35 New Zealand Travel Tips: What to Know Before You Go

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Are you’re planning your first trip to New Zealand and wondering where to start? I’ve got you covered with these New Zealand travel tips!

New Zealand is a stunningly beautiful country that offers a wide range of experiences for travelers. From the rugged mountains and glaciers of the South Island to the lush rainforests and pristine beaches of the North Island, it’s no wonder New Zealand is a must-visit destination for many. 

With so much to see and do, there are a few things you should know first, so you can have an amazing time without having to spend time figuring these things out DURING your trip.

I’ve compiled the best tips for traveling in New Zealand that I learned from living here for 20 years to help you travel safely and smoothly throughout the country. 

Here are 35 New Zealand travel tips to help you make the most of your adventure. 

» Read next: Do I Need Travel Insurance for New Zealand?

New Zealand Travel Tips

Top New Zealand Travel Tips

1. Don’t Try to Do Everything

New Zealand may be a small country but there is so much to see and do. Not to mention all the incredible landscapes to explore across two main islands. If you’re thinking you can see it all, you’re going to be disappointed or overwhelmed trying.  My best tip for new visitors to New Zealand is “don’t try to do everything”

Even living here for many years, I still haven’t done it all.

No matter how much time you have, it’s impossible to do absolutely everything. And that’s ok! Plan a realistic itinerary so you can take the time to enjoy it. Prioritize your absolute must-dos, then build additional things around that.

Road trips are a good way to see a lot of things in between two main cities, including the small towns and beautiful landscapes around New Zealand.

2. Plan According to the Season

New Zealand is split across two main islands, and they are different in both terrain and climate. Research the areas you plan to visit including the weather to help you determine the best time to visit New Zealand.

In winter it can be quite cold in the South Island which may restrict certain activities, but it is ideal for skiing and snowboarding in the parts which have an alpine environment.

In summer it is a busier time to visit but there are more options with the good weather such as beach activities, especially in the warmer North Island. 

Spring and fall can be good for hiking and experiencing popular activities with fewer crowds.

If you are planning road trips, bear in mind there can be snow and ice on roads in the alpine areas during winter. So you’ll need to keep an eye on road conditions and may need to consider a 4WD or carrying snow chains for your vehicle.

Tips for traveling in New Zealand.

3. The Seasons are Reversed

Speaking of planning according to the season, it’s worth mentioning our seasons are opposite to the Northern Hemisphere. 

Summer in New Zealand runs from December to February and winter from June to August. 

This means summer school holidays are in December and January, which combined with the holiday season tends to be the busiest time of year to travel around New Zealand. Be sure to check school calendars if you want to avoid the school holiday crowds.

Spring (September to November) and fall (March to May) are considered the shoulder seasons and tend to be less busy with cheaper prices for accommodation, car rentals and some attractions than you would find in peak season.

4. Rent a Car or Campervan

Public transport outside the main cities is limited. If you plan on exploring multiple areas, I recommend renting a car or campervan. It offers the most flexibility and you can explore the country at your own pace.

Even within the cities, you may be limited to what you can see and do without your own transport. For example, the west coast beaches in Auckland are worth visiting but you’ll need a car to get there.

Hotels in the cities generally charge a fee for parking and it can be expensive. An option is to build your itinerary so that you have a few days in the city first without a car, then rent a car for the day trips you plan to take later on.

There are several car rental companies in New Zealand, including international brands and local companies. Some of the popular companies include Budget, Avis, Hertz, and Europcar. It’s important to do your research and compare prices and services before making a reservation.

We like using DiscoverCars.com to compare prices and book our rental cars. Once you enter your travel details they search the best deals you!

Person sitting at a table next to a campervan parked in front of a blue lake on a clear day.
Photo by nazar_ab

5. Know All Your Transport Options

Choosing the best way to travel around New Zealand is a personal choice. If renting a car is not right for you, there are several other options for getting around, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. The best option depends on your budget, travel style, and timeframe.

