New Zealand is the one and only destination for adventure junkies! No matter what you are in for, it always has plenty of adventures for you: swimming with wild dolphins, sea kayaking with seals and orcas, hiking and climbing in canyons, flying to glaciers via helicopter or jumping out of a plane from 15.000 feet – it doesn’t get boring here! In addition New Zealand has such a diverse and stunning landscape to offer: snowcapped mountains with thick rainforest at the bottom, streams with crystal clear blue water, impressive fjords and waterfalls, countless small bays and long coast lines and even vulcanos including exploding geysers!
The island nation of New Zealand lies in the Southern Pacific, East of Australia. It consists of a North and a South Island and over 700 smaller islands. The two main islands are separated by the around 23 km long Cook Straight with ferries crossing back and forth.
The North Island is the smaller one, but very densely populated, three quarters of the total population live here. Its main feature are its volcanos. On the South Island you have the New Zealand Alps with the highest mountain in the country, Mount Cook (3,754 m).
There are 4,4 million New Zealanders (also referred to as Kiwis) spread out on just under 270,000 km2. Wellington, the capital, lies on the North Island and has almost 400,000 inhabitants, the largest city however is Auckland with around 1,5 million inhabitants.
New Zealand has mostly maritime climate due to the influence of the Pacific ocean. The North Island is generally warmer than the Southern one.
The high season on New Zealand is from December to February, the weather is normally stable then and it is nice and warm. However, accommodation and activities as well as campers or cars for rent are a lot more expensive then and you have to make sure you book in time. The ideal time to go therefore is March through April. The great rush of travellers has passed, prices are going down again and the weather still is good.
By the end of June it is cold and very volatile, this is when the skiing season starts on both islands.
If you want to do a work & travel, start in mid October or November, there are still jobs available then in the various agricultural areas for example or tourism.
Pretty much everyone in New Zealand speaks English, Maori is only spoken by around 5% of the population. The accent is influenced by British English, so they are easy to understand.
The land of the Kiwis uses New Zealand Dollars. 1 NZD is around 60 Euro cents. You can pay with credit card pretty much everywhere. There are ATMs in most larger cities, smaller towns usually don’t have any.
You can stay in New Zealand for up to three months for travelling or business without a visa. You receive the entry permit on arrival, you only have to have a passport which is valid for a month beyond the time you plan to stay in New Zealand. Additionally you need a ticket for a return or connecting flight and proof of sufficient finances to cover your stay such as traveller checks or a letter of credit form your bank. We didn’t have to show anything but those are the rules.
If you come to New Zealand on a work & travel you need a working holiday visa. These visas are granted to persons between the age of 18 and 30 who have all the papers listed above.
The import regulations to New Zealand are very strict! Make sure you don’t have any food, animal or plant products in your bag, they will be takend away. Also make sure that any shoes you are bringing along (sports shoes too) are free of dirt. These regulations are meant to preserve New Zealand’s flora and fauna which otherwise could be compromised or even altered.
There are no special vaccinations needed to travel to New Zealand.
The largest airport in New Zealand is in Auckland on the North Island. Most international flights depart from and arrive here. There are six other airports that also offer international connections, among them are Christchurch, Dunedin, Wellington and Queenstown.
For getting around in New Zealand you have several options. If you are short on time but definitely want to see both islands then you might want to look into domestic flights, Air New Zealand and Jetstar offer cheap connections.
The best way however to discover New Zealand is by campervan. This home on wheels offers pure flexibility and is pretty affordable. Overnight you stay on parking sites with power outlets or right in the wildernis since you can sustain yourself. Many of these camp sites are located idyllically on lakeshores, in the middle of mysterious forests or right by the beach. If you want to do wild camping ask the local tourist information for permissions.
Also you can use the parking space, kitchen and bathrooms of hostels for less than 10 € per night. It’s a good way to get in touch with other travelers and being able to cook yourself a good meal.
We did our road trip through the South Island with Britz Campervans and can only recommend them!
If you prefer actual beds then it is best to rent a car and drive from town to town. There is a large selection of vehicles in every price range to chose from. We had good experiences with Europcar.
Alternatively, you can cross New Zealand on a train. There are several ‘Great Train Trips’ that take you through spectacular volcanic landscapes, over mountain passes and along the blue Pacific.
To get from the North to the South Island the best choice is the ferry from Wellington to Picton. It is huge because even cars are transported on it. You can book your ticket directly on the Interislander Website. The fare is 37 € per person without a car. If you have a rental car you probably will leave the car on the one island and get a new one on the other. The route through the Marlborough Sounds is amazing, so try to get a window seat!
Another option for getting around is with local or long distance buses. The network is very well widespread and various bus operators offer great routes which take you to all the important stops.
Hitchhiking also works, or if you love motorbikes you can rent a bike to travel New Zealand’s beautiful roads.
By the way, https://www.bbh.co.nz/ offers a great network of good hostels around both islands. If you get the BBH card you receive discounts on every night. On booking.com you also get good last minute deals for hotels and B&Bs in New Zealand and can thereby stay totally flexible.
New Zealand has a lot of festivals to offer which focus on various things from music to food and drink and also art.
- Chinese lantern festival: Since around 10 % of Auckland’s population have Chinese roots the Chinese New Year in February is a big celebration. Albert Park becomes a sea of colourful lanterns of various shapes and there are music concerts and chinese food too.
- Marlborough Food & Wine Festival: Every year in February there is a big wine festival in the largest and oldest wine growing region Marlborough. Apart from wine you can also try your way through other local specialities.
