renting a car or a campervan gives you the freedom to explore at your own pace. You can camp almost anywhere, which allows you to wake up to incredible views if you choose your site wisely.

  • Public Transport:

    Cities such as Auckland, Christchurch, and Wellington have reliable public transport, but it’s limited in rural areas. Check local websites for bus schedules.

  • Drive Safely:

    New Zealanders drive on the left side of the road. Get ready for some aggressive and fast drivers who think they’re in a Fast and Furious movie. They might overtake you on blind hills, in curves, at over 100 mph at night, in curves, and in fog. This is not a movie, so buckle up and hold on tight!

    • Watch for wildlife! Especially during the times when it’s so dark you can’t tell a possum from a Pokémon. Many of these creatures, such as the kiwi and weka, are considered endangered or threatened. This means you must slow down and pay close attention to the roads to avoid hitting these babies. Slow down and pay close attention to avoid hitting these adorable creatures and ending up on the evening news as “the tourist who mistook a kiwi for a speed bump.” We decided to avoid driving from dusk until dawn. If we had to drive, we went below the speed limit and were very attentive.

4. Accommodations in New Zealand

accommodations in New Zealand

Book in Advance:

Especially during peak seasons, you can book your accommodations early to secure the best deals.

Variety of Options:

From luxurious hotels and quaint B&Bs to budget-friendly hostels and campgrounds, New Zealand offers accommodations to suit every budget. 

My favorite sites to use, Booking.com and Hotels.com allows you to find hundreds of hotels offering free reservations and cancellations up until a specific date. 

5. Activities in New Zealand

activities in new zealand

New Zealand is renowned for its adventure sports and outdoor activities:

  • Whale Watching:

    Embark on an unforgettable whale-watching adventure by boat or plane. For an extraordinary experience, I highly recommend Wings Over Whales, based in the picturesque town of Kaikoura on the South Island. This renowned location offers an unparalleled opportunity to witness these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat. During my flight, I spotted two sperm whales, a significant highlight of my trip.

  • Bungee Jumping:

    Why would someone do this? I don’t know. But from what I heard, the Kawarau Bridge in Queenstown is the birthplace of commercial bungee jumping. So, strap on and take the plunge.

  • Hiking:

    New Zealand offers a variety of stunning hiking trails, ranging from short walks to multi-day treks. The country’s diverse landscapes provide endless opportunities for hikers to explore breathtaking scenery. The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is known for its otherworldly volcanic terrain, featuring emerald lakes and panoramic views of the surrounding mountains. On the other hand, the Milford Track is renowned for its lush rainforests, cascading waterfalls, and dramatic fjords. Both trails offer unique experiences for nature enthusiasts and are just a glimpse of the many remarkable hiking destinations New Zealand has to offer. I highly recommend using All Trails to plan your hikes. They even have a mobile app that comes in handy when there is no cell service on the trails.  

  • Water Sports:

    Explore the adrenaline-pumping experience of jet-boating through rugged canyons, navigating the tranquil waters in a kayak, or catching thrilling waves while surfing at picturesque coastal spots across the country. There are also numerous places to parasail, scuba dive, and snorkel.

  • Skydiving:

    Even though it’s not my thing, if you’re into the whole falling-from-great-heights vibe, you should check out this experience in Queenstown or Taupo. Just make sure your stomach is as adventurous as you are!

6. Explore Maori Culture

maori culture in new zealand

One of the things I truly loved about New Zealand was how the Indigenous people play a significant role in every aspect of New Zealand life. To delve deeper into the rich Maori heritage:

Cultural Shows:

Visit Rotorua for traditional Maori performances and hangi feasts. 

Historical Sites:

Enjoy New Zealand’s rich history by visiting the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. This historic site is where the treaty between the indigenous Māori people and the British Crown was signed in 1840. By exploring the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, you can gain a deeper understanding of the historical events that have shaped the nation and learn about the cultural significance of this important site. It is a beautiful place to spend the day.

7. Stay Connected

SIM Card:

Purchase a local SIM card upon arrival for affordable data and calls.

Wi-Fi:

Free Wi-Fi is available in most hotels, cafes, and public places.

Cell Service:

Be prepared for limited cell service in many areas on both islands. To navigate without a hitch, consider downloading an offline map for your phone, ensuring you’re always on the right track.

stay connected while visiting new zealand

8. Health and Safety

Health and Safety

Travel Insurance: 

Essential for covering unexpected medical expenses and activities. I used Faye during our time in New Zealand. They have recently been voted Number One by Forbes Advisor.  There are several other good options, like Allianz and TravelInsurance.com.

Sun Protection:

Given the intense UV rays in New Zealand, it is crucial to take necessary precautions. Whenever you are outdoors, make sure to apply sunscreen with a high SPF, wear UV-protective sunglasses, and a wide-brimmed hat to shield yourself from the sun’s harmful effects.

Emergency Number:

In the event of any emergencies, please use the number 111 to request immediate assistance.

9. Respect the Environment

Respect the environment in New Zealand

New Zealand is known for its pristine natural beauty, and they work very hard to keep it that way. Here are a few things you can do to help:

Leave No Trace:

To maintain the cleanliness of the environment, it is important to adhere to the “Leave No Trace” principles. When hiking on trails, make sure to take all your trash and belongings with you when you leave. This includes items such as food wrappers, water bottles, and any other waste you may have brought along. Leaving the natural surroundings as pristine as you found them helps to minimize human impact and preserve the beauty of the outdoors for future generations to enjoy.

Biosecurity Laws:

Be aware of strict biosecurity laws. Do not bring in any food or plant materials, even items obtained on the airplane. Dogs check every passenger when exiting the aircraft.

10. Budgeting

budget for new zealand travel

Explore New Zealand without breaking the bank! Check out these tips for making the most of your trip without overspending.

Currency:

The local currency is the New Zealand Dollar (NZD).

Tipping:

Tipping is not customary but appreciated for exceptional service.

Budgeting Tips:

One way to save money on meals is to search for budget-friendly options at nearby grocery stores and markets. Additionally, you can take advantage of free recreational activities such as hiking or visiting the beach to make the most of your time without overspending. 

Food:

After leaving the airport, we made a quick stop at a grocery store to buy refillable bottles of water, snacks, and even large-size toiletries that we didn’t want to pack. This helped us save space in our luggage and allowed us to travel with only carry-ons.

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Conclusion

Keep these helpful tips in mind before you head to New Zealand: plan your trip in advance, respect the local customs, be mindful of wildlife, and cherish the breathtaking beauty that the country has to offer. By following these tips, you’ll be all set to enjoy everything New Zealand has in store, making your journey unforgettable and stress-free. Have a fantastic time! 

For more in-depth travel guides and tips, don’t forget to subscribe to my blog to stay updated on all things travel!

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Kristal Ham

Hi fellow nomads!

Traveler and Photographer

My name is Kristal and I am so happy to have you visit my site! 

I hope that the travel guides, fun facts, and photography you find here will inspire you to explore new places!

Kristal

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