Here are some options to consider:

  • Public transportation: New Zealand has a network of Intercity buses and trains that connect major cities and towns. This is a convenient and affordable option for getting around, especially if you’re traveling on a budget, but bear in mind it takes longer and offers less flexibility.
  • Domestic flights: Air New Zealand and Jetstar are the two domestic airlines in New Zealand. Air New Zealand has the most coverage in regional airports, and Jetstar is generally cheaper. Flying between cities is good if you are short on time but it can be expensive and you’ll be limited to airport locations and flight schedules.
  • Guided tours: There are bus tours covering most areas of the country from a couple of days to a couple of weeks. It’s a stress-free way to travel, with your itinerary and bookings made for you, and a great way to learn about the areas you visit from knowledgeable guides. Although they can be expensive and you may have limited time to explore on your own.

6. Know Where You Can and Cannot Camp

If you plan to explore New Zealand on a budget, staying in campsites and holiday parks along your journey, and renting a campervan is the way to go.  Just be sure to know where you are allowed to camp as you can’t just park up anywhere in New Zealand. 

Each region has its own by laws on freedom camping that you’ll need to adhere to. And you’ll need to be driving a certified self-contained campervan.

It’s also a good idea to book where you’ll be staying in advance, especially in peak season.

Single white car driving along a winding mountain road in New Zealand's South Island during winter.

7. Learn New Zealand Road Rules

New Zealand drives on the left side of the road which may be different from what you are used to. This means the steering wheel will be on the right side of the car. A good tip to remember is the driver is always on the side of the car that is closest to the middle of the road. 

Take some time to practice in a quiet place before tackling the cities or winding mountain roads.

Things like roundabouts and one-lane bridges are common in New Zealand but may be new to you. Be sure to know the New Zealand road rules and check driving conditions before heading off. 

You can check the rules for driving as a visitor to New Zealand on the NZTA site, including license requirements.

8. Explore the Cities

New Zealand has several vibrant and dynamic cities that offer a range of experiences for visitors. I recommend that you don’t just stick to one during your visit. Each has its own vibe and attractions. They are also a great start and end point for exploring beyond the cities or embarking on a road trip. 

  • Auckland, the largest city in New Zealand, is known for its stunning harbor, world-class restaurants, and has plenty of attractions to choose from. Being a main travel hub, many visitors spend at least one day in Auckland to start their trip.
  • Wellington, the capital city, is a cultural hub with a thriving arts scene, great coffee, and beautiful harbor views. 
  • Christchurch, located on the South Island, is known for its beautiful gardens and parks as well as cafes and restaurants. 
  • Queenstown, the adventure capital of New Zealand, offers a range of outdoor activities, from skiing and snowboarding to bungee jumping, skydiving and jetboating. 

These cities, among others, offer a unique glimpse into New Zealand’s culture and history, as well as plenty of exciting things to do – rain or shine.

View from the grass covered Mt Eden summit with Auckland City in the distance.

9. Explore Beyond the Cities

New Zealand is known for its natural beauty and there are many ways to experience it. From scenic drives and world-renowned hiking trails to national parks and quaint towns rich in history and culture. 

In fact, New Zealand is home to two UNESCO World Heritage Areas, two International Dark Sky Reserves/Sanctuaries and 13 national parks that are free to visit.

Each area offers unique landscapes and activities, so try to visit at least a couple during your trip. Nature is what New Zealand does best!

10. Respect the Environment

New Zealand has a commitment to caring for the environment, including conservation efforts to preserve the native wildlife that is under threat due to invasive species.  

Tiaki is a significant part of Māori culture that can be loosely translated to mean to care, conserve and protect. The Tiaki Promise is a commitment to care for New Zealand and everyone who lives and travels here has a responsibility to look after it. This means that while traveling in New Zealand we will:

  • Care for land, sea and nature, treading lightly and leaving no trace
  • Travel safely, showing care and consideration for all
  • Respect culture, traveling with an open heart and mind

It’s important to stay on marked trails and practice “leave no trace” principles when hiking and camping. Always leave with anything you brought. Leaving trash or tramping on delicate vegetation is not responsible or respectful.

Be sure to clean your boots at cleaning stations when you see them. Not all trails have them, but it is an important step in containing diseases such as Kauri tree dieback, which is killing our beautiful Kauri trees. So please use them when you see them. 

This is why it’s also important to only bring clean hiking gear into New Zealand. Declare your gear at the airport and they’ll even clean it for you.