- Beervana: Wellington is home to the countries biggest beer festival which takes place in August every year. You can taste around 2700 different beers from 100 different breweries!
- Rhythm and Vines Festival: A three day festival on New Year's in Gisborne in a beautiful setting with national and international stars.
- New Zealand International Arts Festival: This festival takes place every other year in Wellington and lasts for 24 days. More than 300 different performances make an artist’s heart beat higher!
The New Zealanders really are very friendly, helpful and laid-back people. It is easy to get into a conversation with them if you want to, they are very open and willing to tell you about their country and their culture.
New Zealand is a melting pot for many different cultures, amongst them European, Pacific, Asian and of course Maori cultures - really unique! And British influences are particularly common.
The culture of the Maori is an essential part of life to the New Zealanders and you will frequently encounter Maori influences and be it only in the form of ‘Kia Ora’ (‘Hello’). Traditional dances and singing are offered all over the island, especially in Rotorua. The great thing is that the Maori culture is still lived and celebrated openly today, because both the Maori and the rest of the New Zealand population are proud of this culture with all its traditions and rituals.
We love New Zealand for it’s awesome adventures and the amazing diverse landscape - and this is what the New Zealanders totally agree on. Over 15% of all families own their own boat because they love the water. You will also meet the Kiwis when hiking, camping, fishing or at the beach or even at rugby games since it’s the most popular sport in New Zealand.
Of course the many cultural influences also show in New Zealand’s cuisine, the British in particular have left their mark. New Zealanders too live a kind of pub culture and you can really relax and enjoy your food and beer. But from high end restaurants to good affordable food places there is something for every plate.
Among the New Zealand specialties are a lot of lamb dishes, but also chicken and fish. Fish lovers will really be happy here: there are more than 50 kinds of fish and shellfish! Crayfish (a kind of lobster), whaibait (sardine), bluff oysters (espensive!), paua clams (abalone) or green lip mussels which you find around Havelock on the South Island are especially good.
Fish & Chips is considered a national dish here and most fast food places serve it for less than 2 €. You should definitely try the delicious hot pies with various fillings and the kumara (New Zealand sweet potato)!
A typical breakfast in New Zealand consists of granola and toast. On weekends you feel the British influences again, because then people serve up scrambled eggs, bacon, mushrooms, beans, tomatoes and potato patties. Lunch is rather small and can be something like a sandwich or pie, the main meal is dinner.
If you experience a Maori evening then you most likely will get to enjoy a Hangi, the dishes from the earth ovens of the indigenous people. Lamb, poultry, pork, kumara, potatoes and pumpkin are wrapped into leaves, placed onto hot stones and then covered with leaves to cook them.
When it comes to desserts the Kiwis love their Pavlova (a meringue cake) and Hokey Pokey ice cream. Hokey Pokey is a kind of toffee which you will also find in other sweets as well.
Apart from beer, wine and white wine in particular is very popular. New Zealand has a few very good wine growing areas. You should definitely try L&P, a cold drink of lemon and paeroa. The sparkling water and lemon juice make it really refreshing. And just as in Great Britain tea is an important part of the drinks menu.
Good to know: New Zealand like Australia does not permit supermarkets to sell strong liquor, only special bottle stores that are often partnered with supermarkets can do that. Wine and beer are available in supermarkets and bottle stores alike. Look out for a sign outside bars and restaurants saying ‘Licenced’, this means these places serve alcohol. Except for Sundays when it is prohibited to serve alcohol! If you see a sign indicating ‘B.Y.O.’ this means that you can or even have to bring your own alcohol.
Tips are not expected of you but if the service is good then you can of course add a little something to the bill. The server sure will be happy!
Very important for New Zealand: warm, waterproof and breathable clothes! The weather can change so fast and even in summer temperatures can drop below 0 in the valleys between the mountains. So pack for an onion look, make sure you can always add a layer and a rain proof jacket if you need to. A warm fleece jacket, hat and maybe even gloves will come in handy too.
On the other hand a bikini or swimming trunks also make sense all year round. In summer you can jump into the ice cold Lake Pukaki or Lake Taupo and in winter you can get into the hot springs around Rotorua.
And if you want to go hiking do bring hiking shoes, they will be a lot more comfortable in the long run and offer good grip.
Don’t forget to bring an adapter! Maybe you already have a universal adapter for all the countries worldwide then you don’t need to stress yourself.
Copies of your documents should always be saved digitally i.e. in your dropbox no matter where you’re traveling.
We’re in love with New Zealand! It’s just the place to be for adventures and offers awesome landscapes that blow you away every other mile. And every single traveller who gets back from New Zealand is totally excited about it.
There are so many highlights, but these are our favourites:
- Skydiving: If you’ve never done it, do it in New Zealand! The best towns for it: Queenstown, Lake Taupo and Wanaka. It’s just an incredibly awesome feeling to jump out of the plane and have an amazing view for free!
- Lake Tekapo & Pukaki: The turquoise of these two mountain lakes is totally unnatural but amazing. Jump into the ice-cold water and treat yourself with some fresh salmon from the salmon farm at Lake Tekapo!
- Deep Canyoning: Jumping 14 meters into the ice-cold water, climbing, upsailing up to 60 meters, a real adventure right in the middle of a canyon in Wanaka!
- Sea kayaking: A small family-owned company offers kayak tours through the Marlborough Sounds. You will make friends with wild cute seals and maybe if you’re lucky also some orcas!
- Swim with wild dolphins: Simply pure goosebumps! At different locations like Kaikoura you can swim with wild dolphins in their natural environment. An experience you will never forget in your life!