New Zealand travel tips explaining the Tiaki Promise including protecting and caring for environment, driving safely and showing response on a black and white infographic.
Photo by Tiaki New Zealand

11. Try Local Cuisine

New Zealand may not be the first place that comes to mind when thinking about food, but thanks to its diverse cultures and rich agricultural resources New Zealand has a range of delicious foods to try. Be sure to try local cuisine and visit farmers’ markets for fresh produce. Here are some of the best local dishes and where to try them:

  1. Auckland: Known for its multicultural food scene. Visit the Auckland Night Markets to try a variety of street food from all over the world. Head to Commercial Bay for a selection of restaurants and an upmarket food hall with a range of eateries. Or head to the Viaduct for Auckland’s top restaurants with a view. Try the steak and oysters at Oyster and Chop or fresh seafood at Soul Bar and Bistro.
  2. Rotorua: Experience a hāngī meal and learn about Māori culture at a Māori Village in Rotorua. Hāngī is a traditional method of cooking in Māori culture in which food is steamed in an underground pit, referred to as an earth oven, resulting in deliciously tender meat and root vegetable infused with smoky flavors.
  3. West Coast: Famous for its whitebait fitters. New Zealand whitebait are tiny fishes with a subtle flavor, most commonly served in fritters. They can be found all over New Zealand during whitebait season (September and October), but especially along the West Coast of the South Island.
  4. Bluff: A small town located at the very bottom of the South Island known for its fresh seafood and bluff oysters that are wild caught straight off the coast. If you can’t make it to Bluff, don’t worry, they are shipped to just about every seafood restaurant in the country from March to August.
  5. Kaikoura: Known for its amazing crayfish with ‘seafood caravans’ dotted along the coast. Similar in appearance to lobster but with a subtle flavor. If you’re heading to Kaikoura be sure to stop at Nins Bin to try their famously fresh crayfish.
  6. Queenstown: Home to the famous Fergburger, arguably New Zealand’s best burger, but also many restaurants featuring farm to table cuisine and local wines. Try Rata restaurant for fresh contemporary New Zealand cuisine. Or the signature ribs at Flame Bar & Grill, we dine here at least once or twice whenever we’re in Queenstown!
Close up a tray of oysters adorned with lemon wedges.
Photo by sl wong

12. Enjoy Local Wine

New Zealand is known for its world-class wine, with several regions producing some of the best wines in the world. There are quite a few and I’m still working my way through trying them all!

Try to visit a couple of wineries, tour the vineyards, and sample the wine. It’s a wonderful experience sitting amongst the vineyards.  Enjoy the stunning views of the surrounding landscapes, as well as a chance to meet the winemakers and learn about the wine-making process.

You may like to book a wine-tasting tour. There are plenty to choose from in each of New Zealand’s wine regions. Here are a few of our favorite wine regions to visit in New Zealand:

  • Waiheke Island, located on the North Island and a short ferry ride from Auckland, is known for red wines based on Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc grape varieties. The island is home to 30 boutique wineries, many with tasting rooms, swanky restaurants and breathtaking views.
  • Hawke’s Bay, located on the North Island, is known for its full-bodied red wines, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah. 
  • Marlborough, located on the South Island, is known for its Sauvignon Blanc, which is crisp, refreshing, and bursting with tropical fruit flavors. 
  • Central Otago, also located on the South Island, is known for its Pinot Noir, which is elegant, complex, and has a distinct earthy flavor. 

Popular wineries include Cloudy Bay in Marlborough, Craggy Range in Hawke’s Bay, and Felton Road in Central Otago.

Wine glass being held in front of a grassy field at Cable Bay Winery on Waiheke Island on a clear day with the harbor and city skyline in the far distance.
Sample locally produced wine in New Zealand

13. Book in Advance

New Zealand is a popular destination during the summer months (December to March). Accommodation and tours can fill up quickly. Many visitors from the Northern Hemisphere come to escape their winter plus local families are traveling for summer school holidays

It’s worth booking your accommodation and car or campervan rental well in advance for the best rates. As appealing as it sounds to arrive with a road trip plan and wing it on where to stay each night, it’s not a good idea. 

Even campsites need to be booked in most places and you may end up with nowhere to stay if you leave it to the last minute. You’re better off having a rough itinerary and booking your accommodation in advance for each area. 

I also recommend booking any tours or attractions you don’t want to miss out on.

If you’re traveling between May and October you’ll have more flexibility with fewer crowds. With the exception of  Queenstown, which gets busy for ski season from June to August. Even then, you’re better off having a rough plan with flexible bookings that you can change around once you’re here.

A white car driving along a narrow winding road with a snow covered Mount Cook in the background on a partly cloudy day.
The road to Mount Cook

14. Don’t Miss the Scenic Roads

The South Island offers some of the most scenic drives in the country with views that have to be seen to be believed. Our 2-week South Island road trip itinerary provides a comprehensive loop around the island stopping at popular attractions and off-the-beaten-path locations.

The Southern Scenic Route follows the coastline from Dunedin to Invercargill including picturesque lighthouses and stunning waterfalls to be explored along the way.

You can continue on the Southern Scenic Route from Invercargill to Te Anau through the remote coastal communities and popular surf beaches along the southern coast.

Te Anau is a great base from which to explore the popular Milford Sound and the more remote Doubtful Sound. The drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound is an incredible journey through the lush landscapes of Fiordland with plenty of scenic stops along the way and not to be missed.

But my personal favorite is the drive from Queenstown to Mt Cook. Plan for a slow drive, with plenty of stops to see all the best views and places to discover along the way. From New Zealand’s oldest hotel to landscapes that can only be described as otherworldly, it has it all.

Here are some other scenic drives you might enjoy:

For the North Island, our 2-week North Island road trip itinerary covers all the best places and scenic routes to take.

Wooden walkway through dunes to sea at papamoa, Tauranga New Zealand.
Photo by Brian Scantlebury

15. Protect Yourself from the Sun and Sandflies

The UV rays are pretty intense in New Zealand, thanks to a thin ozone layer and less airborne pollution to scatter the UV radiation. Traveling in New Zealand requires some preparation to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful rays all year round, with extra precautions during the summer months. Here are some of our top tips:

  1. Check the UV Index: UV levels are variable across the country and depending on the time of year. The sun’s rays are generally the strongest from months of September to April and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. so make sure you can seek shade during these times and plan outdoor activities in ways that prevent overexposure to the sun.
  2. Sunscreen: Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30 and remember to re-apply regularly, even if it’s cloudy. Consider a waterproof sunscreen if you’ll be swimming or sweating and re-apply more often.
  3. Clothing: Wear lightweight, long-sleeved shirts and pants to protect yourself from prolonged exposure to the sun. You can find apparel with built-in UV protection, but generally clothes with a tight weave are best at blocking UV rays.
  4. Hats and Sunglasses: Protect your face, neck and shoulders with a wide-brimmed hat. Sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays are best for protecting your eyes.
  5. Hydrate: Exposure to the sun can bring on dehydration quickly, especially when you’re active. Drink plenty of water, even if you don’t feel thirsty, to ensure you stay hydrated.
  6. Bring Bug Spray: Sandflies can be prolific in areas near running water and humid bush such as beaches, lakes and waterfalls, especially during summer. These tiny insects leave an itchy bite that can be unpleasant.  Cover your arms and legs with clothing and use a high deet insect repellent if venturing to these areas. I also find they don’t bother you as much if you keep moving.
Back of a Hiker wearing a yellow jacket with views from Roys Peak looking over Lake Wanaka and the mountains in the distance.

16. Don’t Skip the Hike

New Zealand is an outdoor paradise with hundreds of trails across the country from easy to advanced, and ranging from 10 minutes to 10 days! We always recommend including a few hikes in your itinerary. By the way, hiking is referred to as “tramping” in New Zealand.

The Department of Conservation (DOC) is a great resource to find trails that are available in any region across New Zealand, including any alerts or track closures.

Exploring the landscapes of New Zealand is a truly rewarding experience but it’s important to be prepared. If you plan on doing the more challenging hikes be sure to wear sturdy footwear and don’t underestimate the effort required. New Zealand’s advanced trails can be tough, technical and remote but incredibly beautiful.

The environment can also change quickly, especially in the backcountry and at higher altitudes. Dress for the conditions and always have a warm layer with you, even in summer. Wi-Fi may not be available in some locations so if you’re heading into the remote or alpine areas you should carry a personal location beacon (PLB) with you.

Here are some of our favorite hikes in New Zealand:

Black sand beach surrounded by rugged green coastline at Piha Beach in New Zealand.
Auckland’s west coast beaches are wild and beautiful

17. Enjoy the Beaches

New Zealand is home to some of the most stunning beaches in the world, and there are plenty of ways to enjoy them. Here are some of our top tips:

  • Choose the Right Beach: New Zealand beaches can vary drastically from the wild black sand beaches on the west coast to the calm and pristine white sand beaches on the east coast. Do some research to find a beach that fits your interests – whether that’s surfing, swimming, relaxing or exploring.
  • Sun Protection: Wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF30. Reapply regularly and don’t forget your sunglasses and hat.
  • Follow Safety Guidelines: Always pay attention to beach safety signs and flags. Watch out for rip currents and only swim in designated areas when lifeguards are present.
  • Pack a Picnic: Many beaches have picnic areas, some even with BBQ facilities, where you can enjoy a meal with a view. Remember to pack plenty of water and stay hydrated.
  • Explore Beyond the Sand: Many beaches are near hiking trails, waterfalls, parks or towns with shops and restaurants. See what else there is to see and do in the area.
  • Leave No Trace: Remember to take trash and belongings with you at the end of the day to help keep New Zealand beautiful.
Tandem skydivers jumping from a small plane in Queenstown New Zealand.
Pro tip: Book weather dependent activities for the beginning of your stay

18. Be Flexible

New Zealand is beautiful, wild and unpredictable and the weather can affect some activities. For example, wind or rain may cancel a skydive or a helicopter landing on a glacier. Fog may obstruct views at the top of the mountain you just spent 4 hours climbing.

I get that it’s a balancing act between planning for the time you have here and being flexible. Especially if you are traveling in the summer months when booking tours in advance is recommended. 

Most tours offer the chance to re-schedule if it gets cancelled due to inclement weather. Our advice is to book your activities or tours that are weather-dependent for the beginning of your stay. This way you have the option to re-book for another day if you need to.

It’s also good to have a list of other things you want to see or do in each location so that you can adjust to the weather and conditions if you need to. Then you won’t have to spend time trying to research other things to do on the fly if plan A gets disrupted.

19. Dress for The Weather

New Zealand’s weather can be unpredictable, so be prepared for all kinds of weather, even in the summer.

The best way to pack for New Zealand is to bring layers. The time of year you’ll be visiting and the activities you’ll be doing will determine just how many layers you need. For example, hiking in the South Island in fall I wear a short sleeve or long sleeve t-shirt during the day and usually progress to a fleece and then a puffer jacket the higher we climb, and for the cooler evenings.

But even in summer, a light layer is useful for the cooler evenings and protection from the sun. And a warm layer if you’ll be heading to the mountains.

A waterproof jacket and comfortable walking shoes are essential all year round. And sturdy hiking boots if you’ll be hitting the trails.

Two people wearing hiking boots overlooking the mountains on a clear day.
Photo by Noel Ross

20. Be Prepared for Earthquakes

Earthquakes can occur in certain parts of New Zealand. They aren’t very often and are usually small. In fact, I’ve lived here for many years and I still haven’t felt one in person. But that doesn’t mean one won’t happen while you’re here. It’s important to be familiar with safety procedures, just in case.

  1. Familiarize yourself with the “Drop, Cover, and Hold” protocol. If you feel shaking, drop down on your hands and knees. Cover your head and neck and get as much of your body under a sturdy piece of furniture. Hold on to your shelter until the shaking stops.
  2. Know the safe spots in your area. If inside, find an anterior wall or under large sturdy furniture and avoid doorways. If outside, move away from buildings, trees, streetlights, and power lines, then Drop, Cover and Hold.
  3. Know the emergency procedures at the place you’re staying. Identify safe places to take cover and establish a way to contact friends and family to let them know you’re safe. 
  4. Consider having an emergency kit with you that includes items such as bottled water, non-perishable food, a flashlight, a first-aid kit, a portable charger for your phone and any essential medication. 

Tips for Traveling in New Zealand

Here are some quick New Zealand travel tips to ensure you get here smoothly as well as some handy tips for traveling in New Zealand once you arrive.

21. Declare, Declare!

New Zealand customs are strict and you are required to declare certain items in order to protect the country’s environment. 

Food as well as plant and animal products can introduce pests and diseases that could cause irreparable damage to New Zealand’s agriculture and environment. While some packaged food is okay to bring in, declare it anyway to be on the safe side. 

New Zealand’s ecosystem has evolved in isolation for millions of years, with unique plants and animals that are found nowhere else in the world. The country’s isolation and geological history have created a unique and delicate balance between species. The introduction of a non-native pest or disease can have devastating consequences. 

Not only can failure to declare result in fines or even criminal charges, but you may inadvertently bring in something extremely harmful to the environment.

person holding passport with hand luggage at their feet.
Photo by nappy

22. Know Your Visa Requirements

Visitors to New Zealand are required to have a visa or an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA), depending on their country of origin. 

Citizens from visa-waiver countries, such as the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, can apply for an ETA before their trip online or via the free app.

Visitors from countries that are not on the visa waiver list must apply for a visitor visa before arriving in New Zealand. This process can take several weeks, so be sure to plan accordingly.

The type of visa you have will determine how long you can stay, but generally ranges from 3 to 9 months. It’s important to check the visa requirements for your specific country before traveling to New Zealand, as they can vary depending on your country of origin and the purpose of your visit.

23. Have a Return Ticket

One of the rules for entry into New Zealand is that you must have a return ticket, unless you have a work visa. I know, it’s a great place and I don’t blame you for wanting to stay forever but you won’t even get into the country without that return ticket. 

Luckily, you can stay for a long time as a tourist and there may be an option to extend your visit depending on the type of visa you entered on.

24. Currency

The local currency is the New Zealand dollar which comes in colorful notes ranging from $5 to $100. 

Coins come in 10, 20 and 50-cent pieces and $1 and $2 coins. This keeps prices nice and round as does Swedish rounding. A purchase ending in 6, 7, 8, or 9 is rounded up to the nearest 10c and a price ending in 1, 2, 3, or 4 is rounded down to the nearest 10c since we don’t have any 1, 2 or 5 cent coins.

Most places in New Zealand accept credit cards, Visa and Mastercard being the most popular, but be aware some retailers may apply a surcharge for using a credit card. Also, the term EFTPOS means ‘paying with card’ in New Zealand. 

The currency exchange bureaus you’ll find in New Zealand cities generally have better exchange rates compared to airports.

A woman taking New Zealand banknotes from a leather wallet to pay with.
Photo by georgeclerk

25. Sales Tax

In New Zealand, sales tax is called GST and it’s already built into the prices of things. This means the price you see on the sticker is the price you’ll pay at the counter for the most part.

Exceptions include if Swedish rounding or a credit card surcharge is applied.

26. Tipping is Not Expected

Tipping in New Zealand is not as common as it is in some other countries, such as the United States. In general, service charges are not added to bills, and tipping is not expected. The hospitality industry pays staff a fair wage, so tipping is not necessary to supplement their income.

However, if you receive exceptional service at a restaurant or from your tour guide, leaving a small tip is always appreciated. Generally, a 5-10% tip is considered a generous gesture. However, it’s entirely up to the individual’s discretion.

27. Emergency Number

111 is the emergency number for police, fire and ambulance in New Zealand and the number to call if anyone’s safety is at risk.

105 is the number for police non-emergencies. This includes reporting things that don’t need immediate or urgent attention such as a lost wallet or phone, and damaged or stolen property.

You should contact your embassy for issues with your passport. 

New Zealand is a safe country with low crime rates, but it’s good to know these numbers and not need them, rather than need them and not have them.

28. Carry Reusable Bags

New Zealand grocery stores no longer provide free bags so I recommend carrying a couple of reusable bags with you. You can buy them from any grocery store. And if you are caught without a bag, don’t worry, you can still buy paper bags at checkout.

Womans hand holding a cotton reusable bag against a green background.
Photo by cottonbro studio

29. Acceptable ID

The legal drinking age is 18 years old in New Zealand and you may be asked to show your ID to prove your age when buying alcohol. 

The only forms of ID that are accepted are your passport, a valid New Zealand driver license and the Kiwi Access Card (previously known as the 18+ Card). So, if you are heading out to buy alcohol from a store or ordering from a restaurant, you may want to have your passport with you.

If you are staying in New Zealand for a while, it may be worth getting a Kiwi Access Card instead so you can keep your passport safe.

30. Wi-Fi Can Be Mixed

Wi-Fi in New Zealand may not be as good as what you’re used to back home. Free Wi-Fi in city cafes is usually decent but cheaper accommodations can be slow and may only be for a small amount of data. 

The nicer hotels generally have good Wi-Fi but don’t be surprised if it varies from place to place. Sometimes it’s worth paying a little extra for good Wi-Fi. 

Some remote areas don’t have access to a network.  So, if you’re heading into these areas, such as Milford Sound, be sure to download any maps before you go.

31. Consider Getting a SIM Card

If staying connected is important, you may want to consider getting a New Zealand sim card for your phone. If you plan on sharing your epic adventures on social media and relying on Google Maps to navigate, consider choosing a plan with a lot of network data. You can purchase New Zealand SIM cards at the airport.

Gravel farm road in New Zealand.
A rural gravel road in New Zealand

32. Plan More Time Than What Google Says

New Zealand highways are often single-lane winding roads outside the main cities and it’s unlikely you’ll be traveling at the maximum speed limit for the entire journey. And even if you could, it may not be the speed you are comfortable doing. 

It’s fair to say, it usually takes a little longer to cover the same distance compared to other countries. Plus, I always recommend leaving extra time to pull over and enjoy the scenic stops along the way. 

Sometimes Google will take you on the shortest route rather than the easiest and you may end up on some gravel farm or logging road. If you’re traveling to remote areas, just double-check the directions are sticking to the main highways.

33. New Zealand is Expensive

Be prepared for sticker shock. The prices for things such as food and drink are likely to be higher than what you may be used to at home. If you’re traveling from the United States, UK or Europe you’ll at least have the exchange rate from a stronger currency on your side.

Here are some ways to save during your stay:

  • Cook some of your own meals. Pak n Save, Countdown and New World are supermarkets you’ll find in the main cities and towns around New Zealand. Pak n Save being the cheapest. 
  • Check gas prices. Gas prices vary, gas stations at supermarkets or outside of the main cities tend to be cheaper. Just be sure to fill up before heading into remote areas such as Milford Sound. There can be long stretches of driving between gas stations. 
  • Take advantage of free activities: New Zealand has many free activities, such as hiking, walking tours, and visiting museums. National Parks and beaches all have free access. Take advantage of these to save money and experience local culture.
hand holding a clear glass of water on a white background.

34. You Can Drink The Tap Water

New Zealand water is safe to drink and you can fill your water bottle up from the tap. I think it tastes pretty good too. 

Many parks and walkways have water refill stations. So bring along your reusable water bottle. In fact, some of the rivers in Milford Sound are so pure you can fill your water bottle up straight from the source. Local tour guides will show where it’s safe to do this.

Plus, not having to buy bottled water is another great way to save money. 

35. Power Points and Voltage

New Zealand uses Type I plugs for wall sockets which are the same as Australia and the Pacific Islands, and the voltage is 230/240 volts (50Hz). Some of the things you need to plug into the wall for power, such as laptops with a dual voltage power supply, you can use with a decent plug adaptor (a worthwhile investment).

If you’re bringing appliances (such as standard hair dryers) from countries where the voltage is lower, such as the USA and Canada, check that your appliance clearly states it is safe for use up to 240 volts. If not, you will need to use a voltage converter/transformer.

new zealand

Wrapping Up: Travel Tips New Zealand

There you have it, our top New Zealand travel tips! Visiting New Zealand for the first time is an exciting experience. With so much to see and do, it’s a destination that will leave you with memories to last a lifetime. These top tips for traveling in New Zealand will help you prepare and enjoy your time in this beautiful country. Happy planning and safe travels!

Travel Planning Guide

🚗 Where should I book my rental car?

Renting a car is one of the best ways to get around New Zealand. Public transportation can only get you so far, even in the cities. I always rent with Discover Cars, which checks the prices of all major rental car companies, so you get the best rates.

🚐 What about a campervan?

Renting a campervan is a fantastic way to experience the more remote areas of New Zealand. I really like JUCY because they have a big range of vehicles and locations around the country, which offers more flexibility with pick-up and drop-off. I also like Motorhome Republic, which compares all the campervan options available in NZ.

🎟 Where should I book my tours?

Tours are a great way to experience New Zealand’s top attractions while learning about the area and culture through local guides. We always use Viator and Get Your Guide to find the best tours.

🛏 What’s the best way to book my accommodations?

For hotels and vacation rentals, Booking.com or Expedia.com are the best sites. You can also book through TripAdvisor. If you’re considering renting a house instead, try VRBO which often has good deals.

🛩 What’s the best site to buy flights to New Zealand?

For finding the best deals on flights to New Zealand from around the world, I recommend Kayak.com.

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